Embracing Change

Many of the blogs this year happened as a result of personal experience or a question I wanted to pose. This is another where I am attempting to arrive at an answer whilst travelling – whilst writing. Recognising that the journey is as important as the destination can be a useful point to hold.

Change Squared
I attended a lecture at McMaster’s university recently, delivered by the researcher/writer/political scientist Dr. Debra Thompson. The lecture invited me to begin asking myself about progressive change. I also attended a number of lectures about psychedelic use in psychotherapy. Esther Perel interviewing in brief Julia Samuel about growing through discomfort and finally attending presentations on alternative practice in psychotherapy with BAATN. The commonality between these experiences engage change at a number of levels. In all of the conversations there was an understanding of processes ending. I would suggest that at each discussion there was also a sense of newness. Ideas being born or starting again in fresh clothes. Offering different ideas on the inherent separation from the past.

Change - fragile beauty

Change – Fragile Beauty

Support
I am inside an experience of significant change currently. Inviting me to travel. Pain wholly present. There is also recognition of release. Parts of my reality have been impacted by loss and as a result forever changed. Other parts of life have stayed the same. Julia mentioned in her conversation with Esther – that emotions move slower than other human intelligences. Appreciating change is an iterative experience. We don’t get it in one gulp. We arrive with the knowing in stages. This idea resonates for me. The world has had to make necessary adjustments as a result of CoViD19? The process for the adaptation happened in stages. We lurched from lockdown to release and back. The experience protracted and confusing. For many a sense of autonomy, identity and control were frustrated. The process of grief and bereavement may well have been a way to manage the pandemic. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, Celebration, Peace, Rest the last three being my extension of the process of loss.

Illusion
When we step beyond the illusion of control, something else is allowed to be realised. Wrapped inside the illusion of control is boredom. Creativity and discovery are seen as unnecessary. Play too put outside an encounter that has the potential of radically challenging and changing all that we thought we knew. When we can hold 3 truths of certainty, discovery and uncertainty as equal partners a trinity is formed leading to growth. I have described psychotherapy before as an art. Mainly because the unknown remains a constant partner amongst the process of healing. For the artist who is about to create an inquiry leads to capturing a feeling that was first something unknown. It is the cat in Shrödingers thought experiment. In psychotherapy the art is in what takes place between client and person collaborating in the healing encounter.

With change - renewal

Change – Renewal of Ideas

*Syncopatico
Recently I shared in a ‘Clean Space’ that 2 trinities are formed when counselling. There is the client sharing their thoughts. Hearing their thoughts and then interpreting their ideas. This initial trinity I would stand by as being a primary catalyst that encourages the change the client seeks. The secondary catalyst is how the space between client and psychotherapist supports what is shared, how it is heard and then what is then used. A synchronicity is offered on a continual loop.

Less is
I have attempted to show below with the resources a direction of travel. When we accept change and move with transformation, we grow. When we do what is necessary to acknowledge change’s existence our acclimatisation causes less pain. This is not to say that change happens easily or without pain. Denial however, causes more. Serial and NY Times new podcast series below offers a visceral reminder of the time we are living in. We Were Three presents fact that is undeniable. Perhaps we can hold uncertainty, hope and humour in another tri partisan awareness, as old certain ideas crumble?

Change - Simple and yet also complex

Change – Simple and Complex

Resources
An introduction to Debra Thompson discussing her experiences of race in Canada. Sharing her insights on writing the book ‘The Long Road Home’ with Dr. Ethel Tungohan
Esther Perel sessions are a collection of short psychotherapy conversations with thought leaders in various fields. I have found Esther’s thought extrapolations wonderfully capture ideas.
Julia Samuels in conversation with Will Ryecroft about her book ‘This Too Shall Pass’ expand on the ideas shared with Esther.
By attending a number of presentations by leaders in the field of psychedelic psychotherapy, I was reminded of the Netflix show ‘How to Change Your Mind’. The idea of change being a fundamental human experience that can be enhanced by natural substances. Another thought – ancient cultures and traditions holding centuries old knowledge offer keys for expansive human development.
Therapy Outside by BAATN offered a range of presenters discussing their approaches to psychotherapy. All addressing change within the art of counselling.
We Were Three is the latest instalment from the Serial podcast series discussing a difficult truth about CoViD19 and the denial response to accessing care.
Dr. Debra Thompson on Academic Aunties
Esther Perel Sessions
Julia Samuel Coping with Change interview for Waterstones with Will Ryecroft
Psychedelic Assisted Psychotherapy Summit
Therapy Outside: Approaches Beyond The Norm BAATN conference
Serial We Were Three

Images
Image Theme Change
Cover Path Fall photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash
Butterfly Cucoon photo by Håkon Grimstad on Unsplash
Fall leaves photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash
Rainbow Ripple photo by Jordan McDonald on Unsplash

Backlinks
Re-imagining Loss Pt 2 8 stages of grieving.
Cat Theory Illusion for links the idea of known, unknown and both ideas being true.
Braver A link to a way to have old defunct, maladaptive ideas crumble.

From Psychotherapy with Love

The feeling of love experienced or expressed in the psychotherapy ‘room’ is a complex dynamic to encounter. I will attempt to analyse this phenomena and my experiencing of a profound and surprising blossoming in the counselling relationship.

For All Time

Fission
During training at Greenwich University to become a counsellor, we (students) were advised and taught about the growing of warm intimate feelings between client and counsellor, warned of the dangers of developing a relationship that is based on unseen and unknowable factors. That drive powerful ingredients and are most often used as a catalyst to the counselling dyad. Like a nuclear physicist, carefully bespectacled, be-gloved and radiation suited – mindfully managing radioactive substances as though all errors could, end not only the experiment but her life and the lives of many.  And so this last development in healing is to be handled with care.

Defying Gravity
Recently I learned that in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy the client is in part ‘supposed’ to fall in love with their counsellor. Thus recreating the powerful and intimate connection a client may have had with primary care givers. Evolution of intense feelings are a bi-product of meeting with one person and sharing intimate, hidden aspects of ones life with a trained professional week after week, at times for years. Psychotherapy can be a significant challenge for those, who find being open, congruent, honest or trusting of themselves or another an uncomfortable and at times a painful invitation to encompass change. The other outcome is that a client is to also fall out of love and humanise the counsellor. Finding fault where once there was none. The client potentially can then enter the final phase of support. Looking to gain perspective on granular aspects of living life alongside another, who is willing to also acknowledge all aspects – comparatively-realistically-compassionately.

