What kind of relationship do you have with the Ancestors?

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Men's Work: "Trauma Re-Illuminated by Gaslight: A Story of Sexual Violation" by Ukumbwa Sauti

Men's work, in part, is about the acceptance and support of intimacy, sensitivity and the strength of vulnerability within masculinity, precisely because patriarchy limits men's emotional expression.  This limitation directly harms men, our physical and mental health, even within the privileges patriarchy affords us.  It also  is part of the violent equations of men's violence against women and our LGBTQIAA2S+ family, friends and community, rape culture, misogynoir (thank you Dr. Moya Bailey)/misogyny and domestic violence.

Within this context, men experience and are harmed by sexual violence, molestation as children and other types of emotional and physical violence. Men, often, project ourselves into women's digital spaces they've created to talk about their stories of sexual violence perpetrated by men, who are statistically committing the lion's share of violence against women, queer folk, children and other men. That said, we have to find our own spaces to tell our stories, to create and sustain healing and find safe and motivated contexts to grow in intimacy, sensitivity and vulnerability. These types of spaces for and men doing this work exist, need to be joined and supported and I hope we can share more about those opportunities for growth.  It is with that intent that I share this personal story, a sharing of the clear and unclear stories of my own sexual trauma, to support other men to share, find support and heal in safe context with other men so that we can bring healing and balance into our families, our communities and our own hearts. 

     - Ukumbwa


CW: sexual violation, sexual content, rape, alcohol abuse, child sexual abuse

[Transferring this writing from my notebook to my laptop was harder than I thought it would be.  I had to listen to music kinda loud to get through it, partly listening to “Life Is A Highway” by Rascal Flats….yeah, I know, I’m a sixty year old African living in America and knows what side of the cultural bread the butter is on….but yeah, that song.  And that tick tick tick tick hi-hat cymbal pulse sorta saved me from jumping off a not so high building to get this out. It kept me sane, simple as it was, as it is, simple being the key, just a grounding pulse like the clocks they say to put in with a new puppy trying to go to sleep to remind it of it’s now distanced mother and safety.  I sat for a while bouncing up and down with that damn hi-hat like the drummer was soothing me like a five year old on a safe and loving adult’s lap.  

I’ve learned that there is no real rhyme or reason to what survivors need or want to get them through a day or a night or a court date or a day of work or an emotional trigger.  I felt like I wanted to call a friend and tell them that I wanted booze, not a lot of it, but that I wanted some…and I had some available…at that moment, halfway done with this…and I didn’t call any of them (yet).  And even though I could see their eyes in my mind, I know they would have wanted me to call them.  I know that (I can see you right now).  I know that. But I didn’t.  That’s a thing I need to deal with, as a man, as a person with my own particular, but possibly not unfamiliar history.  Masculinity, being conditioned by patriarchy, and whether men reach out for help or not just might be connected.]

image by Stockvault

It had been a hard limit, something that one never wants to experience. I had said it clearly.  I knew I had from the very beginning of our six months or so together.

I know I had said it because I didn’t want it to happen again.

One particular time it was done to me was about fifteen years before the direct violation that I experienced about six years ago. I had gone to visit a woman I had talked with for a while online.  We wanted to explore some sensual and sexual things together. I was comfortable with and trusted her.  She was comfortable with and trusted me. At one point in our visit we were together on her bed, she engaging me in sensual exploration.  She asked if she could perform fellatio on me.  I said yes.

When I look back at that moment, I remember saying “yes” as if for a strange, new flavor of ice cream.  I had never asked a partner for fellatio in my life.  Though I grew up in a world of conditioned (roamin catholic) sexual naïveté, I knew that “every cis hetero man loves “fellatio””.  So, when she asked, I said yes, unaware that there was a reason I had never asked for it.

When I look back at that moment, I realized that I dissociated.  I left my body as my partner wrapped her lips around my penis and began to stimulate me and, I suppose, herself.  I wasn’t sure as I think about it.  For a while then, as she fellated me, I wasn’t there.

It took me a number of years to realize that dissociation was what occurred that night.  I remember feeling empty or not feeling empty or not feeling.  I remember lying there.  I don’t remember words.  I was pretty sure I hadn’t said any during those moments.  I knew I had plenty of words  before…and then after.  It seemed, as I remember, that we continued on our evening in an adequate if not beautifully sexy way.  We hadn’t shared vagina around penis sex.  I’ve known for a long time that sex can be many times more than that.

Fifteen years later, there I was naked on the couch with my partner, who I’ll call Ellen, those six or so years ago, all abuzz with sexual energy and exploration.  This wasn’t our first sensual, sexual experience, nor was it the last, as far as I know, but for the record, because of that, we had talked about what was space for engagement and what was a hard limit, a line that we didn’t want crossed, an experience or activity for which we would not give consent to and said as much.

