Clean Space

What is a clean space? I am borrowing from psychotherapy’s understanding of clean pain and dirty pain here. The idea for clean space is a transmutation from Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, and a conversation with a friend. In the book Resmaa defines ‘clean pain as choosing integrity over fear and standing in that fear with integrity and moving towards the unknown. The alternative path is responding from dirty pain. Dirty pain is when we respond to fear and conflict from our most wounded parts. Responding from dirty pain only creates more pain, both for ourselves and for other people.’ Kevin Reese.

Ahhhhh, Clean Space

Adapt Faster
For the past few months I have been engaged in conversations with Joshua Isaac Smith. ‘Clean space’ is a new concept for us to consider. Perhaps also psychotherapeutically. We wondered what ‘clean space’ would mean? A room devoid of clutter, debris from the past, smoke, mirrors, egos, distraction and expectation. A ‘clean space’ would be filled with windows. Allowing safe passage of the used and damaged out, and on the new breeze, fresh exciting ideas and plans.

‘Clean Space’ existing as a hopeful tentative NOW.

Empowered
Recently I was amongst 20 Black men at MacMaster’s Black Student Success Centre for an Empowered conversation. Being with groups of Black and Brown men, has been part of my psychotherapeutic experience since joining BAATN in 2010. Forming The Black Men’s Therapy Group, collaborating to start The Diversity Space at NHS Oxleas, being a counsellor of Kwanda’s Mens Groups, attending and co-facilitating the True Roots Check-In and Chat gatherings and now the Empowered experience at Macmaster’s University have all been ‘clean spaces’. Every experience supports an understanding of how rare meeting in an unencumbered way can be.

A Waiting Page

These Days
I wrote last year, about when Black people gather in numbers larger than 2, in spaces that are considered White, often that group is interrupted or stopped from happening. Noise, disruption, a perceived harmony considered out of alignment the cause. A closer examination could be that witnessing Black people together laughing, discussing, enjoying time peaceably can cause suspicion, disharmony, an old yet fully present order – disrupted. The observer offset by a preconceived notion that a group of Black men are planning something. Leading to revolt. In solidarity groups arrive at causes that determine outcomes and act accordingly to achieve necessary change.

Ready
The Empowered event at Mac’ was the first of it’s kind at the University. Members of staff (2 sports coaches, a lecturer/PhD student) students from different years and areas of study and me came together to watch Black Boys. A film about the Black Male experience in America, and then discuss our understanding of being a Black man in Canada. The skill of withholding rather than exploding, being assertive versus aggressive, non reactive when encountering micro and major aggressions, the exhaustion of constantly being on guard. Like being in an invisible straightjacket…

Community Clean

Rebound
Speaking with Joshua, who wondered about an organisms tendency to shrink, retreat, respond in fear when new stimuli are introduced. Prompted me to write this short blog. Our conversation helped me to think about synapses and encountering difference. Does the brain re-wire initially encountering challenge? Do synapses retreat breaking connection momentarily? Only to reach out and form a link later and then re-enforce that link with others. Or once a synaptic link drops, is the link permanently severed? Being in safe spaces, ‘clean spaces’, do synaptic links regrow? Do we regrow once danger and perceived threat disappear?

Exponential Growth
I believe we do in ‘clean spaces’. If the human has a tendency to self actualise, to improve continually, Black men witnessing another (others) in a space being vulnerable, can identify that the masculine can be compassionate and however that male wishes to recongise and express themselves. That was what I witnessed. A willingness to step outside of a pre-set mold. Tentatively we began to unfurl and live in space without filters. We became hushed, listening intently, focused. We found time to articulate our ideas and experiences like a testimony for the gathered to know ‘You are not alone.’ ‘I see you.’ ‘I have felt that way too.’

Bubble Balcony

You, Me, Us
Being in service to another, is being in service to self, to one’s family and community. ∞ (infinity) is an act of Ubuntu. When as a species (human) we can accept that no person is more important than anyone else on the planet. Death then can be an equalising concept. This final experience has us all in repose, be you a queen, a member of a Junta, or a salesperson. Having access to ‘clean space’ for Black men I imagine contributes to a sense of being seen, heard, valued and fulfilled. I am fortunate to have been a part of the inaugural Empowered event and look forward to many others at MacMasters, and beyond. The request from ourselves to humanity is less to seek permission, but taking the necessary steps to live well as Black men.

More of
Experiencing ‘clean spaces’ more than once, leaves me questioning about how members of the Empower group found their time? I am also interested to know how to increase a sense of security and ‘clean space’ beyond designated times and places. As a psychotherapist I am interested to know what the bite point is. When do ideas of connection bloom towards collaboration, action and then implementation? Having access to ‘clean space’ could be the catalyst.

Moving energy collectively forward.

Little is achieved without community around.

The first ‘clean space’ may well have been the family unit…

Resources
Black Boys hyperlinks to the site of the film. The link below is a Blog discussing the film in some detail by The Curvy Critic Sonia Lowman.
With I stand Alone, the outro of this piece of music bites down on the kernel I have been mulling on throughout this blog. Patrick Stump presents an idea on repetition. Without ingenuity nothing new can be introduced. Amongst community – everything is out for reinvention.
Black Folk introduces a wonderful love song to Black People about the Black experience. As insightful as the music is wistful. Poetry filled with pointed observation. Again we observe community.
Clean Pain links to a short piece by Kevin Reese who looks at his life following release from prison and integrating with community.
Jason Reynolds has a 4-part podcast where he in his smooth baritone, observes life post CoVid19 alongside his mother’s influence. Community for me is more than 1.
QLS Classic with Common, highlights Common’s rise from Chicago to being a global figure. Note how he observes community, influence and movement that helps to shape his career.
Black Boys by Sonia Lowman a review
Robert Glasper, Common, Patrick Stump  I Stand Alone
Tank and The Bangas Black Folk
Clean Pain and the necessity of healing – MSR
Radiotopia Presents My Mother Made Me – Jason Reynolds
Quest Love Supreme – QLS Classic: Common

Images
Image Theme: Clean
Cover photo Hands Clean Eats by Wasa Crispbread on Unsplash
Living Room photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash
A Waiting Page photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Window Clean photo by Victor on Unsplash
Bubble Balcony photo by Salman Hossain Saif on Unsplash

**Backlinks
Adapt Faster – Joshua Isaac Smith
Canada links to the Blog Encounters of the 3rd Kind
Black Student Success Centre or BSSC at MacMasters Uni
BAATN The Black African and Asian Therapist Network
The Black Men’s Therapy Group Blog
The Diversity Space Blog
Kwanda’s Mens Group Blog True Roots Blog
Ubuntu: Recovery – White Supremacy Blog

**Whilst I find backlinks useful in the main body of text. They can be distracting for you the reader. I would be interested to know if you find links at the end of the writing helpful.

In Dance

2020 was an ‘off’ year for a number of reasons. The blight of CoViD19 significantly affected millions living on the planet. The global social uprising sparked by the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd offered radical insights of not just the coronavirus but also multiple lockdowns and a social awareness that all is uncertain. For me, I chose to leave one organisation and join another. The organisation I chose to join: B.A.i.D. Black Artists in Dance.