In This Together

Flowering
Before a client enters the counselling room, there may have been past experiences of hurt. Vulnerability being squashed or vanquished by those appointed to care, however these carers did not, could not. And so the person who takes their seat across from the counsellor is rightfully wary. The past has taught them to be alert, to any hint, that any form of harm, insult or embarrassment is met in a formerly used similar self-protective way (Friend, Fight, Flee, Freeze). In time the furtive eyes – dart less. The slightly scrunched body posture unfurls. Petal like. They are able to hold gazes more and then, they really speak. In this place, at these times there is almost a oneness in communication between counsellor and client. It feels like flight. A sense of trust is establishing itself and the distance between the people in the room disappears…

Heart Glitter

Transpersonal
An encounter with a client left me floundering last year. They said just before our session came to a close, “I Love You, Man.” I believed I knew what they meant. They were affirming that something important and meaningful was being recognised in them and that they found this emergent quality both beautiful and surprising. Returning the sentiment with a depth of feeling, by not just saying the words was the difficult part for me. I have been inside these moments of heartfelt connection before. They always surprise and invite me to think about what the counselling work has been able to begin attending to. Like a Doula bringing to life, to light – the unseen…

Transact
With the client I hoped that my words and commitment to the challenging work we were engaged with were enough. Simply saying in a constricted, halting way ‘I love you’ would not have conveyed honestly the depth of feeling I hold for the work and for them (clients). I floundered because in the transaction something of equal value is to be offered in the moment. This is a societal lesson. Anything less seems unfair. There was little time left at the end of the session. I knew that a rushed offering would lose the content and meaning of the message. In that moment I may have smiled and nodded and shown my appreciation. Hoping that a felt sense of mindful embrace would convey my connection to them and to the work. The fear, my fear was that I couldn’t bring balance to the exchange. That would be my work to walk with and process in counselling supervision.

T-Shirt Advice

Scent Sense
We could look at the meaning of the word love specifically in the psychotherapeutic space. However, love has more than a romantic application. I believe that just like the term therapy, there are layered and have multiple reasons and applications of both words use. “I Love You” is an expression of appreciation, recognition, a felt sense of something significant and a not easily identified pleasant sensation. I love you is an acknowledgment of a connection beyond a simple like. There are probably 7 billion expressions, interpretations and mis-understandings of the deeply intimate and connection filled word love. In counselling the relationship between those engaged in the process is similar to a friendship, or of a student and mentor. These relationships are anything but simple and yet remain complex and beautiful at the same time.

Unknown Terrain
Having worked in a range of settings the idea of liking those who sit in the chairs or in the now virtual rooms opposite me has grown. My former prison supervisor, now friend, Anne Willoughby,  advised that whilst you might find working with some of the clients difficult to connect with, and they you, aim to find one thing about them that you are curious about, that makes you smile internally, that you can like. It could be the clients trainers, jeans, the way they talk or an aspect of their face. Grow your appreciation of who they are from that point. This tool given back in 2010-2011 has grown to generally appreciating all clients I have the opportunity of working alongside. I realise that the expression and experience of love is tentative, risky, containing a power dynamic that has unknown elements buried deep within it’s catacombs. The equation consistently asked by a healer is; are they, am I, are we, ready to explore this wild landscape? Often the answer given is – Yes!

I Got Your Back

Art
If projective identification, mirroring, transference and counter transference are the tools that support a clients’ self – entity to realise themselves. In and amongst a list of items of what the client throws out against the canvas of counselling/psychotherapy. The job, my job, is to gently return the disguised and dislodged parts of themselves back to them, in piecemeal fashion and slowly in procession. The client then can appreciate their full picture of themselves as I and close allies do. With congruence, compassion and yes, a deeply resourced, well informed and suitably intentioned – Love.

Resources
I first came across the word Doula a few years ago at a training event. Since then I have been struck by the necessity of the role and the idea of what a Doula does. The link takes you to a website about Doulas.
There was something about the episode of the Stoop that took love on an interpretive ride. Polyamory was discussed in an open curious investigative fashion. I enjoyed the multiple discoveries made.
Brené Brown’s, Atlas of The Heart book and short podcast series about Atlas of the Heart with her sisters, is both informative, searingly honest reflections and often hilarious. The mini series is a great companion to the beautiful and well crafted work of a modern sage.
This is Love and The Magpie of Heart Mountain is a phenomenal story of love found in a hard place and at a difficult time in an American’s History.
When I heard that President Obama had his own podcast with his friend Bruce Springsteen, I was intrigued to find out what these two men would talk about. I have been entertained and  surprised from what I learned about both as they reflect on their lives. The podcasts are reflective in what they invite the listener to witness. Love appears as a character connecting their stories to the past and future.
The Stoop Podcast – Polyfree
A Sisters Book Club Series Atlas of the heart
This is Love The Magpie of Heart Mountain Renegades: Born in The USA
Our Unlikely Friendship
Images
Photo inspiration – glowing feelings.
Cover Photo Love Sign Hands photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo ‘Benched Together’ by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo ‘Family Time’ by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash
3rd Inlay photo ‘Love Hearts Glitter’ by freestocks on Unsplash
4th Inlay photo ‘T-Shirt Design’ by Brian Lundquist on Unsplash
5th Inlay photo ‘Lean on me’ by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

Kwanzaa. Black Excellence. Black Mental Wealth.

As the year begins to wind down to the holiday season with Winter’s Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa an African American Cultural Holiday and New Years. I am writing my almost penultimate blog of the year to log an awareness of both an implicit and explicit form of othering. Some cultural and religious holidays are internationally celebrated others are misremembered. This time of year where the hours of darkness far outweigh the hours of light, festivals of light are an attempt to remain enlightened. At the end of November I was a panelist on the last True Roots conversation of the year. Emotional Emancipation Healing circles was the focus of the discussion as well as Black Mental Wealth and Black Excellence. Amber Golden, and Therese Taylor-Stinson highlighted that restoration happens when we come together, and look at what has hurt us, make healing a priority and support each other to move.

Mixing
Celebrating Christmas is amalgam of pagan festivities and of Christian beliefs. The date of Christ’s birth is largely unknown. Historians identify possible months of Jesus’ birth from April – October. The 25th of December wildly accepted as Jesus’ birthday is very likely to be a falsehood. Winter’s Solstice in the Northern hemisphere occurs every year on the 21st of December and is the shortest day. For some the 21st of December marks the ending and the beginning of the New Year. The shortest day is a recognition of the end of the Earths spin away from the sun and towards longer and warmer days. For pagan communities aware of Sun and Moon cycles an element of magic and thanksgiving observed the shortness of this day. All days that followed would only increase time spent in the light.

