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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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 4thTrue 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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!’
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last weeks post Vicarious Trauma – Revisited, invited me to remember a suppressed memory. The memory was filed in a box that is seldom reached for. There aren’t many files in this box. It’s in a room that is locked shut. Big thick padlocks and chain.
Labelled: Confusion and Pain Lie here.
1st Job I remember an evening shift at McDonalds. Full of the usual fare. Me in the back room. Working my 7.5. Supporting the close down. Collapsing the boxes, re stocking shelves, getting changed and leaving Cathedral Square – Peterborough to make my 4 mile cycle ride home. Mum was alive then, 90/91. We all still live in New Werrington. I have either had a full week at College and am on a late shift mid week or am on an evening shift on a Saturday night. No main dramas. Some late night revellers asking for extra chips or a free burger.
Crime The ride home was uneventful until the rain came. I am midway home. I have no lights on my bike. I am cycling reasonably fast. Traffic on the roads – light – mostly heading in to the city centre. I have crossed the dual carriageway over the footbridge leaving Dogsthorpe into Paston ridings. I am thinking of how the nights events were funny and silly. I have a hamburger hum about me. The grease fat seems to cloak me even though I didn’t fry food that night.
Sighted I round the last bend before the slight downward hill from Gunthorpe into Werrington. I pass a police cruiser lazily heading away from Werrington. Reaching the footpath that takes me to the water linkway and on to my home, I chance a glance behind me and notice the police car ominously turn and head in my direction.
I don’t stop to think. It is cold. It is wet out. I want to be home. The police car picks up pace and blue lights begin swooping. The police car mounts the curb awkwardly and speeds across the grassy verge. I note the headlamps sweep in my direction. If I can just pedal hard I can make the distance to the bollards before they can catch me.
I don’t want to speak with anyone, especially to these officers. Not then or ever.
Chase The police car revs and I sense them close the distance between me and them, in a short space of time. They drive over long grass. Not using the footpath. Attempting to short cut. I am not stopping. Neither are they!
If I can just get to the wooden posts infront of the bridge before they ram me off the bike I’ll be free. The car skids to a halt infront of the bollards. I sail through. I imagine I hear one of the officer’s curse. I am away. I have made it!
My trusty bike has aided my escape.
Reflex I am elated and bewildered. They could not be chasing me to tell me about lights on my bike. What if I had fallen? What then? What if they had caught me? What then?
I had no reason to stop. The police had no good reason to chase. But chase they did. And flee I went. Away.
Much like a dog after it’s chew toy, ball, stick thing. Thrown aloft. Thrown far and fast. Dog’s chase out of instinct.
It is possible the police chased me for much the same reason. Sighting a Black boy on a bike at a time when most young people were heading in to the city centre not away from it. The picture to them may have appeared wrong, strange, suspicious? There may well have been cause to chase and make enquiries.
From the moment they turned, the chase was on!
And this race, I was not under the circumstances – about to lose!
Two, One The panic. The fear and confusion were unlike much else I had met before. There was the Stephen chase: aged 7. I’ll come to that experience later. The exhilaration of getting away this time was amazing.
I had been fortunate. Unlike so many others, sisters, brothers both here and there…
Vicariously Watching films like ‘Just Mercy’, ‘Fruitvale Station’, ‘Do The Right Thing’ ‘If ‘Beale Steet Could Talk’ all have Black Men in unjustly familiar situations. These films appear to be in the abstract, distant, objective.
Not for me! As an empath, I am sensitized to feel each blow, every hate filled undignified look as though I suffered it. With these films I am often incensed and saddened. Their characters depict men pitted against circumstances beyond their control. That potentially either lead to their deaths or serving unjustified sentences.
Mark Duggan, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland – happen to bring the trauma of death and unlawful killing viscerally primed.
Leaving me Looking for Explanation, spinning, Attempting to Find balance. Remaining askew.