Clocked
In 2019 an inspired group engagement re. Something Other: Diversity Space – lead to a sparkling conversation with Joyce Gyimah-Distefano and Gerrard Martin from B.A.i.D. We discussed what my role had been with Diversity Space and what their vision was for B.A.i.D. A recognition of shared interests in the wake of the global social unrest was straightforward for me to recognise.

Mirroring Buddy

Opposites
There was a clear overlap of B.A.i.D’s involvement with challenging status quos, and my involvement with Diversity Space, creating opportunity for Black and Brown voices to be heard amongst an NHS foundation trust. Whilst from two vastly different practices ‘psychology’ and ‘dance’, I would hazard that there are psychological components in dance and a dance in psychotherapeutic engagement. These differences made working together glimmer with possibility. If you have had the chance to watch Move on Netflix a flicker of the psychological, sociological and historical is present within each of the dance offerings.

Recognise
I held an affinity for what the future of B.A.i.D. was to begin engaging with nationally. The similarity of what had begun in 2019 with Diversity Space was – Black/Brown people to be seen, valued, heard, supported to achieve both inside of and outside of the NHS. For B.A.i.D. A space for Black dancers to be recognised amongst, celebrated within and supported to achieve what their hard won talents would earn them in the world of movement performance.

Picturesque Poise

Buckaroo
The promise to Black and global majority communities – that the harms and injustices of the past – were to be rectified and put forever right are largely still unmet. Capitalism’s promise following unarmed Black death, appeared as the last hiccups of a world semi conscious of race, colonised histories and the lie of supremacy gave way to resentment and impatience. The backlash came after a few weeks of full tilt support of Black Lives Matter and *EDDIE (Equity, Diversity, De-colonialism, Inclusion, Equality). Change unfortunately takes time. Some know, others don’t. As Mariame Kaba carefully described in an interview with Ibram X Kendi, “make use of and remain vigil of disciplined hope”.

Outline
Joyce explored what had been achieved with Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust alongside colleagues. What the Raison D’Etre was for the Diversity Space and how our collaboration grew to become a significant force for change for the organisation and for the 4 members of the small but dedicated team. 2 have remained and 2 have joined other teams beyond the NHS. B.A.i.D. as an organisation were clear with what they wanted to engage and achieve. Small – large scale dance training institutions address how to be anti-racist and to tackle practices that ignore, silence and invisibilise individuals from Black and global majority communities that attend dance training.

Fields of Gratitude

Marked
I have delivered 2 individualised events for Rambert School. At the first event as the supervising counsellor for B.A.i.D. I met with students to discuss mental wellbeing, addictive qualities of mobile phone use, risks and rewards of being in and outside of group, raising awareness of public, private and secret communication, identifying attachment patterns, and developing coping strategies. The event in March went well, primarily due to the open curiosity of students, the overview and support of Joyce, Gerrard of B.A.i.D. and Phaedra from Rambert. Students were willing to explore difficult concepts and find interesting solutions and challenge their thinking and mine.

Elastic
The second event involved a group of staff from different components of Rambert School. The staff group were equally as engaged as the dance students had been. They followed what was presented in relation to end of year reflections, as though this type of training happens every term! (It doesn’t!) Staff were as flexible in their thinking and as willing to engage with challenging and opposing ideas, as their students had been. Either there is something in the air in this part of London, or the ethos of the school helps shape all engaged at Rambert.

Flexibly In Tune

Crash
A number of stand out moments happened throughout the day. Concepts such as a ‘Year in Change’ and ‘Conflict’ began shifting around the identity of self and community for Rambert staff. I was thankful to have had a number of prior conversations with Joyce, Gerrard and Phaedra in relation to what an event with me could resemble. Reflecting on 2020 – 2022 the Rambert team were able to note the necessary and amazing choices staff had taken to change ways of being in the school and away from – virtual/online learning, marking, attendance, re-engagement at the school after lockdown. Heading into the topic of conflict, we noted that for much of the pandemic we were all engaged within a number of battles that were; physical, psychological, philosophical, political and social.

Resolution
The small skirmishes (mentioned above) potentially left small and deep scars. Rambert staff identified that we would be better to pay attention to these wounds, heal them and make use of the learning offered. Rather than to limp slowly and recklessly forward – hurting more.

The internal conflict the past 2 years have presented are: what changes are to remain and what of the many adjustments made, do we leave behind?

For me there are phenomenal outcomes when seemingly opposing disciplines arrive at the same place at the same time and attempt to dance.

Perhaps individually we can remain in tune.

Collectively we may find co-ordination a challenge. With considered effort and for a long time after, fun can be re-discovered amongst the many…

Perhaps

Resources
The B.A.i.D. link connects to Black Artists In Dance website – offering the uninitiated an insight to an amazing organisation.
Rambert School present their collaboration with BAiD.
The Mariame Kaba link is connected to the Blog post of Willfully Unseen: Packed Ending and her interview with Ibram X Kendi on How to be Anti-Racist podcast.
In Tune is a link to the musical and poetic feat by Robert Glasper and Amir Sulayman. When artistry takes on a social movement often a power experience is entombed.
EDI a short film by Oxleas NHS trust a view of some of the work the Diversity Space delivered and continues to support and improve the NHS service.
Unlocking Us with Brené Brown in conversation with Karen Walrond, provides a clear direction beyond the upset of the past 2 years. I thought the conversation fitting for the staff group.
The last resource is of Prentis Hemphill discussing conflict with Kazu Haga. The big take away for me was that, there are 7 truths inside of the true false paradigm. Useful to overcome differences of opinion and remaining in the unknown open to curiosity.
Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust EDI
Code Switch Why Now?
Brene Brown in conversation with Karen Walrond Unlocking Us
Prentis Hemphill in conversation with Kazu Haga Finding Our Way

Images
Theme Dance
Cover photo by Maick Maciel on Unsplash
Buddy Wave photo by SJ Objio on Unsplash
Field Dance photo by Ian Kiragu on Unsplash
Picture hold photo by Nkululeko Mayiyane on Unsplash
Wild Style photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

*An acronym recently invented.

Something Other: Diversity Space. Idea – Implementation

The blog below is a collection of thoughts, around the theme of setting up a singular focus, focus group. In short the beginnings of a manifesto in support of Diversity Spaces.

Since leaving University of Greenwich in 2012, and being introduced to BAATN in 2010, finding a community of Black and Asian therapists, I have sought to find a space of relative comfort amongst the Psychological profession. Psychology has been mistakenly identified as a White domain, however numerous cultural and ethnic groups have engaged with psychological ideas long before Freud popularised his dangerous method.

Setting Up
Engaging with the early phases of development with Diversity Space alongside trusted colleagues felt just, after the charitable organisation experiences. The challenges met, were mostly overcome in the early phases of Diversity Space. Organising sites to meet. Arranging times to gather, discussion about if minutes of each meeting were to be taken, or if they were necessary to share with the NHS Foundation trust of how we were using time. All efforts were in order to hone and re-enforce the need for what the Diversity Space was. In a short period, D.S. achieved a number of worthwhile outcomes.

