BONDFIRES

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Archive for the tag “LOVE”

Cultural Healing-Part 1 Resilience

The Transatlantic slave trade is often referred to as the “Black Holocaust” or Maafa, a Swahili word meaning “great tragedy” but,  it is hard to fully grasp the magnitude of this tragedy with  words or to truly  understand the impact of trauma suffered by African-American people as a result of slavery in  America. While there are no hard numbers to account for slaves that didn’t survive the harsh conditions (of being, chained, packed and transported like cargo to American shores)  conservative estimates suggest more than 2 million African slaves died in transportation through the Middle Passage.  Another common belief is that more slaves died upon arrival to their new settlement in America.  The real death-toll  has been lost forever  for African-American people and…the world.

For 400 years, African people who managed to survive the Middle Passage, fell victim to chattel slavery, a form of slavery that gives ownership of one human being to another much like the sale of animals or property. For 400 hundred years, African-American slaves, and their descendants, built America and supported white America by working in agriculture, raising their “masters” children and doing whatever tasks assigned to them.  Common practice among slave owners, was to beat, rape, and murder slaves to keep them in line.  It was also common practice to “break” a slave by using threats, intimidation and physical violence to destroy the slaves connection to Africa including “colonizing the tongue” by prohibiting slaves from speaking their mother language and pitting slaves against each other to dis-courage unity/trust among slaves.

The consequences  of the slave trade has impacted both white and black Americans.  The sheer brutality of targeting, belittling, dehumanizing, engaging in,  and witnessing private and public spectacles of  disturbing acts of violence against  black  people appears to have de-sensitized mainstream White America  towards the impact of slavery and the  struggles of African-American people. As well,  the continued oppression (through Power and Control) of African-American’s  seems to have been normalized, and embedded in the construct of racism in America through “white privilege”  to ensure white people will always be given preferential treatment, based on skin color, resulting in better opportunities, and outcomes for white America than for  African-Americans.  Although individual whites have been, and continue to be,  great supporters of civil rights, often at great risk of their own careers and personal safety,  racism against African-American people continues to scar America to this day.

For African-American people, the unacknowledged, untreated trauma and psychological damage from 400 years of slavery in America has been passed through the descendants of slaves and has left a legacy of  suffering and pain.  Black on black crime, mass incarceration,  poverty and chronic  health issues are trauma symptoms deeply rooted in the origin of slavery.  I believe that African-American society cannot truly heal without understanding the impact of slavery on our people.

About a  year ago, I was researching information about slavery and I came across a learning guide about PTSD- Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder, Mims, Higginbottom and Reid http://www.osirisinstitute.com/PTSD_Manuscript.pdf the article literally took my breath away! I began to affirm things that I suspected were factors in the challenges of African-American people to overcome the negative impact of slavery. As I continued to research this trauma theory I came across  a PTSS book by Dr Joy DeGruy, http://joydegruy.com/resources-2/post-traumatic-slave-syndrome/ .    Amazing!

As I continued to seek out information and opportunities to dialogue about PTSS, I recently had an opportunity to interview Tommy Miller, an  Anti-Racist Activist in Ithaca, NY.  I’m delighted to share the interview with you.

What is your understanding of PTSS and do you think it’s important in trying to understand the impact of racism in America?(Izzie J)

I’m familiar with PTSS from reading Dr. Joy DeGury’s  book.  PTSS is a trauma theory that examines the impact of multi-generational trauma resulting from the slave trade. It is of paramount importance for African-American people to understand the impact that slavery has on us as a people.  Sankofa is an Adinkra word from the Akan people of West Africa meaning “returning to your roots, recapturing what you are looking for and moving forward”. In order to move forward as a people we must understand our history and the impact of slavery on African-American people.

I am mindful of the quote: “No matter how far away one travels, he must always return home”

PTSS helps us to understand the journey of looking into the past to grapple with that past & the understanding of how to move past the past. I dare say,” to return home physically &emotionally.

