I have continued with the theme of Internalised Racism offering a personal insight of how I recognise what it looks and feels like with this blog.
Miss Hit What is missed by projecting outward on to others, what we cannot stomach? We could benefit from further understanding ourselves. This point Dr Dwight Turner invites us to spend time with. Projective Identification (P. I. ) is a self protecting act, but the act cannot fully protect the persons who expel what they cannot tolerate in themselves onto others.
It creates in the object projected upon, a sense of fear and loathing. Deficits of self-worth, self-esteem, anxiety and low mood. Manifestations of the disdain are re-presented by the subjected upon persons internally/interiorly and to others who resemble or behave in similar ways to them.
Here my attempt is to match P.I. and Internalised Racism as cousins. In essence those who are treated by a nationally sanctioned power structure; unkindly, unfairly, with prejudice, do not have the power to represent their hurt to those who hurt them. The hurt people observe the hurt in themselves internalise it and project this hurt on to others who appear similar to them. Both Zed and Daniel offer useful interpretations in last week’s post.
Division An early experience I can remember that woke me up to what internalized racism is was being bullied at primary school by two Caribbean girls. I can’t exactly remember what these 2 girls repeatedly said to me. Something like ‘Smelly little African boy’. The resemblance was of a hatred that was borne as a result of my father – African. His genes a part of mine. This an undeniable truth. I could not make sense of their disowning of our joint cultural heritage and obvious visible similarity. My skin – brown like theirs. My mum was from the Caribbean too, so were we not the same? Not to them.
Power Over This experience of internalised racism was one I could not comprehend at the age of 6. The bullies dislike was a felt sense of wrongness. Mine. Possibly theirs too. I assume (now), that these two sisters felt a sense of power and a feeling of entitlement.
Brené Brown discusses the concept of power over, as opposed to power with, or power amongst. The Caribbean for me was well represented amongst my friends. Culturally, London and the UK of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, Caribbean influence was acknowledged and appeared valued.
Music, Slang, Fashion all influenced by children of migrants from the Caribbean. Bob Marley and other reggae stars were regularly heard on stereo systems across the estate I lived on. My world – Tottenham High Road and Wood Green felt like mini slices of Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts, Dominica, the Grenadines. The homes we visited, the shops and grocery stores, the foods we ate were of mostly Caribbean and West African flavour and influence.
Norf My awareness of racial and cultural understandings arrived late, like the 243 bus to Wood Green , or the 321 to Seven Sisters. The raising awareness job is a lifelong one, but peaked when I moved out of London to Cambridgeshire in the mid 80’s. The North London Estate I grew up on was filled with newly arrived immigrants from a great collection of African, Caribbean, Asian and European countries. These two girls would sneer at me whenever our paths crossed at school or on the estate. They, whispering to each other and cutting their eyes in my direction as if their waspish looks could make me disappear. Their disapproval didn’t make sense to me but left an invisible mark. That of being disliked by others for a seemingly senseless and unknown reason. I became distrustful of persons who cast unkind and disparaging looks my way.
Resources Ursula Rucker performs Innocence Lost. The line that stands out is missed hit. The resonance is palpable as this poet intones an all too familiar story. The Roots woke me up to the power in poetry. Hana and Leila discuss in detail the insults that are thrown back and forth between Africans and African Americans. I thank Kimberly Cato of True Roots who passed on the Halton Voices video. Sameera discusses with guests what Internalised Racism is. The Stoop You Called Me African What? Diverse Perspectives conversations with Sameera Ali, Leena Sharma Seth, Mifrah Abid
In this post I am reviewing the experience of difficulty and the danger of being in group.
Good Enough My initial training as a counsellor at Morley College in 2006 was my first-hand experience of group. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was the tutor whose warm guidance offered everyone on the course a sense of what being a counsellor looked and felt like. Ian challenged, heard, listened, appeared unendingly wise and somewhat of a humoured story-teller. A bit like Dr Ezra in Group, or how I imagine Irv Yalom to be in treatment groups. Intelligent, patient, resourceful and poignant with insights that arrest as much as they inform.
Follow Up The 2nd therapy group experience had, was the experiential group. First year of the MSc programme at University of Greenwich. I joined a year after finishing the Morley introduction course. The experiential group was a new yet familiar experience. Similar in essence to the YouTube show Group mentioned above. Fellow students, I and a facilitator would talk about our experiences with the course. The blend of our learning and our personal lives alongside how we were inadvertently becoming more consciously aware of the counsellor waking up in us, were frequent topics of discussion. The discussion was the object we pulled and played with. It was neither mine nor theirs. This object was the groups and seemed to change in form, and colour and vitality when members were not present.
Not Group Therapy The Experiential group was like group therapy but not. The facilitator generally offered observations of the group process as if they hung from the ceiling. Aloft. Looking down from their elevated experienced height. Infuriatingly. Never laughing at our juvenile forays into this new world of Counselling and Psychotherapy. We moaned about how we were finding timing impossible to schedule alongside work commitments, life commitments (what life) and how we were finding it hard to fit it all in with the incessant always present uni work commitments. Diabolical and yet somehow achievable or so we were lead to believe.
Tempered Smiles They the facilitator, were able to somehow with mirth offer reflection as if they were remembering their time, in our place – struggling. To make sense. To make it all fit. To make it all work. I became bemused by it all. A defence? Possibly. When I became a facilitator of my own experiential group a few years later, I vowed that I wanted to be a little more helpful. But a process group does what a process group needs to do. Process and work out for themselves the up from the down. The necessary from the useless.