1-2-3
3 outcomes of note – the delivery of White privilege training to highlight what members from diverse communities experience whilst engaging with ‘White spaces’. A second outcome – were a number of conversations with the head of the NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief Executive and their team attempting to take the department into a fair and equal organisation to work. The best outcome for me was to witness a coming together of members from diverse communities and professions within the NHS foundation trust. Meeting to discuss and reach outcomes of how to develop the organisation to face and embrace the changes needed to have the trust be EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion) focused.

Blood Red Flower – Signaling Change

Space to Think
The experience of belonging to a professional group of practitioners that understand what is at stake in not having representation at all levels within an organisation was of great importance to me. Being a member of the African diaspora we engage in an uncivil set of circumstances. Like being in a war of attrition continuing to deliver much needed highly skilled tasks under fire and being debased, and abused whilst completing them. The practitioners I worked with at some of the prisons I supported, not only understood but offered space to be heard and plan possible ways forward. Speaking with those who shared the idea of a community of professionals all working towards a similar outcome: that of being understood, respected, listened to and seen by the NHS foundation trust we worked for was a highlight. One of the effects of being othered and the hobbling caused being discriminated against, can be the impact on ones thinking/feeling/behaviour whilst at work and away from…

Outcome List
Below a list of outcomes the Diversity Space sought during Oct 2019 – Oct 2020.

Valuing contributions of members to the host organisation.
Sharing perspectives of Black/Indigenous/Asian Mental Health .
Discussing the impact of working at one level and being paid at a lower one – challenging outcomes of interviews/seeking feedback.
Critically evaluate a perceived hypocrisy of hypocritic oaths of caring professions.
Highlighting the impact of working within a biased/unfair/racist culture/organisation (The NHS ).
Completing meaningful endeavour whilst within a former colonial country (The UK).
Reducing the stigma of access to psychological/therapeutic support in prison/medical centres for Black and othered persons in prison.
Sharing the Diversity Space vision and voice through a range of mediums including (prison/NHS) radio, podcasts, news articles/online articles.
Share resources that inspire amongst Diversity Space members leading to change for individuals and within the organisation.
Inspiring change for ourselves, for those we support and the organisation we work amongst.
Enlist collaborators and allies to represent the groups aims at meetings, when the main body are unable to be present.
Seek endorsement/buy in from key members of staff to move the needle.

Dog Tag Tears

Old
Thinking that writing/transcribing a few lines of policy could change a culture is unfortunately unrealistic. For a system of oppression to be removed an approach could be to understand the problem and challenge what is faced continually, unapologetically. The effort takes renewable sources of energy and a motivated team of conspiring individuals to continue the work. Having access to a limitless source/resource helps. Belief in something larger than the team or an individual is important to arrive at a point close to the eventual goal. Holding a compassionate perspective can be invaluable in the attempt to topple an endemic vicious historic power structure. Developing a team of members that endorse the changes and are willing to speak about the journey, the challenge and also the small wins is important to continue the momentum and interest of the endeavor.

Reality Check
The challenge is broad in that there are few elements of life that are unaffected by racist policy and racist decisions. The writing of these ideas have affected societies that we live in so much, rather than question the way in which the world has been drawn we accept and try to make use out of what is available. There are a number of aspects discussed in the episode Made To Be Broken by This American Life which touches on some of the concepts discussed above beautifully. The episode is found in last weeks resources list.

Collect
Having a team of skilled professionals at hand, sharing a race aware lens supported me in redrafting a proposal for setting up and introducing a therapy group for Black Men at one of the prisons we worked. The team’s advice namely was about collecting evidence that a group for Black Men in a specific prison was indeed necessary. The core group of Diversity Space members displayed keen awareness of what may prevent a needed group therapy initiative to falter, stall and die.

Data
The peers of the core group of Diversity Space advised that I collect data. Specific numbers provide evidence that a problem exists and that there is need for said challenge to be tackled. Data gives clear identification of numbers, listing important characteristics of persons that are affected or could be engaged with. Data would observe: Age, Sex, Race, ethnicity, cultural background, Place of Birth etc. The aim to confirm that a service is hitting a target audience and meeting a need.

Art Depicting…

Discovery
If I had asked a number of professionals at various levels within the prison about the need for diverse access to mental health support, to address the lack of representation by Black and Brown people in therapy, a number of important ideas may have been gathered. Discussing some of the concerns with men and women at the prisons and community spaces Diversity Space members serviced could have revealed what caused low numbers to be engaged with therapy.

Trust
In order for diverse communities to access support a service is to be noted for their ability to meet an asked for need. Development of trust is engaged with in successive incremental encounters. The success of a programme, project, research with a designated group can be measured by the groups willingness to attend, engage, develop the programme and increase the knowledge/awareness of everyone involved. A mark of success for me, is how a group over time skillfully withstands ruptures to engagement. Grumbling once a programme restarts, yet willing to encounter the tapestry of building a meaningful project after a project begins again.  

Understanding
Belief in European models to address Global South community’s concerns is a moment to begin pausing and develop listening that can incorporate culturally appropriate therapeutic methods to support growth health and wellbeing. Emotional Emancipation Circles would be a useful approach to work with African Diasporan communities and groups. A low representation of a diverse staff base, providing mental health support is often an experience that Global South communities encounter when visiting health centres. I lightly touched on similar factors in a previous post. One way to increase belief in models of care is to have representatives of a local community delivering that health provision. My imagination holds ideas similar to low representation of persons from the Global South delivering care. Preventing and spurning access from communities that could benefit from neighborhood provision of support.

Machination of War and Peace

Mapping
By gathering insights from a range of sources, could provide a number of useful approaches to create access points for communities that would previously not have accessed support – to engage. Currently peer support works and has been a useful way to introduce psychologically informed guidance to clients that would otherwise avoid or decline mental health support. Re. EWB mentors at HMP Swaleside and Together’s Service User Mentoring scheme.

Answer
Address the challenges that are presented with creative and open-hearted solution focused idea generation. Gather ideas of old and reimagine them along with ideas from the populace to be served. A service ‘done to’ dooms all. A service ‘done with’ can only succeed because it achieves alongside learning and reviewing and changing and adapting continually.

Resources
The EWB Scheme at HMP Swaleside is an engaged programme of work for persons in prison engaging with counselling skills to support other persons in prison that may be struggling with life inside.
Together’s Mentoring Scheme for persons who have returned to the community from prison links former prison residents with voluntary support mentors that are successfully navigating life outside and away from prison.
I am listing Code Switch’s episode on This Racism is Killing Me Inside again, because of the dual content of what is discussed, and to present what is meant by surviving the allostatic load and not being able to fully discharge the psychological build up. The costs weigh on individuals greatly. Hence the need for Diversity groups.
The Untold Story Policing speaks strongly to the notion of being organised and being ready to step into protect what’s important. Jay Ellis strongly advises how policing can be reformed by groups of people coming together and strongly stating what they do and what they don’t want.
With Resistance I have gone back to the initial podcast that was highlighted by This American life podcast. This episode looks at divergence amongst a protest group and the paths people take to achieve a similar goals/outcomes.
School Colours podcast from Brooklyn Deep I have listed before in Why Listen, as there is something familiar and frustrating to hear about a school district that has largely been written off by a city’s school board. Residents, parents and teachers do not sit idly by and allow their school’s dismemberment to happen in their neighbourhood. No, they organise and loudly fight – admirably.
The BBC’s Black Power documentary illustrates what happens when unity meets purpose. I hope to be able to watch more of the telling of this story from Canada.
Radiotopia’s new show S*** Hole country offers an entertaining view of being an Afircan in America and an American in Africa. Yes Afia uses the phrase the previous incumbent of the White House used to describe African countries. There is something refreshing to witness the re-mix and re-interpretation of a dour *imbecellic phrase to juxtapose investigative journalism alongside identity. The link to the Diversity Space is how Afia uses the podcast to begin questioning and questing with herself, the African Diaspora and her 2 countries of origin.
Code Switch This Racism is Killing Me Inside
The Untold Story Policing Nix The 6
Resistance Is It Too Revolutionary?
School Colours Agitate! Educate! Organize!
Black Power: A British Story of Resistance – BBC
S*** Hole Country Quote Unquote

