The 1st Man Talk

7 men on stage all talking about their individual experiences of life loss and mental illness.
The men included
Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician Dulwich Dons,
Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone,
Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach,
Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor
and Leon ‘Sweets’ Lewis @SweetsLewis

When I found out about the event, thank you Eddie, I was at first intrigued. I knew little of the people who were going to be speaking at The Man Talk. But this did not derail my interest.

Finding a queue outside Brixton Ritzy mostly with men from the Diaspora standing, waiting, talking amongst themselves, greeting each other, shaking hands, fist bumping, head nodding and laughing was a welcome sight to behold. I usually see something similar of this relaxed nature at one of the prisons I support as the men travel to or from their activities to their wings.

Here though there were no prison officers. Patrolling, expectant, ready, making small talk with themselves or with some of the men housed at this prison. The scene was light and celebratory not couched for things to go off or tense.

I looked on and waited. Hoping to get a seat soon. My 6’2” frame groaning for respite leaning on my adjustable cane, we stood and waited for close to an hour. Eventually the doors were loosed and patiently the assembled group of men ambled with reverie into the cinema.

I found a seat near to the end of a row. Most had come with friends or people they knew. If Ade was still here I would have gone with him. The evening began with a welcome and a brief greeting with people sat beside me, in front and behind that added to the sense of camaraderie amongst the audience. The Man Talk began with Leon Sweets Lewis introducing what we the audience were in store for. His informal beginning allowed the assembled panelists to introduce themselves and their reasons for why they felt The Man Talk was important.

Terrol Lewis @TerrolLewis Brixton Street Gym,
Spoke about the soon arrival of his first child, being sent to prison for a period and wanting to get to a train platform… Terrol became more impassioned the more he spoke about his mission that almost never was. The train platform experience was a moment that he came close to bringing his life to a premature end.

Inside Brixton Ritzy at the Man Talk

Gabriel Sey @Gabriel_Sey Personal Trainer,
Talked about not finding his purpose and being lost and close to being broken. Finding his path with personal training and getting fit and supporting others to do the same.

Don Strapzy @DonStrapzy Musician, Dulwich Dons talked about his known and unknown personal stories, encountering loss, finding himself between a number of different worlds that include Music Football and his community. Wanting both to succeed and support family and friends.

Paul McGreggor @PMcGreggorCom CALM zone held nothing back. Paul introduced himself with the story of losing his father to suicide. A pin drop moment for me. It brought the audience and me to the edge of our seats. From Paul’s conversation the TALK became REAL and the objective of why we all were sat, listening and witnessing was made evident. The Campaign Against Living Miserably  

Xavier The Life Coach @XavierTheLifeCoach, the elder statesman of the room shared aspects of his story. He is a voice coach, singing mentor and has supported numerous X-FACTOR contestants to perform well. Xavier discussed becoming a life coach after sharing his insights with friends and putting his skills coaching singers and performers to shine. XTLC was launched as a new concept for him from that point going forward. Xavier also shared about the death of his mother which completely caused him to shut down and function. When he returned home he cried for his sense of loss. Xavier mentioned that his loss was profound because of his connection with her.

Kharris Kwame @Kharis.Kwame Financial Advisor story was different. He began by sharing with the crowd that he was a Ghanian and his dream of becoming an American citizen was upended by 2 things. 1st his financial organisation changing their hiring policy of foreign nationals and America’s new immigration policy. The dream he had built up in his mind was over and he had to rethink his goals and dream fast.

I felt inspired by what I witnessed at The Man Talk and want to start a Men of the Diaspora therapy group. The feeling is that something positive that tackles toxic masculinity has started. Potentially men talking about shame pain being hurt and loving is essential for how men process and see themselves. With a fresh perspective and with new imaginings. Not with the tropes of old that states that men are 2 dimensional, simple, unemotional monoliths inflexible immature and bullish.

All panelists were humorous, honest and humble.

All of the men on stage presented a good argument, a representation for men to talk, listen and to be seen in similar ways with others. The Man Talk was a window into vulnerability and honesty. What would that be like for family and friends to experience? To See?