Group in Prison The third group experience arrived as a result of an idea generation. How to support more people in prison therapeutically? The answer. Group! Myself and a very experienced counsellor friend came up with the idea of wanting to support men come to terms with their grief, whilst inside away from family. Listening to Griefcast for a few years prior, inspired a question that only beginning a group could answer. Could a grief counselling group be effective in prison? How will a counselling group work in prison? Will the group experience be effective for the men in a category B prison?
Answered We began the grief therapy group at one of the prisons I worked at in Kent in February 2019. The answers to the questions were: Yes a counselling group will work. The How – took planning, and advertising, and discussing the idea of the group with officers, and clergy, and education, and with clients that expressed a need for the group – a soft sell. The operational lead for the NHS foundation trust we worked for at the time, was enthusiastic about a grief therapy group starting. With their guidance, we began the bereavement group. The first few appointments were difficult to engage with for a number of reasons: Finding a location was a challenge. Arranging for clients to attend was another hurdle to overcome.
Grief is an unwelcome visitor for anyone.
Witnessing For these men, encountering grief alongside serving time in prison increased the level of challenge significantly. Despite these challenges the group grew and stabilised until the Summer break in 2019. Men found that they could share long held pains. The facilitation of the men sharing happened as a result of support and stabilising interpretations by the counsellors and by other men within the group. The level of insight and willingness to encourage other men by fellow persons in prison was the rare quality of compassion myself and my co-counsell witnessed frequently.
Companions Some meetings we were left wondering how the group had supported much of the repressed pain to be released. It was like from a pressure valve – slowly. At other times supporting the talking felt like walking a tight rope. Going too fast we all fell. Going too slow – not much happened and still we fell. Boredom, distraction, avoidance, telling other unconnected stories that felt familiar. All to leave the specter of Death and her willing companion Grief alone. Unfortunately I left the prison in October 2020. My hope is that the Bereavement group continues in some shape and form.
Resources Explained Thank you to Anne Willoughby for sharing Prison Break on BBC Sounds. The aspect of death and dieing is a constant factor to life. Experiences end. This too is also considered death. College behind bars is a wonderful testament to endeavour and to dare greatly. These men and women dare greatly and are both punished and rewarded. Philosophy Bites overviews the life of Spinoza who thought about the existential aspect of dieing. Code Switch Podcast shared the tragic story of Claude Neal. There is a chilling reminder of what constitutes group mind and group decision in relation to the podcast episode and the article that follows.
Kimberly Cato asked: Did the public lynching of George Floyd impact you in any way, and, if so, how have you or your life changed this last year? My response – Yes, the public lynching of George Floyd and killing of Breonna Taylor impacted me in a way that the many others killed by law enforcement had not. Not since Rodney King’s filmed brutal battery by LA police in the 90s had I been so affected by such visible hatred. At first I chose to make my writing pay attention to how I was managing his death and the avalanche of information that followed. Perfect Storm was my first homage to his (George Floyd’s) memory…
Transformation Writing offers me a chance to process disturbing and triggering information in a way that takes it past the point of the information being personally held, upsetting and re-traumatising. (It means) I have done something with it and so it’s transmuted into something digestible or more favourable – useable (to me).
Objectification I recognise myself as a healer, a storyteller, a writer, an artist – someone who has a responsibility to support more to achieve a state of balance and stability. My writing aims to do this in as personal and as objective a way as I can. I claim the heuristic autoethnographic process whilst studying my masters degree, as being a chief influence for this form of writing style!
Diversity Spaces Last year I was living in the UK working amongst a number of prisons as the lead counsellor for an NHS healthcare trust. I delivered training on White privilege alongside my colleague PK. It was there I witnessed the not so clever slight of hand that White colleagues would raise. The UK does not have the same issues with race that the US does. I would argue that it perhaps the UK has it worse – Hidden – Insidious – Deadly. The UK hides behind an idea of class, education, history – Wilbur Wilberforce and being a force for good.
Denial A White member of clinical staff stated whilst we engaged with the White Privilege training, that they had not seen the news about George Floyd and the protests and that they were not aware of the global mass awakening. From here I realised that logic, reckoning and knowledge were not going to be enough to support those with their eyes and mouths wide shut to change. I would need to seek a relational experience for those who claim ignorance, to either step in to the arena or take a seat closer to the edge of the action.
Energy Rasmaa Manakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book as a loan from Hamilton’s Public Library. Rasmaa notes that there is an energy in the words we all speak that links us to our past and those that came before. As a seeker I am interested to know more about this partially invisible yet felt substance to our lives that scientists, psychologists and those working in varied fields including art and religion often speak of.
This point in time, this present history is where universal change occurs. Both are frightening necessary and exciting.
Today’s blog is littered with links. The conversation about how Anti Black Racism affects me needed to be sighted amongst a wealth of material. Hopefully the writing has helped bring new thoughts and *awareni to the top of your mind.
On Wednesday 28th of April, Kimberly Cato of True Roots Counselling Services hosted her 4thTrue Roots conversations about being Black in Canada. For me, it was about being a citizen of the world now that I live in Canada. I drew references from my experiences of being a UK resident of over 40 years. The True Roots conversations each month centre on a specific topic related to being an African Canadian, African Caribbean and an African American living in North America. Guests have Zoomed in from African nations and the conversation feels like a truly Diasporic experience. The topic on the 28th was on Racism’s Impact? As a panelist, I also wanted to put my thoughts to ‘paper’ to share what these effects are in their fullness. I am not one for taking space when other guests have as much to share. So here on this blog I can get my thoughts together in a reasonably focused way.