I told her. I know I told her.

But there we were on the couch. I remember enjoying our connection,  And I remember her moving her mouth to my penis, fellating me.  I remember being silent.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t form words .  I couldn’t move. I was dissociating.  I was dissociated.  

I laboriously raised my hand or hands to her head in the only way I could in the moment to try to make her stop. My hand had no force that would grab her head and push it away or do anything to make her stop.  My voice wasn’t working.  My hand were only able to drop on her head in my lap. The resistance, the flight, the fight, the moment of necessary and heroic self-advocacy and sexual agency never came.

I struggle(d) with being able to call it rape, as any survivors of sexual assault often do, depending on the nature and conditions of their assault and how deep that assault dragged them into trauma.  Some survivors go years, decades without naming what was done to them as rape or even a crime that could be adjudicated or even something that should never have happened to them, something that they didn’t deserve, something that has been anti-culturally normalized, but should never be accepted as normal.

I struggled with it.  Hard.

It wasn’t until after that relationship fell apart like a predictable house of cards, looking back at it.  I had actually broken an agreement with Ellen, a technicality, but one I had agreed to and that, in itself, is never ok. I was never a perfect partner with her or some others and I own that and their ramifications. And I wouldn’t have known how to get out of that relationship with Ellen, who had violated me if it hadn’t been for having broken that agreement she had asked for and I consented to. I don’t say that to absolve myself from that particular or more general behavior, but to say that it was pivotal in my getting beyond what was a relationship I shouldn’t have been in.

The weight and depth of Ellen’s violation of my body and consent didn’t surface until three months or so after we had broken apart.  I heard that the mind, the heart, often waits for safer spaces to face the reality of traumatic events. 

Well, it surfaced.  Hard.

For what was about three or more months after my mind and body met to calculate the hurt of what Ellen had done, I, as I now always say, “couldn’t get enough alcohol into my body” to make the pain subside, to make the reinstigated earlier life trauma connections go away.  When I mention it to particular friends, their eyes widen a bit, as to say “tell me something I didn’t know” or “duh, you were swimming in it”.  I think it was the time I started telling people that my therapist was named Jack Daniels. I’ve stopped repeating that inelegant statement for a bit now.  That said, I had even gone to a therapist through the Employee Assistance Program at a prestigious Boston University I was teaching at at the time.  The therapist proved inadequate and even harmful, seemingly in hindsight set aback, afraid of what may have been brutal introspective honesty and vulnerability, some details of which she was unable to hold or navigate.

And I might have been tipsy the one time I saw her.  There’s an instructive

 Cliche metaphor in here for how patriarchy blames mostly women, femme presenting and queer survivors, targets of rape and sexual assault when and after they have ingested alcohol adjacent to sexualized violence. (#MenTakeNotice)

When Ellen violated my boundaries, assaulted me, raped me, I was in a daze for a while in the time that followed that day, unable to fully articulate what had happened to me, inside of me.  I know, though, that on that day, at some point, I was able to say that what she had done didn’t feel good, that it wasn’t what I wanted, wasn’t what we had ever agreed to do, was wrong.  She got angry, visibly, verbally, telling me that my hands on her head was a signal, as is commonly reported, as my desire for her to keep going. It, of course, was not.  I had told her I never wanted that done to me.  And she had done it…on the couch “that her son sat on”, as people do in houses, as I would often say as I tried to acquire perspective, to understand, to make sense, healing and empowerment out of what had occurred, what she had done to me that day.

It was pretty clear that even before and during that period I so desperately wanted to just turn my emotional lights out, I had experienced some sort of sexual trauma in my earlier life, that something had happened, something bad had happened.

I was not only naive in my youth, but I was agreeable, having learned well to seek and attempt to make peace with and beyond a family dynamic that was regularly enough rife with some level of conflict. I would have been a prime candidate for one of the international legions of children sexually abused, historically and presently by violent, criminal christian priests (or nuns).

I had been an altar boy, later a Knight of the Altar in my t(w)eens (a roamin catholic youth group akin to boy scouts for altar servers). I was available, sometimes or one time (and this is a photographic memory I have of this) left by my parent(s) with one of the male church congregation. I remember crying, maybe at five or six, that my father was leaving me with a man that seemed a stranger or at least undesirable to me, for whether five minutes or one hundred and thirty seven, I don’t recollect, but I remember sobbing heavily. I was available. Sometimes, I hung around after mass as an altar boy to straighten up, staying after school to pray (seriously) at the Mary statue behind the church (yeah, I was all up in that) or participating later in just about every church organization as their youth representative (ok, I just said I was all up in it).  I did get my thigh squeezed under the table by an adult woman during one of the church council meetings.

