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Black. Dope. All Good.

Our third Black. Dope. & All Good. Communal Healing Retreat for Black Men was held on Saturday, 23 April 2022.

As a Diasporic Soul Heritage and Healing Experience, the retreat integrated SOUL (culture) and contemplative practices to deepen the capacity of our participants to experience healing and restoration. Informed with the understanding that our individual and collective healing requires community, love, spirit and ritual.

By healing we mean restoring our connection to SOUL, a transformative healing resource that reflects the cultural sensibilities of the African Diaspora (Harrell). By healing we mean remembering that we are indeed Black. Dope. and All Good. That we are Magical. Valuable. And Beautiful. That We Got SOUL; We Can Heal. SOUL combined with contemplative practices.

Held at the Cincinnati Art Museum, our retreat included the generative contemplative practice of beholding the creative works of African American artists – David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History and Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop.

And reflection.

And, bearing witness, storytelling, deep listening and engaging, frank, honest and thoughtful dialogue.

In community, where they felt a sense of belonging and “deep connectedness.” Which, as some brothers lamented, has been missing from their lives. In a community space where they could be “without any pretense,” where they did not have to perform or posture, or feel like they had to compete based on “what they do, where they live or what kind of car they drive.” In this place, in this space, Black men felt like they could be their “authentic selves” and that they were “able to present themselves how they are and [in ways] where they felt seen.”

In addition to feeling a sense of belonging and a sense of being deeply connected to one another, they felt safe and comfortable. Which, ultimately allowed them to be open, surrender and be vulnerable.

In terms of safety, I feel so comfortable here. I feel able to just be without any pretense. I feel comfortable because we all have an understanding that we all can actually have real connections with one another.

When you said you are safe outside, I felt that in my core.

The setting of safety. Vulnerability was welcomed and encouraged. The setting was perfect for letting go and leaning in.

There is this moment when you said, ‘could you be more comfortable; make sure you are comfortable.’ And, I watched men soften. I just want to thank you for creating the environment for this.

I appreciated everybody leaning into their vulnerability today.

The safe space created by the team and facilitator was amazing. Being free to be vulnerable made the experience impactful.

Safe on and off the mat. As brothers, in a collective, communally, together. All dressed in black Diasporic Soul tee shirts. Going to the exhibit hall, walking out of and back into the museum in a way that felt kinda like the moment when you see Malcolm with the Fruit of Islam lined up outside the hospital standing shoulder to shoulder in their full innate sense of dignity and worth. Taking up space. Moving in and out of a space in ways we intended to be safe while staying centered by avoiding what one brother named the white gaze. Not to mention the collection of European religious works just outside the library door and the energy of the museum lobby that could not support our capacity to stay centered or feel safe for that matter.

We held space for Black men to experience stillness. To practice self-care. Because, as one brother noted, “holding space is important because you gotta hold space for the shit Black men go through. It ain’t anything easy that we even know how to put into words sometimes.” And, because, as another shared, it is often hard to focus when you are constantly thinking about tomorrow or anticipating next week.

Put another way, [as one brother vehemently declared,] “I felt like for the first time in a long time I could unplug from hustle culture. That I can just chill and sit and feel the sun. I really like that, the idea of that chilling and sitting still and feeling the sun.” This, in lieu of high effort coping (John Henryism) and constantly doing. This, in lieu of being measured by his productivity and performance.

So, they were reminded of the importance of the breath, of consciously and intentionally connecting to it. Reminded of the value of pausing to take care of yourself. And, centering yourself. Of the importance of being able “to have a chance to slow down” and “just be” because “this journey can be very hectic and scary; it feels lonely and exhausting.”

Yoga gave me the tools to slow down and reconnect with myself.

Black. Dope. All Good. Communal Healing Retreat for Black Men Participant

And, the body, as a resource. That grounding and centering ourselves is restorative. That “there is power in just having your feet actually grounded on the floor,” as one brother explained with new awareness. “I realized I do not usually have my whole foot on the floor.”

And, that nature can offer us support as we pursue healing and restoration, as we practice self-care, with the sense that “being outside can be really great.”


Special Thanks

A very special thanks to Gee Horton for being a partner; his energy and commitment to holding sacred healing space for Black men as an artist is reflected in the success of our retreat series. It is quite clear how much other Black men trust and respect him. Many who attended did so on Gee’s word, which for Black folks, is as real and honest as it gets. Our word is bond.

