Zero-Sum of White Supremacy

Intrigue
The concept of games we are all either consciously, or are unwittingly playing, has stuck with me since I was introduced to Logo Therapy. This was the mid to late 90’s by a friend who worked with me at Seattle Coffee Company. After the Interior design degree at De Montfort University. Before I became a youth worker, Basketball Coach and then learning mentor and counsellor. Logo therapy was developed by Viktor Frankl who wrote the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. Dr Viktor Frankl was sent from Vienna to concentration camps in Nazi occupied Germany. Dr Frankl, Jewish, developed his idea in relation to surviving the trauma of his enforced internment in a hopeless and indeterminate set of circumstances. Dr Frankl sought freedom of mind and not destruction of his discovered sense of self determined will. ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ as a book, collects his ideas about what he saw and felt whilst in a concentration camp. I gave my copy away to an incarcerated person in 2012. The individual’s set of circumstances appeared to mirror Dr Frankl’s. Imprisoned against their will, for crimes they were later acquitted from. They appeared to have draining levels of hope with justice being served, in relation to the crime they were accused of committing…

More Games
Other psychological concepts and games we are infernally playing was also informed by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck, Games People Play by Eric Berne, The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It remains a marvel to me that the ideas from the authors listed above are not common knowledge and made commonly available for the global many.

Balance
The knowledge that there are games we play came as a surprise as I began my counselling training in 2006. Understanding that game play is less about manipulation of others and more about having our human needs met. Arriving on the planet small, defenseless and knowing little about the world we have been born into, we are to learn from those who care for us. We are also to learn from the environment we live amongst. Both care givers and the environment lived in, teaches the infant how to make sense of what is experienced. Game Theory could be explained as a seemingly complex web of transactions and attachments we have to achieve a number of seemingly understandable goals. Game Theory is much more complex than my explanation. The theory is born of both economics and philosophy. Two schools of discipline that are of themselves a challenge to truly know as a lay philosopher.

Non-Comprend Pas
The understanding that I am making in using the vehicle of Zero-sum to White Supremacy, is that if White wins all of the games all of the time, then there is nothing left for any other cultural and racial group. The winner through ill begotten means has won all of the games that have ever been played or potentially ever will be played. Or so White Supremacy believes. What ‘White’ is to yet to understand in the multi layered, multi dimensional, time spanning game of chess being played is that ‘White’ has also lost. There is a desperation in holding on to the belief of the pearly White mountain tops of racial hierarchy.

I lose – You lose
The losses are uncountable. There is something blossoming for me here about the old ideas around The Enlightenment. Whose Enlightenment begot whose? Returning to the Zero-sum game of winner keeps all, what is not in the annals of discovery are the missed opportunities, the conversations, arguments and differences that were never had! These losses cannot be counted because they did not occur. Discoveries of equitable commerce, economical travel, growing bountiful regenerative crop that has little to no impact on eco systems, disease reduction or illness prevention, educating of the young and those who are in the work place, successful re-habilitation of forensic populations to the communities they have been shut away from, community policing for the betterment of all could not take place, amongst a trillion other ideas of people advancement and liberation. The persons these ideas may have sprung from were/are held in detention centres, concentration camps, internment camps, fleeing war, shot, poisoned, starved, grew impatient, turned to insurgency, conspiracy and interruption of localised and global systems of control and ultimately died. The fulfillment of their mission on earth and dreams that may have enhanced, supported and brought enrichment were not/have not been realised. No, White on the chess board of life has won a thin victory of almost limitless riches. But richness is not wealth. What White has lost is the wealth of remaining on the board with ghosts of fallen cultures and non-remembered peoples. Oppression and extermination of indigenous populations summarily robbed and erased wisdom globally. However, listening to pieces still on and off the board and their ideas about how to return the game to how it should be played – Infinitely. Could be the next human goal.

Game Theory
Game Theory Appears to be an Economical and Philosophical term applied to any number of different agents that behave in ‘normal’ or irregular ways to factors that determine predictive or unplanned outcomes. A fuller description of Game Theory is found here – Stanford Encylcopedia of Philosophy. My attempt above is to provide a summary of the information the link provides.