Do you recognize PTSS trauma symptoms in Black America? What does it look like?Feel like to you an African-American man?(Izzie J)

When I experience young people of color lack of interest in our rich history, when I reflect on Black on Black crime, when I see an acceptance of the distorted truths about our history, when I see people of Color desperately trying to assimilate into white mainstream, when I see one’s sacrificing their individuality for the sake of “arriving”, when I see some of us consciously & sub-consciously buying into white oppression of promoting the internalization of black inferiority.

As an African-American man it saddens me that we “collectively” are not proudly walking in our Beautiful Blackness. It saddens me when we are experiencing Jim Crow legislation & other forms of systemic racism.

Your question reminds me of Dr. Degruy statement in her book that ” multi-generational Trauma together with continued oppression and absence of opportunity to benefits available in the society leads to PTSS” (Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome). The aforementioned book coupled with Michelle Anderson book entitled the new Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in Age of Color blindness has given voice to and a language to pressing issues that heightens my awareness  of examples of the sustained effort to maintain white privilege & the status quo of white dominance in American.

Ergo, I am convinced that my spirituality (Born again Christian) has equipped me with the tools to survive, to heal, moreover to thrive!  Speaking of my spirituality-I am keenly aware of how Christianity  has been used to promote /maintain white oppression to date, for example I have never experienced a Black Jesus portrait in any Black church, in fact, I was confronted with the grim reality/possibility that –black folks would not attend a church that  has pictures representing Jesus being of color. To me,  if Jesus is a spirit,  if Moses was of dark complexion – then why does the aforementioned propaganda continues….I’m  just saying……… uh- institutional racism is alive & well.

Do you find some resistance among African America people to embrace the concept of PTSS? (Izzie J)

I would not categorize it as resistance, perhaps it is more a cautious curiosity. Sadly, I feel that more people of color would accept this theory if it was included in the DSM five manual.

Has White America been affected by slavery? Are the symptoms manifested in a different way?(Izzie J) 

Yes. The oppressor and the oppressed are prisoners of oppression until healing occurs. A by-product of the history of slavery in America, is the consorted effort of white America to sustain white privilege.  In that context, teaching white people to sustain white superiority and view black people as inferior, robs white America of an opportunity to perform their humanity with dignity. It robs them of the opportunity to reaffirm and to be affirmed. In retrospect, it robs them of their humanity.

Who defines black America?(Izzie J)

I am not sure who defines Black America but I know the media tries ” in the spirit” of trying to sustain white privilege. Your question brings to mind Eugene Robinson’s book-   Disintegration the Splintering of Black America. His book states that over decades of dis-integration , affirmative action , and immigration , the concept of one Black America has shattered. He further argues that there are four: Mainstream middle-class, A large abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than any time since reconstruction’s crushing end.  Small Transcendent elite with enormous wealth, power, and influence.  Two newly emergent groups– individuals of mixed-race heritage and communities of recent black immigrants

That being said, a different question that begs to be answered from my perspective;  How do we unify and offset the forces that try to divide and conquer us!

How does African-American society heal?(Izzie J)

I believe in the power of forgiveness & redemption.  I believe that part of the healing process will consist having a deep understanding of the source of the trauma & being pro-active in becoming conquers as oppose to victims!

How do we inspire hope in our children?(Izzie J)

Teach the truth about our motherland & our history; for example –showing of the Tariq Hasheed Film; Hidden Colors the untold History of People of Aboriginal, Moor & African descent. Teaching them to not become what they need to change. Teach them that is the shades of Black is “indeed” beautiful. Teach them personal power, for example; the Native American Circle of Courage. Teach them the power of unity and lead by example. Teach them the power of a strong spirituality. Educating them to the incredible resiliency of African-American people and our  DNA stock.

Thank you Tommy Miller for speaking your truths about PTSS and  healing for African-Americans! 

 Thank you for Visiting BONDFIRES!

Ps. I  will be posting a companion piece  to this Article in  My Journal  within the next few days. I would encourage you  to visit that page!-IJ

Un-packing Racism an interview with Rev. David Billings, D.Div.

