I think it's fair to say 2020 has upheaveled society and is getting to the dusty long neglected corners of our collective identity. Like a Spring clean up, it is messy, it is sad and devastating in certain instances to say the least. The silver lining, is never have I ever been so confronted, challenged and awoken to thinking and verbalising and choosing what I wish to dedicate my life to. And this while expecting my first daughter in the months to come.
The result of this evolution is I have never been so attentive to politics since walking McGill campus proudly tauting my Obama copy of "The Audacity of Hope" during my days as a young and hopeful undergrad Anthropology days 12 years ago. Before being disappointment by Harper's appointment shortly after in Canada, and then realizing what a racist joke the Quebec political landscape was (having not forgotten White men applauding and kissing each other at the passing of the "Charter of Values" which seems like a ancestral continuum to Francois Legaults current Frankenstein of a public philosophy acknowleding that systemic discrimination may exist, but still denying systemic racism...all the while a big giant Christian cross lays on the peak of the mountain of my hometown of Montreal, QC, and Joyce Echequan's family of seven children continue to grieve her loss at the hands of a Montreal hospital staff telling her "she was only good for f*cking* on her deathbed).
The silver lining of this year's happenings are that, I am faced with my mortality as a pregnant Black Physcian working during the pandemic. I am faced with the vulnerability of bringing a life into this world as a Black mother and to my Middle Eastern partner. I maintain, continueing to refer to Brenee Brown's work of "Daring Greatly", how the beauty of my human life to me resides in this vulnerability.
What has covid, BLM, the re-election of Trump threat by voter suppression, the process of appointment of Amy Coney Barrett* to the Supreme Court of the US reversing everything Ruth Baker Gainsburg's lifework and the Affordable Health Care Act done for me?*
I would not be as driven as I am do my Master's of Public health, gain political and economic literacy.
I would not be motivated to even think of starting to strategize how to speak out to the parallel racist forces that infest our society in Canada (more markedly in Quebec, where my parents and partner's parents still reside).
I would not have taken up my most recent appointment as Chair of the Wellness Committee of Black Physicians of Canada in recognition that holding space for Black Physicians matters. Black Phyicians: those of us going out on a daily to help people in our work (during the pandemic but also much beyond), while most of us have faced and continue to face racism from patients and peers and colleagues in the workplace or in our medical education.
I would not have transitioned to wanting to advocate for Diversity and Inlcusion in wellness spaces in Ottawa to wanting to advocate at all levels of my life and career towards Anti-Racism and Decolonialization of our society.**
I would not be writing this thought-piece today, as a declaration to my journey going forward.
I highly encourage to read this work by Sume Ndumbe-Eyoh at the National Collaborating Center for Determinants of Health as a starting point of a framework that is healing to the societal tenents being upheaved to our awareness over the last half-year:
Let's Talk: Racism and Health Equity
* The case of Barrett is curious in itself. She exhibits how insidious white supremacy can be veiled in the mask of saviourism type "you fit here in my doll house" way that she (and many a history of privileged White women who want to "be good. do good" in the world non-introspectively spread the same rhetoric in this world) differentially speaks about her adopted children from Haiti vs how she speaks of her biological children.
**Diversity means a wellness space must reflect the diversity of the population it is located in. Inclusion means people of diverse demographics must have safe opportunities to reclaim their rights to have agency in wellness spaces. Anti-racism means we must actively counter the social forces upholding beliefs (either implicit in policy or institutions, or in accepted culture) the illusion of the existence of biological races and racial hierarchy. Decolonialism to me means dismantling the tenets that permeate North-American culture for the last 4 centuries that harbour Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous Racism, Orientalism and White Supremacy.
Your guilt is not my concern. How RACISM SURVIvES:will you speak up to your peer when they are racist in front of you next?Read Now
If you live in the same world that I do, your old lifetyle has been pulvarized by COVID and you are aware of the Black Lives Matter movement.
After a number of conversations with other Black people (because my own life is where I keep my focus), I think I have made up my mind about what I think, stand for, and will direct my life next.
But first I figure I will put out there what I think about the subliminal requests for attonement for the 400 year old sin of using Black bodies to build up wealth and society in North America, while keeping them dehumanized in one's heart. Not just white people, everyone who is not categorized as Black.
Here is a trap that is worth nothing to my life: performance.
This is what had Justin Trudeau go on a knee in a crowd in front of cameras.
But when came his job as Prime Minister to at least say something when his peer, Block Minister Therrien was called out as racist by the only Brown (and colored person for that matter) among federal Minister Parliament, Jagmeet Singh - all Trudeau in that moment could muster himself to say was "...it is a problem."
There is nothing more racist than halting efforts to stop police brutality of Indigenous People. And there is nothing more systemic than making that effort as a federal minister. Be it in the form of political gaslighting with a commission to "see if it exists, truly".
What is a problem?
It was there at the tip of your tongue: systemic racism.
Who is acting as the problem?
It was there in front of your: Mr Therrien in this case.
What did you do?
Let it happen anyway. And let Singh be told he had to apologize to this racist system.
Trudeau did not call it out. and so Parliament will continue to be racist.
Racism survives, by racist actions not being called out when they happen.