Harvest Crop

Like
Kwanzaa is a construction of an ideal for the African Diaspora to celebrate amongst itself a 7-day ritual of community appreciation and cohesion. Kwanzaa is named after the first fruit of the harvest. A feast to give thanks to the community. There is a double meaning to harvest that includes the children and their re-acclimation to values that support the unity of the family. The argument returns to one I presented earlier this year, of finite and infinite games. What springs to mind about Kwanzaa is the union of old and new, those members of the community who no longer exist in physical form and yet are remembered as still belonging to the unity of the family. An appreciation of life yet to be is also a cornerstone of the cultural celebration of Kwanzaa. In 1998 I ventured to visit family in New Jersey for the ‘Holidays’ and was awed by my cousins observance of Kwanzaa. My cousin had a dismissive view of the commericalised Christmas holiday celebration. Some of the words I write here are a remembrance of the sharing and learning he offered me back then.

Year Review
Christmas represents for many the birthdate of Christ. The 24th and 25th of December is a time of celebration – seeing family – eating – coming together – eating – wrapping presents -eating – giving presents – receiving gifts – eating – looking back over the year – planning and imagining for the year ahead – napping and eating if there is any room! Christmas is also a time of mass anxiety, upset, commercialism, stress, money and credit card over use, increased debt and increased profits for many retailers. Christmas sales are almost as important as black Friday deals, Boxing day sales, New Years sales and Easter sales. For many, the meaning of the 21st and 25th of December has been all but erased. Interpreted as “What am I going to get?” For many more there is anxiety and stress. Christmas is an unwelcome yearly phenomena. Forever bearing down on willing and unwilling observers. The Christmas march, begins from the first of January every year, and the accompanying concerns the ‘Holiday’s brings, grow continually. ‘It’s for the children’ some say still. I wonder if the smiles of collected parties, adults included on the ‘Big’ day are equal to the 3-4 weeks of anxiety – elevated heart rate, serotonin and cortisol release of preparations previous to the 25th every year?

3 Red

Increase Light
An eclectic and inclusive celebration would in the least recognise the traditions celebrating light festivals the world over. A conscious global community would observe: Diwali, Hanukkah, Winter’s Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Gregorian calendar’s New Year, and the Winter season concluding with the Chinese New Year every year. My reasoning is that I feel unity arrives as a outcome of awareness, collaborating and exemplifying human connection – sharing both difference and sameness can decrease hostility towards the unknown.

Outline
What I have specifically enjoyed about Kwanzaa is the representation of joyous fulfillment extending beyond 1 day. Most of the celebrations mentioned above are either singular or successive. Spanning either 24 hours or a number of days. Kwanzaa is a non commercialised and community centred celebration observing the African family living in *Diasporan lands (Absentia). Every and all dimensions of family is what I am interested in recognising beyond the nuclear. The 7 days of Kwanzaa highlight the collection and connection of the African family gathering. Each day of Kwanzaa are known as: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, Imani. For me each day invites a sense of collective success and wellbeing. Inviting mental wealth amongst, strength within the collective and that then meeting each individual as a residual product. I position Kwanzaa as an ideal against the wealth sought in individuality, the incessant greed of possession, and the frequent belittling of others for their lack.

Umoja – Unity
Umoja the first day of Kwanzaa. Lighting of the first central Black candle marks the beginning of the 7 day cultural harvest festival. The other 6 candles 3 Red and 3 Green are lit on the following days. For members of the African community living in absentia Dr. Maulana inspired by the Watts riots in 1966 imagined a weeklong celebration incorporating ideas from his studies of African traditions. For me Kwanzaa is a representation of Black mental wealth and an example of Black excellence made manifest. Some of the symbols and phrases can be identified in Southern, West and East African countries. What Dr Maulana has been able to ‘see’ is a gathering of Diasporan African people under 7 guiding principles. Achieving self acceptance and self awareness with an aim to release self from mental and physical subjugation. The African family in unifying would appreciate our inherent excellence, the strength, ability to persevere, to lead, create, challenge, be vulnerable, and to love despite uncountable barriers and obstacles. Kwanzaa invites all to know and love self and know and love family.

Connecting with games

Kujichagulia- Self-Determination
The act of self determination is to live life with little outside/other influence or determining/governing factors. Doing what is needed and sometimes wanted from a position of curiosity is to be governed by one’s own interest. The motivation feels different when another is advising telling or yelling at you to do something you may not want to do, or need to do. Self determining is to recognise that all choices even the act of not making a decision has an equal and possible outcome. In relation to Self-Determination for the African family, excellence is truly what we are. Attributions of maligned unwanted, discarded, projective identified qualities and stereo types have been incorrectly ascribed. Operating with a belief of not being enough is an unconscious representation of growing up in a number of systems that do not value, or refuse to acknowledge us as anything other than 3/5ths human. Dr Clint Smith’s How The Word is Passed book link below explores the lie in detail. The acceptance of self-determination also inspires the community to know itself. To appreciate ones personhood and of those who came before, and those yet to be born. The resilience of ancestors surviving an inhuman system afforded us a light that is impossible to erase.

Ujima- Collective Work and Responsibility
I understand Ujima and the idea of collective work as primarily centred on the organisation of family including extended family and the community overall. As a counsellor/psychotherapist I am in regular conversations with clients that are grappling with their disillusionment of family and also looking to re-structure, reshape and repair these relationships. The work of healing is both individual and collective. The responsibility of advancement can and often does start with one individual and often leads to many taking up the cause. On the 3rd day of Kwanzaa the family is to observe what work has been carried out to support everyone’s wellbeing. What has been harvested in effortful engagements, received as a result of gifts and what time has been given to others to manifest health. Those whose efforts are often unseen, or taken for granted are invited to come forward and accept their role in holding and guiding the family group through the year’s challenges.

Ujamaa- Cooperative Economics
In a world that is predicated on profit and loss, wealth and poverty, accumulation over waste and destruction Ujamaa observes the benefits of collaboratively working together to improve an individual’s, a family’s and a community’s economic ability. The 4th day of Kwanzaa observes that consumerism, capitalism and the cultural lay religious practice of Christmas robs some communities of wealth, humility and compassion. Presenting an idea that some deserve not to have a good end of year celebration as these groups are the wrong type of humanity and thus deserve judgement, scorn and little from the table of good sharing. The principle of Ujamaa centers the idea of coming together for the family’s good – humanity’s wellbeing.