As a black woman, it has taken me a while to began to understand that de-constructing and eradicating racism does not solely rest on the shoulders of black people. I know this might seem obvious to many people, but, for me I have been living with the impact of racism for so long it has been very difficult to step out of “reactive” mode and embrace anti-racist work that is being done by “like-minded” people from other cultures, including white people.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Rev. David Billings, D. Div.,  a “white” anti-racist trainer,  and learn about the work being done  at The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond.  This organization is committed to de-constructing racism by educating people, both white and black, on the negative impact of racism in American society.

At this time, I would like to share some of my conversation with Rev. Billings with you…

When did you lose your culture as a white man or when did you discover it? (Izzie J)

I never lost my culture. I have always been acutely aware that I was white given the circumstances of my birth and the particular era in which I grew up which was the 1950’s and 60’s, all in the southern U.S. and in Mississippi and Arkansas in particular. It was an extremely race-conscious period. I was reared in the tenets of white supremacy some of which was subtle and much of which was overt. White supremacy was a given, rarely questioned, and rarely officially discussed. It was not until the 1980’s that I began to study the nature of “whiteness”—what it was and when and how, it was created. White culture thus was the way of life of a race-constructed society. White was taught as normal, universal and even transcendent. From what were deemed the classics of literature and fine arts to the depiction of Jesus as being European in appearance were all a part of white culture—the underpinnings of  a white supremacist way of life. None of this required bigotry or individual acts of meanness (although often it did, of course). It was life as I knew it. White was dominant, supreme, ordained, and made into law.

Why is it important for white people to unpack racism? (Izzie J)

Racism robs white people of their humanity. A mentor of mine said “To the degree one sees another as anything less than a full human being, to that degree one is out of touch with what it means to be human.” Thus whites are disconnected from an understanding and knowledge of self. It creates barriers between ourselves and 90% of the world’s population. If whites don’t know how we became white and what white means then all else we think we know is superficial, shallow and as Neely Fuller says, “only tends to confuse you”. Because whites are not required to face our racial nature, our attempts to develop real relationships with people of color are destined to fail. Racism can be “unpacked”. If something was done, it can be undone. Race is inherently specious, false, but it has power in a race-constructed world order.

What is the price that people of color pay for assimilation in America? (Izzie J)

This is not for me to say as a white person. I will say that the first racial constructionists, white meant the absence of black. All others, under certain circumstances, might mix across racial lines. Not white and black. This is the famous “one-drop rule”. Any “black blood” made one “Black”. White and Black were the twin pillars of racism/white supremacy.

Do you think “white” America,  owes “black” America (and Native America) something? Reparation?  (Izzie J)

In one sense white people owe black people and Native Americans everything. The wealth of the nation was created by the combination of free Black labor and the seizure of lands from the indigenous. The wealth accumulation was staggering beyond calculation. The United States is the wealthiest Nation in the world has thus far known even if you combined all the wealth of all other nations heretofore. The politics of this “debt” are just as daunting. It is hard to fathom. I would say most white Americans feel that Blacks have been “given” too much already.  As heartless, even as ludicrous, as this might sound, this is the nature of white supremacist thinking and worldview.

How does one develop an anti-racist framework? (Izzie J)

The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond, of which I am a part, believes that racism can be “undone”.  It takes a collective approach. It involves organizing, discipline and study. It requires a study of the racist framework that has governed us for so long and its replacement even conceptually at first with anti-racist framework. Professor Y.N. Kly authored a small text titled “The Anti-Social Contract” which lays it out pretty clear. This nation could develop such an arrangement. To say it will neither be easy or quick, however is a vast understatement.