What is Anti Black Racism to me? Anti Black racism is to me the video footage of Rodney King’s brutal attack by 4 police officers and the upsrisings this caused. It’s visceral nature and experience was an early experience of vicarious trauma for me. I was in Peterborough England. Rodney King I felt was me. His attack I felt could happen to me at any moment. I was 17 at the time.
Anti Black racism is to me the innumerable amount of Black women and Black men permanently negatively affected by racist ideas, policies, practices and structures that affect Black people’s lives.
Anti-Black Racism is the experiences of the Windrush generation of migrant workers arriving in Britain and not being allowed to buy or rent homes by White landlords.
Anti-Black Racism is the unwritten double standard and gall of the British nation to not welcome their rearguard support with more than disdain and mistrust amazes me. Those who arrived, invited by Britain to help rebuild the UK after the 2nd world war were criminalised before entry to the UK. Part of the commonwealth community but provided visitors status only. My parents came to Britain a few years after the Windrush as economic migrant workers and were maligned as inferior to British natives along with other Black and Brown people journeying from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
Anti Black Racism is Red-lining in the US, that observes racial, social and educational segregation and separation of racialized groups (a politically endorsed and semi legal enforced apartheid), Blacks (African American) Browns (Latin X, Indigenous, Asian) and poor Whites kept away from the middle and upper class upwardly mobile and wealthy Whites.
Anti-Black Racism is the central cause for the civil rights movement in the US and is similar to UK representations of seeking justice, brought to light by the small axe films by Steve McQueen.
Anti-Black Racism is the Steven Lawrence murder and Mark Duggan killing and subsequent police cover ups. The sentiments that fuelled the UK uprisings after Mark’s death in 2011.
Anti-Black racism is to me, Black and Brown people’s murders at the hands of law enforcement across the globe. Anti-Black Racism was partially involved in the world’s response to George Floyd’s murder. The will of the people being heard as if waking up, out of a dream, after 100 years of being fed government sponsored lies (about Black and Brown people).
Anti-Black Racism is finally seeing things as they are for the many who are living outside of the comforts of privilege.
Anti-Black Racism is the simple statement that Black Lives Matter and the upset this movement and statement causes some White people.
Anti-Black Racism is a remotely conscious belief that Black life – does not matter. I am left with the idea that even after George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many more famous and still being uncovered lives lost on account of being Black, that a Black life is valued as lesser than a White one. How many White male mass shooters are shot and killed by law enforcement after a heinous attack on a school, or at a place of worship? How were the marauders of the Capitol Building in January managed? Were these marauders to be Black, LatinX or Muslim what would the response from law enforcement have been?
How does it manifest itself in either your personal or professional life? ⁃ Anti-Black Racism manifests as insidious jokes classed as micro aggressions but are anything but small. Micro Aggressions are like hidden time bombs, or radio-controlled missiles with delayed or variable incendiary devices. Generally, when the bomb or missile detonates there be no witnesses save a single casualty – the unwitting and unwilling recipient.
⁃ Anti-Black Racism looks like – work colleagues who are friendly one moment and then can utterly silence forget and *invisibilise you the next. Coming to quick awareness when another in their social class, or racial group enters or strikes up a malignant conversation, drowning out what you were saying. Talking to other (usually White colleagues) as if you aren’t there, or that you wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly understand what the topic being discussed is. Even when you do and show that you understand or are interested in sharing your ideas, the sense of disbelief, the mocking sneer and invitation for you to further disembowel for the group’s amusement is often the beguiling response.
⁃ Anti-Black Racism is being outed as ‘other’ when you are doing one’s best just to do well or simply get by with little – no attention. Definitely not negative attention.
⁃ Anti-Black Racism is the idea and misrepresentation of yourself as only your race. Culture, gender, sexuality, religion, class, nationality, physical and mental capacity be damned. The narrow view – not identified as a complex intersectional human being. Other groups exist in the world constantly within a multi-directional/intersectional lens.
Do you see it’s impact in your sphere of influence, if so what does it look like? ⁃ Yes I do. I had a great conversation with my friend, a Ghanaian Indian woman recently. We both formerly worked for Oxleas NHS Foundation trust and formed the Diversity space together alongside two other Black male colleagues. My friend recently was awarded a promotion to her role after only 6 months as a lead social worker based in Kent, and is now the Team Manager and Service Lead. The role expands and increases the number of staff that are directly influenced by her and has also increased her budget. She had worked at Oxleas tirelessly for 2 years and saw a number of junior colleagues (White), advance in their careers many times before her.
⁃ A Black male Canadian friend, a counsellor and educator working in Peel educational district shared his experiences of ‘micro aggressions’ he had experienced earlier in April 2021. He shared that recently he was classed as being a bully, for standing his ground and for speaking his mind to a White woman.
⁃ Dr Clare Warner working at McMasters University as the Senior Advisor, Equity, Inclusion and Anti Racism Student Affair’s lead is working determinedly to begin supporting McMasters Sports Dept to begin tackling Anti-Black racism. The conversations we have throughout the day are about culture change and systemic racism that predates her role within the institution. Clare shares with me her experiences of building alliances with a number of Black student groups and Black faculty at McMasters, to work towards change within the university’s anti Black racism agenda. Conversations at our home are lively.
What strategies do you use to address Anti-Black Racism in your life? Meditation is a good source of making time to de-bug from the daily negotiation of the experience.
I read, I write, I comment on other’s feeds looking at and addressing Anti-Black Racism, I show support to initiatives by donating time and resources. I support groups like Kwanda that are doing amazing work internationally with the African Diaspora. BAATN.org.uk is another organisation I wholly endorse and support.
