3 Lions

The blog below concerns the many losses that occurred after the European Cup Final in 2021. If vicarious trauma can offer something of use, it would be to remember the steps to remain safe, aware and empowered.

Hurt Magnified
The violence witnessed via news sources at Wembly Stadium on the night of England’s defeat last month, came as a chafenning. The thousands that spilled out from the stadium causing uproar and wanton destruction on the streets of London was indicative of a hurt people hurting, that don’t realise that they are hurting and expel their hurt on to others. It pained me to see these esteemed set of players fall foul after an epic game of many ups and a few downs. The following piece of writing is an attempt at exposition.

FFS
I wonder a few thoughts here: Would an emotionally intelligent person/people act in ways that cause further emotional or physical distress and harm to others? What device could invite pause, for those who are hurting? Acting out in childish and outlandish ways is an errant choice. Could other creative means be employed to expel disappointment? My feelings of let down and frustration by the end result of England not winning the European championship made me look at future goals. There is a sense of inevitability rather than hopelessness. I was also able to recognise and hold onto the numerous successes the whole team had achieved. Mostly of briefly unifying a multi-cultural society as England soared through the group stages and made it to the quarterfinals, the semifinals and then on to the finals.

On Repeat
What I am left questioning is, if English football fans and supporters witness their team’s defeat again, will further racist, vindictive showings of abuse and violence, that appears mindless, again fill time in national and international media? My guess is that yes, there is a high probability the sensationalist press will. Filling time and news print. Unable and unwilling to offer themselves or the public a vulnerable introspective or reflective persective, but the regular, standardised rote stories of old. Stories that continue the divisive ‘us’ and ‘them’ rhetoric. ‘British football fans are as brutish and as problematic as they were in the 80’s.’ The press may report.

Systemic
Attempts at Kicking Racism out of football have continually been made however, if the structure upon which the beautiful game was first built and then is played upon: Historical legacy, Politics and Governmental Policy, Sports Journalism and sports infrastructure, Education, Law, Policing, Prison, Healthcare, Social Care, continue to hold and perpetually consume racist thought, beliefs and decisions, can supporters of the England football team be any less racist? Can racism be kicked out? The beautiful game is an idyll. Similar to many human ideals. Football and sport overall arises from humanity’s basal, primal needs. Aspiring towards something greater, the outright good for all.

Islander

Blame You
The fans are not the team. The fans are representative of a dormant underbelly. The seemingly over patriotic fans are of a settler refugee people that were war strewn and savaged historically by numerous conquests. What has been left? A residue amongst the psyche, an islander who feels vitriolic and triggered by any seeming slight gain at its shores. The national psyche will even dispel and violently attack any that is classed as other, and hold them to account for its own failings. This is a trauma response. This is a way to cognitively separate self from perceived harm that may be real or imagined. My question mostly is about the right some explicitly feel they have, to publicly disown fellow islanders. Is this lord of the flies on repeat?

Origin Story
It is undeniable that the 3 members of the team missed their penalties. It is also undeniable that these players origins hail from communities that lie beyond English shores. Do these two facts make these football players any less English because of their families place of birth or because of where their parents or grandparents grew up? A few years ago (11 if we want to split infinitives) I had a similar discussion with a psychotherapist from Germany. She argued that some people in her country were not really German. Primarily because of where their grandparents or parents were from. My argument was, if these immigrants spoke German, were educated in German schools and colleges, held a passport or other form of I.D. that identified them as German, they were in all manner of speaking as germane as she was. Lineage and history are something to be aware of, but are not tombstones upon which any country can claim who is to be classed amongst or dismissed as alien. Her argument was largely levelled against Turkish immigrants, who have suffered similar persecutions as visible minorities in the UK, Europe, North, Central and South America. A historical genealogy would show that there are more intersections of similarity amongst a nation state than there are aspects that separate citizens. Belonging is a matter of perspective.

Trauma Response
What I am left with is when we are quick to anger and disappointment, we stop existing in our thinking rational human minds and enter a primitive brain system. A similar disordered thinking pattern happens too, when we are triggered by traumatic memory or experiencing trauma. Our pre-frontal cortex goes off-line and we enter a way of being that is operant on survival instincts. We flee, fight, freeze, or friend with an aggressor. The applied psychology for me here, is if we observe the furore of English football fans snarling and lashing out against a perceived threat, we could ascribe these actions to a fight response. Quick to anger is a trauma response too, involving perceived ideas and experiences of defeat, destruction and death.