An odd moment arrived recently when reviewing the past few weeks of protests, stating the now ubiquitous ‘Black Lives Matter’. The movement, for me, blended with the ending scenes from the movie Kung-Fu Panda 3. The idea is somewhat out there, and will probably not land safely. If you have not seen the movie or are unfamiliar with the KFP franchise the idea will land ever more askew!
Unity In the final scenes of Kung-Fu Panda 3, a village of pandas step forward after defeating a marauding wolf pack and put out there paws to save the hero, Po.
Demonstrating The scene clearly demonstrates the now common idea that in unity, a great wrong can be put right. That a Black and White hero can defeat a Demi God! Inviting a village/world to heal long held wounds and restore itself to a bright and limitless future. The idea has long been held. The story has also been told since human beings have walked the earth.
Together we stand. Divided we fall!
Touch With Po (Hero) in the spirit world, feeling the hands/paws reaching out and lifting him up. Po gains the strength to be able to put up a good fight and defeat the misguided power seeking Kai. Does this concept sound familiar? World leaders current and past be warned…
Switch Kai interestingly resembles a buffalo with dreads and his baritone voice denotes a person of African-American heritage. Possibly increasing the diversity representation in the DreamWorks cannon of films and simultaneously complicating my relationship with the synergy of good and bad, black and white, up and down dyad.
Support There is mass celebration and delight amongst the villagers, once Po returns. Evil has yet again been defeated by Po aided by the furious 5 and the Panda village. To save the One, The Many must unite.
Evolve The moment of blending for me, is the recognition of the callous murder of George Floyd and the laying of hands for Po in KFP3.
For me, evolution can be experienced amongst us (the human being). A global recognition of the myth of White Superiority has begun.
And in protest against the systemic factors insisting that White Supremacy is the natural order of how the world is always to be.
What has been experienced by the many, has been one of finding Unity. At least for a moment in history. Seeking justice for George Floyd after the pandemic is also about finding a way to restore – make what has been centuries of old wrongs – right for and with Black people at the helm. Globally.
The TaoHaiku Without opposite Warm, Cold, Up, Down, the journey, Possibly never
The Luddite and The Technological Savant discusssupporting Black Lives Matter
Meeting Kim online was a serendipitous moment. She has a prolific Instagram posting regimen with sayings, providing instant support to over 900 followers. I wanted to interview her as she appears to have her fingers very much on the pulse of what the nation is looking for – A smart experienced therapist who can be available in a range of formats to provide those seeking help with immediate relief and guided support.
Full disclosure, Kim has also recruited a team of therapists to provide 4 hours (up to 6) of free counselling for Black people in the UK. I am one of the counsellors recruited.
I wanted to know what inspired Kim to develop the concept of providing free counselling for Black People and then put the idea to the public for Kaemotherapy to be crowd funded? A quick calculation informed me that the provision will deliver over 40 hours of Free counselling and counselling workshop experience for Black people in the UK. Which I think/believe is incredible!
MO: Hello Kim, thank you for agreeing to doing this interview. Kim: Thanks for having me.
MO: So we have known of each other for a little over 2 months. Mainly commenting and referencing each other’s Instagram posts through the CoViD19 experience and I wanted to know a little bit more about you. We have spoken a few times whilst you were finalising the plans for the 40 hours of Free counselling. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Kim: I live in South London, studied in Nottingham. I’m a Person-Centred Psychotherapist, Body and Trauma specialist, I help people move forward from trauma they have experienced. And support individuals to understand the intricate relationship between mind and body.
I have experience of working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and supporting BAME clients through racial trauma. I’m passionate about…
Fighting racial inequality and supporting black communities with their mental health. I have a private practice but I’m fully booked at the moment.