Infinity and Beyond
The infinite game as Simon Sinek discusses as found below, sounds like a game we all know and yet don’t recognise or fully understand – life as an infinite game. Simon offers a description of the infinite game as not winning or losing, but remaining and still playing even whilst other players drop out. The differences between Zero-sum and infinite, in game theory, Simon Sinek explains is the Zero sum game has a finite set of parameters. An outcome, a limited set of players and time in which the game is played. The infinite game is limitless inside which the parameters for the game are not set. With Infinite games there is an unknown set of players, playing a game with the main objective to continue playing the game. There are no known winners or losers.

Application
Within the Infinite game the objective is to continue playing. The aim is to enhance the game and propel players to improve continually. By introducing a winner takes all to a set of Infinite goals the game breaks-down and stops the flywheel nature of advancement as seen in Kiss The Ground – Netflix. In conflict it has been Afghanistan v the Soviet Union. Vietnam v America. Afghanistan v America. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Buddhism v spirituality, atheism, agnosticism. A finite system cannot out flank, outmanoeuvre, outpace an infinite one. A thought experiment would be if we were to build a structure as a monument to human ingenuity, power and understanding from a strong material like bronze or a hard wearing stone – like marble. How long would the edifice stand before the elements change it’s appearance or it’s position? A century? A millennia? With a game of winners and losers the winners earn a partial victory. The win is temporary. At an unknown moment a previous loser has the potential to become victorious. A perpetual cycle for balance and rebalance is instituted.

Cut Down
White supremacy has not won. White supremacy simply believes it has. The challenge is to move the statue of the fallen aside. In order that true progress can be had by all communities willing to move ahead beyond the lie that White supremacy has continually told. Discovering and figuring out what living life all means moves from the *stuckedness of judgement to curiosity, wonderment and awe. By playing an infinite game we enhance the self, the community and the planet. White supremacy has only scored the earth with a seemingly impermeable mark – Capitalism. There is a Native American saying that brings to mind the uselessness of the product of Zero-sum and capitalism ‘When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.’ I mis-remembered the quote as Only when we have poisoned the rivers lakes and seas, will we see we cannot eat money. The full quote is attached in the link. The person who brought wisdom to light spoke truth to power and highlights the short sightedness of Zero-sum.

Human Need
Money is a Zero-sum. Capitalism is an oppressive divisive system and is a Zero-sum game too. Having more of the substance does little to appease the disquiet of illness and dis-ease inherent in the human being. We simply move ourselves away from enjoyment and fulfillment beside others. A birthright. A human given. For most, a natural experience and a human need. There are also contra-indications for living amongst. Some prefer to live alone or in small communities or with 1 other. Nomadland the film is a useful extrapolation of a similar idea. Alongside and in communion with others, we find not only ourselves but also family and a sense of peace. White supremacy appears to not allow an idea or belief in systems as complex, as rich as unity to survive. The strength of people coming together, waking up from the nightmare of White supremacy is a fear that perpetuates the misdirection of self-interest, distraction and procrastination serving only a Zero-sum outcome.

Fight
To begin:
Accept nothing as a given.
Question all, continuously this means even the thoughts you may carry.
Invite critical thinking as a tool to discover unpack and make sense of self and the planet we inhabit.
Be curious often and play infinitely.

Resources
Game Theory explanation provided by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Games and Rationality was instrumental in helping me summarise my understanding of game theory.
I thank Kimberly Cato for introducing the Akala video where he speaks about Injustice the film. As a result of being a team member of the summer series program of conversations for True Roots I made the link of Zero-sum and White supremacy.
Ibram X Kendi interviews Heather McGhee about her understanding of the Zero-sum game. The conversation emboldened the thinking I had about how ineffective White supremacy is and what has happened with anti Black racism and the pandemic of racism overall.
Simon Sinek discusses with Brené Brown some of his ideas from a few of his books that include: Start with Why, Leaders Eat Last and the Infinite Game.
Simon Sinek shares his idea of the multiple losses that happen when playing a Zero-sum game. My interest in watching this T.E.D. talk came after the thought about a totalitarian system being a Zero-sum game – that of White supremacy. I enjoyed Mr Sinek’s thought shower. Nomadland is a film that invites reflection on living with both freedom and the uncertainty this brings.
I have shared ‘Injustice’ the film as the ultimate Zero-sum literal experience. Criminal injustice and prison is a pure example of Zero-sum. Even within the prison system a repetitive pattern of winners and losers populate all strata of people incarcerated.
Ibram X Kendi with Dr Heather McGhee Be Anti-Racist
Simon Sinek with Brené Brown’s Dare to lead podcast
Simon Sinek T.E.D. talk Zero-sum game
Injustice A Biritsh film looking at the criminal Injustice Service in England and Wales.