Images
Image theme: War
Downed Bomber photo by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash
Poppy photo by Quaritsch Photography on Unsplash
Dog tags photo by Benjamin Behre on Unsplash
Nails and Painted Fist photo by Khashayar Kouchpeydeh on Unsplash
Tank and Star Pattern photo by Felix Tchverkin on Unsplash

Something Other: NHS

The experience with the charity was painfully inspirational and set me up with a want to build a communal space for Black and Asian mental health professionals. Meeting Frank Lowe in the summer of 2019 moved the want aspect into a need. I will investigate what causes a need for a space that I and marginalised others could feel comfortable in below.

Diversity Space
Kent prisons offered a useful sidestep from the set of challenges I contended with as a project manager at the charity. As the lead counsellor for the Kent cluster of prisons I held onto hope for a number of new experiences. Meeting the No. 1 governor at the beginning of my time at one of the six prisons I was to oversee, encouraged me to believe in change as a possibility. The number one governor appeared approachable, a good listener and socially aware of the setting of the jail and the over representation of young Black men detained at the prison. The governor was clear that the concerned focus on ne’er do well’s, sent to prison was a societal/political/educational issue if we widened the lens.

Diversity Thinking Spaces Call To Act

One Amongst Many
In the second year of managing 6 prisons, alongside 3 other Black and Asian staff, we started and implemented the Diversity Space. There was something I found hard to metabolise, voice, and process about being a Black male lead counsellor managing a mostly White staff team across 6 prisons. The diversity space gave me chance to lay down the shields, masks, double consciousness I walked along every corridor with, into every room carrying, all meetings attended, most telephone conversations and only a few counselling interactions. As Code Switch’s ‘This Racism Is Killing Me on The Inside’ link in last week’s post highlights, the effect of being discriminated against wears the recipient down.

The Need
I have previously highlighted that walking whilst Black in the 21st century is a different experience than living and walking whilst Black in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Working in prison as a person of proposed seniority, with legitimate reasons for being a key carrying member of staff offers a number of challenges for both uniform and detained persons in prison. There were concerned looks by prison staff as I appeared from behind a previous locked door. These concerned looks intensified from staff when I began walking the corridors with a cane to assist my slow MS labored progress. Persons in prison treated me as an anomaly. Visibly disabled and Black, not uniformed, hobbling about with a cane. ‘He must be one of us then’ seemed to be the consensus. I was once asked by a person in prison where he could get a cane like mine? He and I weeks later laughed once he realised that I was staff. I needed a space where I could process these mal formed moments, vent my frustrations amongst a room of people who yes resembled me in some way, but also understood what walking, breathing, living as an othered person was like.

A Message to The Battle Weary

Beginning
Starting Diversity Space I wanted a safe space in a prison more than once a month! The irony is not lost. As a member of staff there was something either confusing, discombobulating and often discomforting about being a Black free person working in prison. The team that I supported did their best to accommodate and support me. The practicals of getting the computers to work, or using the telephone system, and finding various cell blocks or locations of colleagues the team excelled at. The deeper learning of moving amongst a populace of staff who had rarely interacted with a Black man, other than in prison was a gap perhaps too great to fathom.

Tresspass
I did not share my frequent observations, experiences and worrisome times of being treated as an other. For instance, my first day at one of the prisons, a member of the psychology team almost with eyes of unpleasant surprise wanted to loudly proclaim but stilled their tongue ‘you can’t come in here!’ as I entered the counselling and psychology office. The hastily dropped assessment may have been that a Black prisoner was entering a protected ‘White’ space. The topics of race, class and poverty were often left overlooked. They unspoken barbs of information perfuming an already laden atmosphere. An undercurrent of fear lurked in every corner. The social subjects of othering people too large to appropriately be dissolved in any singular discussion. I felt that my presence in prison was a question some could not find a fitting answer to. As a result I was often left reeling from acts from staff that limited the aim I had of wanting to improve circumstances for persons in prison and staff that cared for them. Diversity Space offered a balm. Similar to my experience to BAATN I felt appreciated, seen, heard and understood once the group began.

Community and Sharing Feels Thus

Underestimate
When a group of like-minded individuals begin a project that ultimately is used as a tool to hold themselves together within a hostile environment. Violent uprisings can be an outcome, however, the gatherings are usually fertile ground to develop ideas that disrupt and destroy the psychological hold power structures like White supremacy maintain. The aim – to move the needle – the axis of control – away from oppressors. Generally, the idea of coming together is to be of support, to listen, to share stories, to laugh uproariously and to find ways of managing an intolerable set of circumstances whilst not losing one’s mind. The empathic embodied understanding received by fellow colleagues, was one of the best and most fitting outcomes the group offered me, a Black member of staff working across 6 prisons in Kent. I no longer walked the corridors alone. There is an implicit confidence that a person with knowledge strides with. I walked the prisons, as if carried by an unseen army/team beside and around me. I had a special group of psychologically and sociologically trained Black and Asian professionals that were in the Strange Situation with me.

Thinking Space
I met Frank Lowe as he delivered training on Decolonizing Psychotherapy in Bexley, South East London. The event changed something in me. I felt Frank largely presented his truth as a catalyst for change to be made amongst attendant staff groups. Frank highlighted the need for change fundamentally within the NHS and specifically within psychological professions. Last weeks blog pointed at the ‘over and under representation’ aspect that engulfs the delivery and receipt of care in the National Health Service. During the training, I boiled over when a senior (PMSF) psychologist suggested that we are all racist. In essence they were correct. Growing up in a racist, financially oppressive, sexist, classist, homophobic, ableist society is going to have a deleterious effect. My position was that the likelihood of being stopped searched and unlawlfully killed by police was less likely for them and unfortunately more an eventuality for me. This the summer before the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Before Corona Virus Disease 2019 permanently rearranged our planet. Frank during the lunch break pulled me to one side and offered his wise understanding. His advice ‘Do something that changes the dynamic for you and those who look like you. Don’t stop until the environment, your environment, that you work in feels good with you in it.’ He thanked me for my honesty and challenging what was left ‘unsaid’ to be heard. I exited the training with the germ of a concept burning away until we turned DS into a reality. I was only too happy to share with a few others and start something called the Diversity Space in October 2019. I would like to also thank my then manager who recognised a need for Black and Asian professionals to meet outside of the ‘White gaze’. There is a history of health services taking time, energy, health, family, money, opportunity, choice, friendships, promotions away from those who toil endlessly within it’s substrate structures as ‘othered’ people, and offer little to compensate for multiple losses. The idea was to find a community within a community and our way to health.