Any priest, a lot of church adults or odd and sundry others had access to me. This was in the sixty’s in a small New Jersey town, when and where people let their younger children walk to school and other places by themselves.  We know those nostalgic reminiscences may have signified, but did not guarantee safety in those travel independences. I would have followed the friendly stranger man to his windowless van to see his puppy.

That said, I still don’t know.  I have no picture in my mind (save one that came through during an energy healing of a man reaching his body across my body, my groin.  It felt like it was evidence). I don’t have any corroborating priest, brothers, nuns or monks to say I acted differently after I had met with Father or Mister Anywho. I had no tape recordings or security camera footage that could help me flesh out a story that not only made pain, but sense.  I just knew later I had watched “Spotlight” three times in the theaters and about ten or more times when it got to Netflix. It was as if I needed to see it, again and again, that it, upon the next viewing, might reveal some new informational detail or pathway or my name as a defendant.

I knew I had a strong memory of a person close to my family* stroking my cheek as I seemingly woke up once in my bed (I was in my early teens), acting as if asleep like I had been letting them finish something while I acted like I wasn’t in there, in my body. I didn’t  have any other memory, image, any information, of anything beyond that moment, though one of the last times I talked to that person on the phone, something triggered and, soon after, I was not only drunk, but just about paralyzedly so, later finding myself almost passed out cold outside on the stone steps next to the pond that is a block away from my residence under a particularly freezing winter moon. I was not ok or safe that night.

And I knew I had behaviors and patterns that some trusted friends track with people having abuse or trauma pasts.  And they would know.  Too many of them know.  Too many.

But I couldn’t, can’t complete the stories or any story that tied me so horrendously from my past to that moment naked on the couch unable to speak or effectively name itself or able to angry away Ellen’s actions so I could come back into my body and willful agency or even instinct.

But there was and is a story somewhere waiting for me to find it or for it to find me.  Clear or obscured, the story is there in the shadows when Ellen violated my stated boundaries, then gaslit me in the trauma and dull absent pain of that moment, that ten minutes, that hour, that day and never took responsibility for what she had done (not in that moment, not ever). I remember her angry, frustrated face looking back at me as she left the room, me trying to make impossible sense of why I felt like I was walking away from my own drowning death or watching myself walking away from my own drowning death. How long does dissociation last?

For months into years, I shared digital and embodied social spaces with Ellen.  Even seeing her name on screen at the time could plunge me back into a dull pain darkness and a quick dunk in three fast beers or a visit with my liquid therapist, Mr. Daniels.  It took a while for that edge, just seeing her name, to be softened, dulled, differently weaponized or painful. It was a long time before that moment in public space when I could pass by her, without engagement, and feel like emotional safety was still something in that moment that belonged to me.

This writing is important.  All survivors’ stories are important.  Sometimes it takes a long time to realize when you are one, a survivor, and that you’ve survived multiple painful moments, some, yes, without a clear story.  I’m not sure if it’s any harder as having a full awareness of the story.

For years, my body has been telling the story, telling a story, telling multiple stories to me. My body has gone through many experiences around these traumatic moments.  A Dagara ritual experience sent me into a deep connection with some important detail that put a confirming name to that person my memory recalled stroking my “sleeping” face that time so long ago. My body, wise and often unfamiliar, tells the story. My mind wants, needs detail, clarity and resolution and a clearer path to healing.

All this, that was awakened that day on the couch with Ellen, years of bodily, emotional and informational struggle came crashing quietly through me, into me, against me when she crossed that boundary, broached the limits I had previously asked her not to. I know I said it.  I know I was clear.  And I know she didn’t care.  I know she wasn’t taking any accountability (nor would she ever). I knew I felt painfully alone in those moments.  Later I would find out more (though I had known for some time before, in a much different way), about how, horrendously, I wasn’t alone.

© 2021 Ukumbwa Sauti, M.Ed.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Where Are the Voices of Men: Men's Silence is Men's Violence

Men.  Where are our voices?  Where are we speaking out?  Where are we standing up? 

Women and the LGBTQ community have been observing our fatal silence for quite some time now.  They have told us gently, quietly, angrily and powerfully. When the metoo movement occurred (thank you, Tarana Burke), we chimed in with our tepid support, our questions, our veiled guilt, our stories of trauma, our resistance, our fragility. When the main, deep-heart tsunami wave of metoo settled, we seemed to go back into the shadows, hiding, not even needing to run away as we were already used to being present, but inert in our privilege while still being caustic in our misogyny lukewarm to freezing cold in our activism against rape (anti-)culture, heterosexism, entitlement and patriarchal violence.