Talking/hearing with family and friends about these difficult ‘world put to order concepts’ are fulfilling, rewarding and encouraging. New ideas surface to age old problems and I find these conversations a wellspring of energy.
I listen to a number of podcasts that feature Black/Brown people including The Stoop, Code Switch, Ear Hustle, What’s Ray Saying, School Colours, Resistance, Nice White Parents, Forbidden Fruit and el hilo. Each show feeds me useful information and help to galvanise my efforts to continue the struggle. All of the shows listed above, raise points for reflection and change on the topic of Anti-Black Racism.
Ibrahm X Kendi’s book ‘How to be an Anti-Racist’ was useful to frame the dynamic of recognising the time we are living amongst as is Dr Dwight Turner’s book ‘Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy.’ Reading Aiko Bathea’s Open Letter to Corporate America and her interview with Brené Brown were hugely insightful about the steps we could all take to improve.
Forming Black lead group spaces that challenge the epoch of time we are living in – like Oxleas Diversity Space in England from October 2019 – October 2020. Forming and running a Black Men’s Therapy Group in South London in November 2019 and running this until June 2020 was a great experience for me and my collaborator Sheila Samuels. We witnessed Black men come together grow, learn, challenge and open doorways to healing.
Linking with Black critical thought leaders and change makers such as Dr Clare Warner, Evelyn Myrie, Terri Bedminster, Kimberly Cato, Kimberley Evans, Dr Dwight Turner, Rohan Thompson, Rotimi Akinsete, Yannick Yalipende and Wayne Reid is a huge spiritual, psychological, physical and emotional resource for me personally.
The article ‘Whiteness on the Couch’ by Natasha Stovall was a watershed for me. Here a White woman examines what it is to support other White people who don’t recognise their privilege is a useful resource to read.
Ultimately it is about recognising that I have a small part to play within a larger whole. My role is to actively work on bending the arc of history’s events towards justice – for…
I wrote a few weeks ago about the experience of some people suffering trauma by witnessing harm come to another. Reminding them of their own hurts and past experiences of pain. Writing about Rodney King and then George Floyd has opened the door to an even earlier experience with Stephen and his jacket.
Big or Little T Trauma? Last week I wrote about the chase by police of me on my bike for reasons unknown. This week I wanted to discuss a first trauma. Yes there were others. The event was momentous as I had not been treated like this by anyone. I was about 7. It was summer. My friend ‘T’ and I were taking it in turns to ride my bike around the estate. The bike a black and yellow Cinzia, was my most treasured Christmas present! The bike was a sort of hybrid BMX.
Summer It was another hot summer 1979/1980. We kids were not up to much. Playing around the blocks of flats, killing ants, making and firing peg guns at each other and at pigeons. Harassing each other for rides on each others bikes. Playing knock down Ginger. Asking about who’s going to the shop? Because those half penny cola bottle sweets were so tangy and sweet. Tangmere used to have it all. Something unknown to my 7 year old awarness made all of the shops shut and never re-open.
Intimidate T had somehow met Stephen and been impolitely requested to give him a go of my bike. I believe Stephen had chased T and pulled him off the bike! Stephen was an older kid, maybe 10 or 11. He carried himself with some swagger. I can remember him (Stephen) pulling wheelies and doing long skids along the pavement. Treating (trashing) my bike in a disrespectful and in a way I found unapologetic in manner. Like the bike was his! I was angered by this. T may have told me what had just happened to him. I became livid I can remember. A thought I had was, this could be a case for the Red Hand Gang! But they weren’t around so, I could make this situation better all by myself.
Propulsion I ran at Stephen and shouted give me my bike back! He ignored me and sailed past. I gave chase. Screaming. Shouting. Wanting. My bike back! We met at Martlesham or Croydon one of those housing blocks on the estate. Stephen had sneered a warning to others who were gathered earlier: “if anyone touches my jacket. You’re dead.” He, Stephen, serious, warned. Me oblivious and not hearing, ignored.
Martlesham and Croydon were 5, 6 or 7 stories high with garden units at their lowest housing level. Both blocks had little to no outdoor space higher up the blocks, unless you counted the landings. All of the housing blocks had double height under building car parks. Our show down (mine and Stephen’s) was to take place in one of the car parks – later. The estate had many outdoor green park spaces dotted throughout the collection of buildings at ground level.
Engagement I think I shoved him in the back, or on the shoulder. Committing the mortal foul of touching his jacket. He had warned all who had cared to listen. But I shoved and he went ballistic. I believe that I started running before my bike hit the ground. Before Stephen started swearing. Before Stephen repeated he would hurt me after he managed to catch me. My feet took me away. At great speed. Fear is a phenomenally great accelerator.
Distance I ran. He chased. Back then aged 7. I was Nike. Fleet of foot. Good at bulldog, the running tag game. The 60m dash. The 100m sprint. But distance races I had not spent my time running. Now Stephen was quick too, and run as I might I could not lose him. He relentlessly gained on me. Swearing. I thought I could make it home, but his gallop closed down that line of escape. I turned away from racing home to Tangmere 119. To dodging between parked cars. Feeling that if I could use the cars to hide me I could evade capture.
