The mission of gs is to support social and climate justice movements in achieving their visions of a radically transformed society. We do this by bringing somatic transformation to movement leaders, organizations, and alliances. Our programs engage the body (emotions, sensations, physiology), in order to align our actions with values and vision, and heal from the impacts of trauma and oppression. We aim to advance loving and rigorous movements that possess the creativity, resilience, and liberatory power needed to transform society.
We envision an interdependent society founded on the creativity and embodied collective power of our movements. The institutions and norms that we sustain will reject structural oppression, exploitation, extraction, and intergenerational violence. Instead, we will affirm life itself and recognize ourselves as part of nature rather than separate from it. We will ensure safety, dignity, and belonging for all.
(work in progress)
Learn More About Our Approach
Select a value to read more.
- Mutual Dignity
- Power of Transformative Path
- Generativity & Conflict
- Action Rooted in Purpose
We support collective embodied transformation that reminds us of our interdependence with all life and helps to grow the foundation of trust necessary to welcome it.
We understand that no single being exists in isolation; that in fact, our survival depends on other people, animals, plants, air, land, soil, and water.
Valuing interdependence is a commitment to building and maintaining abundant, life-affirming, and dynamic movements and communities based on compassionate, dignified, and sustainable connections
We respect the inherent worth of all life and land.
Valuing mutual dignity rejects using life as a means to an end, and a commitment to resisting state violence, colonization, genocide, imperialism, and repression that systematically undermines whole communities’ and peoples’ sense of dignity.
Valuing mutual dignity includes understanding leadership as power-with rather than power-over others, and holding each other accountable to our commitments with love.
Power of Transformative Path
Valuing the power of a transformative path is a commitment to rigorous and sustained practice and ongoing embodied change that is integrated into our lives, organizations, and movements.
We are challenging the prevalent individualistic orientation toward and commodification of ‘self-help’ and ‘self-care.’
Being on a transformative path over time allows for the deep healing required to find a clearer vision, undo old habits, embody new behaviors, and imagine and create the foundation for a more just and liberatory society.
Generativity & Conflict
We value generativity, which is a creative state that channels and allows for authenticity, resilience, and opening to new possibilities, especially in the context of complexity and conflict.
Generativity allows us to move beyond reactivity and has us take action from a place of choice that is aligned with what we care about.
We understand conflict as generative as the capacity to effectively engage in and transform interpersonal and organizational challenges and breakdowns in a way that creates more dignity, trust, and connection for everyone involved. This includes the capacity to ask for and provide accountability and repair.
Action Rooted in Purpose
We value living, acting, leading and organizing, from deep individual and collective purpose.
Embodied transformation supports the development of the skills needed to clarify and align with larger purpose—so that our organizing, movement building, and actions can be more strategic and effective in moving toward liberatory systemic change.
generative somatics (gs) grew out of the success of Somatics & Trauma courses (2001), developed by Staci K. Haines, and the experimentation with somatics within generationFIVE’s (2000) efforts to advance transformative justice approaches to ending childhood sexual abuse. In 2008, Staci launched the first round of teacher training to develop others in the work, and started a partnership with Social Justice Leadership (SJL). In 2009-10, Spenta Kandawalla, Staci, SJL and others gathered national movement leaders to answer the question: Is somatics relevant for the movement? We received a resounding ‘yes’! Staci and Spenta then co-founded generative somatics as an organization.
Over the past ten years, we have received the same message. We are clear that ‘politicized somatics’—a transformative methodology that builds embodied leadership to align our personal and collective practices with our vision and values, and to heal from trauma and internalized oppression—is relevant, useful, and needed in social and environmental justice movements.
Our work has grown dramatically since our beginnings. We have grown our teaching bench from 5 to 48 teachers who are at the heart of our programs. Just from 2016-2018, our courses more than doubled. In 2016, courses took place over 30 days; and in 2018, courses took place over 64 days. In 2018, we also worked with 12 Movement Partners & funder partners, including 38 days of programming. We also run the gs Practitioners Network, Teacher Training, Transformative Resourcing programs, and more.
