I have already begun thinking ahead to what the year to follow will be about for me and the blog. From 2018 -2021 a commitment was made to write regularly. My lightning quick imaginings and hard to capture thoughts have been ensconced in lengthy word paper and bubble wrap.
Then ‘ta da’ – presented.
The past few years have been eventful. Police killings, an uncontainable pandemic, sporting events mislabeled 2020 even though they they were held in 2021. The statement then – mild.
Horses For me there has been a mix of enjoyment at being able to work with a lot of energy to write a blog a week. There has also been a degree of anxiety and low mood. I too was surprised by the low mood. November’s Willfully Unseen series of shorts – a challenge to embrace fully. When given time to explore topics at length, the risk is to be emotionally pulled along. The writer left to make an unwelcome decision, either chase after the horse or lead the charge.
Tonnage At times sitting down to write, has felt like a significant weight to lift or pull. There has been no request placed upon me to pen away without tiring. The awareness for me has been of not wanting to disappoint by not show up for readers of this blog. Some topics this year have caused an internal struggle. Others were a joy. The mini projects and tasks set for myself, mostly complete.
Proclamation For 2022 I will be writing at least one new piece a month rather than once a week. I have a few other projects on the boil that require attention and incessantly tap on my shoulders, as they too also need completing. I won’t detail them all here but a big one – transition my UK qualifications to an equivalency to be able to provide counselling/psychotherapy in Ontario Canada.
With over 200 pieces written since 2014 I also want to spend time re-editing and re-writing a few blogs as I feel some are in need of updating or refreshing. These too I will repost.
Tilt The New Year often brings with it a sense of agency, urgency and enthusiasm to have things completed as quickly as possible. Inevitably we lose sight of both. The goals and our sense of energy. Turning good will, into a vessel waning and listing in hope.
Plod Perhaps in 2022, we (you and I) can go slower, purposefully. The aim to safely arrive to where we are headed. CoViD19 as much as we would like the disease gone, may continue to affect ‘normality’ for a few more years yet. Maybe by slowing we notice more and reflect on what is important for us to invest our time, finally.
Thank you for journeying with me and for showing interest in my musings. I have appreciated the comments and feedback offered.
Resources There are a number of reasons that we should at times slow down and think again, in the article attached of Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam explores the benefits of slow thinking. In the Revisionist History podcast below, I enjoyed Malcolm making sense of his reactions to decision making. He has an uncanny way of surprising the listener causing laughter in this episode. The conversation between Brené Brown and Adam Grant is another to invite introspective thought on what we think we know and what we understand of our world. Thinking again is possibly a new approach to life in this millennium. Daniel Kahneman is interviewed by Shankar Vedantam on NPRs Hidden Brain, where Fast and Slow thinking are reviewed for our overall health and wellbeing. Hidden Brain Slow Down Revisionist History – Hamlet Was Wrong Dare To Lead The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know Hidden Brain Think Fast
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Frank Morrison’s Art I have long admired. This work is titled as Arithmetic. The pose of both students is emblematic…
The state of education
My eldest son aged 11, came home from school recently and shared that he had concerns about his experiences that have troubled and alarmed me. As his father I want nothing more than to protect and shield him from the shadier elements of London living. I realise however the contradiction as I write, because I have worked in prisons for over four years. I have also worked with vulnerable people on the margins of society and that live in the shade for over 8 years. Deepening and grading my perspective considerably.
Working for almost 4 years with Together a National charity that supported service users and probation officers and courts in London. Together’s highly skilled team of practitioners provide mental health support and psycho education to service users involved within London’s criminal Justice System.
‘*Shade is a factor of life, it precedes and follows light.’
My son has moved from a well-resourced primary school with a committed PTA (Parent Teacher Association) with middle class values and expectations to a secondary school that whilst being in the same neighborhood seems to not be as well supported. The commitment the school has appears geared to raising it’s educational achievements as a secondary school. The social and emotional development of it’s pupils seems to have been overlooked. The documentary called School emphasises what the lack of investment and resources has meant for secondary schools across the country.
My son reports that nearly every day there are playground fights and his year group are involved with something called “violating” other pupils. A form of engaging negatively with another pupil that shames them and makes them either react aggressively or retreat from social engagements. Which can have a huge social impact on students – limiting the scope of making firm social connections and friends and bearing witness to the challenges of inner city life.
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons on Netflix is a phenomenal expose on growing up ‘Othered’ within a country that does not want to accept it’s involvement with the systematic destruction and demonisation of several groups of people and their cultures. Ghetto Rage is a topic of interest John mentioned that I will further investigate and write about soon.
As a 40 something year old man I don’t understand the culture of school being a site for malevolence and cruelty committed by pupils as vulnerable as peers of my son’s against fellow pupils. Being assertive is a factor of living learning and growing. Bullying as part of systemic form of disorganised peer oppression troubles me.
My son simply does not want to go to his school or participate in any of the senseless acts of pseudo violence, passive and active forms of aggression as a result, or other acts of hyper masculinity that seem to have besieged his year group. What is going wrong I wonder with state education? Why are young women and young men acting in harmful ways to other children and themselves and what can we all do about it?
I doubt I will be able to find the answers in this piece of writing however I can raise my concerns and offer ideas of possible ways forward. I wonder if a member of parliament’s child were attending my son’s state school what they would think/see/feel?
I am disappointed that the choices we are left to think through are: exiting the school, non-attendance and living with a sense of anxiety that has grown in my son and through our family. The social development versus academic achievement focus appears to have been the split that this school has made.
The thinking I have is that the school has grossly under estimated the effect that the focus and pressure toward academia could have on it’s key stage 3 and 4 progression results and overall exam achievements. A socially and emotionally balanced pupil could perform academically better. Not just at exams but in life also.
Perhaps another way is to be found with education that invites collaboration, communication and creativity. Few children my son included are without the curiosity to look for answers or create story’s that make sense of the worlds that they inhabit. For their, our children’s, worlds are different to ours. They face challenges that are new for the planet, maybe we should be teaching all differently…