Images
Cover photo Black playing cards by JESUS ECA on Unsplash
Jenga Stack photo by Virgil Cayasa on Unsplash
Risk photo by Halacious on Unsplash
Moody Backboard photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
Game Over photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Internalised Racism – Global

The insidious idea of Internalised Racism has a probable point of origin. In this post I look at identifying plausible reasoning for this form of harms continuance.

4 Corners
Communities from one corner of the globe to the other that survived European invasion were infected with a number of diseases that include; the cold, the flu, chicken pox, measles, syphilis, polio. The longest standing disease after the invaders became settlers and then colonizers, is the idea that the European was/is better than the peoples that they ‘discovered.’ That indigenous populations were/are worthless or not as culturally, artistically, morally comparable to the ‘superior’ invaders. The challenging intergenerational legacy being observed is that, Black and Brown bodies have continued to hold concepts of themselves that do not serve thesmelves or anyone else, especially the African, the Asian, the South East Asian, Indigenous groups of the South Pacific and Indigenous groups across the Americas.

Splintering
But hold on to them we do. Like a forgotten splinter driven into the ball of the foot. Causing a dull throb when spun upon. Wondering how it came to be so painful – only occasionally. Considering how to remove the thin offending article when the pain becomes unbearable. Tools offered by former captors and tormentors that regenerate health – not trusted like psychotherapy or psychiatry or psychology. We may have all watched GET OUT and taken appropriate warning and evasive action!

Better?
Ideas that being fairer (White), cleaner, more Westernised and behave in a recognisable way to those that oppressed the global South. The assessment made is that Europeans offer something that could be considered as an improvement, modern, progressive. That by becoming similar to, we can be made safe. Cultures that birthed different and early forms of civilisation be damned some may think. Becoming assimilated, acculturated as Western keeps one and group ‘healthy’. Believing that the gaining of status or riches will alleviate the splinter’s harm.

Whose Game?
Only, the gain game, the suppression and denial game don’t work. When I think about those who have caused harm historically, I am brought back to my learning about intergenerational wars across Europe in History lessons at school. The blood shed for land gain. People slain for Queen, King and country. Millions that were displaced assaulted and indiscriminately violated. I am left with not wanting to honour, accept or know this villainous portion of history. Religion or Paganism offered some restitution but possibly not soulful healing. And so if cognitive dissonance, helps to support a loose form of wellbeing it is chosen over the heart rendering truth seeking of enlightened peoples. Leaving some unknowingly hurting and some knowingly and unbelievably healing.

Resources
The 2016 film Get Out by Jordan Peele staring Daniel Kaluuya is challenging. What piqued my interest in using the clip above was the scene of the Psychologist stirring a cup of tea, and the effects she has on the mind of the protagonist. Culturally competent and culturally cognisant psychotherapy can be wholly beneficial for anyone seeking restitution.
Ibram X Kendi discusses his ideas about his book and about growing up realising the importance of separating self from unhelpful ideas of identity and race.
The 2016 Film Get Out by Jordan Peele
Ibram X Kendi on Internalised Racism as Black on Black crime

Images
Twirling Light Art Photo by Riley McCullough on Unsplash

Internalised Racism – Close Group

I continue reviewing the concept of Internalised Racism in this post.