Our work with Movement Partners began in 2010, with the National Domestic Workers Alliance being our first. With NDWA and key leaders from SJL, we co-developed Strategy Organizing & Leadership (SOL), the alliance’s leadership development program. This was a robust transformative leadership program of 20 days, 5 sessions, and interpreted it in 3 languages. We continue to build long-term strategic organizational partnerships to support movement organizations in embodied transformation, trauma healing, and aligned collective action. Our commitment is to support a movement-wide somatic circulatory system—one that nourishes the collective body of social and environmental justice movements to take transformative and powerful collaborative action toward liberation.
Aja Wade is the Finance Associate for generative somatics and she is joining the gs team as a remote staff out of Fort Worth Texas. Her previous role was a Program Assistant working for International Foster Care, caring for unaccompanied refugee minors & undocumented children.
Danielle M. Feris
Resource Development Director
Danielle M. Feris has been a community organizer since 1999, including with Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, MoveOn, Democracy Now!, and campaigns for housing rights, healthcare reform, immigrant justice, and Palestine justice. Before joining gs staff in 2015, Danielle served as the founding Director of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Danielle has been a gs student since 2012 and in gs Teacher Training since 2016.
Danielle is a born-and-raised New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia; is white, Queer, and Jewish, has Russian, Polish, Lebanese, Syrian, and Cuban ancestry; has upper-middle class privilege; and identifies as a person with chronic illness. Danielle finds resilience in the sand at the beach, singing, time with kiddos who call her “tio/uncle,” and being a new “papa”.
Co-Executive Director (Programs)
Saima Husain joined the gs staff team in January 2020 with over 20 years of experience in social justice movements. Saima has worked in a variety of capacities from research and writing to direct services, organizing, and fundraising in the areas of human rights, gender justice, and immigrant rights. In addition to her paid work, Saima organizes with LA COiL (Communities Organizing for Liberation). Saima took her first gs course (SOEL!) in 2014 and joined teacher training in 2018. Saima was born in Pakistan and raised in four countries. She calls many places home but has lived in Southern California the longest – 13 years. Saima is also a mama to a feisty little human, Amaliya, together they enjoy belly laughs, impromptu kitchen dance parties, and discussing the expansive night sky.
Usa Lee (Jo Ann) Prompongsatorn
Co-Executive Director (Organizational Development)
Usa Lee (Jo Ann) Prompongsatorn integrates her doctorate studies in inclusive leadership for social justice, as she engages executives, staff, and board members to investigate the complex ways power and injustice manifest in organizations. Prior to gs, Usa Lee moved in the world as Jo Ann and held roles as the Interim Co-Executive Director at TransForm, an Oakland nonprofit, and the Chief Operating Officer at Learning for Action, an SF consulting firm. She is a graduate and apprentice teacher of Practice in Transformative Action at the East Bay Meditation Center. Usa Lee is also a medical qigong therapy practitioner and life coach. Usa Lee incorporates a healing approach to support her group and one-on-one work with social justice activists, advocates, and change-makers. Usa Lee’s approach recognizes that personal transformation requires an inherent link to social justice and systemic change to be effective. And, true systemic change is not fully effective until individuals engage to heal from personal trauma.
The gs Strategy Body has played a unique and essential role in gs. Whereas the Board has been accountable for the financial and legal decisions of the organization, our Strategy Body has focused on the organization’s political direction and vision. This group of leaders has helped gs understand the ever-changing movement landscape, assess strategy and direction, nourish what’s working well, and help to shift what isn’t. They have worked to ensure that gs remains accountable to its mission and Strategic Priorities summary, in effective and relevant ways. The gs Strategy Body has been made up of gs staff, teachers, practitioners, Movement Partners, and other leaders who work in our Strategic Priority areas.
gs teachers have been the heart of our work and programming. Teacher Training has been a rigorous and vibrant space. Our teachers have worked very hard to bring embodied transformation with quality and depth to serve movements. Teacher Training has been a multi-year development community. Some of our teachers have been in training for a decade. There has been an elected team of teachers that guided Teacher Training, called OKB (fondly named Old Kids on the Block).
