Words by Kokayi Nosakhere
DISCLAIMER: Thank you for coming to the THIRD INSTALLMENT of this series. If you are confused by any of the happenings detailed here, please choose to search the blog and find parts one and two.
Saturday morning, the San Francisco Elder sweetly played his flute during the scheduled meditation time. For 90 seconds at a time, the notes he felt filled the BIPOC sanctuary and we, the children, rested. Some of us laid down and slept. Others meditated. I swayed. More felt free enough to fill cups with hot water and tea bags in the quiet between sets of notes.
Throughout the second day of the festival, I bore witness to an organic usage of the space above and beyond the set written intention. When a need is being fulfilled, the people do not need instructions on what to do inside of the space. It was USED. Like, I witnessed three women run into the space to process something that had just happened. I poked my head inside and saw that none of what they were talking about had anything to do with me. So, I returned outside.
That ladies and gentlemen is what is called in community organizing: ownership.
At 4:45 pm Saturday afternoon, the festival gave BIPOC Leadership main stage attention. The Leadership shined so bright, PoC started streaming into the Sanctuary space.
Sunday morning found us all contemplative and seeking clear answers. We had adjusted to the elite nature of our presence at Beloved. We felt the responsibility (privilege?) of being exposed to the possibility of a healing space. With the knowledge that it was possible, we sought to figure out how to duplicate the Beloved experience in the communities where we live.
Flute playing aside, we discovered the San Francisco Elder to be a living book. He summarized the Black Panther movement into three distinct activities.
Phase One: Figure out how to feed the children inside the neighborhood where you live. For the Panthers, the solution was to create a free breakfast program in 1966, like a soup kitchen, it served a meal before school started. This innovation happened without seeking any stamp of approval from a white-centered institution. Meaning, the Black Panthers did not petition the school district to add breakfast to their food offerings. There was no marching or demand for changed behavior. The Black Panthers decided to invent the breakfast program and the school district chose to imitate them.
Phase Two: Figure out how to begin repairing the housing structures within the neighborhood. 1960s California law provided a pathway to ownership through homesteading. The Black Panthers identified the dilapidated living spaces in the community and brought them up to code. In doing so, they gained ownership of the building.
We cannot necessarily access ownership through repair like the original Black Panther party did. We can support our children learning the building trades and applying those skills to our community’s benefit.
Phase Three: Figure out how to provide medical care for the neighborhood. At this point, the Black Panther Party was infiltrated. We can understand why. They were building an independent infrastructure.
We wrote down the wisdom as it flowed. Then, we peppered him with questions of nuance.
How do we inspire community members back home to overcome their apathy and increase participation in solution-making activities?
How do we talk about the Beloved experience with family members invested in a monarchy-framed religion like Christianity, not a hunger/gather-oriented connection to the Earth?
More importantly, how do we create white supremacy-free zones to help loved ones experience the transformative space available when (a little) psychic energy is freed up.
A younger, biracial Sister Expert in body work/healer by way of free movement (dance,) provided answers. She lives in Portland. Her entire practice lies in exploring how to create the very space we were calling in. It is called de-centering whiteness.
It – the ability to de-center whiteness – can happen independent of time or space. None of us, as individuals, possessed the material resources, or access to powerful relationships, to recreate a Beloved musical festival experience in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles or Baltimore – where we want it to be. The vision is just too much. A more realistic goal is to focus on transforming those rooms we do control.
“Vulnerability is a radical act of self-care. Speaking truth is always healing. Choosing to enter radical belonging, like we are doing here, is where community can happen; this is revolutionary. When we gather, we need to begin asking ourselves: When do we let them into our space? Where in our speech are we centering their opposition to our being – as our conversation?” she taught us.
A safe place to commiserate is not the same as a safe place to heal. Healing is an organic act performed at the cellular level. It is the inner workshop where we are able to rewire our emotional attachments and inner narratives. It is how we transmute a negative incident/event/personality exchange into an empowering story-line reinforcing our sense of Self-potency.
A healing space is where we learn we have what it takes to cope with being human.
“I want to create a space permitting you and I to fortify ourselves;” the Sister Expert taught. “Where we can experiment with our personas and choose to fall so in love with ourselves we maintain our projection when not inside a safe space; where we can show up more expressive in white spaces; where we make the commitment to be ourselves regardless of the backlash.”