Continuance
A part two will follow taking in the steps of how we developed a singular focus – focus group. An impossibility as there are too many foci…

Resources
I came across the Mary D Ainsworth Strange Situation whilst attending my counselling training. I use the term strange situation to show how being in a prison as a Black civilian was seen as strange. Often by those who looked upon me and by my awareness of those who looked at me – askance. Double consciousness 101.
Robert Glasper’s Got Over artfully uses the voice of Harry Belafonte to resonantly express the arc of his career and his lived experience of being an outsider and othered. The request is to recognise achievement no matter the obstacle.
Gabor Maté and Resmaa Manekem share a beautiful conversation. These two pioneers at the top of their fields having an equally empowering conversation about Race, difference and learning to survive the discomfort. Thank you Kwame Opoku for the share!
The Unlocking us Podcast with Brené Brown and Esther Perel, two women at the height of their respective powers – highlight the need for all of us to be aware of Thanatos and Eros. What we lose by not being aware of the death of the other both actual and metaphorical. What can be gained as we dance, play and experience the erotic is also wonderfully unpacked.
Rohan Thompson of Breakthrough Counselling and Wellness talks with Isaac Callan about a report that impacts staff in the district of Peel Ontario. Rohan discusses the beyond intimate labor from a Black union that caused the report to make a significant impact. The link for me in relation to the podcast and the NHS is how a minority group observing and experiencing a racist system leans into their own discomfort and articulates what steps are to be taken to bring about necessary changes.
The Am I Going Mad series of YouTube documentaries invites us to observe the challenge of being Black in the world, contending with racist thought belief and actions from the societies we live in.
With This American Life I felt the title was a useful frame to begin looking at what has been built within a system of hate and what else could exist once the towering edifice cracks, crumbles and falls into dust?
Got Over Robert Glasper and Harry Belafonte
The Wisdom of Trauma with Gabor Maté and Resmaa Manekem
Unlocking Us podcast Brené Brown and Esther Perel
What’s The Point Management of child welfare in turmoil
Am I Going Mad Are All Men Created Equal
This American Life Made To Be Broken

Images
Cover photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash
We Welcome photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash
Survive Hoodie photo by sham abdo on Unsplash
Young Men Laughing photo by Siviwe Kapteyn on Unsplash

Something Other: Therapy

I continue thought on being something other in the psychotherapeutic profession. Whilst the experience is singular, I know I am not on my own.

The Problem
A problem halved, is a problem that is shared. Or so we are told, and a few believe. Many hold to a sense that they alone carry the burden of their thoughts and worries. Often withholders are surprised by what happens when they begin to discuss concerns with a trusted other. At times the trusted other is an outsider to their lives. Strangely, anonymity helps entrust the listener and the sharer to intimately examine past and present hurts. This – the relationship between counsellor and client, coach and coachee, mentor and mentee, perhaps also teacher and student.

Unseen or Invisible?

Taught
The experience I have had of being othered has been a part of the caring profession for as long as I have been aware of the double standards held within the profession. Caring and caring less about those who are identified as other. Therapy is to be an experience of supporting individuals, groups, organisations observe the problem(s) and provide support in moving into the beyond. Completing my training as a counsellor at Uni of Greenwich, I have grown increasingly aware of the long held and embedded ideas that accompany being Black and working in the psychological profession. By omission of African, Asian, and global community influences and contributions to the psychology profession, an unspoken idea remains prevalent of Black and Brown bodies delivering care. Some notions may include identification of African Diasporan practitioners as inferior, incapable, unintelligent, possessing poor communication skills, lacking in technical ability and seen as a low quality substitute compared to qualified ‘professional’ (White) mental health practitioners.

Difference Stratified
At most – 6 weeks worth of teaching for the 3 years I was at Greenwich, involved an awareness of Gender, Race, Religion, Age, Culture, Class, Economic status, Education, Sex (G.R.A.C.E.S.). Millions of topics relating to equality were lightly grazed. I am grateful for being introduced to BAATN in my second year. I had no awareness that BAATN existed, and have enjoyed what I have learned from being a member.

Standing Amongst
I once described being at one of BAATN’s men’s gatherings as being not only seen, but heard, understood, recognised and valued. My presence was accepted as amongst. A hugely significant and powerful moment of realisation for me. Ralph Ellis’ book Invisible Man offered a useful frame to know what a Black man might experience beyond the sanctity of his home.

Unstoppable

Pscyhotherapeutic Beginnings
The profession I am a part of is yet to appreciate Black people as amongst and belonging alongside difference. The understanding I have is that a supremacy is incapable of holding a compassionate view inside a nihilist agenda. Europe birthed an idea of psychology that was largely Eurocentric, built on Greek foundations of Philosophy. For me, the link to African (Egyptian) beliefs and traditions is undeniable. The contention I have relates to the progression psychology has taken since the 19th century. Becoming centred and refined on an understanding that gaining more knowledge of the subconscious, will reveal our path to healing. But as the ancestors invite us to be aware, to truly know self is to also be aware of our physical nature too. The body has as much influence on how we think and feel as does the subconscious. The investment made to dust off the research into psychedelics and psilocybin, invites a further leap from mind singularly to mind body and spirit connections. Is this not where those in Middle Earth centred some of their beliefs and understandings of humans living on the planet eons ago? How have we lost this information and what has made ‘Psychology’ the purview of a select few Frail Pale Male Stale people. Freud the genus but the belief in the European model of therapy being best, has many other global traditions behaviours and practices scrapped and made to be valueless muck.

Prometheus
I am in a part of the book ‘Work Won’t love You Back’ by Sarah Jaffe, where the author looks at intimate labor and observes how largely Black and Brown women are treated in professions that care for others professionally. I wonder if the inbuilt label of being classed as unskilled and unvalued is also cast upon Black and Brown mental health professionals? We aren’t what the model of a highly skilled professional in text books looks, sounds and behaves like. It is at the institutions that change is to happen. What is taught, how it is taught and by whom it is taught has got to change. Informed this week that Wales is to introduce Black History teaching to all of it’s curricula will in Wales address the change that is to happen globally. The West did not travel the globe liberating people from eternal darkness. The West plundered the Global South for it’s wealth and plunged nations and billions of people into a modern form of windowless shadow. The gloom that persists is the one that hides the light of realisation from plain sight and holds to high ransom (debt, imprisonment, indentured labour, substandard education, threat of war) for those seeking to enlighten the masses.

Over and Under
Engaged in similar work a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist a belief is held, that roles such as these are the purview of White highly skilled, highly educated women and men. Caring professions in the West are heavily over-represented by a main ethnic social and class group. That deliver services to ever over-populated people represented by G.R.A.C.E.S groups, in institutions. Schools, Child and Adolescent Services, adult education and prisons are a small list of a mismatch between the numbers involved in delivery and receipt. Observing mental illness and support on offer at hospitals, residential short and long stay facilities, psychological interventions in the community, again I am struck by two experiences of over representation by those providing care and those on the receiving end of it. I wonder what those who provide care to those receiving care believe, think, feel about their knapsack of real or presumed privilege?

