Family Work for People of the Global Majority

The following is a report on the People of the Global Majority East Coast North America Family Work Leaders’ Conference, led by Fela Barclift, Teresa Enrico, and Chuck Esser in October 2014. The conference met for a day and a half with allies only, before the families joined.

It’s interesting how family work can bring up different emotions depending upon who is thinking about it. In my conversations and sessions with People of the Global Majority (PoGM), I have found that they often have negative feelings and harbor a number of restimulations about family work. For them, family work often brings up heavy recordings related to servitude, imperialism, colonialism, white privilege, racism, and violence. When PoGM Co-Counselors have not had adequate time to fully distinguish between the recorded feelings and the present moment, and discharge the feelings, and then are faced with the speed, action, and intensity of happenings at a family workshop, it can be easy for them to believe that the recordings are true. This results in many leaders of PoGM avoiding participating in family work at all.

The sweet thing about the PoGM Family Work Leaders’ Conference was that we slowed things down. We took time to discharge and talk with each other about why we were doing this, what we were thinking about, our goals for ourselves, and how we would go about achieving those goals. Also, because we were ninety-nine percent PoGM, there was a limit on how much racism and restimulations from racism we had to negotiate.

Another great thing was discharging and thinking about the effect that racism and internalized racism had had on us, particularly as young ones in our own families. We thought and discharged about

  • how racism and classism had kept our parents from having time with us, showing respect to us, and showing their unconditional love for us
  • how racism, internalized racism, and the legacies of slavery and colonialism had forced our parents to believe in many cases that they had to spank or whip or otherwise harshly punish us in an effort to teach us good manners and keep us from being killed by police
  • how an oppressive society had forced our parents to deny or downplay our abilities, beauty, and other positive attributes for the sake of our survival; it was important that we not be too big, too vain, or too full of ourselves
  • how our families were forced by racism and classism to teach us to expect, and ask for, little or nothing.

These are some of the things we allies had to look at and discharge on together before we could in all honesty offer the opposite of them to the young people who would be coming. We would be offering something, through discharge and decision, that we ourselves had rarely if ever received as young people. We had been rigorously indoctrinated to believe that the harsh ways we were raised were the only correct ways, and we would be offering something very different. After we’d had time to think and discharge, it was as if a light went on, and other possibilities became much more available to us.

We were then able to do some adult-adult special time, in which we could build our “special time muscle” while at the same time having lots of fun. It was quite good to practice adult-adult special time, since it’s typically much more polite and predictable than special time with young people, while still being interesting and a big contradiction to powerlessness. It can be lovely to have someone follow our mind and pay close attention while fully supporting our effort to want something, try something, achieve some goal of our own. That can be quite rare in life. It’s also great practice for following the exploring, adventurous, often fearless minds of most young people. After our adult-adult special time, and much more discharge and discussion, we felt a good deal more prepared to be great allies to the young people and parents who would soon be joining us.

We all sat together for a long allies-only lunch and did one more special thing in preparation for the young ones and their families. We shared stories about our individual connections and relationships with each of the young people and the parents who would be coming. It was reassuring to note that every ally had a close connection with one or more of the young people, and every young person was connected to a minimum of one ally and in some cases several.

By the time the families arrived, we were prepared to welcome them into a warm, loving, and thoughtful community of adults who’d had almost enough discharge to keep up with the young people. To be able to warmly love, respect, and follow the minds of all the delightful young people of color was a wonderful contradiction to the effects of slavery, racism, colonialism, classism, and genocide. And the parents had challenged their own fear, trepidation, and internalized oppression to bring their children, so we could try our best on their behalf.

We did it! We ran, jumped, climbed, sang, talked, played and played, laughed a lot, discharged in other ways, and had lots and lots of fun!

The workshop had to end, of course, but none of the young people or their parents wanted to leave us, which was totally understandable. There are few if any places where they would receive the care, attention, and blast of fun we had offered them from our hearts.

After they left, we allies got together again and discharged and debriefed on what we had worked to accomplish together. Once again we were able to slow things down and reflect, process, and think together. We were able to review our victories and strategize where we noted weaknesses. And we were able to arrive at a proposed date for this special workshop to happen again just two years from now!

Fela Barclift
Brooklyn, New York, USA

 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00