Scared I ran for my life. Petrified. I feared that Stephen would finish me. He had said just that! This was happening and whilst in disbelief, I ran. Who threatens who about a Jacket? A jacket! Possession and custody of things I understood on some level. I put my body in harms way to get my bike back. This need felt justified. Right. Believable. Stephen’s need seemed trivial, petty. Unjustified. Stephen wanted to hurt me because he viewed his jacket as sovereign. I had mistakenly entered sacred space. Spoilt thread by touch and so here we were. Lion and gazelle in a death defying race. I feared for my life and ran away to protect it.
Relief He caught me under Martlesham and punched me a number of times. Head. Neck. Body shots. I wish I could tell you I took them all like a man and didn’t give him the satisfaction of witnessing a tear fall. I believe I cried from one side of the estate to the other. I cried up all the stairs to the top floor of Tangmere and when I got to my door which thankfully was opened by my mum. I went in and told her what had happened. She incensed. The bike left and forgotten where it lay. T later returned the bike.
Many – One Lost in my mayhem of thoughts and sorrow. I was not out for revenge. I wanted the pain and the sense of defeat at being outrun to pass. The reason – I was fast and rarely beaten in a running battle! There was the curious case of Darren. I wanted not to remember the embarrassment of losing a fight to an older boy. I vaguely remember T trying to defend me either running beside as a distractor or getting in the way of Stephen. Stephen had singled me out to exact his vengeance. And so found – was punished.
Prey The lion had found his prey and was set to claim his spoils. Remembering this painful memory does a number of things. I get to remember and release the pain that has been embedded in me for almost 40 years. There is also the courage to look at past hurts and witness the learning. I recognise that my experience of the chase trauma bears little resemblance to George Floyd’s murder or Rodney King’s assault. What I am doing is reclaiming my experience of terror. Providing an understanding of an unjust event and by doing so, allowing myself to relieve the experience of a trauma witnessed vicariously. It’s narrative therapy.
If My want in writing this series is that you the reader come away with an understanding of the term Vicarious Trauma that is personally enhanced. That the resources below support compassion and a commitment to live within an anti-racist frame, and that you comment below on these thoughts.
Last weeks post Vicarious Trauma – Revisited, invited me to remember a suppressed memory. The memory was filed in a box that is seldom reached for. There aren’t many files in this box. It’s in a room that is locked shut. Big thick padlocks and chain.
Labelled: Confusion and Pain Lie here.
1st Job I remember an evening shift at McDonalds. Full of the usual fare. Me in the back room. Working my 7.5. Supporting the close down. Collapsing the boxes, re stocking shelves, getting changed and leaving Cathedral Square – Peterborough to make my 4 mile cycle ride home. Mum was alive then, 90/91. We all still live in New Werrington. I have either had a full week at College and am on a late shift mid week or am on an evening shift on a Saturday night. No main dramas. Some late night revellers asking for extra chips or a free burger.
Crime The ride home was uneventful until the rain came. I am midway home. I have no lights on my bike. I am cycling reasonably fast. Traffic on the roads – light – mostly heading in to the city centre. I have crossed the dual carriageway over the footbridge leaving Dogsthorpe into Paston ridings. I am thinking of how the nights events were funny and silly. I have a hamburger hum about me. The grease fat seems to cloak me even though I didn’t fry food that night.
Sighted I round the last bend before the slight downward hill from Gunthorpe into Werrington. I pass a police cruiser lazily heading away from Werrington. Reaching the footpath that takes me to the water linkway and on to my home, I chance a glance behind me and notice the police car ominously turn and head in my direction.
I don’t stop to think. It is cold. It is wet out. I want to be home. The police car picks up pace and blue lights begin swooping. The police car mounts the curb awkwardly and speeds across the grassy verge. I note the headlamps sweep in my direction. If I can just pedal hard I can make the distance to the bollards before they can catch me.
I don’t want to speak with anyone, especially to these officers. Not then or ever.
Chase The police car revs and I sense them close the distance between me and them, in a short space of time. They drive over long grass. Not using the footpath. Attempting to short cut. I am not stopping. Neither are they!
If I can just get to the wooden posts infront of the bridge before they ram me off the bike I’ll be free. The car skids to a halt infront of the bollards. I sail through. I imagine I hear one of the officer’s curse. I am away. I have made it!
My trusty bike has aided my escape.
Reflex I am elated and bewildered. They could not be chasing me to tell me about lights on my bike. What if I had fallen? What then? What if they had caught me? What then?
I had no reason to stop. The police had no good reason to chase. But chase they did. And flee I went. Away.
Much like a dog after it’s chew toy, ball, stick thing. Thrown aloft. Thrown far and fast. Dog’s chase out of instinct.
It is possible the police chased me for much the same reason. Sighting a Black boy on a bike at a time when most young people were heading in to the city centre not away from it. The picture to them may have appeared wrong, strange, suspicious? There may well have been cause to chase and make enquiries.
From the moment they turned, the chase was on!
And this race, I was not under the circumstances – about to lose!
Two, One The panic. The fear and confusion were unlike much else I had met before. There was the Stephen chase: aged 7. I’ll come to that experience later. The exhilaration of getting away this time was amazing.
I had been fortunate. Unlike so many others, sisters, brothers both here and there…
Vicariously Watching films like ‘Just Mercy’, ‘Fruitvale Station’, ‘Do The Right Thing’ ‘If ‘Beale Steet Could Talk’ all have Black Men in unjustly familiar situations. These films appear to be in the abstract, distant, objective.
Not for me! As an empath, I am sensitized to feel each blow, every hate filled undignified look as though I suffered it. With these films I am often incensed and saddened. Their characters depict men pitted against circumstances beyond their control. That potentially either lead to their deaths or serving unjustified sentences.
Mark Duggan, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland – happen to bring the trauma of death and unlawful killing viscerally primed.