Special thanks to Ihsan Walker for offering loving and unwavering support to the program from the very beginning, which included making the connections that allowed the Cincinnati Recreation Commission be serve as a partner. For always showing up, always.

Thank you to Tony Mack and Adrian Parker for their stabilizing Cancerian energy. For showing up each time to support this important work with their distinctly unique gifts and talents.

Thanks to the sisters who have supported this work, including Carol Tonge Mack, whose unwavering support included so so much, including leveraging her social capital to get brothers at each and every session, including her son, husband, mentee and colleagues. Thanks to Dr. Kyra Shahid for always embracing the vision from day one and making so many of the connections possible. Thanks also to sister Audrey Calloway, who like Carol and Kyra, is ever our cheerleader and who showed up for the last session with pure joy and light. Thanks to Deshayla and Samiya as well for being available to check in our guests and support the program throughout the day.

Thank you to the Black Empowerment Works Program (BEW) of the United Way of Cincinnati for funding this project that we designed in response to the ongoing, cumulative and recurring race-based stress and trauma that Blacks folks continue to face and grapple with.

Thank you to the Mr. Daniel Betts and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission for trusting us and Ihsan. For serving as a partner who, along with the Cincinnati Art Museum, provided access to space, staff and other necessary resources that allowed us to offer these important healing and restoration experiences to Black men. Specifically, special thanks to Carrie Atkins Maras at the Cincinnati Art Museum for her generosity and support, for being an ally.

Also, shout out to two small Black- and women-owned businesses:

Open Soul Yoga Home for the lavender eye pillows and mat straps.

Soleil Kitchen for catering our first two sessions.

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Approximately seven years ago Eddy and I ended our visit to Senegal on the day White Supremacy entered a sacred dwelling, a church and shot down nine congregants. And that boy got burgers on the way to jail.

Barack sang Amazing Grace. Bree took down the flag.

Two years ago, five years after that massacre at Mother Emanuel church, we watched White Supremacy rest its knee on Brotha Floyd’s neck. And shoot Breonna in her bed. And run Ahmaud down in the street in a damn pick up truck, the kind that has kicked up fear for generations of Black people.

I cried out then. And, again, on Saturday. No, no, no. Not again. Not again.

It is not hate, generally. As they have already begun uncourageously to call it. Or the lack of gun control. As some have begun to insist. Or some switch that clicked on or off in this boy’s head. Ambiguity has a price. A huge one when it ofuscates the brutal truth about what really went down in Buffalo. A price we keep paying. With our lives. Our love. Our loss. Our grief. Our peace of mind.

This, as Eugene Robinson reminded us in his NYT column yesterday, is White Supremacy. It is the pernicious racism Roxanne Gay named in 2020 when White Supremacy killed George Floyd. And Breonna. And Ahmaud.

I will cry again. Today. And, tomorrow. And rant. And rave. Outloud. Here, in writing. And, tap. And, shake. I will breathe deeply and intentionally in child’s pose or butterfly fully supported by my mat, bolster, blankets and blocks. And my ancestors. Supported by music, soul music. Beautiful Chorus. Robert Glasper. Anthony Hamilton. I will sit in community filled with love. All to settle my nervous system. My spirit. To temper the grief and rage. The damn dismay.

And, like Roxanne and Eugene. Resmaa and Dr. Kyra. I will say exactly what this is. I will say Black when I mean Black. I will say anti-Black racism in lieu of vaquely referring to some non-specific hate. I will say white supremacy. White violence and terror. The kind that lynches and murders innocent Black folks in church and grocery stores. On branches of magnolia trees. Like Emmet’s mama insisted with her child’s open casket in the hot ass summer of 1955, we must see and look directly at this brutality, this terrorism. The capacity for the nation we built for free to wring its hands and talk sideways. Again. While simultaneously engaging in the rhetorical gymnatics in legislative chambers and rooms where school boards meet. This is that. The history that they want to protect their kids from. A violent fragility that erases reality and brutality. The kind that we saw on Saturday.

I will name what is. I will settle my spirit with my body and breathe. And the word.

My hope is that you will too. May you find and know peace. Because, for real, this is some f^#ed a$% ish.