Nia- Purpose
The 5th day of Kwanzaa is Purpose or Nia. I am mindful of a saying I came across a few years ago. Mark Twain is reported to have said ‘Two most important days in your life: The day you were born and the day you discover why. ‘ Offers a useful perspective to the understanding of purpose. I am taken back to working for Together for Mental Wellbeing and developing training on Tertiary Desistance. Purposeful endeavour is an engaging concept working with people in prison and those once returned. Discovering one’s purpose is a little like inspecting interiorly and finding the one thing or the connected parts of the self, that are beyond passion and can be seen as life’s work. (My mind has ventured to Dave Eggers ‘A Life’s Work of Staggering Genius’) Purpose is appreciating ones inherent and earned skills and to make use of them to support self and others. My born with skills are to artistically represent what is seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted. The earned skill is psychotherapeutic and being able to write missives to direct understanding. Bringing both together are the blogs purpose. I feel that my specific purpose is in translating concepts of psychoanalytic thought artfully for those who share an interest in healing.

Cornucopia of Corn varietals

Kuumba- Creativity
I witness creativity in almost everything. For instance architecture and living on a housing estate perhaps was a beginning of my noticing the art in a concrete clad environment. The block I lived on had a central atrium with plants and trees growing up from the ground floor up towards the light of the first floors. Natural beauty contained/constrained by the concrete that sounded it. The 6th day of Kwanzaa observes the act of creating a better world. For me the act of creating often begins with an inner spark of something or an experience that is inspirational. The want that follows is to reconfigure, reimagine and reorganise the inception to be something more. Transmuted into physical and active form. Dr. Maulana was able to make use of his studies and understanding to reimagine an end of year celebration to reconstruct the African family. A repurposing of his studies willfully applied to restoring Africans living in absentia. Kwanzaa observes a themed approach to live well.

Imani – Faith
The 7th day of Kwanzaa is one of celebration and to acknowledge faith in oneself, family, and community followed by deliberate mindful action which can create opportunity for change. Faith in the ancestors. In those who came before. Faith in those living amongst the community to support those engaged in affirming activities. Faith in those yet born to continue righting the keel of the ship so the remaining journey arrives at a just port. The aim to manifest good returns on the energy of their time and commitments. Kwanzaa a non-religious practice. Kwanzaa aims to raise awareness amongst those who are looking to support their community rather than continually investing in companies and businesses interested only in profit. Placing the global African community as an after thought, a peon to larger market forces.  

All Smiles

Celebrate
In conclusion festivals that light darkness are representative of human ingenuity and genius. A conversation about misrepresentation of the myth of Christmas has assisted my appreciation of the holiday’s origin beginning in Egypt. What Dr Maulana Karenga has offered with Kwanzaa is an interpretation of his African research for global application. In order to support global unity. From the 26th December – the 1st January, my aim will be to observe the 7 principles of Kwanzaa. Another way to mark the ending of one calendar year and make space for the one that follows next.

Resources
The TED talk by Dr. Cheryl Tahede Grills was shared by Kimberly Cato of True Roots prior to the conversation in November, priming panelists and guests for a wholly beneficial and uplifting conversation about EEC .
Kwanzaa the official website for the end of year celebration. A wealth of information about Kwanzaa the originator and useful resources for communities wanting to observe the African American cultural holiday.
I enjoyed Tarana Burke’s and Brené Brown’s interview on Unlocking Us. What is shared between the two is how vulnerability in African-American communities is a difficult ask.
Tobe and the Originals to the list of resources arrived as I poured through a number of music videos. Their movement and creativity are a force to be reckoned with in that the principle themes of Kwanzaa are inherent in what I saw in the interview and in some of their music.
TED Talk Dr Cheryl Tahede Grills Emancipate From Mental Slavery
Kwanzaa – The African American celebration
Brené Brown, Tarana Burke and Jason Reynolds You Are Your Best Thing
Tobe and Fat & the Originals discuss Love, Erykah Badu and Breakthroughs
Unlocking Us Brené Brown and Dr Clint Smith How The Word Is Passed

Images
Cover photo Rainbow candles by nrd on Unsplash
Autumn Harvest photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash
3 Red candles photo by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash
Board Games Family photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Coloured Corn photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
All Smiles photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash

Encounters of the 3rd Kind

The recently released Netflix documentary about extra-terrestrials and sightings/experiences with Aliens from different star systems has intrigued me. I have watched the 1st episode. The ‘proof’ I found to be highly speculative and annoyed my appreciation for investigative journalism. The encounters I am choosing to write about below are largely to do with being seen as alien, treated as inhuman, and the consistent ever prevailing idea is that of ‘I’m not racist but…’ Actions, silence and inaction shout far louder than words ever will, I have found…

Post Racial Canada?
With the event of George Floyd’s highly televised murder, over a year ago at the time of writing. I want to write about and discuss a few observations in relation to Anti-Black Racism. As a panelist for True Roots we discussed and reviewed personal learnings from George Floyd’s death. I wrote about some of my observations in this post here.

From the Escarpment – Downtown Hamilton

Interrupt
Since moving to Canada in February 2021, I have been fortunate to have been welcomed to the country with warmth and acceptance largely mostly by friends and family. As a people Canadians are largely known as polite and considerate. Incidents over the Summer and Fall have invited me to reflect on the idea of Canada as a culturally conscious country. A country aware of it’s misdeeds of the past temporarily pouring energy into correcting colonial errors, currently.

Lost Time
On a Saturday in May, whilst having a challenging and rewarding conversation with my brother-in-law KW, we wanted to know the time. Becoming aware of our possible lateness to a side hustle meeting we were to attend that afternoon. We both were watchless and phoneless, leaving these time telling devices at our respective homes.

The Plan
We both had the idea of asking park users if they could tell us the time. We were sat on a park bench overlooking Locke Street North, at Victoria Park. The day warm and sunny. We nodded at a watchless baller as he casually strolled towards the now open Tennis, Basketball courts and Multi Use Games Area (MUGA). CoViD19 had meant that outdoor public meeting spaces had been closed. We spotted a few passers by who may have a time piece with which to inform us of the time. A White woman with ear buds in, we initially waved down to ask the time, kept jogging past us.

Dodge Ball Training
A young White couple approached the park from a neighboring street and were wearing watches, we noticed. Arms bare. Black watches clearly visible on their left and right arms. KW and I smiled warmly as we knew that the answer to our questioning of what time it was, would soon be given. No sooner had we spotted them and begun to make it known we would like to avail them of their timed devices, they abruptly, awkwardly, averted their path of approach to the park. Choosing instead to spend more of their time pointedly avoiding us.