Like Michael mentioned I’ve been offering online counselling and raising funds for that. It’s so we can support black individuals impacted by recent events and the exposure of racial wounds with the BLM movement. Check out my page 🙂 @Therapy_with_kim
MO: Your instagram is fire. The posts lift me every time I see one, I am not sure if it’s the smile, the words, the image of the plant or the combination. What brought you to want to provide counselling? Kim: Aww wow thank you so much. It’s interesting because I realised once I started to produce my own content rather than reposting other peoples stuff I got more followers and feedback. I think it’s about people understanding my values as a practitioner and getting to know me a little more. Also, I strangely muse on things at night when I can’t sleep, that’s when the best content comes to me.
MO: How long have you been practicing as a counsellor? Kim: I’ve been practicing for 5 years now.
MO: How do you go about counselling? What approach do you take? You might have to explain that for someone who is not too aware of the many different styles of counselling. Kim: My foundation is the person centred approach.
Fundamentally, person centred theory asserts that tensions between our external and internal worlds create psychological distress.
How that manifests in my practice is focusing on the autonomy & choices of the calient and helping them to develop their voice (message, desires, needs), delving deep into their subjective experience this may often include cultural and social contexts.
For example, if family culture or a country of origin plays a part in their self image and to what extent they want that for themselves.
I’ve also recently integrated some body work, meditation and body scans to support regulating my clients’ nervous system. This works well with anxious clients and clients moving forward from traumatic events which have let them numb or hypervigilant.
MO: You laughed at the word luddite when I was asking for technical support a few weeks ago, and you mentioned you studied at Brunel, what course did you study there? Kim: Yes because it reminded me of my industrial revolution module in my second year of university. The rebellious workers adverse to industry advances smashing up machinery, scared they’d lose their jobs. I studied undergrad History and love it. My passion for my community was fuelled further when I studied the slave trade.
MO: Why this approach (Person Centred) and not one of the many other styles of counselling? Kim: I just love and it fits with who I am and the values I hold as a person. Empowerment (voice choice) and redefining oneself to be flexible with lived experiences, has been part of my journey but I also have seen how its supported clients from different backgrounds and with various mental health issues. I did a bit of Gestalt training and I sometimes utilise attachment theory as part of assessments.
MO: I know this is going to sound like I am interviewing you on Instagrams’ behalf, but what has lead to you putting the work in to display your services on Instagram, not twitter or facebook? Kim: For the separation from my private space I have loads of friends on Facebook and I’m not that familiar with Twitter. I recently got a twitter account though, add me @therapywithkae
MO: With your most recent campaign, providing free counselling and workshops for Black people what has been the response from the community? Kim: The response has been amazing I’m so happy. I just wanted to help in some way as I was so angry with what was happening (still is). Loads have people have supported financially and all the counselling slots were taken up in a matter of days. Goes to show how needed it was at this time.
MO: How did you go about selecting the therapists on your poster? Kim: They were colleagues I studied with and therapists I’d made connections with since returning to London. They are all culturally competent, passionate about the cause and from different backgrounds.
MO: What do you hope will be the outcome for the community? Kim: For Black people to seek out and utilise the resources they have out there. Mental health awareness and support to be embedded in our families. For the ‘Work harder’ ethic to connect to emotional and psychological well-being as well as finance, academia and other definitions of success.
MO: Are there any plans for a similar initiative to be repeated again? Kim: Yes definitely!
MO: How has advertising free counselling supported your business? Kim: Perhaps you could answer that one Michael? MO: I would have to say that I am being contacted a lot more as a result of my link to the Kaemotherapy offer. So thank you for that.
MO: Lastly you mentioned that you are soon to launch a podcast, can I ask what it will be about? Kim: I have been featured in 2 podcasts recently which were a lot of fun to be a part of. I want to develop one and have a few ideas for a podcast. As with most things in life tt’s just a matter of having the time to develop them. I know that currently podcasts are a great way to promote an idea, and set yourself and your business as an industry expert. I am interested in doing that. Definitely.
MO: Thank you Kim. I look forward to listening to these and what you later produce for a podcast. Now to turn the tables and ask, do you have any questions for me? Kim: I do have a few. What made you want to be counsellor?