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Lunch & Learn – April 2022

Join us for one of our Spring 2022 Lunch & Learns to learn more about Diasporic Soul. You have the opportunity to learn more about how DIASPORIC SOUL Heritage & Healing Experiences can support your organization’s ongoing social justice, racial healing and diversity and equity efforts.

In North Carolina, we will convene at Serenity Farm Yoga Sanctuary (Retreat Center) where we experience nature and yoga (pranayama) as healing and restoration resources. In addition to a scrumptious lunch inspired by Senegalese cuisine by Ayurvedic Chef Amelia, we will explore SOUL as a transformative healing resource that reflects the cultural sensibilities of the African Diaspora at this tranquil and lovely sanctuary located on a 10-acre boutique farm that is nestled on Falls Lake. We will also hear from Zephia Bryant, a long-time student development practitioner, Diasporic Soul and Executive Director of the Bryant Educational Leadership Group (BELG).

No Yoga Experience Required

In Cincinnati, we will convene at the Cincinnati Art Museum where we will explore SOUL as a transformative healing resource that reflects the cultural sensibilities of the African Diaspora through two current exhibitions featuring Black creatives:

David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History

Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop

Our time together will include hearing from well-regarded Cincinnati-based artist who just had two pieces acquired by the CAM, Gee Horton will discuss his ongoing creative collaboration with Diasporic Soul on The Baobab Project.

Questions & Inquiries – madamecoly@diasporicsoul.com & 221778423650|Mobile & WhatsApp

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URBAN CONSULATE|14 SEPT 2020

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

View Here

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 curiosity 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.

When Grandma Comes to Visit

I am spending my last week before I head back to Senegal for the summer in North Carolina. In New Bern. With my parents. And, my Aunt Rosanne. I get to spend time with all three of them here now, since Rosanne moved here last June.

Ginny, Jackie & Me.

New Bern is a small river town that is about a two hour drive from where I grew up – Raleigh and went to college – Durham.

It is also home to a branch of my family tree. I have roots here. And, when I am here I feel rooted and grounded in ways I can’t quite find anywhere else. I attribute that, of course, to being with my mom and dad. To their love. To the feeling that I am safe, secure and that I belong to them and they to me. A sense of belonging that I also attribute to my connection to those roots. Roots connecting me specifically to my grandmother.

New Bern is home to Chapmans. Before becoming a Wilson, my grandmother was a Chapman. New Bern is the place where this portion of my family left to join the great migration North. Migration that resulted in my Grandmother being raised in New Jersey where she eventually met my Grandfather.

I am glad my parents and my Aunts Rosanne and Mary found their way here. To place that feels like home. Not far from the river front. Not far from the cemeteries where Chapmans are buried. A place where we are closer to our roots. Close, I sense, to our ancestors. I place I am pretty sure my grandmother is thrilled to know we are reconnected to.

A closeness and connection that interestingly enough I have been able to cultivate in Senegal. One that has been a significant part of how I am able to connect with Spirit and feel a sense of love, reassurance and safety there. A connection that I reflect on in When Grandma Comes to Visit, which was just published in the Journal of Contemplative Inquiry’s special edition featuring the wisdom and insights of Black contemplatives – Transcendent Wisdom and Transformative Action: Reflections of Black Contemplatives.

Heritage & Healing Experience for Black Professionals

Informed by what we know about race-based stress and trauma and the impact of white supremacy, anti-Black racism and epistemic violence on our lives individually and collectively, our Summer 2022 Heritage and Healing Experience in Senegal integrates cultural (SOUL) and contemplative practices to deepen your capacity for healing and restoration, resilience and resistance.

Before we were anything else as Black folks we were African.

“Spiritual” African Giant. Burna Boy.

Centering Blackness and focusing on SOUL, a transformative healing resource that reflects the cultural sensibilities of the African Diaspora (Harper), our Summer 2022 Heritage & Healing Experience will allow you to be a more self-aware leader who is able to adapt to and engage in disruption courageously and confidently. It is also designed to allow you to improve your self-care practice as you continue to serve and support others who themselves are navigating, challenging and/or finding ways to flourish in spite systems of oppression.