It is about change

Supervision
Attending an online supervision group I note the welcome received, (tight, brief, a hint of something undefinable yet all too present). Generally I like to arrive early to the meetings. I hear and regard the effusive positive welcome and list of accomplishments other therapists are lauded with. A warmth, recognition of something similar/familiar, a thing not spoken but still wholly palpable. I understand we like people who in some way mirror ourselves. When met with a frequent experience of being unconsciously or consciously reviled a weathering happens. Aware of the apparent unconscious bias I say nothing of the discomfort these experiences cause. I do not want to be the rabble rouser. The upstart, bringing contention and upset, where others feel sanguine. But some degree of psychological pain experiencing the deletion of my attendance happens. I am at a loss of how to make use of the feeling so as to experience this edition of supervision well. A better solution may be in non-attending. Or showing and saying little (another form of non-attendance), or even being the one who throws each meeting into necessary checking of insults felt and throwing hurts back to be managed by the group. An hour or 2 is not enough to fully disgorge the malcontents held, and I wonder what ultimate good is caused?

Always Seen, Often Ignored
Being othered and feeling an inconsequential value within the counselling psychotherapy profession is a common experience I note. Being the only Black person, nay the only Black man (on screen) at a meeting of mental health professionals is a scene on repeat. I am shocked less by these moments. There can be little comfort in solitary confinement. The scene (me alone or to be counted amongst a smaller population of global majority attendees, alongside a larger whiter group of people) has presented itself many times before. The threat of being discovered as not as good as, pointed out as the fraud or made the subject of biased judgement lurks peripherally. One is unable to hide in plain view.

Intimately Labouring
What would I like to happen instead in group? Would platitudes, and over ingratiating welcomes make me feel better about attending mostly White gatherings? For me, the change would be about a sensate shift towards feeling less at the wall, clamoring to flee. Fearing attack from an unknown assailant. My preference that all at a space, potentially, are unknown unknown allies. That are doing the emotional, psychological, spiritual work to lessen the sense of distance between G.R.A.C.E.S groups of people, of which I place White people amongst.

Quiet defiance

Canvas
The sense of attending a space where all in attendance are (un)consciously aware of the lack of representation from Global South communities could reduce unease. The challenge ahead is staying with the sense of discomfort. The *taughtness of an environment in time will lessen. Even when the experience is incredibly difficult. It’s the example of my Spidey sense going off at the Pizza Place, letting me know that an unknown foreign agent (fear) is malevolently spoiling an experience. The deciding factor, an awareness that perceived difference does not make anyone lesser or should jettison them from a room. If a space is filled with curiosity and a willingness to make it beyond – to the other side of the challenge then mostly all are usually lifted further along. A new path of awareness can be engaged with. An appreciation of the complex richer connections made across aisles, ages and other forms of perceived stratification and otherings enhance learning. To be applied by continually evolving professionals.

Therapy Today
The latest edition of BACP’s counselling magazine Therapy Today (October 2021) offers a wonderfully rich complex yet balanced review of Black therapists engaged in changing the psychological landscape of counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. ‘On the shoulders of giants’ the title of the magazine, looks at a range of professionals. Offering examples of the many women and men who have battled to steer important changes made for the improvement of the profession. My reasoning is ‘But we all have hearts, minds and bodies with which we think, feel and move with’ and so a mass experience of living whilst human can be identified, installed and ideally utilised for the fulfillment of all.

Resources
The term allostatic load was the first time I recognised what prejudice, othering and the effects of racism are for Black and brown bodies is medically noted as. Code Switch podcast, discusses what Weathering is and how it can affect people.
An earlier blog listed the second link. Black (African American Psychoanalysts) speak of their experiences, training and working with members of the public. When I first watched the documentary I was both affirmed by what these esteemed colleagues discuss and also slightly dismayed. An inherent sadness is present within the pride of being a Black Psychoanalyst and the reality this title holds a mirror to.
The link to the Podcast takes you to BAATN’s site. listing the richness of the Black African And Asian Therapists Network Podcast series of talks and presentations. The highlighted episode with Arike and Eugene discusses what steps training organisations could take to become globally influenced, engaged and representative of, in relation to psychological teaching. The podcast was both encouraging and conscious of the work still ahead for many colleges and universities staff students and graduates.
The last resource may have been missed in the shuffle. Listed amongst the resources discussing a Pizza shop experience. Jennifer Mullins discusses her journey to become a therapist the learning she experiences in both the class room and most importantly outside of the institution are both inspirational and illuminating.
Black Psychoanalysts Speak
BAATN Podcast Creating Partnerships Training With Organisations: Lets Talk About Race
Decolonise Therapy interviews Jennifer Mullins

Further Reading
I am yet to read the Race Conversation by Eugene Ellis and Black Identities, White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago. My listing them here is to highlight that I am still learning and growing.
Race Conversation in Psychotherapy by Eugene Ellis
Black Identities White Therapies edited by Divine Charura and Colin Lago
Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird by Dr Dwight Turner

Images
Cover photo Black and White Dice by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash
Invisible person photo by Laura Thonne on Unsplash
Eyes on the prize photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Office window smiles photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
Orange Tie professional photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash


Something Other: Peering in

Following last weeks post, that observed experiences of being othered, ostracised and shamed, attending a cultural phenomenon a nativity play. I continue this blog series observing a *recentish example of being the other remaining mute, and finding safe side bar.

Charitable Work
A few years ago, I worked for a charity where the strange experience was of being othered and held outside of. It is not because of what some staff said specifically. Most are aware that saying racist, sexist, homophobic things at work will lead to reprimands or dismissal. Racial abuse was not metered to me as a member of staff but was in the acts that had me do double takes. Questionable acts were observed discussing cases involving marginalised communities that either worked for the charity or were supported by staff.

Tops
The feeling was of not being seen, listened to, wanted, being valued and insights shared – not appreciated. As I progressed from new employee, to my first, second, third and final year with the organisation, I started to notice the holes. I shared my understandings and points for growth change and development with managers and was either ignored or the ideas petered out to nothing. The organisation whilst heavily committed to engaging in change with those worked with, was less invested in making changes amongst itself for increased employee satisfaction. Handing to a manager Brené Brown’s 10 point manifesto for improved employee satisfaction was an example of mine, to shift an experience towards health. See Below from Brené Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly’. A sense grew in me that for as long as I worked within the charity even if I made it through the glass ceiling, I would be furthermore cutting myself crawling around on the broken glass to potentially make improvements.

Square Peg
Me being seen as the other, were based on a few factors: my training, age, race and the way I saw and interacted with the world was different to most of the colleagues I worked with. I saw my difference as a strength. Others may have seen my position, as a former prison counsellor, problematic. I did not fit. They psychologists, me an integrative counsellor. My support of probation services in London was quietly daring. Sharing insights with probation officers of the psychological lives of their service users. The feeling of familiarity to the experience service users had whilst working with psychologically trained staff did not escape me. The awkwardness, the implied superiority, the speaking over and talking down to, often present. The awareness could not be brushed off, packed or folded away. An interpretation I have of the experience is that within the charity I was looked on as criminal, outside I was hero? The binary can cause ruptures in thinking. I could code switch and was okay chopping it up with service users and probation staff alike. ‘Power amongst and power to’ helped build rapport to perform my practitioners role well.