Don’t get me wrong.  I see men working at this.  Boston locals Martin Henson of B Men and Jonathan Barry are organizing a workshop series in early 2020 to engage men in our causing of harm in our communities.  This work will be powerful, is necessary and must be joined.  I know of numerous men’s organizations that are dealing with intimacy, power, oppression and emotional maturity in the New England reason.  The work behind two Men’s Gatherings have brought them together to get to know each other as individuals and organizations and to support the work of men toward becoming better men. This work needs to be joined.

That said, so much more needs to be done.  So much more needs to be learned.  So much more needs to be heard.  So much more needs to be said.  And I am concerned for the dearth, the violent silence of men’s voices speaking up on behalf of women and LGBTQ lives and security.  I am concerned for the silence of men around our needs to grow, to deepen to broaden, to become stronger in our vulnerability and insight on our thinking, behaviors and energies.

How many African and indigenous women, other Women of Color have to disappear, be kidnapped, be trafficked, be killed before European/white men speak out and step up on their behalf?  How many children need to be groomed and sexually engaged online, predated upon in real time and space by adult men before we as men speak out and step up on their behalf?  How many women and girls and other need to be raped and assaulted before men speak out and step up on their behalf?  How many more wives and LGBTQ partners have to be the survivors (or not) of men’s domestic violence?  How many women who simply say no to men wanted to dance or meet or have sex with them have to be assaulted or killed….yes, killed for saying no?

Reportedly, 5 million women in India recently formed a human chain 385 miles long to protest patriarchal men’s violence in that country. Where was the line of five million men behind them?

Written by Ukumbwa Sauti, M.Ed. facilitator and presenter for Men's Work, an initiative of the World Ancestor Concert Team.

Ukumbwa Sauti, a producer of the World Ancestor Concert, program developer, workshop facilitator and educator, can be reached at mojamediaworks [at] gmail [dot] com or at his personal email, ukumbwa [at] gmail [dot] com. Mention Where Are the Voices of Men in the subject line.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Tonight's Men's Work Open Discussion Experience

I went in to this evening off of a call with four great men with whom I'd co-created a men's gathering of about 35 men mostly all of whom were in or organizing men's groups. I was only able to stay on the call for ten minutes as I had an event to prep for tonight and my printer needed maintenance, I had gotten busy with some daily work and I had woken up super-fatigued and depleted. I hadn't eaten all day, riding on one cup of coffee.

The call left me warm, emotional and rushed as I felt pressed to get necessary things done for the Men's Work discussion event. My partners on the call made sure they shared their appreciations of me after I gave brief (rushed and incomplete, though heartfelt) impressions of our gathering of men the previous weekend. I was grateful for my short call attendance and broken open emotionally as I really needed personal support in that moment. Deeply grateful.

As I left the house to catch my approaching bus, I committed to getting another cup of coffee before getting to the Democracy Center, a modern, fleeting nod to self care. Luckily the bus moved swiftly against rush hour directional flows, so I also had time to stop and get those chocolate kisses candies, which I choose for Men's Work because I think it's clever that I give kisses to men seeking to address patriarchy inside and outside of themselves (I tell them that during sessions).

But I actually got there early and set up the space impeccably with directional signs, warm lighting and ample varied seating options, all my materials set up including some recently scored swag from The Network La Red, an organization supporting assault survivors in the LGBTQ community and beyond. I set up this series of Open Discussions to invite people into communal engagement around issues and experiences with patriarchy, misogynoir/misogyny, rape culture and related issues. No confirmation or RSVP required.

The first attendee came in. He had emailed me previously to confirm the event and had met me at another feminist-oriented discussion series I help organize. We greeted and settled into principled conversation amidst discussion of the projected time of the event and other things. It was about 6:55pm and the discussion was scheduled for 7pm. He asked if he got the time wring. I assured him he hadn't.

For the next hour and a half we shared experiences and critique of the system of patriarchy and the culture we lived inside of, international cultural differences, media portrayals, personal feelings, ideas about the struggle against patriarchy in general and specific, the nature, positive and negative, of social media on that struggle, how social media relates to on the ground behavior amongst a number of other key things that seemed so profound and important.

It was exactly the kind of sharing and discussion I intend into these spaces. We shared how important it was to have people talk and relate and learn in person as the space where real advancements occur. He shared his cynicism along with my pragmatic idealism with regard to the effectiveness of online engagement. And the dynamics of in-person sharing from our minds and hearts were clear, powerfully, to both of us. I shared my desire that that discussion we created could have been shared with ten or fifteen other people, the diverse gathering of liberators I fantasize about all so often for this world.