Further, this professional development experience allows participants to recognize cultural and contemplative resources that can inform the way they approach Black student development, pedagogy and program design and delivery. It can, in fact, serve as a site visit for those who are considering the ways in that Diasporic Soul healing-centered leadership development experiences can be offered to the students, young people, creatives, campuses and communities they serve.

Bring in the love; let the healing begin.

“Energy.” Energy. Sampa the Great

THE EXPERIENCE

INTEGRATING CULTURE & CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES

Pilgrimages to Goree & Carabane Islands

Traditional Rituals

Movement Practices

Senegalese Cuisine

The Museum of Black Civilizations

The African Renaissance Monument

Senegalese Art & Couture

Stillness Practices

Meeting Mami Wata

Fishing & Farming Villages

Connecting to Nature & Spirit

Daily Debriefs|Guided Reflections


PRICING: $2750

Discounts are available for community-based non-profits.

Includes Pre-Trip Orientation & Post-Trip Debrief, Accommodations (Double Occupancy), On-Site Meals, Ground Transportation, Guided Excursions, Roundtrip Airfare to Casamace, Diasporic Soul Tee Shirt, Journal and Learning Materials, including copies of We Got Soul; We Can Heal (Jeffers-Coly 2022), Anti-Black Racism & Epistemic Violence (Shahid 2018) & Transcendent Wisdom and Transformative Action: Reflections from Black Contemplatives Special Edition The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry

Restorative Yoga Winter Sessions

Building on our Black. Dope. All Good. Communal Healing Retreat for Black Men, we are deepening our capacity for healing and restoration by practicing restorative yoga with SOUL.

Please bring your yoga supports, including mat, bolster, blocks, blankets and eye pillow as well as your journal and journaling supplies of your choice i.e. pen, markers, etc.

If you are joining us and have not yet attended a Black. Dope. All Good. Communal Healing Retreat for Black Men, then please consider having the following items to support your practice:

  • A yoga or exercise mat or large towel.
  • Pillows, towels and/or blankets to support you during the practice.
  • A wash cloth or hand towel if you do not have an eye pillow
  • A journal or notebook with something to write with (or draw)

Join Us Here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2989655831?pwd=NHViSGVuZXpWRUN0Qm5zcVNGL3dIZz09

Meeting ID: 298 965 5831
Passcode: SOUL

We Got Soul: The Homecoming Edition

Join us as we celebrate the release of We Got Soul: We Can Heal: Overcoming Racial Trauma Through Leadership, Community and Resilience by Phyllis Jeffers-Coly, a proud NC-native who was born in Greensboro and raised in Raleigh. Phyllis is a North Carolina Central University graduate and Founder & Owner of Diasporic Soul, which offers heritage and healing experiences for Black folks that integrate culture (SOUL) and contemplative practices.

Tuesday|Wednesday – April 5 or 6 Richard B. Harrison Library|Raleigh Dillahunt Recognition (Elder-Mentors)

Wednesday|6 April 2022 Raleigh|Quail Ridge Books

Thursday|7 April 2022 Durham Edition|North Carolina Central University Shut Em Down: Reading & Dialogue w/Deborah & Jim – 1990s Student Activism|Resistance

9 April 2022 Collins Grove United Methodist Church Greensboro, NC

Neyedaye to Nebi: A Friend’s Culinary Journey

My dear long-time friend Levita came to Senegal this summer for her Diasporic Soul Heritage and Healing experience.

Today, she is returning to work after the extended Thanksgiving weekend to share her experience with her co-workers and colleagues. She organized her workshop presentation around the idea of how her pilgrimage would be reflected in a memoir. Levita teaches humanities now and she I met when we were pursuing our Masters degrees in literature, so using memoir as an organizing approach makes so much sense to both of us.

As I reviewed the slides of the presentation, I was struck by how much fun we had and how rich the experience was for not only Levita but also for Eddy and I. I was tickled by how often we ended up laughing out loud like free-spirit pre-teen girls romping in the woods untethered by anyone or anything. So much joy.

Levita’s presentation and our long, lingering loving phone call moved me to go back and take the time to really look at the photos we took during her seven-week stay. The shared Goggle photo file is absolutely bulging. And, all of the pictures are not even there. These are the just the ones from Levita’s phone. There are more that I, Eddy and our other guest of the summer, Carmalita, took.

