Women of Color Leadership & The Regenerative Imagination

Bernice Julie Shaw   CSS Co-Director

Bernice Julie Shaw
CSS Co-Director

Once upon a time I had a dream about shared leadership — the kind of dream that floats just out of reach, made hazy by an extractive imagination — one that reaches for more work, faster. Doing more with less. Measuring success in output, not trust or health or love.

My dream feels less hazy now, in part because I have the privilege to (re) introduce you to Shana McDavis-Conway, my Co-Director here at Center for Story-based Strategy.

Life often moves in circles. I met Shana at my first CSS Advanced Training, and she was part of hiring me when I first came on at CSS. Shana’s mentorship has made a lasting impact on me, expanding my practice of anti-oppression, and learning to reimagine myself as a strong woman of color leader in this organization.

That learning and growth isn’t incidental to our work here at CSS, it’s fundamental.

Fundamental to learning how to build something more powerful and essential than we could previously imagine by ourselves. Essential to understanding why women of color (WOC) have the depth of experience for this storytelling. It’s in our bodies as much as it’s in our theory or politics.

Deep in my knowing is a core truth: that love is not something to mistrust, that we must fight for each other instead of competing against each other. To my fellow imagineers, story-nerds, and powerful community, please join me in welcoming Shana back to CSS!

Reinforcing the Circle

Shana McDavis-Conway   CSS Co-Director

Shana McDavis-Conway
CSS Co-Director

I’ve been part of the Center for Story-based Strategy trainers network for nearly 15 years. My first training was in a drafty barn in New England where we slept on the floor and spent our days discussing story-based strategy, culture jamming, and racial justice. It blew my mind and healed my heart. I left with the walls dismantled between my loves for creative arts and social justice activism.

One of the highlights of my work with CSS has been helping to lead some of our Advanced Trainings, starting with our first one. Outside of CSS, I’ve been throwing down on food justice in Washington, DC and California. Over the years, I’ve played many roles with CSS — Trainer, Board Chair, Program Director, fangirl — and I’m excited to return during this era of shared women of color leadership for the organization.

Women of Color Leadership

CSS centers frontline communities in all of our work. Women of color are uniquely positioned to analyze power and story, and to move us towards a Just Transition. It’s not the job of women of color to save us but we’re doing it anyway, one campaign, one narrative shift, one win at a time.

Too often, the promise of ascendant WOC leadership is quickly dampened by weak support — the hope that we’ll work magic on our own at the top. Not so, here at CSS. We are blessed with layers of WOC leadership at CSS, with our newly elected Board Chair, Jen Dillon of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and rising organizational leaders, the fierce organizer Ratema Uch, education expert Melissa Reyes, innovation doyenne Felicia Perez, connective storyteller Nadia Mohamed, and artistic training lead Nadia Khastagir all joining we Co-Directors in building the next era for CSS. And, last but absolutely not least, our outgoing Executive Director Christine Cordero who set the stage for this transition and is returning to our network as a CSS Trainer.

Regenerative Imagination

Opening up a regenerative imagination means creating a space for political innovation, reimagining the scale of our work and a community with the capacity to change the story.

We look forward to maintaining and expanding the relationships in our community. Learning democracy with you when the larger culture shuns it. Standing in solidarity when fear and shame would have us turn away. Moving with you in love and restoration — embracing and reaching beyond inclusion and equity. Moving at the speed of trust, and building all of our capacity to organize for justice.

Inclusion isn't about bringing more people into our circle, it's about expanding our circles. The best work we do as an org doesn’t come out of our own imaginations, but in partnership with yours.

We can’t wait to see what we all start together.