I was so grateful, am so grateful for his generosity, humanity, intelligence, conviction and time spent, shared with me for all the above reasons, what feel like very good reasons. I project and intend for the spaces I create to be full of authentic, caring, justice and compassion-motivated humanity, many of these spaces populated by men willing to go there, too, regardless of numbers, though I also intend greater numbers within these spaces.

There are issues of language, communication, timing, energy that I seek to become wiser, more "skillful" in. I seek to be better in my invitations to people who are like me and who aren't, in whatever way that expresses itself. I seek to guide people to the power of communal sharing and commitment to change to a world healed by loving, principled intent and hard work.

And I wish many others to be a part of conversations like I was gifted with tonight.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Men's Work: Up from Digital Silence

Silence is violence. Saying nothing, doing nothing, staying neutral in the face and as the face of patriarchy, as men only helps patriarchy and men's violence against women and the LGBTQ community stay sustained and empowered. This systemic, widespread oppression must be interrupted, challenged and dismantled if we truly care for women and humanity at large. We men have to begin to expand our awareness, speak up, change our behaviors and do better to be better men.

These social media ideas are simple, normal and relatively easy, but they are simple, easy things that men seem very reluctant or afraid to do that would signal progressive support, share good information and perspectives and help create a more aware and just society through more activated, aware and supportive men.

Follow 7 Ways Up from Digital Silence

Here are seven ways men can begin or continue the process of learning more about, engaging and challenging men's sexist, permissive and violent behavior and dismantling patriarchal systems:

1) Click "like", "love" or otherwise support posts, tweets, blog entries, articles that are supportive of women, the LGBTQ community and Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) folk. Be careful of posts or comments by men that mention women, but center or focus upon men's feelings or narrow interests. Sometimes what at first "feels right" and comfortable, may not be right. Challenging patriarchy, misogynoir/misogyny, rape culture and men's violence against women should often leave men uncomfortable as we embrace new, progressive and challenging ideas and behaviors in a changing world.

2) Share/retweet posts, articles that are being supported or shared by women, LGBTQ people or men who are generally and demonstrably affirmed by women and queer folk to be reliable advocates or allies. This is often referred to as amplifying women's and other marginalized voices. It always helps to pull out a short or salient quote to add to the repost to interest others. If you feel comfortable enough, put in a sentence or two in your own words why you think other men should read and respond to the post. Personalizing a post with your perspective can help other men to feel more comfortable with approaching challenging information. After all, we are here also to help other men be better men. This is not just about interpersonal behaviors and relationships, but also social, communal and political patterns of behavior.

3) Tag a friend or friends that you know would benefit from reading the post or seeing the video. Let him/them know you thought he'd/they'd be interested and invite them to talk about it in a direct or private message or chat space or there on the post if possible. Even sharing a few words or a feeling or resonant idea from the post can go a long way to building better skills around supporting women and the healing of men. The more each of us shares online, the more of us beyond ourselves will learn and grow and possibly become part of the solution.

4) When in doubt, pause, listen, read/view again and come back to the post to be sure of what you are attempting to support. Know that you will make mistakes in any process of learning. And know that an introspective and compassionately curious delay in responding, engaging, commenting or reposting is better than a disinterested, privileged, permissive and disrespectful momentum of silence.

5) After looking at posts, articles or videos that mention popular, reliable or helpful books, authors, writers or documentaries, simply post a link to that book's, author's or documentary's official website. Adding an invitation to men in your circle to read, view, support or purchase the resource, again, helps other men stay open to new information that challenges male oppression of women and the LGBTQIA community. Keep it simple and consider letting people know your feelings and why it's important that they engage what you are sharing with them.

6) Use hashtags (e.g., #NowIsTheTime) to increase the reach of good, informative posts, articles and videos and provide other people pathways to new, more diverse information and resources. Find relevant, trending hashtags and/or the ones used on the original post. The World Ancestor Concert Team uses a few newer hashtags in its Men's Work initiative. The Team urges you to use #MensWork on posts that inform on general history and current realities of patriarchy, misogynoir/misogyny, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia and help clarify information that assists men in changing negative and oppressive behaviors and to challenge systemic oppression of women and the LGBTQIA community. Use #MenTakeNotice to bring focus or simple, basic attention to urgent social action, warnings and updates from marginalized populations with awareness-raising posts, videos or other media. Posts, resources and educational opportunities from rape crisis and domestic violence support centers are appropriate for this hashtag. #MenHealingMen is used to tag posts that highlight how men are positively engaging each other personally and socially, programmatically and/or professionally in informal or formal ways. Workshops like those offered by moja mediaworks, activists and educators like Tony Porter or Jackson Katz or other men's, local, regional or national organizations are good resources to tag. Be free to use these and other helpful hashtags, especially more than one relevant tags to help others find good information more easily. We urge people to use #MensWork as a great general hashtag for any of these kinds of posts. Keep in mind the recent, yet historic power of the metoo hashtag/movement created by Tarana Burke.