Mami Wata at the Somone Lagune

On our call, after talking about our families, including the lastest, most recent amazing accomplishments of her highly creative and dynamic daughters, Levita and I talked at length on Saturday evening about her presentation and the other ways her time in Senegal was currently influencing her life. I was thrilled to hear how excited she was to be sharing her experience with others for what would be the third time. She has done two other presentations about her time in Senegal this fall.

During our call, she spoke enthusiastically of making hot toddies for a recent wreath-making party using the neyedaye (moringa) leaves that my mother-in-law gave her as well as others with hibiscus (bissap). We decided that we should name the neyedaye toddy after Eddy’s mom – The Kafalang. Kafalang is how my mother-in-law, who I call Yaye, which means mom in Wolof, was called during her younger years living in the Medina neighborhood of Dakar. Naming the neyedaye toddy this way is an importan in part because Levita, like everyone else who visits us, connected with Eddy’s mom in spite of the fact that she does not speak Wolof or French. The connection between Levita’s visit and her recent presentations is also important because she is a vegan-chef and educator who I admire very much. She was the first person who introduced me and many others in the DMV area to idea that vegetarian food can have SOUL and be delicious, especially when you create dishes informed by our culture(s). I will always remember the scrumptious bbq tofu sandwiches she plated during a cooking class at the Southeast Tennis Center organized by our friend Tamara who was running a Freedom School site at the time. She is from Memphis, y’all, okay.

We also talked about nebi (black-eyed peas) because I saw that she has recently posted about a dish she has made where nebi as the key ingredient. We have both been so excited to recognize nebi as a food bridge, as a food that so clearly connects us to the Motherland. One that reminds me of my grandmother. During her stay, we had Thiebbu Nebi and I shared my mango-nebi burger with her, which I created in 2018 to capture that Diasporic connection. And, during her stay, Levita also had a dish called accra, which is made from smashed nebi that is then fried; visually it will remind you of small hush puppies in terms of size, color and texture. Accra is served with spicy onion and tomato sauce for dipping. I also was able to gift Levita nebi flour when she arrived along with a nebi-based chocolate sauce and a nebi bean pod (most folks of our generation or younger have not often seen the way black-eyed peas grow). Levita, with her culinary creativity, of course, made yummy chocolate-chip cookies using her nebi flour when she got back home.

So, yes, Levita’s journey with us, her pilgrimage home to West Africa, to Senegal specifically, is deeply tied to food and cuisine because that is who Levita is. At least since I met her one bright August afternoon in 1993. She came to graduate school in Maryland where we met with a whole lot of Memphis in her, which the North Carolina in me immediately resonated with. We became fast friends, perhaps because she cooked for me the first day I met her. Food is an integral part of everyone’s Heritage and Healing experience, but with Levita it is even more significant because of the work she does and her lived experience. And, it has been a big part of our friendship.

In fact, Levita is featured as a part of the Stopping the Clock series we did to center, acknowledge and respond to our collective loss and grief as Black folks in the Summer 2020. She participated in our Bearing Witness artists‘ panel along with her eldest daughter, Yetunde. And, with the help of our 2020 Diasporic-Soul-in-Residence Lailya Leach, in Communion, as part of our Stopping the Clock series, we highlighted Levita’s own grief and culinary journey that revolves around her mother, grandmother and her garden as a sources of solace, healing and restoration.

Yet, as I take time after so much activity over the last few months and spending time looking at the photos and Levita’s presentation, I am struck too with all that the journey proved to be for her that goes well beyond but includes her restored connection to the food ways that bring her closer to her ancestors.

She will tell you that her journey, her pilgrimage was healing and that she was able to remove blockages during her time in Senegal. But, that is her story to tell, and she will, because she wrote extensively during her time with us, which was what we agreed would be an ideal outcome of her stay.

Learn more about Levita the vegan-chef with SOUL on her website or Instagram. I know that I am looking forward to her forthcoming nebi-inspired series. And, if you are in the DMV area, join her for some hot toddies and wreath-making during this festive time of year. You won’t regret it. And, if you have decided to gift experiences this year, consider cooking classes with Levita.

We Got Soul! We Feel Good!

Our heritage and healing experiences integrate culture and contemplative practices that foster healing and restoration, resilience and resistance. #AffirmationHeals

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

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