Closed
The True Roots conversation on the 30th of June was a closed group for Black and Brown (Racialised) people to hold an open, challenging and affirming conversation. With members from White communities barred, the freedom to share difficult experience with others unburdened double consciousness. Links to current and past personal histories were made. Unfettered – the conversations were like a surge of blood to an unseen unnoticed wound. Members who attended discussed their understanding of Internalised Racism. Part of the discussions observed what has been the learning in relation to ourselves and about the societies we live amongst.

So We Dare
Having written a little about group the idea of being amongst a closed experience felt risqué and yet also necessary. Inclusivity is undoubtedly an ideal to be achieved. Perhaps once Racialized communities recognise their needs for active participation in healing, liberating from outdated and ill fitting, ideas can begin. Exclusive meetings held amongst communities that are representative of diasporic Africans, Asians, Indigenous communities and LatinX communities are often framed as anti-White. Generally, these encounters are experienced as spaces for important idea generation, healing and application. The focus is on uplift. The experience of being amongst the True Roots online space felt unapologetic. Panelists and guests offered clear resourced and relative experiences about their growing understanding of what is lost by trying to acclimatise to societies that are structurally racist.

Abdicating Responsibility
The UK, Canada and the US deny and work to hold on to the outcomes of Colonial pasts and historic abuses against Black and Brown bodies. Claiming each country’s sovereignty and superiority over former and existing colonies. European settler behaviours have largely bestowed power upon European descendants and centred on greed gaining wealth. I would argue that centuries of war, genocide, trauma, and vilification of others has left a fetid festering wound amongst the planet. Calling all to attention, yet only a few hear the Earth’s cries. Fewer still tirelessly wrestle to create change that invites resuscitation or better regeneration.

Resources
Ms Xaba offers a number of personal stories of coming to realise the impact of the invisible marks left by apartheid. I recognise myself in the Ghana experience. Making self small, with the idea of perceived threat. Choosing to leave, before being told to.
Daniel shares his realisation of Internalised racism and the connection to misogyny. His story takes him from the US to Jordan where he learns to understand himself anew.
Internalised Oppression by Zed Xaba
Internalised Racism and Misogyny by Daniel Juweid

Images
Light Freeze Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Mockingbird a Review

Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy, by Dr Dwight Turner.


Opening
I wrote to my friend Banjo Aromolaran-Eaton that ‘Mockingbird is an outstanding reflexive undertaking. Dr Dwight Turner has done a difficult job of contending with Intersectionality and otherness brilliantly.’ Like wrestling with a thunder cloud. Every droplet of water examined and the electrical charge removed from most of the ion particles.

Light: Arcs

Indent
When a good book lands, one might read it once, and think on what has been learned occasionally. With a book like Mockingbird the learning will be a consistent reminder of what work and stretching still lie ahead. As an adherent of life long learning, the idea of continually growing – a welcome challenge. The ‘once read and gone’ idea is past, in our age currently being lived. Information once read, understood and digested can now be actively applied. We can demand more from what we consume.

Unapologetic
What Dr Turner does is turn the lens he is looking out at the world with, upon himself profoundly, unflinchingly, unapologetically. The book wilfully presents the discomfort of observing and feeling around challenging self concepts of identity. You might find yourself wincing in parts of the book that boldly delve way beneath the surface of safety. This is what makes Mockingbird stand out. Dr Turner does not turn away from the difficult. He in fact chooses to pause, point and move toward the unaligned (taking us with him), like an architect or builder snagging all fixtures that don’t sit right.

Beyond Bubbles
A message for those looking for an Aladdin’s cave of treasure, we won’t find it at the end of our lane/road/village. We will have to leave our comfort zones and go in search of it. There will be trials, there will be miss steps and lost chances. We will experience failure and defeat. What we will also come across, are clues as to where the treasure is hiding. Getting forever closer and seemingly further lost. I am writing as though the book is a story. It sort of is. Mockingbird is an heuristic undertaking with many points of learning. Mockingbird is both excruciating and exquisite in how it presents us with both understanding and many moments of insight. It is the Sea at the End of the Lane! The point of interest for me is, when a writer writes about themselves in intimate detail as Dr Turner has, they invite us to look at ourselves too in just as brave a way.

