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Movement is the Medicine and Dance is the Healing – Critical Reframing for Black Mental Health

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By Daktari Shari Renée Hicks, Psy.D.

It is seldom directly recognized that rhythmic harmonious movement is the natural state of being. Evidence of this fact is demonstrated at birth. While the outcome is filled with joy and fulfillment, “birthing” is a moment of stress, strain, difficulty and imbalance. To address this condition, it has become common practice to place the newly born infant directly onto the mother’s chest. In so doing, a rhythmic harmonious movement connects heart-to-heart and breath-to-breath. In fact, rhythmic balance is an indicator of wellbeing. The mother-child movement is the first divine dance.

In recognizing the significance of movement (dance) and sound (drumming), several members of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) have identified dance and drumming as a critical healing framework for African American wellness. Dance is a conceptual natural language with intrinsic and extrinsic meanings, a system of physical movements, and interrelated rules guiding performance in social, religious, and healing situations. Curative properties of African dance include cathartic release, connectivity, wholeness, communion, empathy, tranquility, problem-resolution, sublimation, bliss, altered states of consciousness, emotional expression, and enhanced sense of self/community. Dance may be utilized as a more effectual mode of communication than talk therapy.

The healing capacity of dance should in fact be un-coded for application in the therapeutic relationship. Dance does arouse and invoke multi-layered and multi-dimensional healing at the spiritual, psychological, emotional, behavioral, and physiological levels. As a member of the Bay Area Chapter of ABPsi, a lifetime dancer, founder and artistic director of the Daktari Dance Medicine Collective, and as a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, I recognize the link between healing and dance. African dance has served as a form of medicine for Africans and their descendants for thousands of years and has created optimal conditions for healing by integrating the mind, body, and spirit. Through the medium of expressivity, African dance allows for transition, transcendence, transformation, and integration. Dance does and can play an essential role in reviving and treating symptoms of psychological distress.

The geometry of dance can actually translate movement into specific formulas that direct life’s energy to address specific tasks, i.e., love, war, healing, etc. For instance, Afro-Haitian dances and rhythms calling to Papa Legba activates the opening of the gate between the living and the mysteries found in the invisible realm. The BaKongo Nganga, Ya Fu-Kiau taught that as spirit beings, we vibrate and radiate (move) in seven directions as we traverse the four moments of the sun (cf. Fu-Kiau, 2003). The seven directions (upward, downward, rightward, leftward, backward, frontward, and inward) are coordinated and synchronized as a harmonious rhythmic impulse in dance. Each of the seven directions of the BaKongo has meaning and intention inscribed in dance movements.

In discussing the seven directions, Dr. Nobles (2017) has elaborated on Fu-Kiau’s teaching by noting that each of the seven directions or movements activate or has the intentionality to activate particular energies. For instance, “leftward” motions or direction activates the contact with or intention to continue to become and counter the negative (enemies). The “rightward” motions or direction activates the contact with or intention to belong as family, and love. The “upward” motions or direction activates the contact with or intention to go beyond and have access to the cosmic sea, dreams and creativity. The “downward” motions or direction activates the contact with or intention to be and see what energy is found in the earth (futu). The “forward” motions or direction activates the contact with or intention to behold and prepare our future for our children. The “backward” motions or direction activates the contact with or intention to begin by discovering our collectively accumulated wealth by uncovering our past and ancestral veneration as grounding for new beginnings. Finally, the “inward” motions or direction activates the contact with or intention of being and self-healing.

As I have in other venues, I will be sharing the connection of dance to mental health at the ABPsi’s 50th Annual International Convention (Go to http://www.abpsi.org/convention/index.html) June 27th-July 1st, 2018, at The Marriott Oakland City Center, in Oakland, California. This will be a further opportunity to share the healing power of movement (dance) and sound (drumming). Please join the ABPsi gathering of psychologists, university professors, healthcare professionals, educators, researchers, students, and everyday folks.

It is my opinion that movement is the medicine and dance is the healing. Ashe…Ashe…Ashe.

References

  • Fu-Kiau, K.K.B. 2003. Self-Healing Power and Therapy: Old Teachings from Africa. New York: African

Tree Press. Nobles, W.W. 2017. Personal Communication/Teaching, July 20, 2012. N=718

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Activism

Moms 4 Housing Hold Sit-in Demanding County Supervisors Extend Eviction Protections

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms. Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

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Participants in the sit-in, which began Tuesday afternoon, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.
The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

By Post Staff

Moms 4 Housing held a sit-in in the nonviolent civil disobedience tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., to demand that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors uphold their original vote to pass permanent Just Cause eviction protections for the 60,000 tenants living in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County.

The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms.

Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

The Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), ACCE and EBHO, along with other local activists, are mobilizing outside of the Alameda County Administration Building to stand in solidarity with Moms 4 Housing, an organization focused on uniting mothers, neighbors, and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.

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Bay Area

Season 15 Winner of America’s Got Talent Set to Teach Class at Delta College

According to Delta College officials, Leake was previously an academic advisor at the college and will now teach Digital Media 31.

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San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. logo. (Photo courtesy of San Joaquin Delta College)
San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif. logo. (Photo courtesy of San Joaquin Delta College)

By Victoria Franco | Bay City News Foundation

Brandon Leake, the season 15 winner of the reality TV show “America’s Got Talent” and a Stockton native, will begin teaching an evening digital media class next Monday at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

Leake debuted on the show in 2020 by reading a poem that was an ode to his sister and was the first and only spoken word poet to win the competition.

According to Delta College officials, Leake was previously an academic advisor at the college and will now teach Digital Media 31.

The class is a media performance class and lab focused on individual speech improvement, through the study and practice of voice control and manipulation, proper breathing and diction.

Students enrolled in the class will complete a digital media portfolio and the class is transferable in the California State University system.

The class will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. Students wanting to add the class to the schedule can visit their MyDelta portal.

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Activism

Following More Mass Shootings Democrats Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9. The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns. President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

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The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans
The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire

Two proposals aimed at curbing the spread of assault rifles were submitted today by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Assault Weapons Ban seeks to prohibit the commercialization, distribution, production, and importation of assault rifles and other firearms designed for use in military operations, as well as high-capacity magazines and similar devices.

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9.

The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns.

President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

Biden said that the number of mass shootings declined during the decade that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect.

“In the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was on the books, mass shootings went down,” Biden remarked.

“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” he declared.

Both houses of Congress were urged to take quick action by the president.

According to Biden, “the majority of American people agree with this rational measure.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation,” he insisted.

In the House of Representatives, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline said he plans to introduce a companion bill to the Senate’s Assault Weapons Ban.

Feinstein said assault rifles “seem to be the unifying denominator in the seemingly endless number of horrific shootings.”

“Because these firearms were created for maximum efficiency in mass murder,” the senator noted.

“They have no place in our society or educational institutions. It’s time to take a stand against the gun lobby and do something about getting these lethal weapons off the streets, or at the absolute least, out of the hands of our youth.”

Blumenthal added, as the gunman at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park demonstrated just days ago, assault weapons are designed for one and one purpose only: to murder or hurt human beings.

“These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings,” Blumenthal said.

“Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this commonsense action.”

Rep. Ciciline argued that it is long past due to reinstate an assault weapon ban and remove these “weapons of war” from civilian areas.

The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans,” Ciciline noted.

“We need to come together to enact this commonsense, effective, and proven policy to reduce gun violence and save lives. I thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership in this fight and look forward to introducing the House companion bill in the coming weeks.”

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