The 2nd talk is scheduled for June 19th and I am not able to attend. What I am confident about are a number of outcomes.

There will be other ‘The Man Talks’ and the ripples will affect how men relate to themselves, and the communities they move amongst.

Other groups will begin holding other men focused talking experiences.

Some already do.

Something important has begun and I am excited by what more is to follow.
Resource
Dope Black Dads Podcast https://soundcloud.com/dopeblackdads/episode-4-co-parenting

I am interested in knowing what you all think about my blogs/writing when you can, can you complete this survey monkey questionnaire https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9V9TYQS Thank you.

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Therapy in Prison

Held up

Recently I worked with a client in a prison who appeared caught up in the story of how he has been continually mistreated by the Prisons he has resided in.

Expecting

When I re-framed a specific experience, his experience, he growled in acknowledgement of how he had been moving through his sentence. Not progressing. Stuck. Little involvement with probation or a sentence plan. He was tense and expectant of more bad shit to be passed to him.

A Why

It came after a long tirade of him counting up all the negative experiences that he has had. And why shouldn’t he? Life had dealt an undesirable hand. The idea of abandonment and not being heard were high on his watch list. “That shit is never going to happen to me again” he had said.

Sunshine

But they had. Even more shit had happened and he had reacted and then, he was left still holding a sad and ugly can of discontent. It stank! When he recognised the ailment he had been carrying it looked like the clouds covering his psyche broke and a beautiful smile graced his face. The joys of therapy are these moments. They happen when a person is willing to hear themselves put down the mask and step beyond. Out from under the cloud. The gloom had hidden him and his needs. The cloud had also given protection. Why would anyone want to leave?

Perspective

For this client the experience was seeing how tired he was from carrying the sloshing pail of woe and anger and resentment and pain. When he was able to put it down and walk a distance from it, he could see that in actuality he had been holding himself back. That the pain was all his and that the prison, probation or other professionals could not take it from him. All that a professional could do was help him recognise that by putting it down he could see himself anew.

Links

For a few moments it felt like an onslaught that I was being invited to witness and be party to. My careful reframe offered him chance to pause and acknowledge how dreadful those moments had been and where he could drop the bucket off. Ah now this is therapy.

Waves

The work is about creating chance for clients to look thrice and weigh up choices: carry around the ugly for another week, month, year or choose to drop bad for good and pick up something worthwhile, wholesome, worthy, healthy and ride on a crest for as long as it is possible. Picking up belief and self-esteem and confidence and humility and self-worth along the way.

Press Play

I will not be in this man’s life when he returns to his community. I get a sense however, that a shift of seismic proportions occurred and am happy to have been a part.

Choices

Making a decision to stay in a place of discomfort because it is familiar is common. We believe that choosing something unfamiliar but probably better is a simple choice to make and it lies squarely in the unknown.

4 Levels

Known Knowns – Water is Wet
Known Unknowns – That’s hot, how hot? That’s cold how cold…?
Unknown Knowns – Not knowing what is vaguely known Cantonese, Sub Saharan Africa, Quantum Mechanics, Effective Altruism
Unknown Unknowns – Total unawareness

Where would you place the greatest field of learning and of fear?
The Unknown Brain TED Talks

Breaking the Line

Quick Dip

And stop. First listen to the podcast (The Stoop) and then read on.

Twinned

Someone who reads my blogs said to me that they enjoy reading my words as their mind works similarly. A thought and then digression, never knowing if and when the return may arrive. Travelling in too many to count directions that could be interconnected.

Possibly…

Spores Spread

My posts on LinkedIn, Twitter and my counselling page on Facebook break a few lines. The most notable is that posting a story featuring a woman or man from the African Diaspora including an image of that person, does that thing of breaking the line. Here in the West seeing, hearing, being aware of the thinking of the European is common. In fact it is everywhere! Unquestioned and unsanctioned. 

Problematic?

Possibly.