Contrast: Light Art

Scythe
My least favourite part of Mockingbird. The most challenging and at the same time best learning, came as Dr. Turner, focused his attention to Death of the other. It took me about a month to read this chapter. (A slow reader I am not!) It’s the apex part of the book. This chapter is the half mile Andy Dufresne has to crawl through to arrive outside of Shawshank as a smelly free man. Dr. Turner observes the many millions that have been classed as other and killed throughout history. In all honesty my heart sank at this point of the book. Death as a subject I had thought I had vanquished.

Death, I find is only over when our story inevitably ends. Mockingbird pulls no punches and everything is unearthed to be picked over and reviewed: Privilege encompasses us all he shares. This is a hard concept to bear witness to. There is death in acknowledging our experience of privilege, when believing that privilege belongs to everyone but us. How wrong was I?

Why Read Mockingbird
Questions that arise from a position of confusion, outrage and a sense of powerlessness are addressed. The book does well to hold the paradox of being othered and yet also having power. ‘Intersections…’ provides a way to begin engaging with the unconscious for answers, as Dwight has and wilfully shares his findings. The aspect of battling with the barely conscious parts of ourselves sounds challenging, because it is. With Dr Turner as a guide, who continually shares his discoveries, the uncovering of hidden meanings, make questing in a psychological way appear painful yet appealing, and also ultimately freeing. There is bravery in Dwight being so open and vulnerable with us.

Spilling: Light Art

Flawed
Without question there is difficulty in first understanding ones privilege within Western societies. Both Canada and the UK present a few preferred specific characteristic identities above others. As a Black male, grappling with the disabling effects of Relapsing Remitting MS, there are dynamics of feeling both disempowered, and yet held as powerful, whilst counselling to empower others. At times it can feel as though I/We are in the Minotaur’s labyrinth trying to make sense out of the complex multiple narratives held about Black and Brown bodies. If we include ableism, mental illness, gender, culture, race and class, we can begin to widen our lens and witness how Intersectionality encapsulates everyone. Post Trumpism, with Canada waking up to it’s residential school horror, of indigenous children’s remains being discovered in mass unmarked graves across Canada, post Britain’s exit from the European Union (I have refused the misnomer, for it was never fast and it was never easy), post the social reckoning that George Floyd’s murder awoke many people up to. Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy is a just and balanced and intrepid response. Intersections aims to support readers understand the paradox of the part held and the part we are to play at this critical multi-layered moment in world history.

We are all human animals making sense out of chaos.

Barely. 

Resources Explained
The list below is extensive primarily because much of what Dr Dwight Turner has been involved with has been affirming and informative. The links to his Twitter, Website and the numerous interviews and discussions all offer insight into a psychotherapists expansive explorative and sometimes explosive understandings.
Heuristic research initially I wanted to engage with for my Masters, but the subject of my topic to be researched wouldn’t fit into the model that Alice Shlegel shares. Alice’s explanation of Heuristic research further confirms my choice to use autoethnography. A Son’s Journey will be dissected further at a later point here.
Ionized particles and them being contained in Thunder Clouds was a useful aside to examine the comparison of Intersectionality, power, race, psychotherapy and the heavy charge a mix like this offers.
A thank you is extended to Kate Bowler who recommended that I read The Sea at The End of The Lane. Tim Ferris interviews Neil Gaiman about his process of writing.
The line in Exhibit A by Jay Electronica in the 2nd or 3rd verse remains one of my favourite verses referencing struggle, redemption and winning against multiple odds.
Shawshank was/is a life long great film. Morgan Freeman offers these words about his friend Andy at the end of the film. Morgan’s character intones how Andy lives on as a memory – whispering a promise of life after incarceration.

