My grandfather was a carpenter his entire life and his eight sons, including my dad, worked alongside him for many years building homes. Although I did not grow up working on job sites like my dad and tios, I learned a lot about construction from them. One of the many lessons I learned was that a home is only as strong as its foundation. You can have the best and most expensive building materials, but if you lack a strong foundation, everything will fall apart. But if you take the time to set a strong foundation, even the most humble structure can last a lifetime.
Foundations in Hope
Foundations in hope are important for organizations and leaders because they allow groups and individuals to humbly reflect on their current reality by naming areas of pain and needed development, while also honoring sources of cultural wealth and individual gifts.
Hope I learned from my mom, who is a breast cancer survivor and has been in remission for over 30 years. I was very young when she had cancer and didn't fully understand what was happening or why I couldn’t give her the same big hugs like I normally would. I remember her telling me I had to be gentle, but if everything goes well, I would be able to hug her tight again.
In her gentle way, she told me the reality of the situation, and still gave me a vision to hope for - the day I could squeeze my mom tight again. This vision allowed me to be patient, reminded me to be gentle, and motivated me to care for my mom in the ways an 8 year old could.
As bell hooks states, “To be truly visionary we have to root our imagination in our concrete reality while simultaneously imagining possibilities beyond that reality,” it allows a humbling reflection to envision a better reality that can practically evolve from the current one. A strong foundation in hope can ground an organization in its current strengths and resources; and motivate it to intentionally work towards the future they envision.
Foundations in Justice
Foundations in justice are important for organizations and leaders because they provide a lens to analyze structures and power. This systemic analysis is used to make meaning of the interpersonal interactions and connect them to policies and practices that are causing exclusion and alienation within an organization.
My dad (my pop) was a lawyer and later became a superior court judge in California, so I grew up around the law and justice systems. I remember the book lined shelves in his office and feeling intimidated by how many rules there must be to follow.
But what I learned from my pop, the “judge”, is that justice is more than the laws, the rules, or the systems that enforce them. Justice is nuanced, complex, and necessitates that we think critically about power and have deep empathy for individuals.
Because, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” And justice can only happen when we understand the systems that stand in the way of love and humanity. A strong foundation in justice can accelerate an organization’s movement towards inclusion and belonging.