Mechanism of Oppression

The image, the stories, the experiences are unapologetic and veer in to territory that is uncomfortable, uplifting, informative. Angie’s line from a talk held recently “it is not our job to inform and educate White people about racism.” We Africans did not put in place the structurally oppressive systems that provide stability for one group of people and that leaves everyone else not from that group destabilized and struggling in Westernized societies. It is not our job to deconstruct and do the work.

Again

Share

Breaking the line is an invitation to note what happens when an image of a person of colour is brought before your/ our/ my minds eye. Do thoughts that surprise and dismay also follow? But I am not prejudiced/racist I have so and so person in my life is a common answer and offering. Suggesting leniency and clemency for all wrongs. Malcolm Gladwell shares his insight in this podcast stating that the liberal is possibly the worst offender.

An Education

Books like ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ and follow up podcasts About Race, books such as ‘The Good Immigrant’ and ‘The Colour of Madness’ invite readers/listeners to immerse themselves into another’s view of life.

In Comparison

I have invited those that I work with to invest time in reading these works. As Marlon James said at an event in March ‘if a people can go through 400 years of dehumanising pain, suffering through 3 books exploring racism’s affects may be uncomfortable, but cannot compare to a race’s continued victimisation and vilification at the hands of systemic oppression of difference. Being othered by race, culture, religion or where ones parents originate is a factor in my life and for millions of others.

Marching

Remaining with the idea of being human first is difficult when other barbs are thrown. If Breaking the line happens to be another move to represent all experiences – the work, the journey is a step closer, but not yet done.

Possibly…

How to

To read and make use of the blogs I write.

View them as poems in long form. The hyperlinks are a gateway. Click and follow the pebbles – new awareni* awaits.

Read with an aim to deep dive into topics and subjects that are as interesting as they are exhumations about difference, about life lived at the boundaries: criminal justice, education, therapy, art, Multiple Sclerosis and being othered by society.

The blogs are:

A point of reference.

A placeholder for thought and reflection about oneself, about another, about us.

Read for perspective making.

Read for evaluation and test taking.

Explore for tips and learning and for ideas about baking.

They are slices of condensation, concentrations and at times my consternation’s – for living is a complex choice. An activity of thinking, doing, breathing, resting and being bored. Often…

Be perplexed and curious.

Ask for clarity if you dare!

Comment and be prepared for answers and yet more questioning.

Let us open up dialogues just because.

It could all be oh so much better.

Even these,

Blogs…

Past Future Presents

Being willing and able to stand out. Not stand amongst. Daring to be counted for or against. Being the binaried other. The up to the down side .

Three writers

Three weeks

Three stories and many many more. James, Davis and Thomas. All came to London, all discussed their books and visions.

All at the Southbank Centre. London.

All witnessed by the Grateful I.

All Inspirational.

All willing the next generation of writers, to pick up and sign on the Ether: that is fabric, that trick of time, a slice of magic.

With Angie Thomas the bright energy of her torch is carried aloft and loudly. Her message is one of hope and endearing those who are young, to knock down the doors to the banquet. Not ask for a seat at the table. Take the table and the hall!

Healing as action, a right for the young the mature, for the willing and the able.

For Marlon James – Black Leopard and Red Wolf was a call out for healing. Split psyches, broken dreams and promises, pooling resources and hollowing out ones own truth from African spirituality and new/old mythology.

For Angela Davis the story too was also about healing and about activism and about spanning histories and movements like a fan. My notes cannot do her enough justice so I cobble these sentences to scramble my meanings – together and then loosen.

In three short weeks I recognised that we are speeding towards a downpour of words, acts and decisions that have the potential to irrevocably change minds hearts and futures. Whatever the outcomes some ideas remain, things change – Always

2 Years in the making

Rise to…

A few years ago I met a friend in a Cafe/Bakery I had long held as a pinnacle of urban regeneration and baking prowess.

I had just left the University of East London (UEL) re-introducing two old friends that both had extensive experience working in the field of criminal justice. We had spent time discussing workshops for Forensic Psychology students that we would be delivering over the years course.

Ascent
Rise by Solange Knowles is a great intro track for a complex album and it played as my friend and I entered. You may have come across Don’t Touch My Hair that features on the album. The E5 bakery is a teaching cafe and sells amongst other things sourdough bread possibly the best in London. The coffee is very good too!

