By Aliah MaJon, Chief Inclusion Officer for The Shift Network
I was inspired to write this opening letter by what I consider a clear message from my internal guidance system, what I call the Inner Teacher. The exact words that came to me were, “Racial healing is like climbing a mountain.” In researching the topic, I found a set of instructions on wikiHow that I wish to use as a metaphor. Just to share, the simple title on that page is “How to Climb a Mountain.” This list outlines the following 13 steps that a person must carefully follow if they want to climb a mountain safely and successfully:
1) Do your research
2) Assess your mental strength
3) Get fit
4) Acquire the gear
5) Learn about mountaineering ethics
6) Get training
7) Plan your first climb
8) Keep improving your skills and trying harder mountain climbs
9) Find a good guide
10) Prepare for the trip
11) Understand what's involved on arrival at the mountain
12) Begin climbing
13) Descend with plenty of time to get back safely
This preparedness list makes the translation easy to understand, and the steps provide the perfect roadmap for us all to travel upon to the desired goal of effective and sustainable transformation. Here is what the application of these 13 steps looks like when we apply them to the goal of Racial Healing:
1) Do your research. Decide what is yours to do — where you can personally make an impact.
2) Assess your mental strength. Groom your consciousness by setting the clear intention to serve as a healer for truth-telling, bridge-building, and staying present to create lasting repair.
3) Get fit. Practice, practice, practice everything that prepares you to bring about real change.
4) Acquire the gear. Make it a point to study “restorative” tools — anything that builds authentic connection and establishes genuine relationships between people.
5) Learn about mountaineering ethics. Ethics and ethical behavior are the key to everything in the pursuit of Racial Healing. It is absolutely vital to the success of the work to have integrity, model empathy, and be brave and transparent at all times.
6) Get training. Take courses and learn everything you can about unlearning racism, truth and reconciliation, and the long history of domination, conquering, and colonization.
7) Plan your first climb. Try your ability to facilitate on for size with your close friends and the people who show you that they are also cultivating their skills in this demanding area.
8) Keep improving your skills and trying harder mountain climbs. Keep going. Once you start, allow the momentum to grow into more challenging and complex experiences toward healing the Racial Divide — and experiment with innovative and pioneering new ways of doing things to engage with and reach people. Also, create partnerships and always collaborate.
9) Find a good guide. Locate those who are either professionals in this arena or those who have proven their effectiveness in doing the work of Racial Healing and reconciliation.
10) Prepare for the trip. Know that every time an opportunity presents itself, whether it’s spontaneous or organized with a clear goal and desired outcome, it is a journey.
11) Understand what's involved on arrival at the mountain. Work with others to understand where you collectively wish to go regarding Racial Healing, and commit to each other to keep checking in to assess if you are, in fact, achieving what you set out to do — and if you aren’t, change your approach.
12) Begin climbing. Let your confidence, as well as the momentum of your joint work and the specific initiatives and efforts, keep growing. The job is enormous, so we’ll be climbing the metaphorical mountain of Racial Healing for awhile.
13) Descend with plenty of time to get back safely. Remember to take good care of yourself and each other. Make a definite commitment to learn about and follow through on enlightened self-care, including taking time to breathe, rest, regroup, mend, enjoy some downtime, and make room for spaciousness to be a part of the process.
Now, we can all be ready to begin the “climb” — and, most especially, enjoy the beauty of the “elevation” when we arrive. Look out, Racial Healing, we are on our way to promising new heights!
And, one last word... For an excellent, eye-opening look at the much-needed work ahead regarding white cultural conditioning, be sure to read my newfound friend Swan Keyes' article in this issue: "Standing in the Fire: the Spiritual Practice of Untraining Whiteness."
Click here for an abundance of hand-picked resources that speak to Racial Healing.
This issue of Catalyst is also dedicated to the life and legacy of Chadwick Boseman, the brilliant actor who portrayed baseball icon Jackie Robinson in the movie 42. Most impactfully, he inhabited the role of T’Challa, King of Wakanda, in the movie Black Panther, a film that meant so very much to so very many African Americans, a responsibility he was keenly aware of.
Chadwick passed away on August 28 at the tender age of 43. Several of his movies, including Black Panther and the Avengers movies, were filmed after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016. He kept his diagnosis private and continued to build a stellar career while enduring surgeries and chemotherapy.
Click here to read “The Profound Heroism of Chadwick Boseman” in The Atlantic: Black Panther was a staggering cultural phenomenon when it arrived in 2018, the fourth-highest-grossing movie in domestic box-office history. And though Ryan Coogler’s film is filled with visual invention, dense world-building, and memorable supporting turns, it’s rooted in Boseman’s gravitas and soul-force, in his ability to project authority and power. T’Challa is a purposefully idealized figure, a sensitive and just warrior who struggles courageously with the burden of leading an entire nation.
Click here to watch Marvel’s tribute to Chadwick Boseman.
Click here to watch ABC’s 20/20 special tribute to Chadwick Boseman.
Click here to watch a 20-minute video of Black Panther deleted and bonus scenes.
Click here to watch Chadwick tell the story of the celebrity who paid for his schooling at Oxford.
