A New Diversity Model to Heal the Divides and Change our Relationships to Heal the World

By Ayo Handy-Kendi, The Breath Sekou

As we come to the end of 2020, the racial and inequality reckoning goes on, as recent news highlights the “Karens” — the meme given to white woman who continue to call the police on black people for just being themselves and living black in America.

A recent incident reported in the New York Times was about a white woman who accused a 14-year-old black boy of stealing her phone, while the manager demands that the youth show the phone to her to calm her baseless accusation. The end of this story that will most likely traumatize this youth for years or maybe for life, is that her phone was found later by an Uber driver. After the father’s video of the incident goes viral, only then does the hotel and its manager apologize. Yes, living while Black in America, has us people of color (POCs) constantly confronted, stressed, and coping with the result of unconscious bias and our own deeply held, race-based trauma. We hold our breath in fear, which makes us ill, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

While the FBI.documented that Donald Trump’s four years of polarizing rhetoric and behavior motivated a 55% spike in white supremacist memberships, and stoked and emboldened people to engage in hateful nationwide violence and racial incidents involving the polic,e which elevated white supremacy as the #1 “domestic violence threat.” What of the daily confrontations that continue to keep black and white relationships troubled and strained — now a centuries-old issue?

While countless are showing activism daily by peacefully marching, demonstrating for the serious cause of racial, social, and equal justice, many are instead blamed as looters and rioters, and are brutalized, jailed, and killed. At this critical time, as many organize for justice and peace proclaiming that black lives matter, white supremacists are organizing for separation of the races, to keep their power and way of life. And white women are still calling the police to force black people and POCs to bend to their privileged way of life and thinking. When and how do these relationship divides end?

For more than 50 years, I’ve been working on solutions for pro-peace and anti-violence. I’ve monitored closely the rise of hate and polarization, recognizing that they are wider and more heated than ever before. In August 2020, I relaunched my solution to “heal the divides” to increase peace and stop violence, stating that “extreme times call for transformative responses to create extreme change.”

I also created a concept called “Breath Circles to Heal the Divides,” which I believe will offer a solution and shed awareness on why black and white relationships have escalated to so much discord, violence, and systemic issues affecting the quality of life for millions of people of all persuasions. Not only race and class keeps us divided in ways quite violent and at each other’s throats, but just being “different” or having a viewpoint or way of life that the masses deem “unusual” has polarized our society. Think of the abortion clinics that have been bombed, churches burned, and voters suppressed in rural counties.

I felt the sting of racism and gender oppression in my young adult years. I researched the issue of “polarization,” which led me to highly effective breath techniques that unlocked my repressed memory of childhood emotional and sexual abuse, helping me heal my adult depression and addictive behaviors. Applying my findings, I realized that the key to healing the long-held, trauma of racism and to altering unconscious biases is to open and release our earliest stored programing of intolerant attitudes and behaviors taught to us as children, before the age of seven.

I also found a way to heal the repressed, race-based trauma/stress held in the subconscious mind and cellular memory, which is constantly getting triggered through stress reactions and vicarious trauma upon seeing the viral videos of unarmed black folk being killed, tortured, or harassed, and the micro-aggressions of the “Karens” who call on the law at whim. I discovered the truth in the concept that “we must breathe to feel to heal,” and encouraged people to breathe through their feelings instead of repress them in order to cope with everyday life.

Now I am making the CALL for 100 courageous people to join me in learning a new practice and model of diversity and de-escalation training called, BREATH CIRCLES TO HEAL THE DIVIDES™. Limited spots are available for this 100 LEADERS LAUNCH intensive course, scheduled for February 2021 with courses being offered each month thereafter.

Through THE CIRCLES, I intend to creating a paradigm shift in diversity work, advancing us beyond the traditional dialogues and exercises, to thoroughly heal the deep wounds of inequality and race-based trauma, inter-and intra-racial distrust, and open the tourniquet of our unconscious biases, allowing us tremendous growth in empathy and acceptance of our differences for authentic reconciliation.

I first created this training as a workshop in 1995 ( see this 4-minute excerpt ), then reinvented it in 2020 as a virtual, 3-day intensive, leadership development training course. It’s shared as a 7-step group process, similar to the N.A./AA models of healing drug and alcohol addictions, with participants encouraged to take personal responsibility to use and customize their CIRCLES for critical self-care work for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Click here for information on THE CIRCLE course registrations, or contact Rashida Thomas, publicist for Ayo Handy-Kendi, at (202) 667-2577.


Ayo Handy-Kendi, renowned as ”The Breath Sekou” (a master teacher), has practiced and studied the breath since 1970. She is a Certified Breathologist, Laughter Yoga teacher, Level 3 Reiki Master, Qigong practitioner at levels I and II, and Diversity Trainer. She used breath techniques to overcome many adversities, including childhood sexual/emotional abuse; the violent death of her teenage son; domestic violence; homelessness; and addictions.

In 2004, she defined the concept of breathology as "the art and science of breath awareness, breath mechanics, and applied breath techniques to advance Spirit, Mind, and Body." She developed a life-changing evidence-based system of breath techniques and transformative practices for everyday living called Optimum Life Breathology™ (O.L.B.) . She has certified 165 O.L.B practitioners in seven states, with exposure in eight countries. Transcendence Breathwork™, Relearn How to Breathe™, the Ritual of Reconciliation™, It’s A PlayShop™, and Breath Circles to Heal the Divides™ are her signature modalities.

In 2004, she founded PositivEnergyWorks, a woman-owned wellness business that connects culture with health, stress, trauma, relaxation, and diversity issues. She has authored five books, including Applied Breathology, and as a Sound Healer, she’s composed six CDs of breath, relaxation, and drumming music featured as "Earth Love Tune-Up Crew." She has “breathed” with millions worldwide on radio, TV — notably on The Steve Harvey Morning Show — in print, via internet, on stage, in groups, in private practice, and currently as co-host of PositivEnergy Wednesdays.

As an author, speaker, storyteller, and rituals facilitator, she focuses breathology for wholistic health, social justice, and diversity/gender equality. She founded Black Love Day, which is celebrated every February 13 since 1993... created Ritual of Reconciliation in 1993... created Unity in Diversity Day in 1999... and helped steward International Breath Day on November 22... and D.C. Emancipation Day on April 16.

Ayo, who also integrates breathology for clearing generational trauma, introduced this concept in her upcoming book, Stolen. As a degreed Counselor and community organizer, she has been a leader in many movements, and now is fostering a “breath movement" to help us stay peaceful and stress-free, and to reconcile our divisions despite these polarizing times.

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This article appears in: 2021 Catalyst, Issue 1: The Breathwork Summit