Telepathy
The couple made no eye contact with us or with each other. In an invisible way, both communicated to the other that evasive maneuvers were to be fully employed with immediate execution! We found their rebuke both upsetting and hilarious. KW suggested that they would prefer the chance of being run over by passing cars, rather than spending time talking with us. Our loud and raucous laughter followed them as they made their way across Victoria Park. Our laughter was intended to have both time withholders, absconders, carry our pain of their insult a few steps farther.

Buzz off
Similar to the sting of racism: Death by a thousand cuts of micro-aggressions, vicarious trauma and barely held unconscious bias, dry walling and avoidance could also be added. The nefarious strategies employed by some, holding fast to the Zero-Sum game of White Supremacy.

Paranoia
I am convinced that whenever I am standing beside another Black man in perceived ‘White’ space, something indigestible occurs. The experience is like a ticking clock, or a hissing gas cannister. Disguised, thrown quietly and released. Discolouring a scene and creating a stench, that has me wanting escape taking whomever I am at speed – away. Moments such as these are not uncommon. It is riding an elevator and not one person making eye contact or speaking with you. It is riding a public transit vehicle and whilst either sat or standing with space either side or all around you. Other passengers doing their best to avoid, minimising interactions with you in any way possible. Recently I visited a Pizza place in Hamilton. It was a Friday. The place was heaving. University students populated the place like it was a Happy Day’s film extra party. I started to get a sneaking feeling of not being wanted there! The feeling crept over me as I stood with my brother-in-law waiting for our takeaway pizza’s to arrive.

Wood Fired Oven

Litter
The feeling, like a gas cannister’s smoke, rose in me to the point where all I wanted to do was swiftly exit like I was dough from a woodfired oven. I had already noted all fire escapes. The one to my right seemed the closest. The door had disabled push buttons to support the hydraulics swing easier. Dissecting what I experienced is akin to the casual everyday racism some othered communities describe. The inherent, unspoken awareness of feeling unvalued, disrespected, alien was unwanted and came as I questioned if this was actually happening? Another effect of casual everyday racism. I questioned KW if I was losing it or were we being pointedly avoided and ignored by other patrons seeing and deciding that they did not want to see us.

Share
‘Their avoidance is more to do with fear’ Explained Kike at a recent dinner party. ‘Some White people are scared that they will say the wrong thing and be called a racist.’ We laughed at the *ludicrousity of the idea. Glad to have friends who get it when we talk about our experiences of walking while Black in the 21st Century. Her husband Rohan shared an experience he had of buying a bottle of wine at an LCBO. Being advised by the teller after explaining his need. Wanting to buy a nice bottle of wine for a friends housewarming, was shown to the more ‘affordable’ bottles. Rohan explained that he had to keep it moving. Bypassing the teller’s chance to access an education of his presumed White privilege. Helping to revise his narrative that all Black men are poor and struggling – missed! Discussing these moments of insult, pain, reflection and action offer us chance to collect ourselves. Not lose it, as James Baldwin has previously stated, ‘To be a Negro in this country (the U.S.) and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, all of the time — and in one’s work’. We talk amongst ourselves about the nonsense of persistent othering to release and find some semblance of peace. Until…

Precarious
The Pizza place experience transported me vicariously to the 1960’s, as a freedom rider in the deep American South, but remained in Hamilton, Ontario. No I was not racially abused. No punches, kicks and hot coffee weren’t thrown at us. The sense of fear, sense of loathing and being held as different from, was the feeling. Pizza place held the low-level hum of perceived danger and threat. I am left to wonder from whom to whom? If KW and I were wearing balaclavas, held sawn off shot guns, I might be able to understand. These choices of clothing and heavy jewellery aren’t something to be worn to a Pizza Party in Hamilton . However, the potential for riot or moment of unexplained group violence felt present and yet wasn’t.

New v Old
With the group of students met at Hamilton’s new Pizza place, my sense of hope for a future that could position Black, Brown, poor and White alongside each other – viewing self as equal almost evaporated. The reality – the structure of White supremacy is built amongst institutions that inculcate all to persist within an unfair, unequal tiered system that *inferiorises some and positions others as better than. My brother-in-law and I walked into a surreal reality and remained. We both could have left. The metronome of time for a moment was affected. We are not to know of if a recognition of difference happened after we left.

Off Balance
The experience of racism and behaving in racist ways is less burning crosses in people’s lawns, violent police encounters, Dixie/Confedarate flag waving, Nazi salutes, but this almost unseen, unnoticeable, fear response of being amongst, but being held outside from – is another form of attack. A deafening silence of avoidance is anti-black racism. These moments are cannonised alongside many other experiences of racist behaviour that upset, invite questioning and provide little answer. To the White couple who appeared to walk in fear of KW and I, sitting on a park bench, you invited us to see ourselves as felons, we are invited to see you both as merely ignorant racists. I reject both simple notions. To the White patrons of said Pizza place, we walked into on a frenetic Friday night, unlike Sam Cooke I cannot see ‘Change Gone’ Come’, so easily. Too much is at stake to topple the edifice of White Supremacy, But the structure, must fall! Axe, Dynamite, and instruments of mass change at the ready and are simontaneosly striking.

And so agitated – I write.

Script Change
An ‘alright mate?’, or ‘hi, how are you?’ goes a long way to normalise, welcome and settle an always on guard, tired patron from vaulting. We wanted to feel welcome, appreciated and seen by others in the Pizza place. An impenetrable wall was erected long before KW and I arrived. My hope – make rubble from the wall in decades and not centuries.

Bigger
There is always a larger story and it will be artfully portrayed. The movie – One Night in Miami however fictionalised, captures the meeting of four great Black men. The film highlights the coming together of diverse ideas for a similar goal. Sam Cooke and the many others who have sang, drawn, painted, sculpted, rapped, danced, voted and played will see better days. The future is not solely in the hands of all woefully unaware, ill prepared, under-educated students. The future is also in ours and our daughters and our sons and the grandchildren’s and theirs. All is potential. The only game being played is an infinite one with all arriving eventually at justice.