Mirroring
I often sat across from people who looked like me in probation services. A feeling as if a fellow returnee from behind the wall, often present. My crime – working whilst Black amongst a charity that chose to look the other way. Focusing on delivery, winning new sustainable and long reaching contracts, rather than it’s culture and treatment of staff. The charity was long in service and yet poor in dynamic development. Tied possibly to governmental funding cycles and predicting positive outcomes to grant applications. Other Black staff working for the charity either left their work contracts early (sometimes within weeks) or found ways to make their set of circumstances work for them. I spent over 3 years thinking I could change culture, by kindness and cakes. Small acts could, I believed fell the juggernaut of racial oppression and the sense of othering I frequently found myself battling amongst, questioning lofty ideals.

Singular
Whilst amongst a staff team, I felt some responsibility to influencing the culture. I was not alone in wanting to positively affect things but when seen as an outsider, one often cannot change what occurs in the building shouting from the pavement across the street. I read Daring Greatly in September 2015 and thought there were a number of insights shared in the book that really brought in to sharp awareness what the charity could do. I enjoyed the chapter ‘Mind the Gap’ that looked at organisational culture determining specific changes that improve experiences for all. Brené Brown lists questions that could potentially push an organisation to be aware of the unease had in areas relating to; errors, vulnerability, (**pain) shame and blame. Brené concludes observing what an actively responsible culturally aware organisation, does to support a staff team and their work. Invite communication! It is a shame that the charity I worked at, was criminally motivated to bring change only on their own terms.

The Count
I once mentioned the concern the charity may have had like this to 2 other Black members of staff.
1 is a manageable concern,
2 a problem,
3 a gang,
4 looks like an unmanageable riot
5 or more – a hostile takeover and at worse a mutiny.


My comments were made amongst a huddled meeting during a comfort break, outside on a cold, grey mid morn. The informed colleagues observed a perceived sense of paranoia from others when we rejoined the main group. I wanted to mark the occasion as important for the rarity of being seen together and seeing ourselves in a fleeting moment of solidarity – happy. When asked what were you lot talking about? Attempting to snatch the moment away. We knowingly smiled and said “Nothing that should bother you, much.” The suspicion confirming the hypothesis. We were trouble for a number of unobvious reasons. This moment sowed an important seed for me.

Street View
Being an outsider, I am often first to notice the roof smoking and catching fire. The possible routes to safety and what improvements can be made to support all who work in the building mitigate against future disaster! I am also on hand for the rescue teams when they arrive, accounting for all staff leaving the building and who may remain inside still and where they might be. We may have heard the saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’. An example could be of internally questioning what has some team members not be vocal or even in the room when choices, plans and change decisions are being made? The uneasy hard to reach one is often that which provides the most insightful answers and ways forward.

Cycle
Within a circle, each point lies equi-distant from the centre. Being amongst can feel both precious and magical. When I think of community settings, I bring to mind gatherings that enable a circle to form. Within a circle, hierarchy and importance are difficult to assume. We are all at a point equal to the other. Recognising the importance of the whole together represents one truth. The sum total of the various parts and individuals is another. One is no more relevant or important than the other. To be discounted harms the whole, which is the point I attempted to arrive at in the White Supremacy series. Whilst silenced and left to remain outside of, the remaining whole cannot be as powerful or as life altering in relation to human development of all our experiences on the planet.

Can it?

Resources
I have wanted to use this particular episode of Resistance since I listened to it earlier this year. The fit for me is, listening to Jermaine Guinyard walking a difficult path in Nebraska with his family. We listen to a story of being willfully excluded by a community and the pain that follows. We also hear how Coach G over time turns an impossible tide.

Resistance Podcast Coach G

Images
Earth photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

**I added to the list because pain rhymes and offers a sense of direction.

Something Other

A distant memory has been unearthed. As thoughts often do – tugging on a few more to join their masquerade ball. These series of writings are in support of another.

A form of racial attack in the form of exclusion is often not documented, fear of further reprisal or silencing disbelief – can stall efforts seeking justice. I will aim to draw out both the strangeness of experiences like these, and also the self questioning that arises in the pieces that are to follow.

Mockingbird
Dr Dwight Turner’s Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy, summarise in a myriad of ways what it means for Black, Asian and members from Global South communities to live in former colonisers countries. Dr Turner pays attention to what his experience was to be trained in counselling and psychotherapy. Mockingbird does well to observe: Feminism, what members from the LGTBQi+ communities continue to contribute to the lexicon of intersectionality, the poor and working class, as well as embodied experiences of the disabled, a community since 2011 I count myself among. Assimilation into community and acceptance is granted partially at significant personal cost. A loss of identity, culture, sense of community, language, a knowing of oneself is summarily deposited outside the exclusionary zone of becoming a therapist and adjusting to living amongst…

Past It
Dr Turner also shares his disquiet of being a lecturer and accosted by a student. You may have seen images of #thisiswhatapsychotherapistlookslike after an encounter where he met *affrontery. My fantasy is of a White woman stating “But you don’t look like a psychotherapist, you look more like a bouncer!” The caring profession is littered with redundant opinionated professionals with outdated views that belong in centuries past.

Altered
The first remembering of difference that has floated up for me, is a primary school excursion. I cannot remember if it was a class trip, or a venture to reward an achievement for friends of mine and I. We had gone to see a play at a theatre in London. As children, we may have found some thrill being away from school, but may have found the play of little interest. The play was either a nativity or a pantomime. A cultural experience I had little knowledge of, or interest in. After watching for 20 minutes we (my friends and I) found fun elsewhere. What I vaguely remember is being told off. Reprimanded for throwing wet balls of tissue paper at ceilings and at friends. Playground behaviour at a reputable establishment. A teacher growing redder and angrier at each of us, saying words that were meant to hurt and shame. They did! I can remember leaving the bathroom, head bowed, with a heavy heart. Something of significance had transpired, an element of innocence removed or dented.

Mushy
I also remember some of the boys being resolute that they were going to tell their parents. Which they did. I can remember 2 parents attending a meeting with the school a week later. Not mine. I carried my shame without disclosing. Fear of further punishment and their disbelief stopped me. What fails to be recalled are the exact events, the teachers words, what nativity play we saw, what theatre and what reason I had of not being aware enough of the hurt she had caused my friends and supposedly – me. Something other may have been said, decrying of our inner city, poor, council estate dwelling, or lack of appreciating a cultured artistic performance. Her anger, disappointment and confused rage – causing us all to register with shock that the teacher only saw our demise. We, supposedly trapped eternally to live our lives on the housing estate. A heady and unworthy blow, delivered for simply not enjoying a play. We, making a wet paper towel mess of a theatre bathroom and being held as criminally deviant as a result. She may have used strong and shaming words. Adding further to her sense of the wrongdoing and branding us *whip-handedly. Instituting my first experience of the ‘them and us’ polemic idea.