7) Identify and study new vocabulary, terms and Ideas that come up in your social media network from women, LGBTQ folk and trusted, reliable media sources. Start a note in a note keeping app or a document on your cellphone or tablet and create a learning list. Commit to learning new vocabulary or a term every 1-3 days. You can also refer to the vocabulary list provided by moja mediaworks at the following URL, bottom of the page: http://www.worldancestorconcert.com/resources-antisexism-dismantlepatriarchy

Keep in mind and heart that though these steps may be rudimentary or simple, they can be important directly and in a larger process of learning, supporting women and other populations targeted by men's violence, rape culture, harassment, sexualized assault and patriarchy in general. Women's and other peoples lives are in real danger every day because of sexism, heterosexism, transphobia and other forms of oppression. Being observant, humble, patient and listening to women's, LGBTQ and other marginalized voices and believing them, trusting them will help us understand what's really at stake on the other side of male privilege, oppression and violence.

Many people oppressed by men's words, coercion, behavior and male-controlled organizations, corporations and social systems have expressed serious and principled concerns, frustrations and righteous anger at men's silence, lack of engagement and support, our seeming unwillingness to learn, grow and support positive social change and justice. The more we look and listen, the easier it is to understand how they come to these conclusions about us. Changing even our online behaviors, especially in this digital age, may yet be an important or necessary catalyst and motivator for changing our real, embodied and on-going behaviors and challenging systems and structures of oppression (social, educational, financial/economic, medical, religious, legal/judicial, governmental, ...). 

For more information about Men's Work, visit http://www.worldancestorconcert.com/menswork.

See also our Workshops and Workshop Resources page links. Be free also to join, learn and connect in our Men's Work Facebook group linked to our World Ancestor Concert Facebook page.

Ukumbwa Sauti, a producer of the World Ancestor Concert, program developer, workshop facilitator and educator, can be reached at mojamediaworks [at] gmail [dot] com or at his personal email, ukumbwa [at] gmail [dot] com. Mention Men's Work or Up From Digital Silence in the subject line.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dismantling Racism for Non-PoC/Non-Indigenous People


  1. Know that feeling helpless as a person of privilege is a privilege.  Sharing that with People of Color and indigenous people does nothing to help the situation and is extremely frustrating to PoC/indigenous people who have no choice but to deal with racism and colonialism all day, every day no matter how they feel about it.  How you feel about racism and colonialism is not more important or more primary than the lived experiences of people who are targeted constantly by racism and colonialism.
  2. Study readily accepted definitions of racism and colonialism as used by People of Color and indigenous people
  3. Know the difference between racism and prejudice.  Don't confuse the two.
  4. Understand what European/white supremacy and privilege is, how it affects you and how your private and public behaviors reflect those pathologies
  5. Don't center your own stories and feelings in conversations about racism and intersectional oppressions.  Learn to be quiet and make space for marginalized voices.  If you cannot do that, you are adding insult and often more injury to already present and historical injury.
  6. Call other European/white people out/in when you hear them speaking in racist/colonial ways. Educate those closest to you. Share helpful posts and information/writing in your social media networks by People of Color and indigenous people.
  7. Don't participate in "tone policing", telling People of Color and indigenous people how they should feel or to stop being angry when you are in conversation or discussion, in their digital or real life spaces.  How people share about their experiences of you or the systems of racism and colonialism is important information for you, no matter how you are feeling in the moment about it.  Learn from their human experience and be humble in conversation and action.
  8. Acknowledge and deal with your discomfort around talking openly about racism, white privilege and oppression.  Do your inner and external community work.  It isn't about you, but you are responsible for dismantling racism and oppressive social and political systems and structures because humanity and justice are important to you.