Click here to read a tribute to Chadwick Boseman by Dr. Micah Johnson, a valued presenter in Shift’s recent “Transforming Racism” Facebook Live Series, and a Panel Member on the Racial Justice stage in the upcoming Shift Summit & Music Festival.
The Shift Summit & Music Festival, a 4-day online global gathering taking place September 18-21, features more than 300 visionaries and artists who are lighting the way to a better future.
Please join us for this free online event to receive a much-needed infusion of hope, positivity, and practical strategies for how we can shift our society and ourselves to fulfill the dream of a planet that truly works for all.
If you wish to be part of the team that turns things around and redesigns human civilization for the good, this is THE online festival for you!
AND… we are excited to share that our Chief Inclusion Officer, Dr. Aliah MaJon, is serving as a co-emcee with the co-founder of Shift, Devaa Haley Mitchell, for the “Racial Justice” stage — one of 12 Visionary Stages at the Summit — with featured topics such as Untraining Whiteness... the Question of Police Reform... the History of Domination... and actual TOOLS to prepare us all for “The Work Ahead.” You will not want to miss this offering!
Register for FREE here!
We want to know: What do you feel that you can personally do to further the goal of Racial Healing? To share your thoughts in our Facebook Page community, click here.
I can't bring myself to watch yet another video, not because I don't care, but because we're all just a few videos away from becoming completely desensitized. The public execution of Black folks will never be normal.
― Andrena Sawyer
Yeye Luisah Teish on Storytelling, the Global Impact of Black Panther, and Expressing Your Creative Gifts
Video Interview for Catalyst
In this 48-minute video interview exclusively for Catalyst, Yeye Luisah Teish, a storyteller, writer, artist activist, and spiritual guidance counselor, shares her insights on issues ranging from the value of cultural stories to the portrayal of people of color in the media to healing wounds through creative expression.
EXCERPT: Now, what is amazing, truly amazing, about it is that it was received globally, and this is a very important message to black artists. Because of Black Panther, we now know that we have a place and a voice that can be heard and received by the world, with respect and understanding… And it left us with the question of, "Do we join the rest of the world and risk being oppressed, or do we continue to hide our gifts?" It left some wonderful cliffhangers, and what I know from where I sit is that it has sparked enthusiasm among black artists, especially black writers and performers, where we now feel like we can create things that, number one, tell the whole truth about our history. To watch the video and read the transcript, click here.
Standing in the Fire: the Spiritual Practice of Untraining Whiteness
By Swan Keyes
I have a friend from Ecuador whose ancestry is mostly European with some Indigenous South American and a trace of North African. In Ecuador she was considered white and enjoyed all the privileges of the ruling class. However, when she moved to the U.S. her racial category promptly changed. She maintained her economic status but, because she was from South America and had a Spanish accent, she suddenly came to know what it is to be seen as a “person of color.” She lost some of her white privilege and in the process discovered what it means to be white — and what it means to be excluded from whiteness. To read more, click here.
A 14-part audio series produced by Scene on Radio
John Biewen, the host and producer of “Seeing White,” says that his team “set out to take a different kind of look at race and ethnicity, by looking directly at the elephant in the room: white people, and whiteness. White supremacy was encoded in the DNA of the United States, and white people dominate American life and its institutions to this day, and yet whiteness too often remains invisible, unmarked, and unnamed.” You can listen to all 14 episodes here.
Ready to Engage in Real Conversations About Racism?
By Ericka Andersen
Despite recent outrage from white Americans when Black people are killed or discriminated against, there's still aversion to facing issues head on. These authors and activists are helping facilitate much-needed discussion. To read more, click here.
Beyond Blame and Shame: New Ideas for Healing Racism
Dereca Blackmon at Shift’s Visionaries Conference
In this video, Dereca Blackmon, a passionate speaker, trainer and facilitator, and national expert on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion, introduces new principles and practices developed in her spiritual activism and inclusion work — and tested by her team at Stanford University with over 20,000 participants. Explore key concepts like cultural humility, radical healing, and creating courageous conversations in which people can feel both safe and brave! Learn how to find hope for peace and justice in these perilous times of rising xenophobia. To watch this 42-minute video, click here.
The “Inside the NBA Crew” Talk About George Floyd and Racism
Ernie Johnson, the host of the “Inside the NBA Crew,” and former NBA greats Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith share their personal reflections on the death of George Floyd, police brutality, and racial injustice in America. To watch this 13-minute video, click here.
Click here to read what experts say that NBA players should do with the power of their platform.
Click here to read ESPN senior writer Howard Bryant’s piece on how the reality of Black pain is breaking American sports' status quo.
Cornel West’s Profound Conversation with Anderson Cooper
Cornel West joined Anderson Cooper on CNN, moving the host to tears, explaining exactly why George Floyd-inspired protests have spawned the way they have. Cornel West is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. The author of 20 books, he is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.
Click here to watch this 20-minute segment with Anderson Cooper.