Leaving me Looking for Explanation, spinning, Attempting to Find balance. Remaining askew.
A few weeks ago I wrote a short piece in relation to an experience with Vicarious Trauma and gave a personal account of an experience relating to George Floyd’s killing and the Rodney King attack.
Make Plain What was not explained was what vicarious trauma is. I will do here.
The experience for me then in 1996 was to see a man who I recognised as myself being beaten by 4 police officers. The reason for the attack appeared unjustified, unreasonable and extreme.
I saw myself as Rodney King. Being mistreated, handled in unlawful and in a grossly cruel way. The incident brought to my mind feelings of panic, feelings of loss and abandonment, sorrow, anger, bewilderment, confusion. Ideas that the world is unfair and dangerous. These earlier impressions have left me vigilant, aware, cautious.
Vicarious As a counsellor/Psychotherapist/Coach/Supervisor the role is to support those who are interested in accessing guidance. Often clients bring painful experiences. At times their traumatic experiences maraud around the space we share, as if re-awakened like a Genie from a lamp.
‘Vicarious trauma is the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people as they are hearing their trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured’
For many people the experience of knowing a negative event intimately as a person who has had that experience happen to them, or witnessed a negative event happen to another could leave that person suffering from vicarious trauma.
Circular Any further events that resemble or are a reminder could result in the witness becoming triggered/affected by what they have been reminded of.
My link is George Floyd – Rodney King – my being chased by the police aged 17 – me being chased by Stephen on my estate aged 7. The panic/fear response is still with me.
An odd moment arrived recently when reviewing the past few weeks of protests, stating the now ubiquitous ‘Black Lives Matter’. The movement, for me, blended with the ending scenes from the movie Kung-Fu Panda 3. The idea is somewhat out there, and will probably not land safely. If you have not seen the movie or are unfamiliar with the KFP franchise the idea will land ever more askew!
Unity In the final scenes of Kung-Fu Panda 3, a village of pandas step forward after defeating a marauding wolf pack and put out there paws to save the hero, Po.
Demonstrating The scene clearly demonstrates the now common idea that in unity, a great wrong can be put right. That a Black and White hero can defeat a Demi God! Inviting a village/world to heal long held wounds and restore itself to a bright and limitless future. The idea has long been held. The story has also been told since human beings have walked the earth.
Together we stand. Divided we fall!
Touch With Po (Hero) in the spirit world, feeling the hands/paws reaching out and lifting him up. Po gains the strength to be able to put up a good fight and defeat the misguided power seeking Kai. Does this concept sound familiar? World leaders current and past be warned…
Switch Kai interestingly resembles a buffalo with dreads and his baritone voice denotes a person of African-American heritage. Possibly increasing the diversity representation in the DreamWorks cannon of films and simultaneously complicating my relationship with the synergy of good and bad, black and white, up and down dyad.
Support There is mass celebration and delight amongst the villagers, once Po returns. Evil has yet again been defeated by Po aided by the furious 5 and the Panda village. To save the One, The Many must unite.
Evolve The moment of blending for me, is the recognition of the callous murder of George Floyd and the laying of hands for Po in KFP3.
For me, evolution can be experienced amongst us (the human being). A global recognition of the myth of White Superiority has begun.
And in protest against the systemic factors insisting that White Supremacy is the natural order of how the world is always to be.
What has been experienced by the many, has been one of finding Unity. At least for a moment in history. Seeking justice for George Floyd after the pandemic is also about finding a way to restore – make what has been centuries of old wrongs – right for and with Black people at the helm. Globally.
The TaoHaiku Without opposite Warm, Cold, Up, Down, the journey, Possibly never
The Luddite and The Technological Savant discusssupporting Black Lives Matter
Meeting Kim online was a serendipitous moment. She has a prolific Instagram posting regimen with sayings, providing instant support to over 900 followers. I wanted to interview her as she appears to have her fingers very much on the pulse of what the nation is looking for – A smart experienced therapist who can be available in a range of formats to provide those seeking help with immediate relief and guided support.
Full disclosure, Kim has also recruited a team of therapists to provide 4 hours (up to 6) of free counselling for Black people in the UK. I am one of the counsellors recruited.
I wanted to know what inspired Kim to develop the concept of providing free counselling for Black People and then put the idea to the public for Kaemotherapy to be crowd funded? A quick calculation informed me that the provision will deliver over 40 hours of Free counselling and counselling workshop experience for Black people in the UK. Which I think/believe is incredible!
MO: Hello Kim, thank you for agreeing to doing this interview. Kim: Thanks for having me.
MO: So we have known of each other for a little over 2 months. Mainly commenting and referencing each other’s Instagram posts through the CoViD19 experience and I wanted to know a little bit more about you. We have spoken a few times whilst you were finalising the plans for the 40 hours of Free counselling. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Kim: I live in South London, studied in Nottingham. I’m a Person-Centred Psychotherapist, Body and Trauma specialist, I help people move forward from trauma they have experienced. And support individuals to understand the intricate relationship between mind and body.
I have experience of working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and supporting BAME clients through racial trauma. I’m passionate about…
Fighting racial inequality and supporting black communities with their mental health. I have a private practice but I’m fully booked at the moment.