Resources
Sam Cooke I offer ‘Change Gon’ Come’ as a useful beginning to examine perspective. Present belief in relation to messages left by those who came before, for those who are to follow. Sam invites hope amongst his visceral intoning of pain.
Jennifer Mullins is interviewed by the Team at The Melanated Social Work Podcast about her ideas to Decolonise Therapy this episode is simply magic. Jennifer uses a number of personal experiences to share how she became the therapist she is. Aware of the precipice she walks along and who she can support, dancing along its fine edge.
George’s podcast as a politically and socially aware wordsmith. George’s oration of his and other writers/poets/rappers words are insightful in relation to the stories being told, silenced and presumably killed off. There is a sense of humour and irony in George’s ability to offer verse in this episodes’ telling of the 60s.
Resmaa Manakem I have listed this link in a previous blog. I highlight the podcast episode’s relevance here, in relation to a socialised White group, externalising others and parts of themselves because of a projective identified need. It being far easier to outsource internalised conflict – ‘Hurt people…’
Michael Kiwanuka and his Black Man Living… The line that stands out for me is ‘And I’m not angry and I’m not mad’, I wonder if Michael is answering James? I also doubt Michael’s not being angry and a little on the edge of sanity. I know I definitely am.
Ibram X Kendi This link in this blog is to a powerful podcast that looks at sport, journalism and the intersections of race and politics. The podcast makes use of observing the idea of White culture admiring, using and monetising Black culture and yet not respecting valuing or awarding equality to Black people wherein conflict arises.
One Night in Miami featuring four legends of Sport, Music and Theology/Philosophy is an understated film. The movie highlights for me the sense of possibility that perfumed the 60’s air with hope.
The Final link allows the feeling that rose up in me after the Pizza place experience a home. The injustice, the fantasy of finding retribution within annihilation feels like a fair exchange as Staceyann suggests burning.
Sam Cooke Change Gone Come
Decolonise Therapy interviews Jennifer Mullins
Have You Heard George’s Podcast Ep 24 The Sixties S3
Resmaa Manakem interview with Christa Tippett On Being
Michael Kiwanuka Black Man in a White World
Robert Glasper on Fuck Yo Feelings feat. Andra Day, Staceyann Chin Endangered Black Woman

Images
Cover photo by Yasmin Dangor on Unsplash
Hamilton Mountain view photo by Vivek Trivedi on Unsplash
Wood Fired pizza photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash
Pizza Boxes pizza photo by Kristina Bratko on Unsplash
Thin Crust photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash

Group – Explored

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

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

Boardroom Group Collaborating Board Room

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

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

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

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

George Floyd Rememberance – True Roots Conversation

Kimberly Cato asked: Did the public lynching of George Floyd impact you in any way, and, if so, how have you or your life changed this last year?
My response – Yes, the public lynching of George Floyd and killing of Breonna Taylor impacted me in a way that the many others killed by law enforcement had not. Not since Rodney King’s filmed brutal battery by LA police in the 90s had I been so affected by such visible hatred. At first I chose to make my writing pay attention to how I was managing his death and the avalanche of information that followed. Perfect Storm was my first homage to his (George Floyd’s) memory…

Transformation
Writing offers me a chance to process disturbing and triggering information in a way that takes it past the point of the information being personally held, upsetting and re-traumatising. (It means) I have done something with it and so it’s transmuted into something digestible or more favourable – useable (to me).

George Floyd Mural Perpetual Energy

Objectification
I recognise myself as a healer, a storyteller, a writer, an artist – someone who has a responsibility to support more to achieve a state of balance and stability. My writing aims to do this in as personal and as objective a way as I can. I claim the heuristic autoethnographic process whilst studying my masters degree, as being a chief influence for this form of writing style!

Diversity Spaces
Last year I was living in the UK working amongst a number of prisons as the lead counsellor for an NHS healthcare trust. I delivered training on White privilege alongside my colleague PK. It was there I witnessed the not so clever slight of hand that White colleagues would raise. The UK does not have the same issues with race that the US does. I would argue that it perhaps the UK has it worse – Hidden – Insidious – Deadly. The UK hides behind an idea of class, education, history – Wilbur Wilberforce and being a force for good.

Denial
A White member of clinical staff stated whilst we engaged with the White Privilege training, that they had not seen the news about George Floyd and the protests and that they were not aware of the global mass awakening. From here I realised that logic, reckoning and knowledge were not going to be enough to support those with their eyes and mouths wide shut to change. I would need to seek a relational experience for those who claim ignorance, to either step in to the arena or take a seat closer to the edge of the action.

Light Art Energy

Energy
Rasmaa Manakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book as a loan from Hamilton’s Public Library. Rasmaa notes that there is an energy in the words we all speak that links us to our past and those that came before. As a seeker I am interested to know more about this partially invisible yet felt substance to our lives that scientists, psychologists and those working in varied fields including art and religion often speak of.

This point in time, this present history is where universal change occurs. Both are frightening necessary and exciting.

Resources
Resmaa Menakem’s Interview
Uncomfortable Conversations
Forbidden Fruit Podcast – The Knowledge of Trauma
The Untold Story Podcast – Policing
Resistance – Coach G

Images

Cover photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
2nd photo by munshots on Unsplash
3rd photo by Federico Beccari 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

Why Listen?

I have enjoyed listening to a number of podcasts in the last few years. The blog below looks to share some of what I have gained from these audible gems during the lockdowns. These podcasts are packed with moving stories and open us up to feeling. Again. To start, I wanted to share why I turned my attention to listening…

I listen
It’s because of those that came before. Uncle Gilly (Gilbert Drakes) was the orator, story-teller, the pork knocker, the originator, the historian. Whenever he would pass by our home in North London, it was about the joy he was able to spread. I can remember my aunts and mum giggling like school girls at another of his scandalous tales. 

There is Joy in Every Story.
Attempt to remain close to this idea

Balance
There was a delight in how he and they saw the world. Immigrants from Guyana. Pain and struggle were mixed in to these tales too. But there was also a resilience of hoping and waiting for the children – to get what their hands had yet to grasp. Listening somehow flavoured and coloured, picture framing my memory. Everything was sepia hued and sunny and flavoured with coconut ice drops and golden syrup, fried plantain, roti, dhal-puri, cook-up-rice, fried dumplings, curried everything, mauby and ginger beer.

Loss
Listening is something I have enjoyed for a very long time. Recently my family (C,C,P) asked questions from the ‘If Questions for the Soul by Evelyn McFarlane and James Saywell book and was asked, If I could only keep one of the 5 senses which one would I keep? My ability to hear would be the one I would be most sour about losing.

Divine Choosing
So why this blog? Why now? Well I have been delighting in a few of these podcasts and a Netflix show during a prolonged lockdown experience. The shows below and links have offered me something so divine, I just had to share.

White Lies – Jim Reeb was a preacher that travelled to the deep South of Selma Alabama with two other white clergymen. This was after hearing Martin Luther King Jnr’s call to support the civil rights movement. A few days after his arrival in Selma, Jim Reeb was killed. Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley investigate this cold case. Why should we hold time for this story? Code Switch introduced this podcast to my always questioning and receptive ears. The story and investigations are carried out respectfully by the two reporters and deliver a highly crafted story that leaves me with a few more questions than answers. Such as: Why did it take so long for justice/the truth to be realised? How could a community of people double down on Jim Reeb’s death and claim innocence and carry on with life with little conscience? Does culpability and crime turn all who try to hide from justice, into guilty weakened criminals? Is it more complicated than that? Why listen – primarily because the two men are exhuming something so relevant to the time we are travelling through currently.