Is there such a thing as “White Culture”? (Izzie J)

Certainly.  If culture is a way of life then there is a white culture. It is not based on ethnicity or geography or biology, but on “race”. It is made manifest through the institutions “sanctioned by the state” historically speaking to this day. White culture is taught in the schools, embedded in the judicial system, health care, finance, and dominant-culture religion. It has trademarks or a value-system. White culture prizes individualism, dichotomous logic, the self as the center of consciousness and many other dynamics that can be delineated over time. Any person of color with street smarts or a Masters/Ph. D. knows what white culture is. Such knowledge is necessary to survive or succeed in this country. The only persons who are discouraged from recognizing white culture are white people. This is another tenet of white supremacy. With work and commitment whites can identify white culture. It is just difficult for us at first.

Describe ways that racism masquerades as something else? (Izzie J)

Systemic outcomes are one way. There are no institutional outcomes in this society that do not conform to the racial pecking order. These can be predicted from afar. The educational system, criminal justice, employment, home ownership are all examples of how race manifests itself in society. Whites can be in denial about this because the institutions speak for us. Because of individualism, whites don’t have to be self-critical about race. It often makes us appear disingenuous when in discussion with people of color. Of course, political discourse is fraught with racial code-words and innuendo—calling the President the Welfare President, in questioning his birth records, in his re-election sparking a cessation movement. There are more subtle ways that Whites are given to changing the subject when race is put forward. You can see this in college curriculum  Race never stands alone—it is usually race, class, and gender or race and an all other oppression’s  These are distinct phenomena, but when grouped together, race will fade into the background as a rule.

How do you walk in your whiteness and be true to the Civil Rights Movement? (Izzie J)

It is the only way to be in the Movement. People of color can easily spot those of us who are in denial or who are confused by our racial identities. Whites don’t have to be perfect. We need to be vulnerable to what race has done to all of us. Self-knowledge chops away at the savior complex. In a deeper sense whites in the movement are expected to work with other whites around the “un-packing” of racism. This is the hardest work of all. Many of us want to live vicariously through people of color, but the real challenge is to learn how to work with other white people. This is what will ultimately “undo” racism.

Thank you for visiting BONDFIRES!

ps. Some Comments are being posted to the wrong post (check out aururawatcherak comment and my reply). To comment about this post “Un-packing Racism and interview with Rev. Billings” please click on the black comment box beside the post. Thanks-IJ

Welcome back to BONDFIRES!

It has been a while since our last post and we have been working very hard to develop new articles and bring a fresh approach to presenting interesting content about the issues that affect people of African descent and all people who are impacted by the disease of racism.

To this end,  BONDFIRES has a number of  guests who will be contributing content to this blog about their experiences and perspectives on how “race” and “racism” influences North American  society  and  people of African descent everywhere.

At BONDFIRES, our hope is to encourage people everywhere to become educated about racism and it’s impact on individuals and society. Our desire is to develop a movement for change that will eradicate racism from North American society and ultimately, the world. To this end, BONDFIRES  wants to acknowledge that our content and subject matter will  lead to passionate dialogue and spirited debate. We welcome contributions and comments from everyone. However,  your comments MUST BE RESPECTFUL. The onus is on you to  “hold your cool ! “, so that you (and your comments) will be taken seriously and  BONDFIRES will allow you to continue to participate in discussions and comments.

Now that we have dealt with BONDFIRES  standards of engagement,  let’s get back to blogging…

Our feature guest for November 2012 is Rev. David Billings, D.Div, an anti-racist trainer and organizer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond since 1983. Rev. Billings has worked with anti-racist organizing groups across America and currently consults with Citizens for Economic Equity in New Orleans.

Over the years Rev. Billings organizing work has been cited for many awards including the Westchester County chapter of the National Association of Social Workers “Public Citizen of the Year,” the New Orleans Pax Christi “Bread and Roses” award; the Loyola University of New Orleans “Homeless and Hunger Award”; and the National Alliance against Racist Oppression’s Angela Davis Award for community service. He was the Whitney Young 2006 lecturer at the Westchester County NASW symposium.

Rev. Billings has graciously agreed to contribute to our blog. In a few days, BONDFIRES will present Rev. David Billings; Unpacking Racism…A White Man’s Journey.

Thank you for visiting BONDFIRES!

Ps. Please take a few moments to vote on our poll-Thank you, IJ

 

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