Resources
Dr Dwight Turner Twitter
Dr Dwight Turner Website
Dr Dwight Turner Interview Black Therapy
Dr Dwight Turner CPCAB Talk Being the Other Symposium
Dr Dwight Turner Discussion about Intersections
Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos article by Dr Dwight Turner
Understanding Heuristic research YouTube video by Alice Shlegel
NSSL The National Severe Storms Laboratory Link explaining Thunder Clouds.
The Sea At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman interview with Tim Ferris
Andy Dufresne link to Exhibit A by Jay Electronica
Morgan Freeman Shawshank Redemption Missing my friend

Images inspired by Black Steel
Cover Image by Michael Opoku-Forfieh
1st Inlay photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by Juliana on Unsplash
3rd Inlay photo by Paul Carmona on Unsplash

Love Rains – The Mother Wound

It was a warm night in July and I had been tossing and turning for the 2nd night in a row. Another awakening was happening for me. I asked myself what to do with the discomfort of knowing half of the population of people on the planet are valued lesser due to gender? It is a nonsensical, that has bothered me for 40+ years.

Bounce
That night a song rebounded in my mind and I was left with a question. What can I as a spirit, living in a Black male human body support Black women overthrow the yoke of patriarchy? The supporting interview with Kim Evans that offered free counselling via Kaemotherapy is a reminder of the fantastic work already being carried out.

Zoom Overload
Rotimi Akinsete who is involved with Black Men on The Couch shared with me, that a Somali Woman recently offered her community the access to a free session of counselling support and 30-40,000 Black Somali women joined the zoom chat. A welcome surprise that there were that many Women who wanted to access support from the call. There appears to be much work to be done!

Anthems
Love rains is a phenomenal song by Jill Scott on her first studio album ‘Who is Jill Scott?’. The album, a launching of a new songstress-poetess back in 98/99. Who is Jil Scott broke down a small wall for me in relation to an appreciation of Black Feminism. Songs like ‘Getting’ In The Way’, ‘Long Walk’, ‘The Way’ and ‘Love Rain’ became summer anthems for me that year. Most of the songs involved Jill’s interpretations on modern love and experiences on adulting.

Step Over
My wall was small because I had witnessed many of the challenges my mum and sisters were battling against daily. In many instances I was on the same side of the wall – bar 1 – male. Council housed, poor, from a sole parent family, Black, lower class.

Cardboard
The box we found ourselves in appeared too layered to clamber out from. My mother wasn’t one to relent on the hustle. My sisters were all able to dramatically blow out the sides of the box in one way or the other and escape. They all leaving home at 15/16…

Warming Embrace

The telling of Love Rain is a song/story of falling in love, and that love being passion driven and failing/ending. She writes/sings

Listen while you read if you can!

Jill Scott F/ Mos Def
Miscellaneous
Love Rain (remix)

chorus:
Love rain down on me,
on me,
Down on me.
Love rain down on me,
on me,
Down on me,
Love rain down on me,
on me,
Down on me.
Love rain down on me,
on me,
Down on me.

Met him on a Thursday,
Sunny afternoon,
Cumulous clouds,
84 degrees.
He was brown, deep
Said he wanted to talk about my mission, listen to my past lives.
Took me on long walks to places where butterflies rest easy,
Talked about Moses and Mumia, reparations, blue colors, memories of shell-topped Adidas.
He was fresh like summer peaches;
Sweet on my mind like block parties and penny candy.
Us was nice and warm, no jacket, no umbrella, just warm.
At night, we would watch the stars,
And he would physically give me each and every one.
I felt like cayenne pepper, red, hot spicy.
I felt dizzy and so near heaven.
Miles between my thighs,
Better than love, we made delicious.
He me had, and had me he.
He had me tongue tied;
I could hear his rhythm in my thoughts.
I was his sharp, his horn suction.
His boom and his bip,
And he was my love.

Recognise
There may have been these experiences Jill sings about above, a number of years ago. Perhaps even post the CoViD19 pandemic, pre and post lockdown experiences we may have taken long walks after being cooped up for so long. Fallen in love with our environment outside our front doors again. Perhaps met a special someone…

All Set

Chorus x1

The rain was falling and slowly and sweetly and stinging my eyes,
And I couldn’t see that he became my voodoo priest,
And I was his faithful concubine.
Wide open, wide, loose like bowels after collard greens.
The mistake was made, love slipped from my lips,
Dripped down my chin and landed in his lap,
And Us became Nu.
Now me non clairvoyant and in love,
Made the coochie easy and the obvious invisible.
The rain was falling,
And I couldn’t see the season changing,
And the vibe slipping off its axis.
Our beautiful melody became wildly staccato. The…rain…was..falling…and…I…could not…see..that…I..was…to…be
Plowed…
And sown and fertilised,
and left to drown in his sunny afternoon,
Cumulus clouds, 84 degree, melody.

