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URBAN CONSULATE|14 SEPT 2020

AFRICAN & AMERICAN: A conversation w/Yemi Oyediran & Phyllis Jeffers-Coly; hosted by Naimah Bilal

What a pleasure it was to have a nuanced and thoughtful discussion about how our identities, cultures and capacity for healing intersect, overlap and inform each other. There were some powerful moments when our connection was so palpable. When our joy and passion for one another and our people(s) came through. It was a pleasure to sit with two people motivated by love of Black people and a sincere investment in our well-being. And the humility and curiousity that allowed for deep listening and great understanding. Thank you to Urban Consulate’s Cincinnati Team for pulling us together around this metaphorical bowl of (Jollof) Rice for us to connect and truly behold one another. Here’s to reconvening again for another filling meal of SOUL Food around the communal bowl.

Yemi Oyediran; is the co-founder, with JP Leong, of Afrochine, a production & storytelling company based in Cincinnati. Yemi is multi-talented — professionally he’s an educator, researcher, jazz musician, big data scientist, public radio personality and filmmaker including the soon to be released “Queen City Kings,” about the legendary Cincinnati studio and record label King Records. Born to a Nigerian family who came to the United States in 1988 and has lived in Alabama, Ohio, and the DC area. Additionally, Yemi is an Ohio Humanities, Peoples Liberty, and Bantz foundation awardee and has served on the boards of Cincinnati Compass, and Friends of Music Hall. He’s also a proud father of three and has lived in the Cincinnati area for 20 years.

Naimah Bilal

Naimah Bilal is a fundraising executive and artistic planning expert with experience leading large scale fund development and strategic planning efforts at the enterprise level. Naimah made history at the age of 26 by becoming the first black woman to lead artistic operations for a major American symphony orchestra. The Bawse with a Cause platform is her love letter to black and brown leaders in the nonprofit space seeking to create the worlds they want to see.

Watch the Recording of Our Conversation on Facebook Live

Communing with Nature

Nature is an integral part of our heritage and healing experiences. This is because, as Malidome Some notes our healing requires restoring the balance between ourselves as individuals and community and our relationship with the natural world.

Similarly, in Sisters of the Yam, bell hooks asserts that collective black self-recovery includes renewing our relationship with the earth, remembering the way of our ancestors, recognizing that the earth and our bodies are sacred. Doing so is a challenge in part because“the modern world is de-naturalized,” and earth-honoring indigenous practices and nature herself are perceived to be in the way of progress and advancement.

Communing with nature can be as simple as sitting with her, on a hillside, under a tree, in a park, next to an open window, on a rooftop and becoming aware of her with all your senses and with deep reverence, gratitude and respect for her power and her gifts.

Eddy is aka “Professor Onion Sauce” is our lead nature educator. Here, he explaining the fauna of the Sine Saloum mangrove.

Beneath an ancient fromager tree.
Casamace
Nature Heals. Plant medicine w/our brother Pape Sily.
Nature is sacred. Somone Lagune.

“So when I think about the baobab tree and trees in general before going to Senegal. I believed trees had power, I read about it; heard talks about it. This green lady, I read about these things. But after going to Senegal [for me believing] moved into the knowing.”

“I felt indescribable connections to the baobab trees every single time I would see one; I felt energy when peering into the opening of them.”

Resources

Need ideas on how you might integrate nature into your self-care and well-being practices.

Here are some more resources for you:

Staying Grounded in Nature Video

More Recommendations & Journal Keeping

Journal Keeping – Communion with Nature

In your journal, reflect on and document the various ways you choose to connect with nature on a regular basis. Do you take time to connect or commune in or with nature? If not, why not?

If you want to begin to deepen or expand your connection to nature you can use our Grounding with Nature video to help you further develop your relationship with nature,

In your journal, when you do spend time in nature, make note how it feels. Keep track of how often you engage her and how she makes you feel. As you develop and nurture your relationship with Mother Nature continue to keep track of what you did and how it made you feel. Observe and document how you feel in your body, how your breath is impacted. If you feel differently, physically, emotionally or mentally. You might also begin to be more attentive to the way nature is behaving, simply by noticing how seasons work where you are and how those seasons might differ when you visit somewhere else. For instance, I am constantly struck by the way summer in Senegal works as it is our rainy season from late June to the end of September. For me, this means not only noticing weather but noticing how it impacts our lives, including what we eat and what we will harvest at the end of the season. Doing so helps me to be more aware and grateful for the food we have and the ways that we acquire it and from whom. Things we do not typically pay much attention to when we buy everything in a huge grocery store.