  9. Know that you don't have all the answers and the people who are suffering from being targeted by racism and colonialism are the experts on how to dismantle it and what needs to be done.
  10. Send financial and in-kind donation support to organizations and people in the indigenous and People of Color communities and spaces.  It is important to repurpose the funds and access that you have reaped due to historical privilege and oppression of marginalized communities and populations.  Reparations is also an expression of this level of justice work.
  11. Support protest and direct action by financial, material and technical support if neededShow up if you are welcome and be respectful and informed in your presence.  Embodied protest and resistance, whether they lead to arrests or not, are serious and often put People of Color and indigenous peoples at physical, social and economic risk.  Be prepared to stand behind or side by side (or in front if asked) with indigenous peoples and People of Color in these spaces.  Make sure that your actions and messaging is in keeping with the leadership of the action and those communities.  Do not go to other communities' protests and actions for the selfie opportunities.  If that is your motivation, you are better off staying home and continuing to study what is daily and historically at stake for indigenous peoples and People of Color.
  12. Constantly learn about the systemic nature of racism, intersectional oppression and colonialism.  Become clearly informed on how and where racism and oppression show up in the social, economic and political structures of your local, state and federal governments and around the world.  Know that the dominant (anti-)culture resists learning about how to identify these systems and patterns and there are people who will directly and incorrectly criticize you for seeking clarity. 
  13. Do an informal and/or formal cultural assessment of your place of work/school/ organization to define
    1. if there is a diversity policy/statement/program
    2. if the diversity policy is being funded, supported
    3. if the diversity policy is being implemented
    4. what the goals are for this program, are they adequate and are they being substantively influenced, controlled by indigenous people or People of Color
    5. who or what department is responsible for seeing the diversity program implemented
    6. if People of Color, indigenous people, women are being paid equally for equal levels and responsibilities of work
    7. what the patterns of work are across the organization.  Are more PoC, indigenous people and women contract, part-time, temporary as opposed to salaried or tenured?  Are there more in custodial services than in management?  What are the demographics of the board or administration?  Are marginalized peoples in token or window-dressing roles?
    8. if People of Color, indigenous people, women are holding similar levels of control and responsibility as their European/white counterparts
    9. what the hiring and firing practices/history has been around marginalized populations
    10. what the effects of racism within the organization has been within the organization and how it is best to move forward to hold the organization accountable for systemic change/transformation. How will you share this information with the PoC there?  Have they done this work already?  When and how do the PoC need to move forward to hold the organization to their policies or to better, yet unwritten policies/demands?  What strategies and tactics will be used for change?  Will you need support of unions/departments/particular people or the external community?  Be honest and open about whether you are willing to jeopardize your job/position in the interest of justice and anti-oppression.  Keep in mind that many more PoC, indigenous people and women have paid a higher price for longer than you may be considering.
  14. Raise the issues of race and oppression at work/school/social organizations.  Open the conversations and create allies and learning processes in the interest of making substantive change in your organization.  Get answers that help chart paths of change and transformation. Persist in that work.  It is part of the justice process.
  15. Join or organize groups of your peers and others to meet regularly to educate yourselves and others and mobilize people for actions to support Communities of Color and indigenous people.
  16. Bring groups of informed and motivated activists to demand answers and accountability at police stations, courthouses, city halls/statehouses, housing authorities, etc,... when government officials/police are complicit and guilty of racist and oppressive activity or messaging/policy.  Seek out and confirm leadership of indigenous people and People of Color when you begin organizing or mobilizing actions.  Make sure those organizers/speakers are informed early in the process.  Be willing to accept their leadership and direction if they so choose to give it.
  17. Bring groups of informed and motivated activists to demand answers and accountability at insurance companies, banks, businesses, transportation companies, retail outlets, restaurants, etc,… when employees, staff and/or management are complicit and guilty of racist and oppressive activity or messaging. Seek out and confirm leadership of indigenous people and People of Color when you begin organizing or mobilizing actions.  Make sure those organizers/speakers are informed early in the process.  Be willing to accept their leadership and direction if they so choose to give it.
  18. Occupy places of racist activity and resist the presence of racist and oppressive organizations or groups of people everywhere, whether they are a school, group of neighbors, suit-wearing business people or members of a country club. Demand change with the presence of your body.
  19. Call your government/civil servants to support anti-racist and anti-oppression legislation and policyHold them accountable with your emails, letters petitions, phone calls, texts and physical presence when they step out of line with what PoC and indigenous peoples need.  Know that due to European/white/class privilege, your direct interests may not be reflected in that work.  Those sacrifices are often necessary to create greater justice for everyone.  If you are not ready to make sacrifices, you should possibly continue to educate yourself on the nature of racism and oppression and what it means in the daily and historical lives of oppressed populations.
  20. Hold local and national TV/radio/media stations and outlets accountable when they disseminate racist and oppressive or appropriative media.  Agitate and protest for stories and narratives, images of PoC/indigenous peoples made by PoC/indigenous people.  This could mean resisting colonial narratives in westerns, "classic" films, boycotting theaters that show racist movies, organizing call-in campaigns against racist DJs/radio personalities, un-joining journalism or other websites that hire racist writers.
  21. Boycott all racist companies and corporations, even when it is not convenient for you.  There is a cost to creating cultures of justice. Avoiding your inconvenience is not worth the on-going oppression of even one person.  Clearly, too many people are affected by the continuity of many corporations and businesses and they must be put in check and change their practices as soon as possible. Support and buy from PoC/indigenous owned/controlled companies and businesses.
  22. Study and learn about environmental racism.  Dismantle the privileges that you are afforded by certain public "services" like incinerators, landfills or waste dumps being located in or near Communities of Color/indigenous people.  Understand that environmental groups and non-profits can be just as racist as any profit-hungry corporation.  How much you like a particular organization may have nothing or everything to do with how it supports and facilitates structures and practice of racism and oppression.
  23. Consider the inevitability sweeping future changes in national and regional governance, economics and land and resource allocation when you manifest the correct political and cultural changes into anti-racism and decolonization.  be willing to step up powerfully into that process of positive change.
  24. Learn empathy and compassion beyond your own narrow, limited and particular needs and those of privileged populations that benefit from the oppression of others.