Like Michael mentioned I’ve been offering online counselling and raising funds for that. It’s so we can support black individuals impacted by recent events and the exposure of racial wounds with the BLM movement. Check out my page 🙂 @Therapy_with_kim
MO: Your instagram is fire. The posts lift me every time I see one, I am not sure if it’s the smile, the words, the image of the plant or the combination. What brought you to want to provide counselling? Kim: Aww wow thank you so much. It’s interesting because I realised once I started to produce my own content rather than reposting other peoples stuff I got more followers and feedback. I think it’s about people understanding my values as a practitioner and getting to know me a little more. Also, I strangely muse on things at night when I can’t sleep, that’s when the best content comes to me.
MO: How long have you been practicing as a counsellor? Kim: I’ve been practicing for 5 years now.
MO: How do you go about counselling? What approach do you take? You might have to explain that for someone who is not too aware of the many different styles of counselling. Kim: My foundation is the person centred approach.
Fundamentally, person centred theory asserts that tensions between our external and internal worlds create psychological distress.
How that manifests in my practice is focusing on the autonomy & choices of the calient and helping them to develop their voice (message, desires, needs), delving deep into their subjective experience this may often include cultural and social contexts.
For example, if family culture or a country of origin plays a part in their self image and to what extent they want that for themselves.
I’ve also recently integrated some body work, meditation and body scans to support regulating my clients’ nervous system. This works well with anxious clients and clients moving forward from traumatic events which have let them numb or hypervigilant.
MO: You laughed at the word luddite when I was asking for technical support a few weeks ago, and you mentioned you studied at Brunel, what course did you study there? Kim: Yes because it reminded me of my industrial revolution module in my second year of university. The rebellious workers adverse to industry advances smashing up machinery, scared they’d lose their jobs. I studied undergrad History and love it. My passion for my community was fuelled further when I studied the slave trade.
MO: Why this approach (Person Centred) and not one of the many other styles of counselling? Kim: I just love and it fits with who I am and the values I hold as a person. Empowerment (voice choice) and redefining oneself to be flexible with lived experiences, has been part of my journey but I also have seen how its supported clients from different backgrounds and with various mental health issues. I did a bit of Gestalt training and I sometimes utilise attachment theory as part of assessments.
MO: I know this is going to sound like I am interviewing you on Instagrams’ behalf, but what has lead to you putting the work in to display your services on Instagram, not twitter or facebook? Kim: For the separation from my private space I have loads of friends on Facebook and I’m not that familiar with Twitter. I recently got a twitter account though, add me @therapywithkae
MO: With your most recent campaign, providing free counselling and workshops for Black people what has been the response from the community? Kim: The response has been amazing I’m so happy. I just wanted to help in some way as I was so angry with what was happening (still is). Loads have people have supported financially and all the counselling slots were taken up in a matter of days. Goes to show how needed it was at this time.
MO: How did you go about selecting the therapists on your poster? Kim: They were colleagues I studied with and therapists I’d made connections with since returning to London. They are all culturally competent, passionate about the cause and from different backgrounds.
MO: What do you hope will be the outcome for the community? Kim: For Black people to seek out and utilise the resources they have out there. Mental health awareness and support to be embedded in our families. For the ‘Work harder’ ethic to connect to emotional and psychological well-being as well as finance, academia and other definitions of success.
MO: Are there any plans for a similar initiative to be repeated again? Kim: Yes definitely!
MO: How has advertising free counselling supported your business? Kim: Perhaps you could answer that one Michael? MO: I would have to say that I am being contacted a lot more as a result of my link to the Kaemotherapy offer. So thank you for that.
MO: Lastly you mentioned that you are soon to launch a podcast, can I ask what it will be about? Kim: I have been featured in 2 podcasts recently which were a lot of fun to be a part of. I want to develop one and have a few ideas for a podcast. As with most things in life tt’s just a matter of having the time to develop them. I know that currently podcasts are a great way to promote an idea, and set yourself and your business as an industry expert. I am interested in doing that. Definitely.
MO: Thank you Kim. I look forward to listening to these and what you later produce for a podcast. Now to turn the tables and ask, do you have any questions for me? Kim: I do have a few. What made you want to be counsellor?
MO: That is a great question. I wanted to be an artist/architect/interior designer. At the age of 20 I lost my mother to cancer and that had a big impact on my original plans. A few years were lost trying to make sense of life and then became a youth worker, basketball coach and then a learning mentor.
These roles all seemed to naturally fall into psychotherapy and support at an adolescent level. I studied my first introductory course to counselling at Morley College and then jumped ahead of myself to do a Masters at University of Greenwich. That turned me into an integrative counsellor
Kim: What would your advice be for people wanting to do counselling especially men? MO: Do a bit of research about the course you are thinking of beginning. What are the parts of the course that most appeal? Ask a range of counsellors, or former students of that course about their experience.
Find a mentor to support your learning journey. BAATN offer a great mentoring programme of support for students of therapy. I would also advise for anyone interested in joining this path to become a counsellor/psychotherapist, to begin resolving their affairs of home, job and of the heart as best they can.
The course is going to pull some hard truths out of you. Having a solid home team is going to be at times the best thing to have spent time investing into. Counselling courses can be life changing in both necessary and dramatic/dynamic ways.
For men I would advise to be aware that counselling and psychotherapy is a profession that many women have made a great career in Esther Perrel stands out as an example of a global success. Being on a course potentially could be the first time that a male may encounter being in a minority.
Welcome the learning. Try to listen more. Aim at understanding – Always. The Patriachy exists and we have played a role in it’s continuance. The question for me is what are we men going to do to revolutionise and deconstruct the imbalance? I grew up with 3 sisters and realised that life whilst hard, had potentially more unfairness for them.
Kim: How have you found the workshops so far? MO: The 1st one was wonderful. I will complete the 2nd this evening on the 9th of July and the 3rd and 4th on the 16th and 23rd of July.