Then, of course, you might notice patterns and seasons in nature particularly in relationship to climate change. That might mean tracking hurricanes or tornadoes. Or noticing how winter impacts where you are. Or how drought or fire might be influencing the place you live or a place you imagine visiting one day. Maybe even asking your elders, aunts and uncles, grands and great grands about what they see and know to be true about climate, weather and nature in places that you all as a family know and celebrate as home.

Consider ways that you can connect your relationship with nature to being in community. Perhaps, you get involved with a local farm or food cooperative with a particular focus on Black communities. Perhaps, you join a group of Black folks who spend time outdoors for recreation or engaged in fitness such as Black Girls Run or Girl Trek. Or, perhaps, you get involved in how your local and regional park system works – not just as a park visitor – but really beginning to make sense of how parks systems work and impact our day to day lives. You might just be surprised. And, you might enjoy being apart of a community or a collective effort to be far better stewards of nature.

As your reflect on nature and your relationship with it, you may find that you want to start a separate journal to capture all the ways you have connected with and deepened your relationship her.

Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga gave me a place to heal, to restore myself. It allowed me to find stillness so I could rest and renew. It allowed me to quiet my mind and begin to hear my own heart and soul and spirit. Restorative yoga allowed me to find my breath so I could feel calm and relaxed.

Restorative Supta Baddha Konasana|Reclined Butterfly or Bound Angle Pose

Put another way, restorative yoga is my jam. In fact, it is a part of every heritage and healing experience we offer. We include restorative yoga because as Black people we do enough high-effort coping as we navigate race-based stress and trauma, which our teacher Dr. Gail Parker reminds us is “ongoing, recurrent and cumulative.”

Restorative Yoga is an ideal self-care practice for healing and managing stress and trauma, including race-based stress and trauma.

RESTORATIVE YOGA [is] soothing, as relaxing as massage, and more restful than a nap.

Restorative yoga helps [us] learn to rest deeply, relax completely, & rejuvenate physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually.

A restorative yoga practice is one that is consists a short series of poses where you are fully supported by props, including blankets, blocks and bolsters. With the support of yoga props along with the “gentle pressure of gravity every tissue in your body can receive movement from the breath”. Restorative yoga can be healing because the poses in the practice allow the breath to reach and the body to relax and open in places that for many of us are often “unreached, blocked, constricted, tight, closed and tightly-held”.

Sources:

Parker, Gail. Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma. London: Singing Dragon, 2020.

Burke, Amber. Yoga International.

Pre-Order We Got Soul, We Can Heal

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

We Got Soul; We Can Heal encourages us to explore the ways in which integrating soul with contemplative practices can foster healing and restoration on both individual and collective levels. The text calls on us to expand our understanding of leadership and community interaction and impact. With years of experience in higher education and as an elder, mentor, and teacher living in Senegal, Jeffers-Coly surveys race-based stress and trauma, community-building, the importance of ancestry, and the elder-mentor role.

Available for Pre-Order or consider for textbook adoption via Powells, Barnes &

Pre-Order Now

McFarland Publishers,

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Powell’s

WHSmith (UK),

About the author

Phyllis Jeffers-Coly is a healing artist and long-time higher ed practitioner. She and her husband founded Diasporic Soul, which offers healing and restoration experiences for Black people that integrate culture and contemplative practices, including heritage travel and healing-centered leadership development for Black college-aged youth in Senegal, West Africa.

Art is healing. Co-creating a sacred ritual space for spirit and community to mingle with Gee Horton feed my SOUL. That and our shared love of hip hop. Fire by The Roots is a perfect track for the manipura chakra*energy center.

Available for Pre-Order

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

LIBERATION & SURRENDER

The audio of the full piece is provided below.

It might seem odd to pair the notion of surrendering to Spirit with a poem with such in-your-face and profane language. One rendered in such vehement and insist tones.

However, I offer, in the spirit of our literary ancestors and those who fought for our liberation, that many of us will have to be willing to hear her, she being Spirit, whisper in our ear before we truly begin to seek freedom on many levels. In fact, my experience with her, with Spirit, is that she does far more than whisper. She often screams, yells, shouts and pushes us around and knocks us upside the head,partly because most of us are running too much too often after much that does not serve us and from our fears to hear her. Me included. Sometimes, we are not open to Spirit, truly, in a way, where we let her, our intuition, our alternate ways of knowing, to guide our course, to show us to way. To find a way to be free in ways that our true and authentic selves can flourish and experience joy and pleasure in spite of the fact that our lives will also always include some form of pain, discomfort and suffering.