Connex
Meeting my friend at the bakery was a culmination of a long held friendship and a cause for Celebration. I had that rare moment of synchronicity meeting serendipity. A choice had been made by my friend that felt important and life affirming. The moment when one realises one’s power. Where flight seems possible. The internal porch light gets flicked to on. The re-awakening of Neo in the Matrix’s final scenes. The culmination of intention meeting luck.

An Overview on…

Possibility
A walk and talk client and I had discussed the merits of both Lemonade and A Seat At The Table. As both albums were so dynamically different and yet stretching the listeners appreciation of musical activism in similar ways. We both felt that Cranes in the Sky was worth the whole album of Lemonade. It appeared that Solange had poured her entirety into that one song. Whereas Lemonade felt like the many iterations of a number of heartfelt concepts.

Chance
My friend had recently decided to change her role and leave the company she was with to join a charity working with service users in Probation. The decision she made was all hers however I felt responsible and to be a person of influence, perhaps I stepped from the role of friend to coach-mentor-consultant. The question is when to offer insights about choice and when not to. The point here is to note that knowledge can be influential. Think algorithms and shopping/buying on the internet. Google and Facebook only know of what you have looked at and as a result know some of your interests not who you are. Do not fall foul of their attempts to have you buy just because you once saw it. 

Games within games
By answering a number of my friends questions I was providing personal insight to a number of their considerations. I attempted to be objective. I am not sure I achieved true objectivity, some subjectivity seeped in. Passion runs through me on subjects I have experience with. For people that I know and love – get an uncensored cut. 

Work/Play
Ask any that I have worked with as a supervisor, basketball player, mentor, friend, service user, client, probation officer or FMHP. The soap box still calls me…

E5 Bakehouse mouth wateringly good produce

Carefree
Junie is a sweet throwback song that immediately brings to mind upbeat sunny hot summers, hanging out and younger fresher days. It speaks of freedom and roller skates and ice cream and hot sun, and full trees, riding bikes, barbecues, car stereo’s blasting and block/house parties. 

Embrace
Listening to Junie in the E5 Bakery talking to my friend about the choice she was making felt like a welcome return to a warm home after a cold night’s long walk.

Winging It

We’re Winging it just like everyone else. Holly Hunter’s character said on the Big Sick. A marvelous film watched over the Winter Break.

My mind, always ready and willing to jump at new ideas, sat up and said “Ooooh I like this!

So I ask:

Do we know what we are doing?

Where we are going?

How are we getting there?

What happens on the journey?

Is it worth the effort?

What happens after we arrive?

Does Psychotherapy, Counselling, Therapy, Coaches and coaching, Mentors and Mendallas, Science, Scientists and Doctors have the answers we all are potentially waiting for?

I think that we want to believe that they do. Only they don’t. We don’t. We are intellectually figuring it out with you.

Perhaps we’re all Winging It.

Principally with hands raised over our heads and hoping it works out alright, for us, for them, for we, for you and for I.

We are making it up aren’t we? Yes. Trained. Yes. Confident and then unleashed we are sent out into the world to do some good. Mostly…

The truth of it all, is we don’t know that we do THAT much good. There is a statistic that says that if something bad happens to you and you see a therapist you may get some support and feel better within 3 – 6 months. If you don’t go and see a therapist. Chances are that you might feel just as good in 3 – 6 months too but not have paid out the 1000s for the support of someone like me offering soft plenitudes and platitudes to make it all ‘feel’ better.

Whether you are a doctor, mechanical engineer, teacher, law enforcement officer, director, editor, musician, astronaut, martial arts instructor, or surfer you may know your science, but if we were to strip it all back to basics every thing is up for chance and really we have only a thin veil of knowledge (deceit) figuring out what our next move is going to be.

We are all champion guessers, frauds if you will and there’s fun to be had in the not knowing of things and having the humility of wanting to figure this stuff (Life) out.

Let’s have fun with it. C’mon I dare you!