They are all free and look at Mental Health in the 21st Century. The workshops as you are aware as you attended the first week, are interactive and less about me talking at attendees and more with attendees.
I have found them useful and interesting to be a part of a learning experience. Many topics are discussed in just over an hour and I send to participants the presentation slides with useful follow up materials to support a person with their onward journey.
The following weeks discuss: Goals and Reducing Distractions, Reviewing Progress and Implementing new growth strategies.
Kim: What made you want to participate in the free counselling project? MO: The death of George Floyd in May 2020 and the vicious attack on Rodney King 20 years prior deeply affected how I viewed the world in which I lived.
When you shared your idea of crowd funding free sessions for Black people with me, I think my answer YES was said almost like I was saying yes to myself 20 years ago.
Vicarious Trauma is a difficult thing to recognise or make right when an event viscerally takes over a persons wellbeing. Knowing that you would be helping Black Women and Men recover through 1 – 1 support and with workshops, looked like a courageous and affirming project to be a part of. I am glad that I have. I have met some wonderful people through the programme, who all seem ready to begin their therapeutic journey.
Kim: What can we expect from the next free sessions/why should they join?
MO: The workshop Mental Health in the 21st Century began as a conversation had with you a number of weeks ago. The workshops will cover How to manage the deluge of information we are struggling under from a vast array of sources. How to reduce imposter syndrome and what steps to take to continue the work to change habits.
How to Focus and get shit done instead of eternally thinking and thinking and thinking about doing things and not getting them done, which causes a degree of fatigue and leads to impatience and frustration and then a sense of defeat that leads to dis-ease.
The other workshop topics look at Focus, Goals, and Reducing, reviewing Implementing. The aim of the workshops as you know as an attendee are to support fresher ideas and improve ways to live in a World that is moving and changing at an incredible speed.
The workshops are a culmination of thoughts I have had, fascinating discoveries I have gained from podcasts and articles I have listened to or read and a range of life experiences that I simply cannot keep to myself.
I’m like that child in the class room, arms pumping the air, waving frantically at the teacher or TA to call on them, bursting with ideas to tell the class or at least mildly entertain them with. Something that that kid knows, potentially is helpful but the class just aren’t ready to hear yet.
The events of the past few weeks coincide with events over the past few months. They appear to have met and produced a swell of human reaction and protest that would have been hard to imagine last year or even 20 years ago.
Never I had thought that my last post on the experience of CoViD19 would be my last. That post looked at the fatigued experience of when will the Lockdown end and things return to something that’s near normal? But something cruel and as life affecting as Corona Virus Disease 2019, has appeared on the horizon and I am drawn to look at this too.
Brutality 3 Black people died in quick succession this year at the hands of law enforcement. A bird watcher in Central Park perilously almost became another casualty. The 3 were Eric Reason, Dominique Clayton, Breonna Taylor.
Sailing A sea person I am not. But I have watched The Perfect Storm and enjoy seeing humans do battle against the elements. I cannot exactly tell you what makes a storm perfect. It may have something to do with weather, tides and currents synchronising to create conditions where storm surges of 40ft hit shores and coastlines. That would be me hazarding a guess.
Gasp For the perfect storm to have happened in the way that it has, took a tri partisan event. A triple threat. The virus. The Lockdown. 3 Black People being murdered by law enforcement and then George Floyd. That feeling of breaking the surface for air may be the result, after being confined to our homes for long periods of time. We may want and need to react to self and state imposed incarceration. We may want and need to shake the dust off and stretch our collective civil might on streets around the world.
Swell The deaths of 4 Black people in the US, may provide the perfect set of circumstances to take our 3 months worth of thinking and feeling, holding our breaths that we all come out of the ‘Rona alive. Then if we combine this sense of surviving with the injustice of people losing their lives unlawfully by law enforcement – repeatedly. If we add in, the deep seated feelings of sadness, confusion guilt, regret, shame, anger and rage. Then and only then breathe out in an exhilaratingly powerful way finally.
The slogan of Black Lives Matter and ‘I Can’t Breathe’ could potentially, take on more meaning. The sentiment being viscerally felt by masses because they, we get it. We too were restrained against our will for longer than we wanted. Some of us, unfortunately, just didn’t make it.
Letting Go Shedding years of misguided notions and seeing clearly that life for certain groups of people have been harder for hidden and ignored reasons. Black peoples challenges have not solely arisen from our own design. The making of systems that demean and devalue and place one group of people above others. The idea of superiority was deigned as a right of being and has been implemented globally by Europeans. Black people have been demanding equality. It’s time…
One George Floyd’s death gave reason for many to leave the safe protective confines of homes and take to the streets. Stating to ourselves and internationally that the cause of his death was unlawful, unjust and is simply wrong. The world needs to see how we feel #FFS. The videos and articles I have seen of a world united against injustice is heartening.
Continuing For Black, Brown and othered peoples this fight has been long standing. We have been fighting for the betterment of all. Austin Channing Brown’s request of being Better Humans stands ahead all other calls for me.
My hope is for the ongoing struggle to produce tangible life affirming results like: access for all to have an outstanding education system, healthcare, job opportunities, secure and safe housing in neighbourhoods that value collaboration and place being part of a community and advantage over being focused on the one called I.
Other outcomes could include an ever present critical awareness of the impact of systemic oppression and racist policies profiting one group over and above others the world over and a willingness from allies to fairly reassemble the pie. The pie will taste better and there will be more to go around.
Anti Racist change is a demand that is to be met globally by everyone.