Industrialisation pictured

Result
How some choose to discharge these feelings without further processing are to attack either verbally or physically all who are potentially a threat. With vitriolic and seemingly patriotic missiles thrown against those who appear obviously different. On Sunday the 11th of July 2021, fans threw barbs, fists and feet at Italian football fans wearing the Italian football team’s colours. The 3 English football players that brought about England’s defeat received racist abuse. Physically they could not be attacked. Mentally, psychologically they could.

The loss of the game, which on that night appeared not to be tolerated, accepted or predicted. The fans caught on camera and fans who wrote horrible messages online, seem not to be able to subsume loss without personal affect. It would appear that the subsidence of adrenalin and endorphin coursing through blood streams moments before the first English missed penalty caused hearts to stop. The stress hormone cortisol that possibly swamped an uncountable number of bodies and minds, worked it’s alarming panic. Can our human minds make sudden hormonal and emotional changes without veering towards the unthink of the wounded? The reasoning may be because, learning of loss and defeat are also a part of living a full and complicated life. Enduring a football match of such importance may not have been readily appreciated, by a triggered few. Once traumatised – one’s thinking can be altered and may not allow for thinking that involves *greydom. It is either Black or it is White. We run or we fight. Simple. Ultimately we stay alive!

Make Sport, Not War
The difficulty I have with the trauma responses at the defeat of England’s football team, or the unthink of trauma reactions by fans, are there was no war, only sport. The beautiful game became sullied with wants of victory that were pulled from grasp at seemingly an intolerable moment. Thereby causing a rupture into basal behaviour and non thinking actions. That has lead to hysteria, harm as well as over-hyped expectations being dashed. Leading to wanton damage. Trumpism on a national scale. It is like the idea of a White offensive nationalism overriding and overtaking a largely positive muti-cultural and encouraging experience. What was shared and possibly would be best to be later processed, are trauma words that then potentially traumatise many others.

Marriage
For a misremembered history to be made factual, a mislabeled past is to be believed above and over the data that invites doubt that the evidence is false. The UK and England suffered invasion, repeatedly from nation states as far afield as Scandinavia, Spain and Italy. The French and the Dutch were also interlopers despoiling ransacking and plundering the island as they saw fit. The point of my historic meanderings is to observe what defences an Island Nation can install. The UK could invest in fleets of ships to defend it’s shores. An island Nation can use intellectual defenses like cognitive dissonance to deny what it has seen, heard and felt. A nation can make allyship and appeal to powers greater than itself to keep it’s sovereign soil free from further invasion. The UK has engaged in all manner of similar actions mentioned above, but the nation and the minds of it’s citizens are still yet to heal from previous historic wounds. The UK has spread them, like a polygamous intimate violent partner whose tools of hurt are psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, financial and emotional – Slavery, Indentured labour, Colonialism, Capitalism.

Equal and yet

All Past
These forms of abuse listed afore, were visited upon the Island nation and once the UK and England became a global controlling behemoth, it too became like it’s former oppressors: abusive, controlling, violent, as insidious and vindictive as the harms suffered in the past. Contorting to a new form of divisive control amongst the UK’s global subjects that included industrialisation, economic disparity, wealth acquisition and dominion over through Colonialism. There are ghosts in the shell that will not acknowledge that a past as challenging and as damaging would have left a people battle scarred and lithe to violence and harm at the smallest infraction or insult. A football game can now be seen as an act of revenge and just desserts that underline a trauma response from a formerly traumatised people who then exact their experiences upon others. It is Israel and Palestine. It is Spain’s assault of Central and South America after the Moors 800 year conquest leaving architecture, religion, science, and libraries. It is Europe’s global treasure seeking exploration into Africa, Asia, North, Central and Southern America and the greater Pacific Islands of Papua New Guinea, Austrialia and New Zealand. An unjustified, unequal exchange offering only barbarianism over civility.

Defy
I am left with:

A little more humour,
Some semblance of understanding,
A degree more compassion for
Hurt people who then go on to hurt others.

