I recently realized I have been in community organizing, in one way or another, for 18 years. I hardly feel old enough to have nearly two decades in a career, but since 2004 I have been working to build a better future for Black people and a system that works for everyone. I have had some amazing career highlights, like winning the minimum wage campaign, being a delegate to the 2016 DNC, and founding BlackRoots Alliance. Here I am, in the future, and I am so incredibly tired. I’ve burned out at least twice that I can recognize. My extreme tiredness is a sign that the slow burn of dedicated work could turn into full-on burnout if I do not do something.
Everything that works requires rest; it’s part of the process of “working”. Even your phone needs to be turned off and restarted. Reflecting on my experiences with burnout, I wanted BlackRoots Alliance to have a culture where folks were dedicated to the mission without the need to glorify the culture of overworking. We have had generous leave policies from nearly the beginning, currently experimenting with 4-day work weeks, and this year, inspired in part by one of our partners (Ujimma Medics) and part by my own experience of burnout, we took the first ever week-long summer sabbatical right after Juneteenth.
I am encouraged by the topics of this article, The Great Awakening: Redefining Work, Values, and Purpose, because I think in order for us to build a better future, we have to be willing to let go of the practices and traditions that are not in alignment with the values of the future we’re trying to build. While I am still unlearning traditional “work” culture, I don’t want people to leave BA because they’re burned out. Burning out has no value in the future that I want to build. Time is the most valuable currency, and I am dreaming of a work culture where we spend our time currency on soul expansion, creative exploration, and never on capitalist exploitation.