What’s Ray Saying – I was introduced to Ray Christian III from the Moth Podcast. Ray shared a poignant story of growing up, poor black and in the South (U.S.). He won a Moth story slam and appeared to leave a crowd speechless. A good story can do that, as well as thrill. A story can invite crickets to be heard – as all goes pin drop quiet. Ray Christian invites us to journey with him through a number of tough, life changing experiences. Enabling him to fashion a moment of learning for us the listener and for himself – the story teller. Why listen – Ray has a way of sharing his truth in a frank and honest way that stuns and shouts ‘put down what’s unnecessary. The barriers you hold are not going to work against these heartfelt stories!’

Why listening matters for wellbeing,
Jus’ lissen

Unlocking Us – I have long been an admirer of Brené Brown’s work. This was after reading her manifesto for change within an organisational context in the book Daring Greatly in 2016. I was surprised and elated to hear that Brené Brown was going to be joining the podcast pantheon in 2019. Unlocking Us pulls no punches and has provided me insight to see how a concert hall invites and also leads an orchestra or choir to lift it’s roof. Because Brené has done and is continuing to do much of the heavy lifting of personal self enquiry, when she asks an exquisite and illuminating question, only the truth can be offered from her guests. The structure of the space created, invites it to be filled with honest open beauty. Why listen – the list of journey people interviewed on Unlocking Us are simply a star studded cast of world leaders of thought and are daring to be themselves vulnerable. No show has disappointed yet.

Suave – This man’s story is the pivot point of why I have missed working at a prison. David Luis Suave Gonzalez was classed a super predator, emotionally and educationally retarded, illiterate and sentenced to life in prison. He was 17 when the offence happened. Suave was shared on the Ear Hustle podcast. The crime he committed and is in full acceptance of, is discussed as well as the circumstances of Suave’s life. If we were to widen the lens and take in environmental factors and a number of systems we would recognise that his choices were limited due to the oppressive violence of poverty. Why listen – in as little as 3 episodes the full character of Suave is revealed and I notice the teen and man he still is. A tough exterior, poised, articulate and deftly funny and incredibly vulnerable. Knowing him fully is what we are invited to do.

Serial Season 3 The Cleveland justice system. An unjust system or a criminal system of justice? Sarah Koenig presents on this wide searching season on the hunt for stories that present the justice system in Cleveland in all its gory detail. S3S does not disappoint as what takes precedence is an idea a colleague shared a few years ago, Gandhi is said to have said that the worst form of violence is poverty. What continues to be portrayed are a number of poor choices, that lead to poor outcomes for individuals, communities and a city involved with a few epidemics: drugs, guns, murder, poverty, education and a city being mismanaged. Why listen – This season is high art in as raw and as open a way that an artist can depict a crumbling system of mistakes. Serial season 3 simply delivers.

School Colors from Brooklyn Deep – Mark Winston Griffith and Max Freedman look into the changing experiences of a school in Brooklyn, New York. The spoken line of ‘whenever Black people have something good, it’s always taken away from us…’ resonates strongly from the opening intro for me. The lament from the singing choir leader’s falsetto during the intro, let’s me know this is going to be hard listening but worthwhile too. Why listen – the story telling is phenomenal. The sound design brings you in to touch – where each character is speaking from. We the listener understand and share their perspective. School colors is as insightful as You the Netflix show.

Resistance – follows the rise of protests in America and elsewhere after the murder of George Floyd. Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jnr follows activists and leaders into the uncivil war of activism. Saidu shows the world that the unlawful killing of Black and Brown and Trans people matters. This podcast was found whilst I tuned in to This American Life podcast. Everyone is involved in changing the landscape, whether they want to recognise it or not, and the young people who are out there within the resistance are saying it’s enough and it has got to stop! Now! Why listen – The event of George Floyd’s murder being caught on camera and then shared around the world had a tectonic effect on a large number of people. The protests that came after were iconic. It simply makes sense to remain aware of how resistance will continue to inform and shape all global societies.

Nice White Parents – Chana Joffe Walt investigates a curious event of a school in, again, New York marching towards equality for its students and taking a number of wrong turns to achieve a school centred idea of reform. This was early C19 June 2020 Lockdown listening. The hours whiled away. What do the parents have to do with it? Well, the money/investment/resources follow a specific group of interested parents in relation to this school and how they feel these resources should be used. Nice White Parents podcast presents a story on repeat. Power-over is generally problem fueled. Some appear to not want to learn this difficult truth. Power with, yields unimaginable returns for the many. Many who have come before have said voluminously the same. Why listen – because the arc of these stories, scratch at an impregnable one way glass that looks out on success, education and the misnomer of all attaining their dreams.

Dare to Lead – Brené Brown’s book on what makes a good leader is called ‘dare to lead’. I am yet to read it as the book is on order at my local library. I am however devouring her second podcast series. The guests she interviews are encouraging, daring, inspiring globally renowned leaders and invite us to think about ourselves in new ways. The stories told are deeply touching and have made me listen to a few episodes more than once. It is one thing to have questions about what a good leader is and how they behave, it is another to hear *inspirators offer their pearls of wisdom that are immediately accessible and with only one cost – time. Why listen – there is a treasure trove filled with useful informative life changing advice in every episode.

Appreciating what comes through

Canine Intervention Netflix
Jas Leverette is simply a watchable engaging and deeply thoughtful and remorseful man. The story about his first dog… I thoroughly enjoyed the community, friendship and opportunities Jas is able to share with those who may not be offered a second chance at life, within his company. Jas offers the viewer a hugely inspiring cast of characters that invite empathy and compassion in equal measure. My wife who has a fear of dogs watched a number of episodes with me, it’s that good. Canine Intervention is a show that looks at a young man’s skill at working with dogs, not just that, as well as how he trains people how to care and look after the dogs they live with.

Jas is in his element training, discussing and supporting owners to understand and completely revise their approach to make space for their dogs in their lives so that they, the owners are trusted to lead. What I enjoy about Jas is his sense of play, his commitment to his family and the joy he has at his craft. Wanting to help the many who may have fallen into unhelpful habits with their dogs, learn something new about themselves and how to live well with the newest member of their family. Why watch – the stories themselves are complete packages of healing, growth and restoration. I look forward to season 2!