We do not suggest that these are the only things or all the best things to be done in the interest of dismantling racism and colonialism, but that this is our offering to the work already going on all over the world, our offering to motivate and activate new workers for justice across the Global Village and create support for those who have made such serious and effective steps in this interest to date. 

We thank all those that came before us that showed us the way to reawaken us to what it means to live in a world of justice, balance, validation and peace.

#Ancestors  #womenwaterpeace #nowisthetime  #thetimeisnow

© 2017 Ukumbwa Sauti, M.Ed., moja mediaworks llc

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"Black Panther" - Because Just Short of Vibranium, Africa Just About Had All The Rest of That Covered

Long-awaited Marvel Studios film, "Black Panther", comes out of the gate (equine metaphor, spiritual portal or otherwise) on February 16th in the USAmerica.  In a world where Africa and Africans have fought colonialism, racism, misogynoir, economic exploitation and cultural genocide, relevant, supportive and inspirational cultural media representation can take on mythic dynamics. Especially when something like "Black Panther" comes along in an age of powerful cinematic, visual, sound and effects ascendancy, the possibilities for even small, but profound shifts and awakenings become very, very real. 

Though the storyline is fictitious, its scaffolding follows many historical and political benchmarks of the African experience.  The World Ancestor Concert Team wanted to present a few resources to help people ground themselves in that historical context, to look more deeply at the Ancestral gifts that are rich and ubiquitous in Africa, far beyond the abyss of predominant negativity and devastation that the mainstream and colonial media would have you, African or not, believe and respond to.

Black Panther, womenwaterpeace, African women, womanism
image from imdb.com

The first resource, an article by The Root, is an extremely helpful and timely look at the connection of what looks like it will be an amazing film to the realities of African history.  We at WAC and moja mediaworks invite you to look more deeply into the historical beauty and genius that is Africa, along with its struggles.  We look forward to conversations with you about this film and Africa, the gifts of the Ancestors and more.

  1. Black Panther: An Allegory of the World Wanting Blackness but Not Black People, Carolyn Hinds, The Root 
    "But like the Portuguese, Ross and Klaue will learn that black people—particularly black women—will fight tooth and nail to protect what’s theirs. In Wakanda, there is a resisting force of warriors known as the Dora Milaje, and like Queen Nzinga of Ndongo (now known as Angola) and the legendary female Dahomean army, the Dora Milaje, led by their general, Okoye, and aided by Shuri’s technology, will do what they must to protect their king and kingdom against all invaders because they have no other choice."
  2. "Introduction to African Civilizations", John G. Jackson
  3. "The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality" - Cheikh Anta Diop
  4. "Let The Circle Be Unbroken: The Implications of African Spirituality in the Diaspora" - Marimba Ani
  5. "Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.", Chancellor Williams
  6. "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" - Walter Rodney
    "This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Every now and then in history a scholarly enterprise emerges that breaks new ground and provokes an impact that exceeds the confines of narrow academia. Walter Rodney’s seminal work in combination with his other projects performed precisely this function for Africa and beyond. Its publication and reception exemplified the strains and fissures in the scholarship focused on the continent at the time. It would go on to become one of the most influential books in the ‘Third World’.

    When it emerged in 1972 the book was hailed in Dar-es-Salaam as ‘probably the greatest book event in Africa since Frantz Fanon’. Wole Soyinka, the African novelist went further. He suggested that Rodney was one of the first ‘solidly ideologically situated intellectuals ever to look colonialism and exploitation in the eye and where necessary, spit in it’." - Forty Years of 'How Europe Underdeveloped Africa' - Pambazuka News, 2012, Nigel Westmaas
  7.  Dr. John Henrik Clarke - Africa: Empires of Ghana & Mali - YouTube

Please take some time to look into any or all of the above resources on African history and culture.  Any and all of these will enrich your experience of "Black Panther" whether you get to them before you see it or soon (!) after. We look forward to hearing from you around these important issues of culture, tradition and, of course, the Ancestors.

Enjoy the film!

#culture #tradition #Africa #Ancestors #worldancestorconcert #womenwaterpeace