There is cause, and there are possible outcomes and effects. With a psychotherapists scalpel to hand, supporting the necessary surgery and bleeding away with uncompromising words…

Asé

Resources
The resources shared below are in order to support reflective thinking in relation to the above post. The aim is to in one small part share knowledge and engage with ideas that interrupt miss interpreted notions of good Black, bad White.
Kicking Racism out of Football a sliding doors YouTube moment where one error filled choice, potentially leads to dire consequences.
Howard Nicholas discuses in a clear way the Zero Sum game Western countries, their policies and practices have prevented the development of Sub Saharan Africa.
Ghost in the Shell offers a rapid overview of the 1995 Manga classic. Where knowledge and doubt are used to coerce a number of outcomes for a number of protagonists/antagonists.
Joy DeGruy explains her idea of Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome and how the behaviour is presented as, for Black communities in the African Diaspora. I use Joy DeGruy’s position on PTSS as a pin to spin the idea of the UK’s self perceived greatness to it’s conquered and defeated past, and what effects it’s citizens are unknowingly carrying.
Akala is possibly one of the most electrifying thought leaders the world has in relation to race theory, critical analysis and culture. In 2016 he shares his ideas about Institutionalised racism. I wonder what has changed since 2016?
Gary Neville offers his understanding of England’s defeat and racist outrage with understanding and compassion.
Anna Edwards writes a short article on the book Fortress Britain by Ian Hernon. Anna also shares in the article the list of the many countries that the UK later despoiled is another factor to be contended with.

Joy DeGruy Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome
Akala explains Institutionalised Racism
Gary Neville interview on England’s Defeat Sky Sports
False Notions of Britain – Daily Mail

Images
Cover photo Football Pitch by Izuddin Helmi Adnan on Unsplash
1st photo inlay of 4 Islands by Ahmed Yaaniu on Unsplash
2nd photo inlay of Industrialisation by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash
3rd photo inlay of 2 Knights embattled by Hassan Pasha on Unsplash

Internalised Racism – Trade

This is the last section of writing concerning Internalised Racism – momentarily…

Poor Trade
These acts of internalised racism, projective identification and lateral violence are a culmination of factors that arise from historic legacies of systemic abuse, cultural annihilation and attempts to assimilate and acculturate amongst dominant social groups, with varying degrees of success and also harm. Where invaders instituted themselves as overlords upon the global South. Governance and theft of wealth and people were besieged trades.

Valueless
A group of people who are repeatedly shown by law, by land acquisition, by land domination, that worthiness does not include their ilk – doubles down on a form of insidious self harm that spans generations. In South Africa – Apartheid was instituted as a way to separate groups of people. Trevor Noah’s book ‘Born A Crime‘ discusses apartheid with candour and honesty. Being Trevor Noah he also inserts humor to illuminate the systems *ludicrosity. What has taken place within many countries on the continent of Africa as well as in the Caribbean as well as in South America, Central America – Colonialism. Another system of installing foreign concepts that do little more than remove wealth and install European standards of control and dominance.

Self Harm
In North America, the idea of Black people, descendants of African people from the African diaspora, are calculated as being without value. It is the reason that Black Lives Matter as a social movement has held such a prominent public position over the last few years. Indigenous populations were also summarily assigned to an unwanted category, destined for acts that dehumanized and sought tactics for annihilation or assimilation. When we as a global majority, support and uphold our illegitimate end of a shitty bargain and unconsciously abide by ways of being that further harm, denigrate and prevent growth –  an outcome can look like self hatred and furthering a genocidal tendency from within and amongst.

Before Columbus
I am mindful of the Maya, the Aztecs, the Aboriginal communities of Australia, the Maori, the Egyptians, the empires of West Africa, India, China, Japan all have historical legacy and local and international stories of trade commerce and war. I wonder what hidden unsavory aspects of history are left to be told amongst these cultures.

All of this
This series of blogs on Internalised began with me at 6 years old being bullied. The 6 part blog series has invited me to reflect on an uncomfortable realisation of projective identification and internalised racism. By two older girls caring little about me. Possibly caring less about themselves. Left to figure out for myself, what it means to be a black male, the middle son, interested in art – being disliked because of my 2 cultural heritage vantage points of Guyana and Ghana. Black overall. Configuring amongst a constellation of ideas with a beginners mind what the journey beyond may look like. Internalised Racism still doesn’t make sense. It is a blight, but like shame and grief which can be healed with understanding and compassion, so too can Internalised Racism’s internal wounds.

Hating of myself was not an option I would ever knowingly choose. Disliking others who have skin tones lighter or darker than my own never entered my frame of reference. Black, Brown – Human is what we are. Now as a father, therapist, supervisor, lay philosopher/researcher, writer, I realise resolution may happen after many years of work (the next 400 possibly). Amongst colleagues and with friends – we are to challenge these interior codes and bring them to full awareness much like shame, in order to heal.

The aim for me, is to work out what generates healing and get at removing the cancer that is Internalised Racism.

Resources
Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime is a brave insight to an interesting man’s life growing up in Soweto South Africa. The book amply describes state sanctioned systemic oppression and racism of Black and Coloured people.
The Code Switch Podcast referenced A Treaty Right for Cherokee Representation that provides a useful example of shady deals the US government made with an Indigenous group that forcibly moved a people from their land.
Ivan Van Sertimas book ‘They Came Before Columbus’ dispels through evidence that other than the indigenous inhabitants of Central and South America the first peoples to set foot in the Americas were from West Africa.
Listening to Joy DeGruy explain a concept that has now become widely accepted as fact. Past histories are remembered or locked into cellular memory.
Remember 9:29 is a meditation and presentation of resistance and protest in as artful a way as can be imagined.
Joy DeGruy Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome
Remember 9:29 Produced by Tier Zero Poem by Chris Kaputo

Images
Dark Treelined ave Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

True Roots

Today’s blog is littered with links. The conversation about how Anti Black Racism affects me needed to be sighted amongst a wealth of material. Hopefully the writing has helped bring new thoughts and *awareni to the top of your mind.

On Wednesday 28th of April, Kimberly Cato of True Roots Counselling Services hosted her 4th True Roots conversations about being Black in Canada. For me, it was about being a citizen of the world now that I live in Canada. I drew references from my experiences of being a UK resident of over 40 years. The True Roots conversations each month centre on a specific topic related to being an African Canadian, African Caribbean and an African American living in North America. Guests have Zoomed in from African nations and the conversation feels like a truly Diasporic experience. The topic on the 28th was on Racism’s Impact? As a panelist, I also wanted to put my thoughts to ‘paper’ to share what these effects are in their fullness. I am not one for taking space when other guests have as much to share. So here on this blog I can get my thoughts together in a reasonably focused way.

Racism is an ongoing system of trauma

What is Anti Black Racism to me?
Anti Black racism is to me the video footage of Rodney King’s brutal attack by 4 police officers and the upsrisings this caused. It’s visceral nature and experience was an early experience of vicarious trauma for me. I was in Peterborough England. Rodney King I felt was me. His attack I felt could happen to me at any moment. I was 17 at the time.

Anti Black racism is to me the innumerable amount of Black women and Black men permanently negatively affected by racist ideas, policies, practices and structures that affect Black people’s lives.

Anti-Black Racism is the experiences of the Windrush generation of migrant workers arriving in Britain and not being allowed to buy or rent homes by White landlords.

Anti-Black Racism is the unwritten double standard and gall of the British nation to not welcome their rearguard support with more than disdain and mistrust amazes me. Those who arrived, invited by Britain to help rebuild the UK after the 2nd world war were criminalised before entry to the UK. Part of the commonwealth community but provided visitors status only. My parents came to Britain a few years after the Windrush as economic migrant workers and were maligned as inferior to British natives along with other Black and Brown people journeying from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.

Anti Black Racism is Red-lining in the US, that observes racial, social and educational segregation and separation of racialized groups (a politically endorsed and semi legal enforced apartheid), Blacks (African American) Browns (Latin X, Indigenous, Asian) and poor Whites kept away from the middle and upper class upwardly mobile and wealthy Whites.

Anti-Black Racism is the central cause for the civil rights movement in the US and is similar to UK representations of seeking justice, brought to light by the small axe films by Steve McQueen.

Anti-Black Racism is the Steven Lawrence murder and Mark Duggan killing and subsequent police cover ups. The sentiments that fuelled the UK uprisings after Mark’s death in 2011.

Anti-Black racism is to me, Black and Brown people’s murders at the hands of law enforcement across the globe. Anti-Black Racism was partially involved in the world’s response to George Floyd’s murder. The will of the people being heard as if waking up, out of a dream, after 100 years of being fed government sponsored lies (about Black and Brown people).

Anti-Black Racism is finally seeing things as they are for the many who are living outside of the comforts of privilege.

Anti-Black Racism is the simple statement that Black Lives Matter and the upset this movement and statement causes some White people.

Anti-Black Racism is a remotely conscious belief that Black life – does not matter. I am left with the idea that even after George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many more famous and still being uncovered lives lost on account of being Black, that a Black life is valued as lesser than a White one. How many White male mass shooters are shot and killed by law enforcement after a heinous attack on a school, or at a place of worship? How were the marauders of the Capitol Building in January managed? Were these marauders to be Black, LatinX or Muslim what would the response from law enforcement have been?

Lift as we climb

How does it manifest itself in either your personal or professional life? 
⁃ Anti-Black Racism manifests as insidious jokes classed as micro aggressions but are anything but small. Micro Aggressions are like hidden time bombs, or radio-controlled missiles with delayed or variable incendiary devices. Generally, when the bomb or missile detonates there be no witnesses save a single casualty – the unwitting and unwilling recipient.

⁃ Anti-Black Racism looks like – work colleagues who are friendly one moment and then can utterly silence forget and *invisibilise you the next. Coming to quick awareness when another in their social class, or racial group enters or strikes up a malignant conversation, drowning out what you were saying. Talking to other (usually White colleagues) as if you aren’t there, or that you wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly understand what the topic being discussed is. Even when you do and show that you understand or are interested in sharing your ideas, the sense of disbelief, the mocking sneer and invitation for you to further disembowel for the group’s amusement is often the beguiling response.

⁃ Anti-Black Racism is being outed as ‘other’ when you are doing one’s best just to do well or simply get by with little – no attention. Definitely not negative attention.

⁃ Anti-Black Racism is the idea and misrepresentation of yourself as only your race. Culture, gender, sexuality, religion, class, nationality, physical and mental capacity be damned. The narrow view – not identified as a complex intersectional human being. Other groups exist in the world constantly within a multi-directional/intersectional lens.

Quickly Vanishing

Do you see it’s impact in your sphere of influence, if so what does it look like?
⁃ Yes I do. I had a great conversation with my friend, a Ghanaian Indian woman recently. We both formerly worked for Oxleas NHS Foundation trust and formed the Diversity space together alongside two other Black male colleagues. My friend recently was awarded a promotion to her role after only 6 months as a lead social worker based in Kent, and is now the Team Manager and Service Lead. The role expands and increases the number of staff that are directly influenced by her and has also increased her budget. She had worked at Oxleas tirelessly for 2 years and saw a number of junior colleagues (White), advance in their careers many times before her.

⁃ A Black male Canadian friend, a counsellor and educator working in Peel educational district shared his experiences of ‘micro aggressions’ he had experienced earlier in April 2021. He shared that recently he was classed as being a bully, for standing his ground and for speaking his mind to a White woman.

Dr Clare Warner working at McMasters University as the Senior Advisor, Equity, Inclusion and Anti Racism Student Affair’s lead is working determinedly to begin supporting McMasters Sports Dept to begin tackling Anti-Black racism. The conversations we have throughout the day are about culture change and systemic racism that predates her role within the institution. Clare shares with me her experiences of building alliances with a number of Black student groups and Black faculty at McMasters, to work towards change within the university’s anti Black racism agenda. Conversations at our home are lively.

Flavoured Support

What strategies do you use to address Anti-Black Racism in your life?
Meditation is a good source of making time to de-bug from the daily negotiation of the experience.

I read, I write, I comment on other’s feeds looking at and addressing Anti-Black Racism, I show support to initiatives by donating time and resources. I support groups like Kwanda that are doing amazing work internationally with the African Diaspora. BAATN.org.uk is another organisation I wholly endorse and support.

Talking/hearing with family and friends about these difficult ‘world put to order concepts’ are fulfilling, rewarding and encouraging. New ideas surface to age old problems and I find these conversations a wellspring of energy.

I listen to a number of podcasts that feature Black/Brown people including The Stoop, Code Switch, Ear Hustle, What’s Ray Saying, School Colours, Resistance, Nice White Parents, Forbidden Fruit and el hilo. Each show feeds me useful information and help to galvanise my efforts to continue the struggle. All of the shows listed above, raise points for reflection and change on the topic of Anti-Black Racism. 

Ibrahm X Kendi’s book ‘How to be an Anti-Racist’ was useful to frame the dynamic of recognising the time we are living amongst as is Dr Dwight Turner’s book ‘Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy.’ Reading Aiko Bathea’s Open Letter to Corporate America and her interview with Brené Brown were hugely insightful about the steps we could all take to improve.

Forming Black lead group spaces that challenge the epoch of time we are living in – like Oxleas Diversity Space in England from October 2019 – October 2020. Forming and running a Black Men’s Therapy Group in South London in November 2019 and running this until June 2020 was a great experience for me and my collaborator Sheila Samuels. We witnessed Black men come together grow, learn, challenge and open doorways to healing.

Linking with Black critical thought leaders and change makers such as Dr Clare Warner, Evelyn Myrie, Terri Bedminster, Kimberly Cato, Kimberley Evans, Dr Dwight Turner, Rohan Thompson, Rotimi Akinsete, Yannick Yalipende and Wayne Reid is a huge spiritual, psychological, physical and emotional resource for me personally.

The article ‘Whiteness on the Couch’ by Natasha Stovall was a watershed for me. Here a White woman examines what it is to support other White people who don’t recognise their privilege is a useful resource to read. 

Ultimately it is about recognising that I have a small part to play within a larger whole. My role is to actively work on bending the arc of history’s events towards justice – for…

Resources
Aiko Bathea’s Open Letter
Brené Brown and Aiko Bethea

Images
Cover photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash
1st photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
2nd photo by yang miao on Unsplash
3rd photo by Benjamin Blättler on Unsplash
4th photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

Perfect Storm: Endings, New Beginnings

The events of the past few weeks coincide with events over the past few months. They appear to have met and produced a swell of human reaction and protest that would have been hard to imagine last year or even 20 years ago.

Liberty Looks

Never
I had thought that my last post on the experience of CoViD19 would be my last. That post looked at the fatigued experience of when will the Lockdown end and things return to something that’s near normal? But something cruel and as life affecting as Corona Virus Disease 2019, has appeared on the horizon and I am drawn to look at this too.

Brutality
3 Black people died in quick succession this year at the hands of law enforcement. A bird watcher in Central Park perilously almost became another casualty. The 3 were Eric Reason, Dominique Clayton, Breonna Taylor.

Demanding Equality

Sailing
A sea person I am not. But I have watched The Perfect Storm and enjoy seeing humans do battle against the elements. I cannot exactly tell you what makes a storm perfect. It may have something to do with weather, tides and currents synchronising to create conditions where storm surges of 40ft hit shores and coastlines. That would be me hazarding a guess.

Gasp
For the perfect storm to have happened in the way that it has, took a tri partisan event. A triple threat. The virus. The Lockdown. 3 Black People being murdered by law enforcement and then George Floyd. That feeling of breaking the surface for air may be the result, after being confined to our homes for long periods of time. We may want and need to react to self and state imposed incarceration. We may want and need to shake the dust off and stretch our collective civil might on streets around the world.

Watching the Watchmen

Swell
The deaths of 4 Black people in the US, may provide the perfect set of circumstances to take our 3 months worth of thinking and feeling, holding our breaths that we all come out of the ‘Rona alive. Then if we combine this sense of surviving with the injustice of people losing their lives unlawfully by law enforcement – repeatedly. If we add in, the deep seated feelings of sadness, confusion guilt, regret, shame, anger and rage. Then and only then breathe out in an exhilaratingly powerful way finally.

The slogan of Black Lives Matter and ‘I Can’t Breathe’ could potentially, take on more meaning. The sentiment being viscerally felt by masses because they, we get it. We too were restrained against our will for longer than we wanted. Some of us, unfortunately, just didn’t make it.

Letting Go
Shedding years of misguided notions and seeing clearly that life for certain groups of people have been harder for hidden and ignored reasons. Black peoples challenges have not solely arisen from our own design. The making of systems that demean and devalue and place one group of people above others. The idea of superiority was deigned as a right of being and has been implemented globally by Europeans. Black people have been demanding equality. It’s time

One
George Floyd’s death gave reason for many to leave the safe protective confines of homes and take to the streets. Stating to ourselves and internationally that the cause of his death was unlawful, unjust and is simply wrong. The world needs to see how we feel #FFS. The videos and articles I have seen of a world united against injustice is heartening.

One Common Goal

Continuing
For Black, Brown and othered peoples this fight has been long standing. We have been fighting for the betterment of all. Austin Channing Brown’s request of being Better Humans stands ahead all other calls for me.

My hope is for the ongoing struggle to produce tangible life affirming results like: access for all to have an outstanding education system, healthcare, job opportunities, secure and safe housing in neighbourhoods that value collaboration and place being part of a community and advantage over being focused on the one called I.

Other outcomes could include an ever present critical awareness of the impact of systemic oppression and racist policies profiting one group over and above others the world over and a willingness from allies to fairly reassemble the pie. The pie will taste better and there will be more to go around.

Anti Racist change is a demand that is to be met globally by everyone.

Resources
Kehinde Andrews 20 positive ways to bring about lasting change
Uncomfortable Conversations by Emmanuel Acho
Brené Brown interviews Austin Channing Brown on Unlocking Us
Explain White Privilege by Lori Lakin Hutcherson
Van Jones discusses George Floyd and what comes next
Harvard Gazette Interviews Prof Lawrence D. Bobo The Fire This Time
Quentin Fottrell discusses George Floyd, white supremacy – and the otherization of African American Men
Brené Brown discusses with Ibrahim X. Kendi How to be an Anti-Racist
This American Life – We are in the future
The Emotional Impact of Watching White People Waking Up to Racism

Images
Cover photo by mana5280 on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Donovan Valdivia on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo by Jacob Boavista on Unsplash
3rd inlay photo by 99.films on Unsplash
4th inlay photo by Leandro Valentino on Unsplash




Vulnerability: The Hidden

There are a number of reasons that I have wanted to specifically work with Black Men/Men from the African Diaspora engaging in therapy. There is an overwhelming amount of misinformation about the strong, fierce, angry Black Man. There is also an unacknowledged backstory of why these perceptions have been allowed to exist. It is far easier to continue the lie. Pulling misinformation apart is the long slow and hard road.

Edu-
The Introductory course is styled for someone like myself, willing and able to be vulnerable with others – open to learning about themselves and being *edu-trained with others. It’s the therapy course I could have used when I was 13 or 20 or 37. I could probably do with a black men’s group now! Queue Dope Black Podcast.

Mini deaths x 3
I have 3 deaths that I want to acknowledge in this piece. The one that cut the deepest is the one I will write about last. It was an insidious and traumatic cut that has gone on to hurt many. Possibly does still. I now understand this wound. I can now forgive the persons that have directly and indirectly hurt me. I believe that pain is at the core of the reason for wanting to support others.

The many…

1st Loss
My 1st death wrapped me up,
Shut me down and
Held me mute
About the pain
Of my loss
It was
The death of
Mother.
In December ’93
Rita Margaret Drakes.

She died some 25 years ago and her terminal fight with cancer has been a model of my own struggles with Multiple Sclerosis: Part denial, part anger, part bargaining, part shock and then ambiguous acceptance that always seems out of reach. Tantalisingly close but defyingly, just beyond my outstretched arms – unable to connect…

Death 2
The 2nd death is of my friend Ade through suicide 2011. His death was both shocking and hard to accept. Recognising that I had no chance of saving him offers some relief. Only some. He made a choice much like a character in a Star is Born. The incident much like Jude in A Little Life, the encounter with almost dieing happening many, many times before.

Death 3
The 3rd is a story I have not written or talked much about. I have shared with only a few. Some members of my family know.

This death.

This loss is of innocence, of trust and the insidious nature of the harm caused to me. I have held myself in a place just out of reach. Believing that I am wrong, bad, mad and sad.

That the harm caused was of my doing and that I deserved it. That I continue to deserve mistreatment. That if I hold myself just out of sight, my hurt cannot infect others.

But it had.

Unreported
I was about 6 or 7 when I was sexually abused by someone older than me. The events are uncomfortable to describe and I will choose carefully what I share.

Being shown pornographic images elicits an uncontrollable physical response in some people. It did for me! I became aroused and that arousal was used by them to perform their sexual acts.

I recognise the crime committed against me. As well as working in corrections (Criminal Justice) I have seen this pattern replicated for a significant number of men and women I have supported. Abuse happening to them including; physical, emotional, sexual, psychological, financial and domestic and then perpetrating a similar crime against another or others.

Tankerton Reflection

The pattern is of ever diminishing returns, and a debased sense of self, of having little value, little to offer, often is, the outcome.

Broken Loop
A person who has been hurt can act out in ways to inflict pain on others. But I feel it is more than that, the person is after. They could be after an understanding of what happened to them first, by behaving in ways that evoke fear, obedience, power and getting a secondary gain from the sense of control this may have over another.

Reconnecting
I write this as an origin story of why I have created a course for Black men to access healing. I write because if I am unwilling to recognise my own experiences of pain and trauma how can I then support others begin working on theirs.

As with most things, dealing with change it has to start with us first!
Admitting that the hurt happened is primary to begin the process of healing.

Mend
What comes next is action.
This is where the fun and pain coexist. Getting to decide what happens next, where to go next, whom to speak with after, how to work it through and beyond so that it can no longer hold you from getting there.

There where you belong.

Safe, Resilient, Free, Successful, at Peace.

Resources
Episode 7-10 of New Amsterdam is a must see for the development of a story similar to mine.
Where Shall We Begin. Trauma Doesn’t Like to be Touched
Lisa Nichols The Inspiration that is
When they See Us

CTA
The Black Men’s Introduction to Therapy course begins on the 13th of November.
Visit www.michaelforfiehcounselling.com or www.equilibriumtc.com for more information.

Book Review – A Little Life

Small – Big Life Matters

A little life ba-little-lifey Hanya Yanagihara

Revisiting my brief overview of ‘A Little Life’ the 2015’s Man Booker Prize nominee a year later was a passing idea. What could be gained from this experience was noting if my opinion had changed about the book a year later.

A Challenge

I was introduced to this book by my sister CF. She stated in a resigned fashion that this book was a depiction of a persons struggle. No matter what good experiences were presented to them, they could not heal from the pain of their past.

As a practicing counsellor with over 7 years of experience I was intrigued and appalled by the idea of a wound so great that no recovery could be experienced. Naively I approached the book like an investigator seeking to uncover what experiences a fictional character could not heal from.

Within 80 pages Ms Yanagihara (author) had me so involved within a complex story of loss, betrayal and pain that to stop reading was the furthest thought from my mind. As I turned the pages and further engrossed myself with this Little Life, I began to recognise why my sister had stated in as clear a way as possible why she proclaimed that there are scars that some individuals never recover.

Symbolism

The central character is called Jude. Jude has a number of difficulties that he is able to successfully negotiate his life with including low self esteem, self harm and a mysterious physical disability. There is a scene that springs to mind as a metaphor for the book. After a significant self-disclosure to a close friend, Jude is thrown from a roof to a window ledge in a scheme to rescue his friends. The rescue involves him undoing a lock that he alone knows how to remove.

event-horizonEvent Horizon

If a reader makes it to the impromptu rescue part of the book, unfortunately they have been pulled over the edge into the event horizon. There is little chance of escape until the book ends and even then a reader will be further embroiled with ‘But if’ scenarios and disappointed views about the characters lives in the book for months after completing A Little Life.

Support Group for a Book?

I have spoken with others and read tweets about how readers have experienced the story #aLilLife with calls for support groups and warm blankets to help the reader survive the tumult of impassionesupport-groupd story telling.

All talk about the effect the book has on the reader are accurate. The twists and turns of the story, the feelings the book and writing evoke and how, as a reader, they wish they could have friends and family that Jude has.

I read the book morning noon and night. At one point stating on twitter ‘It is the first thing I reach for when I awake and the last thing I touch before I fall asleep.’ At times I stay up for an hour or 2 past the witching hour to complete a paragraph or a chapter. A Little Life is a tour de force.

Willingness to let go

The aspect of the book that stays with me, is the roof incident and the reminder his social worker offers him; ‘You have to let others in and talk about this thing, or it will get the better of you.’ I am mindful that this coupled with the scene of him rescuing his friendsjesse-w
and undoing a lock that only he knows how to unpick are 2 moments of evidence. Jude has the tools for his own rescue if he were willing and able to open the locks. Anna provided Jude with a choice, as all good therapists are able to offer their clients.

Self-Agency

The experience of ‘Life’ can be taken for granted. A character like Jude’s helps to explore a reckoning with humanity and all that the human experience can present: Mystery, Adversity, Humour, Friendship, Challenge.

As a therapist, Jude’s story provided me with a reminder of what professional boundaries are – To walk beside a person being supported and remaining both caring and mindful of the individual’s journey towards self-discovery – hoping that they get there.

Jude’s story is tragic, many of the people I work with have disastrous life experiences too. I hold on to the idea that a character like Jude’s in ‘A Little Life’ and service users I support can take steps to change their life path if they can find value in being…

For Jude the chance to take a leap of faith appeared too great, however in my experience it is often as thin as a sheet of paper.