Love Fade Verse
The ending of love and passion heads into something more pedantry, pedestrian, passion free? I wonder what else could be said here? What a woman who has been let down by her love, her world, by the problematic system of patriarchy might say?

Support by
I am to, pay attention. Call out the many micro-aggressions. Listen. Take up less space. Be a witness. Recognise simply it is not about you (man) or me. It is about equanimity and equality of opportunity. The very basis of a fair society.

Wounded
There is a story for both the woman willing to be vulnerable and for the man unwilling to bear countenance of vulnerability, that seems to be a part of the hidden story of this song. The idea that by barely whispering ‘I love you’, has someone who has been hurt by love – run.

Internally.

Looking for safety.

Resources
The Goddesses Roundtable Episode 3 Healing the Mother Wound
Dope Black Women podcasts: Mental Health of Young Black Women And Young Black Girls with Ebinehita Iyere.

Images
Cover photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Serendipity: Day 1 The Course

The Black Men’s Introduction to Group Therapy Course began on the 13th of November and was a Kings and Queen making experience with my co-counsellor Sheila Samuels. I borrow the term from Ron Brown High School and Dope Black Dad’s Podcast’s chief presenter Marvyn Harrison who addressed me recently as King.

The moment stood out, fresh like beads of sweat dotting a brow furrowed in deep concentration. Mentally I did a double take and thought…
Who is he speaking to?
Me?
Really?
King?
Oh I get it.
Those are large shoes to fill.
I’m ready to put that mantle on.

Now.

Collaborative Communication
5 men attended the group and told their stories of why they saw a need for the group. The men held out their independent requests for the room to see feel and identify with. There is a unity to be had in sharing hopes with a room who know what you are saying because they, I, we, have said similar things too.

The Philosophical meets the Practical

Safety
Groups are always nervous in the beginning. Leaders/Facilitators are too! With a new venue.
New people to get to know.
A new course.
Not knowing met with new, then came upon nuanced and introduced those who attended to what has the potential for being made to exist in the now.
For this group it was a Black safe space. Rare. A space curated, created and secured for men of the African Diaspora to meet and talk and discuss and experience warmth from a forgotten Sun. The aim – to discuss Black Mental Health with other Black Men with 2 highly skilled counsellors.

Knowing
A good therapy group often operates well with 2 counsellors steering the conversation. Having worked with Sheila at the prison a few years ago I knew she would be a great co-facilitator for this group. Knowledgeable, flexible and able to support the group engage with the sensitive topic of Black Mental Health.

Diversity
The group of 5 men with differing ages, professions, from a range of different London Boroughs, from a collection of countries of origin all came with a singular focus: To open the sometimes locked box and speak about mental health, as vulnerable, sensitive, engaged, intelligent, responsible, aware, concerned advocates and as Black men.

Sensate
There was laughter, there was a felt sense of wanting to support and be simply acknowledged as friend, brother, seeker, father, colleague like in the classic Ralph Ellis book Invisible Man being seen and understood is a priceless gift.

I could just about keep my hands from clapping all the time or staying on my seat from sheer giddy exuberance: This Was Actually Happening! Finally!

It did, and there are more to follow, on the 20th 27th November 4th, 11th 18th December.

One attendee asked if there are plans for the group to continue past the 6 weeks… Both me and Sheila looked at each other and answered “Well that all depends…”

Who Knows by Ram Dass
Thank you Anne Willoughby for introducing me to this tale…

*Cover Image from This Book Could Help

And He Laughed.

Black laughter. Black Love.

There are times when I am amazed by the generosity of spirit of the people I meet in prison. They may only be dimly aware. For this man I would like to share this piece of writing with him. An action of reciprocity. Effective Altruism? Maybe…

Bad Day
I was having a shitty day. Walking with a walking stick in prison is a cumbersome and slow experience. The walking stick has me feeling vulnerable and very out there on my own. It’s a constant worry that at any moment something is going to go down and I’m going to be jumped beaten and my keys snatched off of my chain.