The Black Freedom Movement shaped Alta’s view of the link between individual and social transformation. A former teacher and parent organizer, Alta also worked as a funder supporting community organizing. Before studying with gs, Alta completed a four-year training at the Brennan School of Healing.
Briana Herman-Brand, MSW, has worked for the past 18 years with youth and adults to heal and transform dynamics of trauma and oppression. She has focused in fields of domestic & sexual violence, youth liberation, white anti-racism, LGBTQ experience, transformative justice, and community organizing.
Chris Lymbertos has been the Deputy Director at generative somatics since 2012, transitioned into the role of Program Director in August of 2016, and became Interim Program Director in 2019. Born and raised in Iran from Syrian and Armenian parents, she lives deeply in the contradictions of an exiled identity and made a commitment to transform the lives and conditions of her family, community and peoples. Chris has spent almost 30 years working with organizations and efforts committed to the liberation of peoples impacted by racism, homophobia, xenophobia, capitalism and imperialism and is currently a member of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC). She has studied and practiced somatics since 2008 and is a gs teacher/trainer. When not working, she looks for ways to get friends and family to join her in being outside in beauty and adventure.
David Treleaven is a educator and trauma professional whose work focuses on the intersection of trauma, mindfulness, and social justice. Originally from Toronto, he’s taught with gs since 2012 and is passionate about the connection between personal and social change.
Elizabeth came to Somatics from the harm reduction movement. She has decades of experience working with trauma, addiction and is committed to healing and radical change. Elizabeth comes from an activist family targeted by the FBI and has a long history of justice organizing and collaboration.
Jennifer is a somatic psychotherapist and coach who’s been working in the field since 1996. She’s a teacher, supervisor, and practitioner of embodied transformation, trauma healing, and leadership development. She’s been with gs since 2008 and helps lead Strozzi Institute’s somatic coaching program.
Lara is a queer, trilingual somatic practitioner and teacher who has been with gs since 2009. With a background in racial justice and anti-imperialist organizing, Lara also brings trauma healing and resilience into her work as nurse, building abolitionist community responses to health emergencies.
Nathan Shara is a queer, South Asian trauma therapist and writer, and a lead teacher and practitioner with generative somatics. Nathan works in in Oakland, CA applying transformative justice principles through individual somatic work with survivors of violence and with people who have caused harm.
Please see website for bio: https://paolalaird.com
Raquel Laviña has over 30 years of experience in activism and organizing. As an organizer she focused on helping to build youth organizing as a discipline within a broader community organizing field. She served as the National Program Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, supervising 20 staff in 3 cities; the Executive Director of the Youth Empowerment Center, which housed 5 youth groups in Oakland, CA including SOUL, the School of Unity and Liberation, and as the Deputy Director of Social Justice Leadership, which supported groups in integrating analysis, organizing and personal transformation. She is now Deputy Director of the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, with a focus on leadership development and organizational sustainability, where she’s honored to contribute her skills and experience to a movement that centers dignity and justice.
RJ’s work brings together three complementary passions: transformative justice, somatic coaching, and the creative arts. He is a parent; a lead teacher and board member of gs; and Assistant Director of Intervention for Common Justice in Brooklyn, a groundbreaking restorative justice organization.
Spenta Kandawalla, L.Ac., hails from Ohio with Zoroastrian and Pakistani roots. She sees healing and organizing as two central tenets towards our collective transformation. Spenta is honored to have helped found gs and continue to be part of its growth as a teacher and senior program consultant. She is also an acupuncturist and herbalist, and a member of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC). Spenta loves to cook, put her hands on big trees, and stare at dogs.
VASSILISA KAPILA, LCSW is a genderqueer immigrant trainer who has 20+ years in community health. Blending clinical, somatic, & social justice perspectives, Vassi works to build youth & community power, wellness, & leadership. She has trained with gs for 13 years. S/he plays drums & snuggles dogs.
Xochitl Bervera is a queer Latina organizer, lawyer, movement builder, and teacher/trainer. She is currently the Director of the Racial Justice Action Center based in Atlanta, GA.