Click here to watch further commentary and analysis of this segment by David Doel of The Rational National.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
In this popular video series, former NFL player and sports analyst Emmanuel Acho sits down to have an “uncomfortable conversation” with white America, in order to educate and inform them about racism, system racism, social injustice, rioting, and the hurt African Americans are feeling today. In this two-part episode, Emmanuel asks NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell what he would say to Colin Kaepernick and how he feels about the National Anthem protests in the NFL.
Roger Goodell conversation: Part One and Part Two.
Click here for Emmanuel Acho’s reflections on his sit-down with Roger Goodell.
To watch all nine episodes of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” click here.
Coping While Black: A Season Of Traumatic News Takes A Psychological Toll
By Cheryl Corley, a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk
Can racism cause post-traumatic stress? That's one big question psychologists are trying to answer… What's clear is that many black Americans experience what psychologists call "race-based trauma," says Monnica Williams, director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities at the University of Louisville. While researchers are still trying to understand exactly how this phenomenon operates, Williams says it's clear that African-Americans are hit hard by incidents that recall the country's ugly history of institutionalized racism. To read more and to listen to this 4-minute segment on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” click here.
Trauma From Slavery Can Actually Be Passed Down Through Your Genes
By Lincoln Anthony Blades
Sociologist Dr. Joy DeGruy played off the widely accepted term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to create the phrase Post Traumatic Slave Disorder to address the specific trauma suffered by descendants of black slaves. If the holocaust caused immense emotional, physical, and psychological effects intense enough to cause trauma to survivors, then the abject horrors and brutality suffered by slaves is more than likely to have the same effects on black slavery descendants worldwide. To read more, click here.
Along the same lines, click here to read Nappy Head Club’s article, “The Four Bodies: A Holistic Toolkit for Coping With Racial Trauma.” Research shows that racism can lead to anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, chronic stress, chronic fatigue, bodily inflammation, internalized racism, and symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder. This is called racial trauma.
Lessons From Camden
The city of Camden, just over the river from Philadelphia, took drastic action in 2013, dissolving the police department and entering into a policing agreement with the county focused on community policing. At that time, Camden was one of the most dangerous cities in America, and had a crime rate worse than some third-world countries. Building a trust with the residents of the city was key to reducing the city’s crime rate. Said county executive Lou Cappelli, Jr: “We view our police officers as guardians, not warriors, and true partners with our residents.” Click here to watch a 6-minute video on the lessons from Camden.
Click here to read an article about how transforming police officers from warriors to guardians is a foundational principle of a systems approach to reducing police violence.
The Dangers of Whitewashing Black History
TED Talk by David Ikard
Should white people care about the whitewashing of black history? Most people will likely answer yes to this question, if only because it sounds politically correct to do so. What will hopefully become clear is that whites have as much to lose by whitewashing black history as their African American peers. David Ikard is a Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University. To watch the 18-minute video, click here.
Truth and Reconciliation
By Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Forgiveness is not just personally rewarding. It's also a political necessity, says Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He explains how forgiveness allowed South Africans to imagine a new beginning — one based on honesty, peace, and compassion. During the years of suffering and inequality, each South African’s humanity was still tied to that of all others, white or black, friend or enemy. For our own dignity can only be measured in the way we treat others. To read more, click here.
Click here for a list of reconciliation resources — and the three foundational ideas of reconciliation according to the William Winters Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi.
Dear Anti-Racist Allies: Here's How to Respond to Microaggressions
By Kristen Rogers for CNNIt's easy to sight the obvious racism such as using race-based slurs or threats. But there's a more subtle and insidious form of racist stereotyping that can be hard to pin down. These stereotypes often come in the form of microaggressions — brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, said Beverly Daniel Tatum, a psychologist and former Spelman College president… Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional and sometimes even well-meaning. But they communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial messages or assumptions to the receiver. To read more, click here.
Here are actions The Shift Network is taking to advance racial justice and healing, to uplift BIPOC voices, and to support key organizations whose mission is to transform racism.
We hosted 30 speakers in June in the free Transforming Racism Facebook Live Series. Click here to view the names of all 30 Transforming Racism speakers and their presentations. You can watch all 30 sessions here.
You can also watch these 20 archived interviews from our African American Wisdom Summit, and the 23 archived interviews in the Healing Cultural Wounds section of our World Peace Library.
Click here to read our Company Statement regarding George Floyd and incidents of police brutality.
You’ll find more resources and information here and in the “Racial Justice and Healing” section in future issues of Catalyst.
Would you like to join The Shift Network team?
We are seeking three unique and talented individuals for important positions at The Shift Network.
As Director of Social Media Marketing, your primary responsibility will be to develop and execute social media strategies and tactics to align with the company’s overall marketing strategy in attracting, engaging, acquiring, and converting viewers into customers, and customers into viral brand advocates.
While answering support and registration emails and phone calls, the Customer Support Specialist must work skillfully and rapidly, navigating multiple web platforms simultaneously, while remaining gracious, warm, and friendly at all times.
The Program Host provides support and oversight for highly engaging and interactive delivery of online courses and summits offered by The Shift Network in collaboration with faculty partners.
If you're inspired and passionate about joining our team, please click here for more information about these positions. The Shift Network is committed to creating a diverse environment and is an equal-opportunity employer.