Not by performances of caring.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is where your agency in white privilege matters most: Can you stand up to your racist peer, when IT MATTERS MOST? You'll all have moments of truth at which point your actions will spell out the reality of your moral value. I guarantee it: be it where a group is wondering about whether to respect a person of color or not, whether it is a decision to give an opportunity to a person of Color, whether its to decide on a policy, or where the money is going to go. When you are in that position and asked the question of where the world is heading next, that is when you will be held accountable as to whether you truly believe Black people should be equal to you, or whether you were only embarrassed enough during the month of June to try to cover your ass.
I really don't care about the story you tell yourself about the world. When the time comes in reality, will you say and do the right thing. That is all that matters.
In the meantime, if you want to look at how intentional systemic racism as exemplified by the history of the American Police I refer to this podcast series:
- Behind the Bastards (Spotify or Apple Podcasts): Behind the Police series
1. Slavery, Mass Murder and the Birth of American Policing
2. How the First Police Went From Gangsters, To An Army For the Rich
3. The History of the American Police and the Ku Klux Klan
4. How the Police Defeated Lynching Via Torture
5. How Police Unions Made Cops Even Deadlier
6. How the Police Declared War On All of Us
warning: it is pretty horrifying and entertaining at the same time than any horror movie, thriller and absurdly twisted story that Hollywood could ever come up with.
And to this podcast for my community on ideas of what to focus on next:
- Oprah Winfrey's SuperSoul Conversations:
Where Do We Go From Here? Part 2.
now that I got that off my chest, back to my work exposing my unborn child to covid as a front line health worker, while people resist wearing masks in closed in areas.
With the mandate I've picked up this year to make yoga more accessible to demographics currently not accessing it, I've had the opportunity lately to be asked "What about yoga and religion". Not daunting to attempt to answer all *sarcasm*. Disclaimer: I have no PhD in Religious Studies. But I am human, and its an important question to give some thought.
Considering most humans have a personal practice to connect themselves within themselves and connect to something bigger, the diversity of those practices spans the spectrum of every human who has ever lived... and thats about 2.5 million years.
I've been asked the question of yoga and religious practice by two different figures doing awesome work in two different places in Ottawa this.
If you didn't catch my little blurb on channel 22's Caribbean Connections the first weekend of December (other than missing me caught off guard and ready for a radio show with no makeup and pink hair... which got me authenticity points, anyways) my answer went something like this: Faith is believing that there is something good in store for you to surrender to. Yoga is about how you're feeling on your journey getting there.
The second time I was asked the question was this week at the Somali Family Center where I volunteer yoga classes with Warrior Yoga, again. I thought to myself: The truth is when practicing yoga, I feel connected to myself and the world around me in an intimate way. It feels pretty darn spiritual. So what distinguishes it from Abrahamaic religious practice?
My personal reflection continued and after taking a hard look at the 10 commandments and comparing them to the Yamas and Niyamas (the 10 ethical themes of suggestions on how to relate with yourself and others in Yoga), I came to this conclusion:
1) Theres no useful Shame:
in Yoga, it is not about shame. The Universe is not God in that it is not an entity with human emotions who gets angry when you don't listen to its secret messages. The Universe will wipe you out as impersonally as you stepped on that ant by accident when you were 6, or something like that... The Yamas and Niyamas are suggestions to be well within yourself as you navigate the Universe, of which you are a part. Theres no external arbitrator. No prize or punishment at the end of the line. You just feel better or worse in the present moment.
2) You are not ascribing to Hope:
The concept of Christian or Muslin Faith is often said to believe that surrending to God's will, you'll be better off in the end. In Yoga, there is a concept of surrendering to the Universe. They are pretty similar. But in Christian Faith at least from which I can speak, there is hope. Hope that God has in store something better than you could've imagined. My experience in yoga is that when you surrender to whatever the Universe has to offer you, you are surrendering comfort and hope as well. You are giving up expectation period.
In the end, both have you open up to reality and new possibility.
I like to think of Religion and Yoga as different paths up a mountain to a same destination: a way of being that it more peaceful and appeasing to the human heart. The numbers of paths is infinite.
This is a reflection best done with others, so leave your comments below and together we grow!
As stated in my previous blog entry, theres a catch-22 afflicting yoga culture in Ottawa. Reflecting further on ways to remedy the traps of the heart we can encounter on our yoga journey, I’ve come up with the following so far. Obviously I did not come up with this alone, but with discussions, learning from and interactions with others and a personal experience. Please add to it in the comments if you see other ways we can liberate ourselves from the trap of Yoga-Perfect over Yoga-Practice! Together we grow!
1. Use yoga to discover the Perfection of the Universe, not to ascribe to and prove the idea of perfect limited to only what your mind can imagine.
2. Co-create with the Universe the connection you seek with others. Smiling is the most basic human expression of this invitation.
3. Perpetrators of violence in all its forms are suffering too. Liberate them by liberating your mind of the dichotomy of a toxic relationship. Know your worth.
4. Ignorance becomes painful to the ego when mindful forces call your awareness to the harm your ignorance was causing to self and others. Know your self worth is untouchable, then leap, with all the gratitude that will bubble up, into the opportunity to live easier and better.
5. And to the irremediably violent and aggressive (in a given instant), I love myself more than your ignorance on how to love and care for yourself.
6. Do not use the body to get into the pose. Use the Pose to ger into your Body (-Bernie Clark, “Yin Yoga”)