by Deidre R. Farmbry, Ed.D.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Shawn Ginwright, author of The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves, for a COSEBOC virtual convening titled “From Nourish to Flourish.” Highly inspired by the book, I began thinking about the work before the work if one is committed to personal change, especially based on any of the four pivots Ginwright writes about: From Lens to Mirror; From Transactional to Transformative; From Problem to Possibility; From Hustle to Flow. One question I posed to Ginwright was, “What do we need to unlearn to be able to pivot?” His response was, “We have to unlearn what we think is possible.”
I asked because I am really interested in knowing how a person embarks on the path to pivoting. What aspects of a current existence might one need to revise, reconfigure, or even remove? How do we revisit prior understandings and reorient ourselves to accept what might be awaiting us once we successfully pivot? So much of what we do is habitual. So much of what consumes our time and energy is the result of automated actions devoid of introspection or reflection. We do as we have always done. Yet to pivot, means to conscientiously break cycles, venture into the unknown, and be audacious in confronting our fears. Every reimagining necessitates some release. I would imagine that committing to a pivot may require the courage to have difficult conversations with those who may have played a role in making you who you are and may feel a personal affront if you work on becoming a better you that they may not understand or accept. Some, with time-warped, provincial perspectives may try to derail your efforts toward self-improvement. Have you ever had a conversation with someone not on the same page as you, perhaps that uncle who is quick to remind you that “back in the day…”? If your enlightenment challenges another’s sense of presumed entitlement regarding aspects of your life, then the pivot to “a new you with a new view” may result in severing past affiliations that are no longer providing the positive energy for your renewal. Yes, a lot is at risk.
However, another consideration for reimagining ourselves is to focus on what will be retained. Every bud of the emerging new you must have as its roots grounding essentials, a north star, and core values, or the bloom will wither and die shortly after it emerges. What ancestral wisdom will you retain to guide you as you pivot, so your new way of being will honor the past and the rich legacies of those who positioned you in a place where you are free to pivot and prosper?
On my desk is a picture from a greeting card I saved and framed. It shows a young black woman, seated in a chair, with a small black angel on her shoulder, whispering in her ear. I look at the picture often, especially when I am at a point of transition, imagining what guidance she is giving me. As we each reimagine justice and reimagine ourselves to be the catalysts for whatever positive changes are needed in our society, may we pivot in ways that keep us motivated yet mindful of the path we are taking and the impact we will have.
Dr. Deidre R. Farmbry is a career educator and an independent consultant specializing in social and emotional learning and cultural proficiency and equity. She serves as a consultant for COSEBOC.