Beginning & Intermediate Teachers
Adaku is a Queer Nigerian, teacher, healer, and ritual artist committed to cultivating movements that are strategic, sustainable & mutually nourishing. She is the Movement Building Leadership Manager with National Network of Abortion Funds, Co-Director of Harriet’s Apothecary & teacher with BOLD.
Alvina Wong is a queer, American born Chinese organizer with APEN. She joined the Teacher Training Cohort to ensure immigrants, refugees and environmental justice communities have access to powerful transformative practices for the world we all deserve. She loves the ocean, baking and cartoons.
Belia Mayeno Saavedra
Belia is a trainer, coach and artist. Her work centers youth targeted by the school-to-prison pipeline, with a focus on Transformative Justice. She began with gs in 2015, and joined teacher training in 2017. Her resilience comes from fresh water, familia, and art as prayer.
Che Johnson-Long supports the movement for prison abolition as an organizer, healer, and law student. For 10 years she has trained organizations on security strategies and is in her 2nd year of Generative Somatics teacher training. Che loves humidity, has roots in Hawaii, and calls Atlanta home.
I’m a first-gen, Jewish, Latinx, Buddhist mama serving as Co-ED at Chicago Torture Justice Center. I’ve spent last 15+ yrs working to build local movements to end mass criminalization. In training with GS for 4 years, in Teacher Training since 2018. I love feeding people and dreaming in community.
I’ve worked in grassroots organizing since 1993, and was on staff at community & labor groups for 15 years. I co-founded SJL, which began a partnership with gs in 2008. I am now a consultant and coach to social justice organizations. I live in NYC, & enjoy exploring the forests & rivers of the NE.
Danielle has been a community organizer since 1999, including with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, a core partner of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Danielle has been a gs student since 2012, and in Teacher Training since 2016.
Donaji integrates her indigenous ancestral legacy of interdependence, resilience, resistance, and community struggle to the organic process of transformation and integrates politicized somatics in her work with clients. In the field of somatics for over seven years.
Erika Lyla is a new somatics practitioner and a part of the Teacher Training cohort. She also provides loving care for folks navigating the medical industrial complex and finds solace in the healing properties of the natural world.
Fayza is a somatic therapist and bodyworker practicing on unceded Coast Salish territories (Vancouver, BC, Canada). Fayza works primarily for the healing of folks who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of colour, and queer folks. She strives to work through a disability justice lens.
Gesine has been with gs since 2008. Born in Northern Germany, she spent a decade of study and practice in the Bay Area. Shaped by grassroots organizing in Europe and liberation politics in the US, Gesine now lives in Barcelona, engaged in bringing somatics to political organizing work.
Since 2014, Hilary has taught with generative somatics. She also works on the national Leadership Team with Showing Up for Racial Justice and has deep commitments to Climate Justice. Based in Berlin, Germany, Hilary holds in-person and remote sessions, sliding scale based upon need.
Ileana Méndez-Peñate is a queer femme Latina who has called New York City her home for over 20 years. She currently works at Communities United for Police Reform Campaign and she is passionate about critical pedagogy and facilitation, building transformative leadership within communities of color, and incorporating somatics into organizing to make our movements more powerful, compelling and creative. Ileana holds an LMSW from the Silberman School of Social Work.
Jennifer Toles is a mother, dancer, caregiver, tool maker, lover, creative and community builder. She is the Training Director for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and a director for the Way of Mind and Body (the Womb) – a Cultural Community Center in Akron, Ohio.
Mahfam has been training with gs since 2011 and is a practitioner/coach, trainer/consultant, gs teacher-in-training, and gs Program Manager. They bring a varied history in social justice movements and healing/transformative spaces to their teaching.
Mei-ying has served as the Operations Director at APEN since 2008. Before that, she worked at the School of Unity and Liberation, and as a middle school teacher. Mei-ying is the proud mama to a joyful 9-year old. She has been in gs teacher training since 2017.