It has never happened to me.

(Yes, staff walk around with keys attached to a belt.) Uniformed Staff and civilian staff walk with aware that they carry a large responsibility along with those keys – a symbol of power.

Questioning
The opposite is often what I encounter. I generally do not feel powerful. My visible vulnerability brings from many I meet, including officers and often young and mature black men, the nod, or the question of
“Are you alright?” Or
“You cool?”
“What’s happened?”
“You good?”
“Take it easy, yeah?”

Fade
Here I am seen and my daily struggle is met by others compassion, seeing myself as the injured and frail one. I find myself at times wanting to be invisible. But these calls are a gentle reminder that humanity lives here. These moments are of genuine sensitivity being shown from men who are doing hard time, some serving 18-30 years. I have accountability and a responsibility to uphold, mine and theirs.

Between
On this day I passed from one wing to another. There are a number of wings/house blocks, housing between 100-150 men. Every house block has it’s own distinct vibe and concentration of prisoners: Vulnerable prisoners, lifers, remand and re-categorised prisoners. These men are due for parole or to be sent to other prisons for more open conditions. The prison has a total capacity servicing over 1000 men. Me negotiating the gates, doors and stairs takes longer as I manage the cane, the keys, assessment charts, writing paper to note take and my diary. An unholy slow moving ungainly mess.

Rutland Water Normanton Church: Slow Moving

Check-in
I am to meet with a client who attends the bereavement group. (Thanks for the reminder I will offer a write up about this group soon.) I need to see him as he left the group early on this week and I want to make sure that he is okay.

Take
We meet on his house block and I make my way into one of the offices that has a desk and 2 chairs on his wing.

I offer,
“I wanted to come and see you as I wanted to find out how you are after Tuesdays meeting?”
He says “Yeah, I just wasn’t feeling good you know? Sometimes this place takes the piss!”

I nod showing that I understand.

He continues “I asked for something that’s important to me for my religion and it’s not on the canteen sheet and I can’t get it!
“It’s frustrating me.
“I’m usually okay with it here.
“But this thing.
“I’ve been patiently waiting for 3 months and I couldn’t wait any longer. “I’ve done it their way for a long time and nothing ain’t happening for me. “I’m not just going for mine and leaving everybody else you know?
“This is about me and for others like me.”

Release
He shares his disappointments and numerous experiences of being let down and similar disagreements about the prison. Like, losing weight, standing forward and supporting others, confronting officers and attending to his overall fitness, wearing clothes he has had to keep care of for years because he can’t trust that things sent in will safely arrive.

Prism
He says something like jail being more like a mental health institution in patois and we both laugh. Initially tentatively. Then gleefully. Recognising ourselves in a prison situation as Black men. One choosing to be there with the other, another doing his best to find peace within his situation in prison.

Re-set
The laugh of this black man was like the baring of a soul with a comrade at arms, a fellow road weary traveller, a baller. His laugh invited me to view both his and my plight with compassion. This black mans laugh somehow seemed to restore me and also him. We sat and laughed in a prison, about prison and the folly of the circumstances we both found ourselves in. It was Capoeira meeting Jazz, Gum Boot Dance to Blues, Hip Hop bopping slow with Reggae, Salsa and Calypso rejoicing. It was natural and affirming that even here -prison – humanity could be found.

Re-Mix
The wonderful ability to take something that is both internal and external put a spin on it and make it both his and mine. The experience of the infinite in a few short moments of laughter. How deliciously wonderful, amazing and so uniquely surprising. I left the prison a little lighter that day, usually a little guilt escapes with me.

Not on this day!

There was no space for it.

Only smiles and laughter.

Resources
The Nod Do Rag
Code Switch School Daze and Gum Boot Dance
2 guys on your head Laughter/Jokes 
Making Sense Mind, Space, Motion

CTA
Comments welcome and appreciated. I am looking to engage in conversation re. Black Laughter. Black Love and the other blogs written. Thank you for reading.

Photo by Giulia Pugliese on Unsplash