MO: That is a great question. I wanted to be an artist/architect/interior designer. At the age of 20 I lost my mother to cancer and that had a big impact on my original plans. A few years were lost trying to make sense of life and then became a youth worker, basketball coach and then a learning mentor.
These roles all seemed to naturally fall into psychotherapy and support at an adolescent level. I studied my first introductory course to counselling at Morley College and then jumped ahead of myself to do a Masters at University of Greenwich. That turned me into an integrative counsellor
Kim: What would your advice be for people wanting to do counselling especially men? MO: Do a bit of research about the course you are thinking of beginning. What are the parts of the course that most appeal? Ask a range of counsellors, or former students of that course about their experience.
Find a mentor to support your learning journey. BAATN offer a great mentoring programme of support for students of therapy. I would also advise for anyone interested in joining this path to become a counsellor/psychotherapist, to begin resolving their affairs of home, job and of the heart as best they can.
The course is going to pull some hard truths out of you. Having a solid home team is going to be at times the best thing to have spent time investing into. Counselling courses can be life changing in both necessary and dramatic/dynamic ways.
For men I would advise to be aware that counselling and psychotherapy is a profession that many women have made a great career in Esther Perrel stands out as an example of a global success. Being on a course potentially could be the first time that a male may encounter being in a minority.
Welcome the learning. Try to listen more. Aim at understanding – Always. The Patriachy exists and we have played a role in it’s continuance. The question for me is what are we men going to do to revolutionise and deconstruct the imbalance? I grew up with 3 sisters and realised that life whilst hard, had potentially more unfairness for them.
Kim: How have you found the workshops so far? MO: The 1st one was wonderful. I will complete the 2nd this evening on the 9th of July and the 3rd and 4th on the 16th and 23rd of July.
They are all free and look at Mental Health in the 21st Century. The workshops as you are aware as you attended the first week, are interactive and less about me talking at attendees and more with attendees.
I have found them useful and interesting to be a part of a learning experience. Many topics are discussed in just over an hour and I send to participants the presentation slides with useful follow up materials to support a person with their onward journey.
The following weeks discuss: Goals and Reducing Distractions, Reviewing Progress and Implementing new growth strategies.
Kim: What made you want to participate in the free counselling project? MO: The death of George Floyd in May 2020 and the vicious attack on Rodney King 20 years prior deeply affected how I viewed the world in which I lived.
When you shared your idea of crowd funding free sessions for Black people with me, I think my answer YES was said almost like I was saying yes to myself 20 years ago.
Vicarious Trauma is a difficult thing to recognise or make right when an event viscerally takes over a persons wellbeing. Knowing that you would be helping Black Women and Men recover through 1 – 1 support and with workshops, looked like a courageous and affirming project to be a part of. I am glad that I have. I have met some wonderful people through the programme, who all seem ready to begin their therapeutic journey.
Kim: What can we expect from the next free sessions/why should they join?
MO: The workshop Mental Health in the 21st Century began as a conversation had with you a number of weeks ago. The workshops will cover How to manage the deluge of information we are struggling under from a vast array of sources. How to reduce imposter syndrome and what steps to take to continue the work to change habits.
How to Focus and get shit done instead of eternally thinking and thinking and thinking about doing things and not getting them done, which causes a degree of fatigue and leads to impatience and frustration and then a sense of defeat that leads to dis-ease.
The other workshop topics look at Focus, Goals, and Reducing, reviewing Implementing. The aim of the workshops as you know as an attendee are to support fresher ideas and improve ways to live in a World that is moving and changing at an incredible speed.
The workshops are a culmination of thoughts I have had, fascinating discoveries I have gained from podcasts and articles I have listened to or read and a range of life experiences that I simply cannot keep to myself.
I’m like that child in the class room, arms pumping the air, waving frantically at the teacher or TA to call on them, bursting with ideas to tell the class or at least mildly entertain them with. Something that that kid knows, potentially is helpful but the class just aren’t ready to hear yet.
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.
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.
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.