A healing space, like the BIPOC Sanctuary, centers the comfort of a Black or Brown body. Once the nervous system feels safe, under new stimuli, it can begin directing awareness along new neurological pathways. After a transformative experience, we see the world differently; smell the world differently – be human differently: with greater depth of detail and sensation.
A well regulated nervous system resists descending into fear, flight, freeze in response to life’s stimuli and can glimpse what enjoyment is.
The discussion about tactics to achieve this space in a predictable manner absorbed us.
A How-To Lesson.
A Queer Magic Sanctuary leader shared a conversation process designed to reduce miscommunication and prevent a negative emotional attachment from forming in the first place.
“I feel like you about to drop some dope ass shit right now!,” the Puerto Rican Sister from Brooklyn exclaimed. Some in the group expressed the same level of anticipation.
We were not disappointed.
Imagine a charged exchange between yourself and a significant other or loved one. Something must be at stake in this exchange. It is not an ego one off, where one party is trying to get some shine. The incident is more like a missed opportunity, a bad impression left on the wrong person or a waste of resources. The incident matters in a way saying, “I’m sorry,” will not soothe.
Step One: Choose to summon the courage to speak to the incident as close to itself as possible. Do not wait. Speak then and there. The more distance in time and space between you and the incident the harder it is to apply this process in an attempt to repair the emotional damage.
Step Two: State what happened – the incident – in as objective a manner as possible. Speak to the mechanics of the exchange. Try your best not to impugn motive.
Step Three: Using I-statements, choose to center your Self. Relate how the incident made you feel. Where did the sensation originate in the body. What picture images arose? Which childhood memories were evoked?
Step Four: Choose to become vulnerable and state: This is the narrative I am telling myself and I take ownership for creating this narrative. It is my attempt at meaning-making around the cause of this incident.
Step Five: For their part, the significant other, or loved one, chooses to listen; in a radical manner. They must choose to be present and to manage their internal reactions to being held accountable for the impact of their words, actions or inattention. The goal is for them to be able to repeat the major emotional and psychological points of the narrative. The goal is not achieved until the speaking party acknowledges their satisfaction at being heard.
Both parties choose to discharge the energy so that it is not coalesced into a negative emotional association in the first place. This is preventive psycho/emotional care.
The air was electric. Damn. That’s that high science of civilization right there. Talk about learning how BEST to live! I learned at Beloved, tools exist for you and I to prevent trauma and grudges from lodging themselves in our bodies – in the first place!
Our collective desire to share these techniques inspired those assembled to dream of a world culture, where healing modalities were offered in every community. Talk therapy, like the above, sound therapy, like drumming circles, and dance therapy, like an ecstatic dance hour, need to be franchised across America like McDonald’s.
The BIPOC Sanctuary space closed Sunday night with us making the commitment to continue talking and crafting a curriculum: a how-to guide curated to assist the replication of our shared transformative experience.
I felt absolutely honored and validated as I wrestled with my separation anxiety. Monday afternoon, I mourned the loss of my time connected to the mountain, and return to mundania.
My ride back home came thanks to two true hippies who answered my request for transportation. Not all was lost. I left the mountain with an email list of forty new friends – persons whom I believe potentially possess the same spark of innate curiosity about BEING human I possess inside of me.
Personally, I do not think this pilot can be replicated. The team assembled to hold the BIPOC sanctuary space inside of Beloved XII is/was unique. Everyone a part of that team was built for THAT particular space and time.
The innovation worked this weekend is historic. A genesis happened. Because of the nature of the achievement: a birth; I do not carry the expectation of our work being recreated – nor is it necessary to recreate the work we performed.
I hold the vision of our accomplishment as a model for what is possible at other Oregonian festivals serious about the inclusion of People of Color.
“Remember, we are creative, multi-dimensional beings.” – Lizzy Jeff, Beloved 2019
Did this series inspire you?
Did this series teach you something?
Do you want to help spread this kind of wisdom throughout Southern Oregon? And, eventually, the United States? Please choose to support community-building like this in by:
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We need to heal America. I urge you to invest into the healing.