Culture
The idea of who was acculturating whom is what I am now left fathoming. Perceived difference does little to engender a feeling of shared interest, warmth, curiosity or journeying to discovery. We witness as citizens on our planet, an increase of ideas towards separation, division and increased animosity against the other. Displacing a growing state of anxiety. Answers lie in what Dr Kelly suggest below…

Resources
The below link is to the excellent podcast by Ibram X Kendi who interviews the university professor Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley about misguided notions of superiority and capital interest. The link to the writing above is the perception of which ideas of betterment are seen as valid and overvalued and what ideas are vanquished as valueless.
Ibram X Kendi Be Anti Racist podcast Capitalism

Image
Blue Orange photo by davisuko on Unsplash

Group – Explored

The not Netflix show Group, has truly mesmerised me. I could watch both seasons repeatedly and still learn something new. Alerted by Kwame Opoku in the UK. A fellow Ghanaian Psychotherapist suggested I give the YouTube phenom a try. Working with groups has been a part of my life professionally as a counsellor for more than 5 years. I wanted to discuss and share partially what it is like being in group and being designated the facilitator in this piece of writing. Primarily because the position is an imperceptible dance.

Diviner
As the facilitator of a group you get to dance with the life and death of experience. At times the pace of a group is so slow and quiet. A group can be a space filled with unheard and unseen ghosts of past experiences. At others group experiences can be fast and dynamic, filled with talk, voices raised as the energy flies around the room. If you have read the Shopenheur Cure (as yet I have not) or Loves Executioner (this one I have) by Irv Yalom you will recognise the unending sense of experience and compassion that arises from Dr Ezra. 

Boardroom Group Collaborating Board Room

Art Imitating
What has inspired me to remain a fan of Group, and hoping for a further 20 shows that gets picked up by a major studio, is the sense of how true and congruent and vibrant the show feels. Group is strangely authentic and as real as any TV show has the potential of being. For me it is the recognition of the energy that appears to move about the room. The energy, caught well by the double camera filming and the actors shedding lines and insights like members of a dance troupe – fluidly, with the ease, force and grace of a strong wind.

The links below highlight the felt sense of movement for me in Group and also how both Move and Code Switch live in Birmingham Alabama brought group experiences and shared insights to life.

Resources
Move – Netflix
Code Switch – Live in Birmingham. A group experience and more

Images
Cover Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash Women on Steps
1st Inlay Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash Women in Boardroom

H.E.R.

Until I remembered a number of sharings,
Of personal stories
Of moments of loss and gain.
Hospitals.
Intravenous drips.
Transfusions.

A walk along an old street.
The sun hidden behind
Thin clouds. I remember
Trees whispering with intent.
Offering scents of a tomorrow
We both couldn’t grasp.

I was swept up in a story
Of lifting awareni.
But was falling.
Like dry leaves from
Branches overhead.
Those trees!

Tree Fall

I remember the warm
Glow. The awkwardness.
The unsaid.

The conversation belied
Contact that seemed
Omnipresent and
Yet scant.
We danced closely
In minds held by
Other times.

Never to meet
Intimately. But to be held
Fondly as memories
Of what could have been.
Remaining as a gift,
A laugh, a humming ache
With no short answer.

To dare,
To dream and never
Arrive at picture book
Endings. Feeling as though
Everything is possible.
Yet be damned by distance
Confusing

Improbability.

Resources
Inspired by H.E.R. Could Have Been
Cassandra Speaks Unlocking Us interview with Elizabeth Lesser and Brené Brown

Images
Cover photo by Muhammadtaha Ibrahim Ma’aji on Unsplash
Inlay Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash

Love Rains – The Father Wound

I wanted to revisit the story of invisible wounds that are carried with us into adulthood. To look somemore at where Jill’s story ends and how and why Mos Def’s story begins. The reason: Psychological concepts live in us and are always present. Love Rains offers not just insight but also understanding.

Listen while you read if you can!

The Always Support

Jill Scott
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 degrees,

melody.

Chorus x1

Joy and Risk

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 me the fool
You were never true
If you didn’t want me, ah, you should
have let me know
All you did was make a mockery of
Something so
Incredible, beautiful
I honestly did love you
So

Chorus x1

Immature
What then? Both hurt, but for two differing reasons. What follows is time healing and recovering from that pain of loss. Until it is met again and perhaps both can learn how to survive the intimacy and complications that romantic love can bring. For some, men can be less emotionally aware, less in tune with body-mind-emotion connections. Men can feel that shame and fear are the same and do not spend time investigating to understand their differences. Until an adulting experience happens. They are met by circumstances that force change. Then they do. Then they can. Then they will. Willingly facing the denial of their first hurts and begin the process of healing.

Cold and Warmth

Throne Making
Mos Def’s piece blew me away when I first heard it. It still does. No poem before or after had ever exalted and re-set the Black woman so perfectly, I wanted to possess and inhabit these words and the intention behind them, to make right the many centuries of wrong hurt blame shame and pain. This too is my shame. In a word I am sorry for the wrongs that I and my ken have brought to you. I want to make peace with you: Queen.

Mos Def:
I stretched my arms towards the sky like blades of tall grass.
The sun beat between my shoulders like carnival drums.
I sat still in hopes that it would help my wings to grow,
So that I could really be fly.
And then she arrived,
Like day break inside a railway tunnel,
Like the new moon, like a diamond in the mines, like high noon to a drunkard, sudden.
She made my heart beat in a now/now time signature.
Her skinny canvas for ultraviolet brushstrokes;
She was the sun’s painting.
She was a deep cognac color;
Her eyes sparkled like lights along the new city.
Her lips pursed as if her breath was too sweet and full for her mouth to hold.
I said, “you are the beautiful, distress of mathematics.”
I said, “For you, I would peel open the clouds like new fruit;
Give you lightning and thunder as a dowry.
I would make the sky shed all of its stars like rain,
I would clasp the constellations across your waist
and I would make the heavens your cape,
And they would be pleased to cover you.
They would be pleased to cover you,
May I please cover you?
Please”

Adoration

Heady
For me there is little in the way that speaks of adoration and reverie to honour or emits love much better than this. The poem can be interpreted as if to say I am sorry – and somehow yet, still more.

That an idyll can be obtained and brought about between Women and Men in this tale. ‘I see you, have loved you, am in love with you. With you, greater than I could ever be without you. And for that, I will share all that I am and more with you.’ That’s what I interpret in Mos Def’s verse.

The story in the remix offers a safe turn around to what is a well-known and pre-destined ending to love: Loss. Defeat. Endings.

As a result of the Kaemotherapy counselling offer, a number of Black women have been accessing my free workshops on 21st century mental health. I’ll write up my findings about the workshops soon.

Supporting Black women and men have become primary targets for my therapeutic support. There is great work to be completed and I am glad to have found a role that leads to overall wellbeing and health for more people.

Resources

Goddesses of the Roundtable Healing The Father Wound
Brené Brown Unlocking Us Podcast Ask Me Anything
Tony Porter T.E.D. Talk A Call To Men

Images
Cover photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by Conner Baker on Unsplash
3rd Inlay photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash
4th Inlay photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash