Nomadland: A Review

This Blog is a review of the above named movie. There is a piece of writing that I am currently struggling to thoroughly unravel and find the blog’s tap root. I offer the review of Nomadland as a way to break ground. The aim, find a way to engage with an idea that adds to the psychological plethora I have been toiling with for the past few weeks. I say this as much to myself as I do to you, I will get there!

Dawn Dance
I was not enthused to watch Nomadland. Asked by my brother-in-law KW to attend a weekend afternoon’s showing at The Westdale a small independent Cinema in Hamilton, Ontario. I held misgivings about what I was invited to see. I felt confused as I watched Fern (Frances McDormand) travel North America in her van. We join her, at the start of the film, in a packing plant for Amazon. Fern’s life does not resemble mine in many ways. Single, White, no dependents, a retiree, a home on the road, no family or discernible sense of belonging. Fern dances a line. Watching her ‘slow shoe shuffle’ is what begins to draw me in.

Slow Ride
I spent a few moments discussing the movie with my friend Anne Willoughby. Who helped me fashion a few of my thoughts that this piece of writing springs from. The movie feels like a meditation on modern living. Asking questions about the pasts we have forgotten or sailed past. Chasing after the next big shiny offering. Pretending to give us chance to step outside of the speed of time passing so quickly. I often take a look around me whilst watching a movie. To note art’s impact on others. Fern’s demographic looked on, unaware of my watching of them, watching her.

Sense From This
Nomadland is beautifully shot. The sense of space, peace, human loss, tragedy and connection are all minced together within an unfamiliar story arc. The movie invites us to imagine a life on the road. What would it be like meeting people in chance encounters and wondering about them and about ourselves. The sparseness of Fern’s experience with the landscape, appears cold, beyond touch, are somehow vaguely familiar. A reminder of the distance we also have traversed with the pandemic. Just like us, Fern is not finding a happy median in which to settle down inside of and curl up and go to sleep. No, life is much more complex and rich when shaken as hers has been. As ours continually are being. When I think about Nomadland a little more, I relate to a life outside of the ordinary. The movie does not offer us a resolve of the wanderlust or the need to settle and peer bond. There is only the vastness of space, a pressing need to experience life and make some sense out of existence.

Nearly
What Anne helped me realise is that we are all in many ways struggling with self concepts given to us from family, life scripts that we discern are either worth having or spilling away from, and societal ideas of how we ought to behave. With Fern, she has found a way to live her own life, in as honest and as complex a way as she finds fitting. One moment of the film shreds my understanding. The unquestioning of what I have held up as a life goal. That of settling. Finding a place, a person, an experience that one calls mine, ours and is home. Fern veers near experiences that could have been capable of containing, constraining or holding her. Her Sister, the friend, her old home with the distant hills. Yet all were of naught compared to the unknown of the open road and the next experience.

Mountainous

Fluid
If we could remain continually aware or open to the experience of the unknown, being unstuck, unsettled, often with a beginners outlook on life, forgetful of life’s bitterness and disappointments, we would have the potential to be as flexible, as released as Fern. The sense of freedom could be fear provoking. Stalling many from peering over the horizon to what is to happen in the beyond. Fern was willing to make what she could out of her experience of life on the road. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and The Famished Road by Ben Okri, offer a loose frame for me to unpack Fern’s opening up to the encounters a Nomadic life bring.

Memories
I appreciate the movie’s sparseness. The harsh reality of not knowing what tomorrow may deliver, the random encounters the land showers her with, and the friends and acquaintances that are hewn from the occasional meetings and separations travel can present a lone nomad with. I initially thought the movie was going to be a total waste of time. I am glad that my initial ideas were thoroughly uprooted and tossed! I sat engaged with a simple premise yet challenging perspective to fully appreciate. Nothing is pre-determined. We are all making it up as we go along and very little can be controlled. Nomadland will be a film that stays lodged in my memory as a gentle reminder of firsts – A courageous move to Canada during a Pandemic by my family and I, connecting with a vibrant community of Black Mental Health practitioners in Ontario, Canada, experiencing snow fall, like I was lost in the mountains. To be experienced next for us is, a North American Halloween, Winter, Thanks Giving, and New Years.

An Open Road: Fall

Everywhere
The last line of the movie the one that haunts me still, is an interpretation of Maya Angelou’s famous quote ‘If you are from no where you belong everywhere’. It is the truth, the honesty and the realness of the quote, Maya’s wisdom, Fern’s onwards journey and the road we are all now on. With ever present threats of new world crises. All that we are, ultimately, are our experiences…

Resources
Jason Wilson speaks at length with Joe Rogan on his podcast about growing up. Learning how to be a man who is able to express and talk about his feelings and not cower from them no matter how frightening or terrific they may be. Jason talks about his new book Battle Cry and the journey within, we all could take.
The Trailer for Nomadland offers a brief window into Fern’s simple and yet complicated life.
Sharing Brené Brown’s interviews with her guests is a wonderful interpretive experience for me. Both Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us provide chance to listen to leaders who engage in thought that shapes and change worlds. Amy Cuddy coined the phrase Pandemic Flux Syndrome which I feel fits with some of what Nomadland explodes.
I read Ryan Holiday’s ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ a few years ago. I was facing an ongoing set of challenges both professionally and personally. Listening to Tim Ferris go in deep with Ryan on his podcast, I picked up on the strongly suggested idea that I read his work on living stoically. The Book has helped to make meaning from misadventure.
Joe Rogan Experience with Jason Wilson Battle Cry
Nomadland Trailer
Brené Brown with Amy Cuddy on Dare to Lead Podcast
Ryan Holiday 4000 mile Road Trip

Images
Cover photo City by Night by Abdullah Konte on Unsplash
Open Road photo by Marcelo Quinan on Unsplash
Road and Mountains photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash
Fall leaves photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Narcissus Is Us

Call To Act
I am going to ask that before you read the below, pause, go for a walk, make a beverage and do something that is you centred. My sister Edwina Hawkridge advised once she gleaned what the blog was to interrupt. Whether that pause is taking a nap, meditating for a few minutes, reflecting over something recently heard, tapping out a rhythm, sketching something, scribbling, or just staring out the window. What follows below attacks the very thing we are communicating on right now. So leave. This piece will remain, and you can laugh at it’s offering whence you return.

Suprise
The pursuit of happiness has many of us duped. Caught inside an ever decreasing trap of our own making. A few years ago I wrote extensively about Narcissus. He who fell madly in love with his own reflection. His admiration of himself causing his eventual death by the river Styx.

Reflection Can be Golden

Addict
Some of us look at our computers/laptops/tablets or phones infrequently? Some of us believe that we casually gaze upon mobile devices once every half an hour to every couple of hours. The truth, we regard devices as many times as 10 – 40 times in an hour. That’s as often as once every 1.5 minutes in an hour. If we were to ask ourselves, if like Narcissus we have fallen in love with our own image? We would possibly answer with a resounding – NO! However the attraction to longingly, lovingly, looking at our internet savvy tech has me questioning. Are we doomed like Narcissus?

Brain on Notice
For a few years I have attempted to keep a regular meditation practice. There are a few reasons. Firstly, for overall brain health. Another consideration for me is to maintain a consistent level of focus. Our world now, demand’s a renewed level of awareness. At the top of my priority for improved concentration include; Raising emotionally literate children, my work with counselling or coaching clients, listening to podcasts or radio programs, reading bathing in the knowledge of others and enjoying insights. The benefits of focusing would be positive outcomes relating to meditation practice.

Infuriation
The constant challenge is the mind drifts. This is experienced at an exaggerated degree when I am sat in repose meditating. It is like my mind finds ways to literally run away with itself on the most errant of ideas worries and imaginings. Last nights meal, conversations to be had, arguments lost, items found, children to picked up or dropped off, client considerations, relationship concerns, family, health (relating to MS and aging) fitness, financial worries, ongoing world crisis (Climate, War, Water, Energy), elections, study, travel and the list continues. All of the above thoughts and considerations flood in when a moment is created for internal reflection. It is like brains wired for activity, our minds attached to them are unable to fully let go of the high functioning operant level. Problem solving, solution focused finding is a goal to be reached. To down gear into an experience of relaxing calm seems like an impossibility.

Eye Glasses
Perhaps we should be happy for Narcissus? He found the subject of his desire, and was content enough to waste away with his beloved by a river and die. Knowing the story from a position of the outsider looking upon Narcissus’ folly we notice his short-sightedness. His inability to find anything other than his own image reflected back at him. A totality of all that was beautiful, beguiling, attractive and yet ultimately unobtainable. Zeus presented Narcissus with a cruel curse then. A tale of woe for all who cannot hear or see the message therein.

Enchanted
Like Narcissus what our devices are able to do, is show us our interests in ever more increasingly captivating presentations. Whether the service is delivered by Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the appeal is to be amongst, playing, adapting, creating, uploading and engaging with an audience that reflects an individual back unto themselves. Devices offer an echo chamber, a self-fulfilling feedback loop. Being away from the ‘mirror’ then invites fear, revulsion, envy, jealousy, self pride, pity, fleeting experiences of happiness and momentary collections of learning. I have been with all of these emotions and thoughts throughout my time creating a virtual footprint. The feelings that are legion, arise either through producing content or accessing information. Being away from the device and the virtual world has many experience the idea of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Not being online at the right time and place all the time. I imagine the virtual footprint anxiety steals something from us.

Like Narcissus – Really?

Handling Fire
At a new years party 2019 -2020, when the crisis that is the global pandemic was nascent, I shared an idea about mobile phones. I said to another party goer ‘It is like the mobile phone has replaced the fire we all used to share our stories, whilst sitting around its warmth. The phone is our camera, telecommunication device, and connects us to the world in a way that fire did and could not.’ In the days before we would throw our imagination against the fire. Fire would help us see and describe what we saw amongst our group. These imaginings could then be made manifest. Manifestations of our imaginations happened at first with interpreters, then scribes and with paper, then books, then radio, cinema then TV we have moved from the communal and shared experience to the insular and the individual.

Heat
What has been replaced by a communal warmth and sharing is a blue cooler light. There are uncountable gains for those who value and learn as individuals to absorb information in an singular way. The loss for me, is being aware of how learning by self is passed on? As a global community with a small handful of members holding knowledge for themselves, how can we all grow and learn similarly? Is there a need for Ubuntu? The idea of the Zero-Sum game is made manifest here. Could individual isolated learning be an example of flaws in a solo learning monoculture, potentially leading some towards fundamentalism and radicalization over and above collective reasoning, reflection, awareness of self, group, community and growth?

Urbanized Reflection

Minimise
With self interest held at a premium does the web of interconnectedness fail with a system that has a few sclera’s enmeshed amongst it’s organisation? I am taken to my own faltering nervous system, the scourge that is MS. Within a weakened system like the nervous system of a person with an auto-immune disease like Multiple Sclerosis, electrical messages are not passed easily along damaged nerves. The message either arrives late, in a delayed or garbled fashion or not at all. With relapsing remitting MS (RnR) a relapse can be caused by heat, stress, tiredness and by the over defensive mechanism of the body’s immune system confusing food particles as harmful pathogens that should be attacked and destroyed. Thereby damaging formerly healthy cells and creating scars and lesions along nerves.

Corrupted
I am also mindful of Cypher in the Matrix, who as a component attacks and betrays the system the rebels have asserted. As a node Cypher attempts to corrupt all – for his own gain. If a web like the human nervous system, the microorganisms of the soil and the systems that support plant life, can and often do find alternative paths to carry information, then the organism can survive and often finds ways to do so well. With the invention of mobile technology our ability to function well, beyond a virtual world appears hampered, affected – infected.

Juggernaut
Attention spans have been decreasing ever since the Information Age became the mental onslaught it now is! Our minds have become a much sought-after real estate upon which a number of material battles are fought for. Those who win get to earn our first 2nd and 3rd purchasing choices. They earn our belief and own our loyalties. Any other choice is seen as untrustworthy, valueless, having inferior quality and simply does not hold our interest. Reading a long read like Whiteness on The Couch by Natasha Stovall or a book that challenges long held ideas about the world in which we live such as The Origin of Consciousness in The Breakdown of the Bicameral mind by Julian Jaynes, or True Believer by Eric Hoffer helps to improve focus and builds a newer understanding of what we all experience and offered chance to re-evaluate. Even a blog as lengthy, wordy, wan and as wildly speculative as my blogs tend to be, can grow attention spans and generate a nonlinear perspective that could be useful in topics of discussion at personal or professional settings. Make what is read, listened to or watched personally meaningful. Even if the subject material is used as a catalyst to spark ridicule or laughter for a moment allow self to be altered.

Intelligent Light Trappings

Options
What we tend to gain when we step away from the banal, simple, pre-digested material often fed through news and media outlets, snap chat feeds, Instagram lives, TikTok videos, Youtube viral finds, Facebook campaigns, twitter links, LinkedIn broadcasts, can be a step closer to genuine rich honest communicative ideas that challenge and create space for new thoughts and ideas to emerge. The intention behind writing this piece was ultimately for the reader – you; to answer a simple question. If you realise that you, like Narcissus, are soon to bring about your own end through mindless neglect what steps do you take?

Resources
An inspired evening of conversation, food and drink, with friends and new acquaintances can provoke discussion that offer chance to catch new ideas. If the pandemic has robbed us of anything it is the freedom to meet, and have chance to come together and talk, share ideas and laugh at the folly of our lives. I thank Dave, his wife Emily and family for hosting a truly entertaining evening that birthed the idea of the fire in our hands – mobiles.
I have shared in previous Blogs Natasha Stovall’s article of Whiteness on the Couch. The article is a prime example of a sustained effort arriving at difficult conclusions. Whiteness on the Couch is a long read. My advice take time to absorb the information shared.
The Origin of Consciousness sounded like a great book to spend time with. My niece Portia suggested I read it if I wanted to gain understanding of what we perceive as psychology. The book has helped me appreciate the complicated awareness we have understanding our minds.
The link to Cypher is in essence prophetic in relation to how he attempts to swing events in the 1999 movie The Matrix, to his favour.
After Skool offers a wonderful philosophical and practical understanding of what we are experiencing being a sentient being on the planet now. I was attracted by the title ‘MASS PSYCHOSIS – How an Entire Population Becomes MENTALLY ILL’. I believe the authors of this beautifully drawn argument offer a useful and updated understanding of Eric Hoffer’s True Believer.
Elite Content Marketer brings the article Screen Time Stats as a useful observation of our human trend in relation to the other screen we used to spend hours watching – TV. I also enjoyed reading about the impact of picking up our phones. We become enthralled with what we have seen. Narcissus whisperings.
The Social Dilemma Netflix documentary was a perfect film to highlight the challenge facing humanity at the height of the Pandemic. I found the documentary useful to hear from those involved with the information age industry, state clearly, if a service is free YOU ARE THE PRODUCT being exploited, used and largely manipulated.
The True Believer YouTube video is an insightful look at Eric Hoffer’s book. Academy of Ideas shares understanding of what the book discusses. I offer True Believer as a counter argument to A Killing of the Mind video. Mass movements come and go, we determine their impact.
A Killing of the Mind After Skool
Screen Time Stats Elite Content Marketer
The Social Dilemma Netflix
True Believer Academy of Ideas

To answer the question above, as an Artist my medium du jour is writing. It is my small act of creating, imagining and bringing to light from another place ideas that engender hope, resilience, humor and balance. These ideas are what keep me up at night and get me up in the morning. If writing can open doors that lead to corridors of wonder – the attempt – tether lightening to my leaden ideas…

Images
Cover photo Glee by Glen Anthony on Unsplash
1st photo Inlay Golden Tree image by Faye Cornish on Unsplash
2nd photo Train Viewing by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash
3rd photo White Shoes by Redd on Unsplash
4th Mirrored Man photo by Imani Bahati on Unsplash

Group – Challenges

In this post I am reviewing the experience of difficulty and the danger of being in group.

Good Enough
My initial training as a counsellor at Morley College in 2006 was my first-hand experience of group. The teacher Ian Mendelberg was the tutor whose warm guidance offered everyone on the course a sense of what being a counsellor looked and felt like. Ian challenged, heard, listened, appeared unendingly wise and somewhat of a humoured story-teller. A bit like Dr Ezra in Group, or how I imagine Irv Yalom to be in treatment groups. Intelligent, patient, resourceful and poignant with insights that arrest as much as they inform.

Follow Up
The 2nd therapy group experience had, was the experiential group. First year of the MSc programme at University of Greenwich. I joined a year after finishing the Morley introduction course. The experiential group was a new yet familiar experience. Similar in essence to the YouTube show Group mentioned above. Fellow students, I and a facilitator would talk about our experiences with the course. The blend of our learning and our personal lives alongside how we were inadvertently becoming more consciously aware of the counsellor waking up in us, were frequent topics of discussion. The discussion was the object we pulled and played with. It was neither mine nor theirs. This object was the groups and seemed to change in form, and colour and vitality when members were not present.

Not Group Therapy
The Experiential group was like group therapy but not. The facilitator generally offered observations of the group process as if they hung from the ceiling. Aloft. Looking down from their elevated experienced height. Infuriatingly. Never laughing at our juvenile forays into this new world of Counselling and Psychotherapy. We moaned about how we were finding timing impossible to schedule alongside work commitments, life commitments (what life) and how we were finding it hard to fit it all in with the incessant always present uni work commitments. Diabolical and yet somehow achievable or so we were lead to believe.

Games Seen, Lost and Won.

Tempered Smiles
They the facilitator, were able to somehow with mirth offer reflection as if they were remembering their time, in our place – struggling. To make sense. To make it all fit. To make it all work. I became bemused by it all. A defence? Possibly. When I became a facilitator of my own experiential group a few years later, I vowed that I wanted to be a little more helpful. But a process group does what a process group needs to do. Process and work out for themselves the up from the down. The necessary from the useless.

Group in Prison
The third group experience arrived as a result of an idea generation. How to support more people in prison therapeutically? The answer. Group!
Myself and a very experienced counsellor friend came up with the idea of wanting to support men come to terms with their grief, whilst inside away from family. Listening to Griefcast for a few years prior, inspired a question that only beginning a group could answer. Could a grief counselling group be effective in prison? How will a counselling group work in prison? Will the group experience be effective for the men in a category B prison?

Answered
We began the grief therapy group at one of the prisons I worked at in Kent in February 2019. The answers to the questions were: Yes a counselling group will work. The How – took planning, and advertising, and discussing the idea of the group with officers, and clergy, and education, and with clients that expressed a need for the group – a soft sell. The operational lead for the NHS foundation trust we worked for at the time, was enthusiastic about a grief therapy group starting. With their guidance, we began the bereavement group. The first few appointments were difficult to engage with for a number of reasons: Finding a location was a challenge. Arranging for clients to attend was another hurdle to overcome.

Grief is an unwelcome visitor for anyone.

Witnessing
For these men, encountering grief alongside serving time in prison increased the level of challenge significantly. Despite these challenges the group grew and stabilised until the Summer break in 2019. Men found that they could share long held pains. The facilitation of the men sharing happened as a result of support and stabilising interpretations by the counsellors and by other men within the group. The level of insight and willingness to encourage other men by fellow persons in prison was the rare quality of compassion myself and my co-counsell witnessed frequently.

Coloured Defiance

Companions
Some meetings we were left wondering how the group had supported much of the repressed pain to be released. It was like from a pressure valve – slowly. At other times supporting the talking felt like walking a tight rope. Going too fast we all fell. Going too slow – not much happened and still we fell. Boredom, distraction, avoidance, telling other unconnected stories that felt familiar. All to leave the specter of Death and her willing companion Grief alone. Unfortunately I left the prison in October 2020. My hope is that the Bereavement group continues in some shape and form.

Resources Explained
Thank you to Anne Willoughby for sharing Prison Break on BBC Sounds. The aspect of death and dieing is a constant factor to life. Experiences end. This too is also considered death. College behind bars is a wonderful testament to endeavour and to dare greatly. These men and women dare greatly and are both punished and rewarded. Philosophy Bites overviews the life of Spinoza who thought about the existential aspect of dieing. Code Switch Podcast shared the tragic story of Claude Neal. There is a chilling reminder of what constitutes group mind and group decision in relation to the podcast episode and the article that follows.

All things come to pass.

Eventually.

Resources
College Behind Bars – Netflix
Prison Break – Podcast
Philosophy Bites Podcast – Spinoza
Remember Claude Neal: A strange and bitter crop Ben Montgomery article: Spectacle https://www.tampabay.com/spectacle-the-lynching-of-claude-neal/
Code Switch Remember Claude Neal: A strange and bitter crop Claude Neal: A Strange And Bitter Crop : NPR : Code Switch : NPR

Images
Cover Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash BW Basketball
Photo by Lerone Pieters on Unsplash Lone Hoop
Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash Colourful Basketball

Group – Intro

What I was interested in exploring over the next few blogs was Group. The TV/Youtube show, I have been mesmerised by recently. A few of my favourite characters are Dr Ezra, Stuart, Tilda and Manny. Each embodiment offers a different whole person experience that thoroughly captivates. I recognise them as parts of myself and as identities in my own life. Dynamic, rich, challenged, reserved, demonstrative and powerful.

Social animal
There are many different types of group we can identify with. I won’t name all of the millions of different groups here as I am sure other blogs have written about Tribes too. As a member of the human animal species (thank you Celia for keeping this idea in my minds eye!), we are members of some groups and tribes. Other groups, we remain painfully aware of how outside we will remain.

Opposites
Dr Dwight Turner, in his book Intersections of Privilege and Otherness in Counselling and Psychotherapy: Mockingbird, spends a glorious 130 pages discussing these gossamer embers in glorious person centred detail. Dr. Turner has written and explored the interesting paradox of intersectionality and privilege. Where belonging and the experiences of being othered are held painfully, balancing the act of being discriminated for one’s identity as well as being aware of privilege too. The book is masterful.

This blog is followed by 3 more on Group – Explored, Group – Challenges, Group  – Ends

The resources listed in the following works involve groups that inform, explode and challenge notion of identity and belonging.

Resources
Group YouTube Clip
Group Review
Code Switch Podcast – Remember Claude Neal

Images

Cover photo by Hello I’m Nik 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

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


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




Perfect Storm: Reasons

Brutality
3 Black people died in quick succession this year (2020) at the hands of law enforcement. A bird watcher in Central Park perilously almost became another casualty. The 3 were Eric Reason, Dominique Clayton, Brennan Taylor.

Sailing
A sea fairing person I am not. And yet I have watched The Perfect Storm. The enjoyment of seeing humans do battle against the elements is not lost on me. 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.

Resource
Van Jones discusses George Floyd and what comes next

Images
Cover photo provided by PK at Diversity Space. Here is a visual ‘Becoming an anti-racist’ model (adapted from the COVID-19 model.) Andrew M Ibrahim.

Vicarious Trauma

Before
I was 17 when the vicious attacks by LAPD officers on Rodney King were made and became a pre viral assault for global audiences. This was before the days of the internet. News was gathered from television news reports.

When
March 1991. This was my first year attending an art college in Wisbech Cambridgeshire. The Isle College was as far removed from the site of the brutal attack as I could safely imagine. Wisbech was then a small rural town.

Heard
Police and their brutal treatment of law enforcement towards Black, Brown and poor people – a frequent backdrop to the music I was listening to at the time – Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Jazz infused Hip Hop.

Understanding the double speak of systemic oppression



A First
The Rodney King event was something I had heard about but never witnessed! The video arrived in as raw a format as it could be filmed. A video 8 hand held camera – shaky – unfocused – capturing a seldom caught, or filmed spectacle.

Art Imitating
A friend at the time a fellow student, asked me the day after if I was okay? He a white male. A skateboarder. Aware of the hare-pin trigger reactions of police both here and there. His query stirred me. Back then I did not have the language, reasoning or capacity to make sense of Rodney King’s attack. I don’t now. His experience was unfathomable. Later that year I queued up to watch Boyz n The Hood. The film gave me a sense of context and framing to what I had been a naïve witness to earlier that same year.

Sho’
This post is short primarily because other’s have words that are far more apt, powerful and relevant for this time. In our age of oppressive acts and fear based divisive ideologies. The Jury left the building a long time ago and aren’t coming back.

Over
For women and men like George Floyd slain because a combination of conflicting factors have violently met. This systemic experience now calls for historic revolutionary unprecedented change.

Resources
Othello’s Children by Jose V. Pimenta-Bey
Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr Robin D’Angelo
Russel Brand with Dr Kehinde Andrews discuss White Supremacy
Whiteness on the Couch by Natasha Stovall
Hell you talm bout by Janelle Monae
When Black Death Goes Viral by Kenya Downs
www.kwanda.co The Community’s Village
#howwefight It takes a consistent approach to change

Images
Cover photo by Tyrell Charles on Unsplash
Inlay photo provided by PK of Diversity Space who sourced the image from: Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence 2005 Adapted: Ellen Tuzzolo 2016; Mary Julia Cooksey Cordero 2019; The Conscious Kid 2020. Originally shared by Michelle Gyimah & Ashanti Bentil-Dhue on their LinkedIn feed.

With thanks to Dr CW, ATPN, The Family Across the Miles Check in and Diversity Space for the videos and commentary.

Boundaries Slipping: CoViD19

With the experience of COVID19 being an extended period of strange, I am noticing things blending that perhaps would not have previously met. Such as home and work. Children and colleagues. Priorities and leisure activities. Tele-video conferencing and unlimited screen time. The challenge is with the frequent chopping and changing to meet a chaotic stream of demands. The ongoing effect of an ongoing strange situation is that of feeling, irksome, bored and fatigued. Can all responsibilities be equally met realistically?

Homogenised
Currently I am working from home. I have not gone in to work since mid March. A warning from a friend who manages a number of hospitals was “if the virus gets in to a prison it will be like being on a cruise ship” she said. I took the cruise ships warning, to mean that if the virus got in to HMP X, it would run rampant and be unstoppable! Me with a compromised immune system and now as of mid May 2020, also being in the high risk category of being a Black Male I have relented and stayed home.

Unease
Regretfully having not returned to my duties at Prison a feeling of malaise is growing. Now at 10 weeks in to self isolation I note that working from home has a number of common/uncommon challenges.

Full House
Everyone is here! Dr CW and my two boys, are home. Where else would they be? I try to juggle a responsible role amongst making lunch, attending to squabbles between the 12 year old and 10 year old. I am also the unofficial teaching assistant (TA) for the boy’s learning. Dr CW is the qualified teacher, dedicating herself to managing the older one’s learning. I am grateful for her insights and perseverance through #Lockdown. I struggle with thoughts of ‘Am I doing this TA thing right?’ or ‘I don’t wanna ask her, but…’ and thoughts of doing not enough or too much.

Distant Guide
I am also supporting my team that do go in to work at the prisons. I supervise remotely either by msn teams, Zoom or WhatsApp video call. Here too elements of guilt seep in to my awareness. Me at home, them there, putting themselves at risk and against the impossible task of welfare checks and keeping themselves safe in a prison! The thought of I should be there too, drags at me.

Lane Change
I have given up the hour long commute – a 3 month old distant memory. The leaving the house at 7 a.m. is no more. The wondering about what to have for lunch at work is absent. The many other trivialities of getting ready for work seem a faint consideration now.

WFH
The challenge for me currently is the blending of environments. Baffling and causing me to reminisce of the times had before the Lockdown. Work and home. Responsibilities of both now being mixed. Competing for dominance because they are both independently more important, urgent, and demanding of my 100% attention.

Pre CVD19
How were things before? They were in neat enough little boxes. Tidy. Distinct. Recognisable. Acknowledgeable for what each box contained. And I knew where those boxes were. And I knew how to open one and close another. There was an order, a schedule, a pattern.

Squared
Now it’s like all the boxes are open. Things are leaking from some boxes into others, some are neglected or forgotten. The reasons for the negligence is that there are fires raging in some and rain pouring against others. Soaking some and threatening to utterly destroy the collection. It is Monsoons and Volcanoes. The Cardboard boxes don’t stand a Chance!

Reflection for Understanding
I mentioned to 2 peer supervisees and to a friend that this time of ours in COVID19 Lockdown feels more stressful and anxiety provoking than anything I have lived through before. There have been other large seismic events that were as incredible as they were terrible. Tiananmen Square, the Zeebrugge Ferry disaster, September 11th, the Boko Haram kidnapping of school girls, the ongoing slaying of Black Women and Black Men in North America by police and security officers, Hurricane Katrina and the July 7 attacks in London all have pock marked my memory indelibly.

Conversations leading to discovery and creation

Never Ending
But this enforced captivity and forgive the crude analogy, is like being sentenced along with family to an IPP indeterminate sentence. With little information as to our possible release dates. Parole options remain hidden. Being able to work towards a release date with good behaviour with our probation officers is off the table. The analogy here looks at those responsible for the management of the Pandemic (Governments). The offence would be catching the disease and spreading it by not socially distancing or non observance of WHO guidelines. With the suspected crime being committed we are then to be summarily mass incarcerated at home: indefinitely.

Tiny
I mentioned in an earlier post that this virus, so small, is like a mushroom fungi spore. Altering the biochemistry of it’s infected hosts turning them into cadavers for birds and other feeding creatures to spread the fungi’s spores as far and as wide as possible. This virus has changed our view/experience of our world in ways that are similarly inconceivable.

Call Time
Maybe I am not alone in thinking I’ve had enough. My fill of Netflix and Prime is replete. Being with the family and Zoom calls with friends, colleagues and clients a depended must. Contact with family overseas was good wholesome and necessary in the beginning of the outbreak. Now seems as tiring as the push me – pull you antics of the UK government. The experience being a blend of missing the simple act of human to human connection and dislocation/dissociation/disruption from what is and what is not real.

Summarise That
Post COVID19’s tag line might read ‘Life Just got Tougher and Now Closer to the Impossible.’

If you contract the illness there is a fair chance you will survive but you might not be the same after you recover! It is probable that our world won’t be as well.

Walking whilst Black through this though, may be another type of story. This tag-line might read: Life was tough before. COVID19 brought out the worst. We are to gather and be limitless!

Demanding better futures and an honest retelling of our world history. Insisting on a closer, more informed and equally educated society, fearing less, eating healthily, thinking clearer and inclined to critical analysis and desiring to be ready to make meaningful change for our lives and for the lives of generations to follow. Perhaps with an idea of a sense of responsibility is a reason for fatigue?

Remembering
There was something about those boxes (mentioned above) that gave a sense of knowing that also comforted and fatigued in a naturally expectant way. Life back then was manageably unpredictable. Now – exhaustively confusing. An old saying is –
‘Life is simple, it’s just not easy’.

Life is also tough but ultimately, it is an ongoing process of change adaptation and learning. I advise us to simply be open to what happens in the years to follow.

In answering the query at the top of this piece, all responsibilities are not equal and so cannot be prioritised equally or fairly or at times rationally.

Resources
Thrive – 20 things to do during lockdown for wellbeing.
The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism I thank EK for this resource. A true reflection of how it really is.
Couples Under Lockdown: Lagos, Nigeria from Where Should We Begin?
with Esther Perel.
After The Storm from The Moth Podcast 9th Ward Burnell Cotlon

Images
Cover photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
1st inlay photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo provided by @therapy_with_kae