Michelle has been a collective member of Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project for the past 11 years. She is a founding member of the Climate Justice Alliance which brings together over 60 frontline groups. Michelle loves gardening & being a mama. She is in the gs teacher training program.
Natalíe Lorraine Ortega is a Politicized Somatic Healer with an MSW. She is queer, cisgender, Latinx, first generation, raised in New York, rooted in Oakland, sober, radical and spiritual. She is hella committed to racial justice, young folks and all things woo.
I am a Diné queer person and I live in Toronto. I use drama therapy and somatic bodywork to move individuals through a process of embodied transformation using conversation, touch, breath, gesture, imagination, theatre practices, and new somatic practices. I have been studying somatics since 2006.
Saima was born in Pakistan & raised in 4 countries. She is a core member of LA COiL & organizes at the intersections of her multiple identities – immigrant, Muslim, survivor & more. She took her 1st gs course in 2014. Saima is currently a teacher-in-training. She is also mama to a feisty toddler.
sam is a former community organizer now city planner based in NYC. He has been a student in gs for 4 years & began his teacher path in 2017. He finds resilience in dancing with cute boys, critical race theory, & poetry. sam is a commitment to realizing a just transition within his lifetime.
Tina Bartolome is from working-class San Francisco, daughter of immigrants from the Philippines and Switzerland. She is a popular educator twenty years deep, striving to continue the legacies of Paulo Freire, Ella Baker, and Yuri Kochiyama and raise up the next generation of freedom fighters.
” Toni-Michelle celebrated is the Director of the Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative and celebrated in prison abolition issues, and regarded for her innovation in framework development for Black transgender feminism and peer-led- community-based leadership development programs. “
Yashna Maya Padamsee
Yashna is a first generation south asian immigrant queer femme. Grounded in her experience at multiracial feminist base-building movement organizations for the last 15+ years, she brings a commitment to sustainability, scalability, accessibility and disability justice through her teaching.
About Our Teachers & Teacher Training
gs Teacher Training (gsTT)
gsTT has grown steadily since our formal Teacher Training launched in 2011. gsTT has not been like other courses offered by gs, rather it has been a multi-year, 3-5-10 year, development path (i.e. a big commitment between us and you). It takes time, practice and each person’s own transformation to embody the gs methodology. Given that, it is an ongoing process to develop enough teachers to meet the growing call for gs programs. Growing our teaching body has enabled gs to offer courses to more participants in more locations, build more Movement Partnerships, and develop teachers with diverse language skills and sector expertise.
gs teachers have been the heart and leadership of gs programs and impact. Our Teacher Training was designed to develop a collective and coordinated body of depthful, practiced and committed teachers who can competently lead somatic trasnformation in gs courses and Movement Partners.
gs Teacher Training & Decision-Making
The people who have made decisions about the selection and admission of people into Teacher Training has been the gs teacher training selection committee (fondly called the OKB, Old Kids on the Block). This group assessed the fit of all current teachers in relationship to: a) the collective body, b) our mission and vision, c) our core strategies, and d) embodiment and ability to teach somatic work. The committee has been made up of key program staff and 3-5 democratically elected teachers, who served for at least 2 years.
We are a commitment to a disability justice-embodied generative somatics that forwards the contribution and leadership of all bodies.
Accessibility & Disability Justice
gs is committed to economic justice and to challenging white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and all systems of oppression in every aspect of our work. As part of that, we have a commitment to making our programs accessible and affordable to poor and working class people and people of color who are on the frontlines of social and environmental justice movements. We are committed to making sure that money is not a barrier to participation.
In addition to removing financial barriers, we are committed to continuing to remove other barriers that prevent poor and working class people and people of color who do movement work (including people with disabilities, undocumented people, parents, trans women, non-native English speakers, and formerly incarcerated people) from being able to fully access gs programs and community.
Disability Justice Commitment & Committee
We are a commitment to a disability justice-embodied generative somatics that forwards the contribution and leadership of all bodies.
We work within staff and Teacher Training to learn from, develop, and embody this commitment.
What is our desired impact?
We are committed to making a transformative and measurable impact.