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In Rest We Trust: Stories from Grantee Partners on the Frontlines

In this series, we talk with three grantee partner leaders about their origin stories that
led them to their life’s passion at their organization, what they’re doing to ensure their
team and themselves rest, and why rest is necessary for sustaining the long game of a
more gender just world.

Part 1: Doing the Work Where I’m at: Kat Rohn of OutFront Minnesota

“Rest is critical in movement work. We’re always dealing with the next fire, the next
issue, the next problem. That means we need to take a step back. The work will still be
here. Take a walk through the trees. Get that extra cup of coffee. It’s about trying to
create pacing, about care, and looking out for you. We can’t always do that in those
moments of crisis.”

-Kat Rohn, Executive Director of OutFront Minnesota

Why rest is necessary:

We’re going to experience trauma in our work. Stepping away is necessary and rejuvenating and it’s healing because without it, you’re just constantly in the space of harm and challenge. Urgency culture is such a product of how we’re currently operating with trying to work efficiently, but in equity work, there is no efficiency. It’s actually a slow, deep process. As a movement leader, there’s a responsibility to care for that, in an effective and responsible way and to model what it looks like to create systems of care for myself, coworkers, and colleagues. We can’t just burn out folks, we can’t just demand every last thread. Self-care is so individualized. I think in the Queer community, it’s about a sense of community care. What does rest and resilience look like to us?

Part 2: I Don’t Have to Do Everything: Shayla Walker of Our Justice

“The question should be what don’t I do? I do everything from reaching out to folks about abortion funds, connecting and hearing their stories, finding them resources, getting them money to helping them navigate their travel for safe access. And I do payroll, health insurance, etc. for my team while going on speaking tours on reproductive justice. I’m mutual aid personified.”  

-Shayla Walker, Our Justice

What does rest and well-being look like for you?

Naps. My dream is to open up a retreat center and get paid for resting. There are so many incredible people in social justice movements that have been burnt out. If they can go there for a week or month and know they will be taken care of, that would be it. I see myself as an extension of my community. I want to make sure everyone is taken care of. Even the people running abortion funds, and people getting abortions, so they have a place to go heal and rest, and if they have children, for them to be taken care of.  

Part 3: There’s So Much I Want to See Change: Gaye Adams Massey

“I think it’s wonderful that you’re lifting up grantee-partner leaders. I love seeing women leaders being lifted up because it’s extremely challenging work. Leadership can often be lonely too and so looking at ways to support leadership is a really important thing.”   

-Gaye Adams Massey, Executive Leader & Former CEO, YWCA St. Paul

Why invest in rest? 

Leading a nonprofit is an intense world. The way nonprofits sustain themselves in our society is really tough. You’re constantly fundraising. You never have all the resources you need or want to advance your mission. You’re trying to be good stewards of the gifts you’ve received and have the highest and biggest impact for the people you serve. You can end up working around the clock if you’re not careful. In any job that’s demanding, you have to have strategies for your own health. I tried to get good sleep and learned how to say no to a lot of things. Your time in a day is limited and trying to align with priorities is being set on what you value the most. You have to find ways to manage your stress, because you will have stress. Either through work or life, you have to find little ways. I’d call them my little snatches of joy. You need to continue to be in a good place to be the kind of leader you want for other people looking up to you.  

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