Answers
So why do I listen? Too so much? For so long? Too so many? If a story is an invitation to journey with, to see and experience like another does. If a story is like an invisible tie that binds us all, to earlier simpler times, where moths fly, then I am always in a place of learning and teaching and sharing and growing and all in good time saying goodbye. For each of us has a heroine’s story to tell, with a beginning, a middle and a fateful ending.

Resources
White Lies Podcast
What’s Ray Saying Podcast
Suavé Podcast
Serial Podcast Season 3
School Colours Podcast
Unlocking Us – Brené Brown
Nice White Parents Podcast
dare to lead – Brené Brown
Canine Intervention Netflix

Images
Cover photo by krakenimages on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash
2nd Inlay photo by dusan jovic on Unsplash
3rd Inlay photo by Obi Onyeador 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


Vicarious Trauma – Jacket

I wrote a few weeks ago about the experience of some people suffering trauma by witnessing harm come to another. Reminding them of their own hurts and past experiences of pain. Writing about Rodney King and then George Floyd has opened the door to an even earlier experience with Stephen and his jacket.

Big or Little T Trauma?
Last week I wrote about the chase by police of me on my bike for reasons unknown. This week I wanted to discuss a first trauma. Yes there were others. The event was momentous as I had not been treated like this by anyone. I was about 7. It was summer. My friend ‘T’ and I were taking it in turns to ride my bike around the estate. The bike a black and yellow Cinzia, was my most treasured Christmas present! The bike was a sort of hybrid BMX.

Looking up.

Summer
It was another hot summer 1979/1980. We kids were not up to much. Playing around the blocks of flats, killing ants, making and firing peg guns at each other and at pigeons. Harassing each other for rides on each others bikes. Playing knock down Ginger. Asking about who’s going to the shop? Because those half penny cola bottle sweets were so tangy and sweet. Tangmere used to have it all. Something unknown to my 7 year old awarness made all of the shops shut and never re-open.

Intimidate
T had somehow met Stephen and been impolitely requested to give him a go of my bike. I believe Stephen had chased T and pulled him off the bike! Stephen was an older kid, maybe 10 or 11. He carried himself with some swagger. I can remember him (Stephen) pulling wheelies and doing long skids along the pavement. Treating (trashing) my bike in a disrespectful and in a way I found unapologetic in manner. Like the bike was his! I was angered by this. T may have told me what had just happened to him. I became livid I can remember. A thought I had was, this could be a case for the Red Hand Gang! But they weren’t around so, I could make this situation better all by myself.

Propulsion
I ran at Stephen and shouted give me my bike back! He ignored me and sailed past. I gave chase. Screaming. Shouting. Wanting. My bike back! We met at Martlesham or Croydon one of those housing blocks on the estate. Stephen had sneered a warning to others who were gathered earlier: “if anyone touches my jacket. You’re dead.” He, Stephen, serious, warned. Me oblivious and not hearing, ignored.

Martlesham and Croydon were 5, 6 or 7 stories high with garden units at their lowest housing level. Both blocks had little to no outdoor space higher up the blocks, unless you counted the landings. All of the housing blocks had double height under building car parks. Our show down (mine and Stephen’s) was to take place in one of the car parks – later. The estate had many outdoor green park spaces dotted throughout the collection of buildings at ground level.

Air Time on bike

Engagement
I think I shoved him in the back, or on the shoulder. Committing the mortal foul of touching his jacket. He had warned all who had cared to listen. But I shoved and he went ballistic. I believe that I started running before my bike hit the ground. Before Stephen started swearing. Before Stephen repeated he would hurt me after he managed to catch me. My feet took me away. At great speed. Fear is a phenomenally great accelerator. 

Distance
I ran. He chased. Back then aged 7. I was Nike. Fleet of foot. Good at bulldog, the running tag game. The 60m dash. The 100m sprint. But distance races I had not spent my time running. Now Stephen was quick too, and run as I might I could not lose him. He relentlessly gained on me. Swearing. I thought I could make it home, but his gallop closed down that line of escape. I turned away from racing home to Tangmere 119. To dodging between parked cars. Feeling that if I could use the cars to hide me I could evade capture.

Scared
I ran for my life. Petrified. I feared that Stephen would finish me. He had said just that! This was happening and whilst in disbelief, I ran. Who threatens who about a Jacket? A jacket! Possession and custody of things I understood on some level. I put my body in harms way to get my bike back. This need felt justified. Right. Believable. Stephen’s need seemed trivial, petty. Unjustified. Stephen wanted to hurt me because he viewed his jacket as sovereign. I had mistakenly entered sacred space. Spoilt thread by touch and so here we were. Lion and gazelle in a death defying race. I feared for my life and ran away to protect it.

Relief
He caught me under Martlesham and punched me a number of times. Head. Neck. Body shots. I wish I could tell you I took them all like a man and didn’t give him the satisfaction of witnessing a tear fall. I believe I cried from one side of the estate to the other. I cried up all the stairs to the top floor of Tangmere and when I got to my door which thankfully was opened by my mum. I went in and told her what had happened. She incensed. The bike left and forgotten where it lay. T later returned the bike.

Night Fades

Many – One
Lost in my mayhem of thoughts and sorrow. I was not out for revenge. I wanted the pain and the sense of defeat at being outrun to pass. The reason – I was fast and rarely beaten in a running battle! There was the curious case of Darren. I wanted not to remember the embarrassment of losing a fight to an older boy. I vaguely remember T trying to defend me either running beside as a distractor or getting in the way of Stephen. Stephen had singled me out to exact his vengeance. And so found – was punished.

Prey
The lion had found his prey and was set to claim his spoils. Remembering this painful memory does a number of things. I get to remember and release the pain that has been embedded in me for almost 40 years. There is also the courage to look at past hurts and witness the learning. I recognise that my experience of the chase trauma bears little resemblance to George Floyd’s murder or Rodney King’s assault. What I am doing is reclaiming my experience of terror. Providing an understanding of an unjust event and by doing so, allowing myself to relieve the experience of a trauma witnessed vicariously. It’s narrative therapy.

If
My want in writing this series is that you the reader come away with an understanding of the term Vicarious Trauma that is personally enhanced. That the resources below support compassion and a commitment to live within an anti-racist frame, and that you comment below on these thoughts.

Resources
Trevor Noah Explains the Domino Effect
Code Switch The Return of Race Science
Unlocking Us with Brené Brown Shame and Accountability
This American Life The Reprieve
Going Home song
How Can We Win Kimberly Jones

Images
Cover photo by Chromatograph on Unsplash City Skyline
1st Inlay photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash Looking Up Block
2nd Inlay photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash BMX rider
3rd Inlay photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash Night estate