I was reminded again recently of the relationship between surrender and liberation. At the end of last year, in early December, I attended my first Amplify and Activate Summit organized by Jasmine Hines, Founder and Executive Director of Amplify and Activate. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to sit in communion with women who I had come to admire so much since 2017.

In October 2017, I attended a training on restorative yoga and race-based stress and trauma led by Dr. Gail Parker and organized by Keisha Battles, Owner and Founder of IAMYOGA (CLT). At the time, I was on my first visit back to the states after moving to Senegal to start Diasporic Soul and Tangor Cafe.

Honestly, I had no idea how impactful, transformative and affirming that weekend at Keisha’s house with Dr. Gail would end up being. Affirming in the sense that I was learning that restorative yoga was gonna to be an anchor and resource for me as I continued my healing journey back in Senegal. Before I had left, I had a miscarriage that devastated Eddy and I. And, be clear, I was experiencing many of the challenges of any new immigrant and entrepreneur. Yo! For real tho. Don’t let my cool demeanour now and current Wolof fluency confuse you (LOL). My first year living abroad absolutely kicked my black ass. And, restorative yoga is one of the major ways I was able to stay relatively grounded and balanced as I learned how to live in a new culture and begin building two businesses with Eddy simultaneously.

Certainly, the training weekend with Dr. Gail at Keisha’s house was also affirming and restorative because, let me be real clear here, I was with so MANY other Black yoga teachers. I mean there were like 10 of us in one room. Never, before. At least not for me, as a sistah who found yoga and did her teacher training in Cincinnati, a city known to many as the Nasty Nati in part because of it’s racial politics (read white supremacy and anti-black racism).

The weekend in the other Queen City at Keisha’s with Dr. Gail was affirming too in the sense that what I thought Diasporic Soul was to be was slowing evolving into something else, something I never quite could have imagined. That weekend sitting and laying on my mat, blankets and bolsters fully supported with these sistahs shifted something for me. But of course,as Spirit would have it, it was not necessarily all revealed to Eddy and I all at once. The true purpose and mission of Diasporic Soul would unfold over time with further guidance (read nudging, pushing, tugging etc) from Spirit and pivotal moments that Eddy and I shared with others . . .

And, then at the beginning of 2020, as you well know, Covid-19 hit. As the world slowed down and I found even more stillness, I was able to find community and feed my soul and spirit, which included, finding my way back to Keisha and Jasmine. In Kiesha’s Kriya yoga class today, I was trying to figure out how I got to Jasmine and Amplify and Activate’s Hotter Than July over the summer. I can only attribute it to Spirit. Which, Jasmine will tell you, is gangsta. Yeah, this past summer brought me back to the sistahs and the resources I had connected to in the fall of 2017. But, in a much deeper and richer way. This has included Amplify and Activate as well as offerings from the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance (BYTA) and The Sanctuary in the City. Being able to connect virtually has been a game changer. A gift. And, for that I am grateful. Truly grateful.

And, at this moment, today, after today’s class and sitting in sangha with Keisha and Jasmine waaaaaayyyyyy past my bedtime on Friday, a fact that my spirit cannot overlook, I know it is time to share this piece I wrote first thing, in one sitting, on the Monday morning after the Summit. I know that what inspired it, to go back to the Summit in December, was the testimony and wisdom and shared lived experiences of sistahs who Jasmine had convened who had declared that enough is enough; I ain’t doing it no more. As well as some of other beloveds in my life (you know who you are) who made very similar choices recently or who continue to make the choice to surrender and have faith in themselves and their dreams.

And, these past fews days, since Thursday’s New Moon, Spirit has, with her pushy, unrelenting, insistent, in-your-face, can’t-leave-well-enough-alone, keep-you-up-all-night gangsta ass, reminded me again to do the work, to feed my fire, to know that I am in fact exactly where I am supposed to be and that I am on track and on purpose. Which, going back to the tone and tenor of this poem, is not a place I arrived at by always staying silent and biting my tongue. Besides, as I approach 50 this year, I am even more resolved to honor and speak my truth sooner.

So, in that vein, when she, Spirit I mean, was pushing me around in the middle of the night this past week and playfully winking at me with wasps (another story) during my morning meditations on our sun-filled balcony, she reminded me to redeclare to myself and others,”fuck that shit; I ain’t doing it no more.”

