In 2019 while taking a workshop at the Tatamagouche Centre i heard once again Black folks express tiredness and anger towards sharing space with white folks in anti-racism programs, tired of internal/external expectations and assumptions of Black people educating us white folks. At that moment I remembered Bob Marley’s words from his legendary song Buffalo Soldier:
“If you know your history
Then you would know where
you are coming from
Then you wouldn’t have to ask
Who the hell do you think I am?
I also remembered Ruth King’s words in her book Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, as she spoke of the injury she felt when white people said they did not see colour when they saw her. She said if you don’t see my colour then you don’t see me; and if you don’t see me then you don’t see my history, and if you don’t see my history you won’t see your history. And that, she said was a huge affront; a huge denial of past and present atrocities against Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
At the Tatamagouche workshop I shared Ruth King’s words, white folks needing to do their own work in what she called racial affinity groups (RAG). And I remember making a vow to myself that I would one day soon organize/host/facilitate such a group. A few months ago such a group began. Signed up were white women, majority working in the field of social justice who saw within an essential need to unravel and understand the layers and layers of their/our own embedded whiteness and how we continue to do harm within the unconscious racist patterns we hold; generations and generations of habitual and conditioned patterns that i personally believe cannot be brought to light unless this work of transparency, accountability, making the unconscious conscious is done in an environment that does not blame or shame but coaches and holds and guides and calls forth violence, ignorance and goodness; calls forth our capacity to harm and our capacity to interrupt, disrupt and repair.
Along with this sacred Circle I joined a seven part series called White Fragility meets Compassionate Listening (led by Yael Petretti and Debby Haase) and another online, four part series called What Should White People Do? (led by Gibran Rivera and Tuesday Ryan-Hart). Deep bow of gratitude to Tuesday, Gibran, Yael, and Debby!
My dear friend and colleague, Nelly Marcoux and I are getting ready to co facilitate a five part series called White Folks’ Work: Awakening to Whiteness/Embodying Radical Responsibility! We will be sharing and honouring the wisdom of these teachers along with our own wisdom and teachings derived from paths Nelly and i have taken living and working outside dominantly white cultures making the bearing witness to our whiteness a journey chosen over and over!
Come and join us as we dive deep into critical self and collective reflection as paths to personal and collective sustainable action!! There are only five spaces remaining for this workshop so sign up soon!
I share with you notes from my notebook from three powerful transformative Circles; notes that will hold and carry us through the upcoming workshop!
This work is heart opening and heart breaking.
Call in the ancestors.
Take radical Responsibility
None of us are free til all of us are free
When we are in a privileged state we are robbed of our humanness
Descending into the darkness in order to find the light
Work that is less about our intellect and more about our bodies/ emotions/ creativity/ritual
There is no way to go through this unscathed but we can come out more free!
This is our journey! This is our life! Take up the Call!
What does cultural atonement look like?
Heal and wish to become the person you want to be
Understand this is systematic. We were born into this. There is no way to do work outside the system.
If you are not part of the problem then you can’t be part of the solution
Listen to what Black folks are saying; listen to their pain their stories, tune in
Talk to other white folks (don’t be intolerable) thin line between being right and self-righteous
Find out what your BIPOC friends need
Commit don’t collapse. Posture of dignity!
There is grief involved in this process.
Loss of innocence
In community with the great mystery
Calling forth abolitionists, bring these spirits into spaces
Calling in ancient wisdom
Calling in the ancestors
The great Epoch
Open heart/strong back
What is the work? What is the gift you have to offer?
How courageous are you in your capacity to love?
What is the story we are telling?
Find strength, clarity, courage to create new possibilities
The world breaks everyone
What do we do with this brokeness?
There is wisdom on the other side of this
Learning how to hold space
Learn how to hold ourselves so we can hold others
Discourse on trauma
It’s not about being triggered; it’s about our capacity to bring ourselves back to coherence
Here’s the shame, here’s the anger; how do I scale myself back into coherence
Don’t expect the environment to do this for you
Posture of self-sovereignty
Posture of dignity
Open heart strong back
White folks trying to be good is not helpful
How do we tend to each other? Build a culture? Build relationships? What is the culture we can build with one another?
This is about heart and spirit
There is something deeply spiritual about justice work
Holding anger/rage/resentment this will come at you! don’t collapse into shame and if you do don’t stay there. hundred years of history coming at you.
Don’t get caught! Hold it! keep your dignity! Stay with it long enough!
Meet humanity with humanity.
Hold other’s rage long enough to see the despairing sadness underneath
The body has so much wisdom
Notice. Notice. Notice.
Diving into the darkness of the foundational sin of our global nation.
John Lewis said, get into good trouble
Fresh eyes to new/old patterns
Name it/language it/speak it
Insight into action.
Where do you see it?
How can you name it?
What is at stake?
We are creatures of belonging; to name is to take a heroic risk
We currently live in someone else’s imagination
We have agency to reimagine and re-create and live in a different imagining
We need to heroically name it in order to re-imagine and change it
What needs to change? What is the path forward?
Deep listening! Authentic listening! Revolutionary listening!
What is the change you will make? How? What will be different?
What am I willing to give up?
Who gets to make decisions?
Who holds the power?
How to make this generative work?
No more good vs evil, need to change this.
Can it feel liberating even if feels bad?
Its not about niceness
Talked about explicit reparations
Not cosmetic/not personal/not just through upsetness
Action has to be In service of the wrong doing
What would it take to make a difference?
Dance our commitments into your bodies
How are we moving?
Being in our body is a form of resistance
Song, dance, prayer into being… our ancestors knew how to do this
Ideology is about performance
We are talking about something else… crafting our own story
Come carry through and carry forward with us as we awaken collectively to our whiteness and embody radical responsibility!!
check out reflections of Tatamagouche workshop here: https://maureenstclair.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/choosing-discomfort-over-comfort/