And, to share “Fuck This Shit; I Ain’t Doing It No More!” with the sistahs and the brothas who are standing the the ledge, albeit it hesitantly, ready to jump. Ready to speak the truth as they understand it. Ready, to quote my friend Carol, to End Polite Silence.

Ready to meet with HR, do earned-leave calculations and circle dates on the calendar with a red sharpie pen.

Who are refusing to dim their light or diminish their hopes and dreams.

Who are ready to say enough is enough I ain’t doing it now more. Ready to go forward, surrendering and trusting Spirit and themselves.

Listen Here.

Resources

Dr. Gail Parker’s book Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma is now available at your favorite book seller.

For more on surrendering to Spirit, read Parker’s explanation of Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender to Your Higher Power (158). Or, Nischala Devi’s explanation of Ishvara Pranidhana – Wholehearted Dedication to the Divine in The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras (144).

Amplify and Activate’s Let Spirit Lead Sanghas take place on the 2nd Friday of each month through the month of June.

Based out of Charlotte, Keisha teaches Kriya Yoga on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. and a variety of other classes during the week.

“Fuck This Shit: I Ain’t Doing It No More” is included in my first book to be released later this year – We Got Soul: Healing Racial Trauma with Culture and Contemplative Practice (Working Title).

Musical Inspiration: “Thy Will Be Done” by India Arie & “Liberation” by Outkast.

Opening to Spirit: Creating an Ancestral Altar

During our initial Stopping the Clock for Those Now Gone: A Remembrance Ritual for Black Loss, Black Love & Black Life on 20 June, sistah Angela Franklin, 2019-2020 Xavier University Stained Glass Initiative Artist-in-Residence and owner of Chez Alpha Books (Dakar), introduced us to her work “When Feeling Blue, She Reaches for the Redbird.” The multi-media work reflects the belief that our ancestors are always with us, that they come to us . . . as red birds . . . Angela’s striking piece offers us solace, it offers us the reminder that in spite of our grief, our ancestors are accessible. That we can communicate with them divinely.

Artist: Angela Franklin

As Caroline Shola Arewa reminds us in Opening to Spirit: Contacting the Healing Power of Chakras & Honouring African Spirituality, “belief in the Eternal Spirit and respect for our Ancestors is probably the worlds’ oldest spiritual practice.” As she goes on the remind us, ‘[w]e exist today because of our ancestors; they gave us life. It is on the fruits of their labor that we live today” (48, 69). Throughout the African Diaspora, many of us understand that our ancestors are always with us. That they are here to help, protect and guide us if we chose to be open to them and “we recognize our earthly limitations and humble ourselves” (Arewa 69). As spirit, our ancestors are recognized and revered as members of our community.

Artist: Winifred Estevez

In this week’s session, recognizing the wisdom of Angela and Arewa, and with the guidance of our beloved brotha Nana Lawson Bush, we will consider how we might creatively and intentionally stay connected with those now gone, our ancestors. In addition to knowing that they come to us in our dreams and as red birds, we can create a sacred meeting place where we can recognize, celebrate and communicate with them. We will learn the importance of intentionally, consistently and creatively holding space where we can connect with our ancestors and learn how to set up an ancestral altar.

Video Editor Lailya Leach, 2020 Diasporic-Soul-in Residence

Learn more in our forthcoming book about the ways in which connecting to our ancestors can deepen our capacity for healing and restoration, resilience and resistance. Available for Pre-Order or consider for textbook adoption via McFarland Publishers , Powell’s , WHSmith (UK), Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Stopping the Clock Ritual 20 June 2020

Artist: Angela Franklin – 2019-2020 Artist-in-Residence
Stained Glass Initiative Xavier University

We are Stopping the Clock to hold space for us to acknowledge our loss and honor our grief with SOUL – a transformative healing resource that reflects the cultural sensibilities of the African Diaspora.

As we collectively face a pandemic disproportionately affecting Black folks and “racism [that] is as pernicious as ever” (Roxana Gay, The New York Times) we are offering a Remembrance Ritual for Black Loss, Black Love and Black Lives.

In this sacred ritual space, we can acknowledge our sorrow and pain. Our heartache and heartbreak. We can allow ourselves to be still long enough to truly feel exactly what it is we are feeling. We can remember those we have lost. And, what we have lost. We can mourn and grieve. Weep and wail. Cry and moan. We can recognize our capacity for healing and restoration, resilience and resistance. We are holding space for community, compassion and connection. And, love.

Watch the Ritual Recording Here

Ritual Leaders & Team Members

Thank

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