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Rev. Dotson’s ‘Soul Reset’

THE AFRO — The Soul Reset series was created to address the stigma of depression, suicide, burnout, and grief as it relates to personal and professional roles. Most of the time, people who are in leadership positions feel that vulnerability is a weakness, and that they have to “be strong for others,” when in actuality, there is power in testimony and transparency.

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Rev. Junius B Dotson’s Soul Reset, boldly speaks about depression, suicide, and mental health. (Courtesy Photos)

By Jessica Dortch

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and the Rev. Junius B. Dotson tackles that topic, along with many others, in his latest book, Soul Reset. As the current CEO of Discipleship Ministries in Nashville, Tenn., Rev. Dotson has been in ministry for almost three decades, however, his journey to holistic spirituality started early in his priesthood.

Starting out as the pastor of a local church, Rev. Dotson beared all of the responsibility and pressure that comes with any startup business. In exclusive with the AFRO, Dotson revealed that about three or four years after the church opened, he experienced an emotional breakdown. This episode would later lead to a diagnosis of clinical depression and come as a complete shock to the pastor.

“That’s really when my journey to wholeness began,” recalled Dotson.

The Soul Reset series was created to address the stigma of depression, suicide, burnout, and grief as it relates to personal and professional roles. Most of the time, people who are in leadership positions feel that vulnerability is a weakness, and that they have to “be strong for others,” when in actuality, there is power in testimony and transparency.

“Sometimes we super spiritualize everything, so if a person is in need of therapy or even medication, it is looked down upon as if Jesus can’t heal it all,” the author explains. As a disclaimer, the reverend is not saying that Jesus isn’t enough, but rather that the Lord works through people. “The source of healing is God, but God heals in various ways,” he clarified.

“Part of my rationale, impotence, and desire to write this book is to encourage our churches to be a safe place, and to be places that create authentic community where people can share honestly. Sometimes it’s okay not to be okay.”

In the book, Rev. Dotson shares several stories of his personal struggles with depression, suicide, and, specifically, grief. The author shared an anecdote with the AFRO about one of the lowest points in his life, the year 2012. Tragedy struck back to back in the passing of his grandmother, his mother, and his close friend in a short span of nine months. The pastor recalls having difficulty navigating through his grief, especially as the holiday season approached. Prayerfully, Rev. Dotson was able to overcome his debilitating grief through self love and self care. The book includes spiritual practices geared toward self care and spiritual discipline to let readers know that “there is hope beyond your grief, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Rev. Dotson also writes about having an activity that helps you to stay balanced. The Rev. was not a musician, but he admits that listening to music has always helped him stay calm and grounded, which is what inspired him to learn to play piano. As it turns out, this skill was a hidden talent for the Pastor. “When I’m stressed or in the midst of a long meeting, I’ll walk out and find a piano and that will calm me down,” he adds.

In addition to the Soul Reset series, Rev. Dotson expresses powerful and helpful spiritual nuggets in his 90-second daily radio series called “See All The People.” The show, which is featured on more than 40 radio stations across the country, answers the question, “What if we stopped trying to fix the church, and instead we started seeing all of the people who God has called us to reach?”

The act of seeing someone for who they are is a dialogue without words. Taking the time to get to know someone and being able to positively speak into their lives is a different level of relationship and intimacy. According to Rev. Dotson, “See All The People” is an invitation for the church to have a conversation with their neighbors of every race and creed. “It’s about building relationships that are authentic, organic, and consistent,” he stated.

The Soul Reset series is the ultimate tool for team meetings, small groups, book clubs, and other gatherings. Each chapter ends with an invitation to a spiritual practice that will act as a guide on your journey to wholeness. Rev. Dotson explains that “[This] book is dedicated to the people who did not or refused to give up on their dark days, and for the people in their lives who encouraged them.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Activism

New Documentary Unveils Pauli Murray, Little-Known Civil Rights Activist, Feminist

I’ll admit it; I was not familiar with Pauli Murray.  Honestly, Murray’s extraordinary accomplishments in the years before and after the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement are history lessons many of us didn’t know, until now.

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Pauli Murray/ Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

I’ll admit it; I was not familiar with Pauli Murray.  Honestly, Murray’s extraordinary accomplishments in the years before and after the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement are history lessons many of us didn’t know, until now.

An accessible compilation of mixed media running 91 minutes, “My Name Is Pauli Murray” unearths a revealing journey of extraordinary feats that pre-date the heralded stories of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.  Pauli Murray knew intimately what it meant to live a life that was out of sync—when even language wasn’t sufficient to define or describe a journey. 

Lawyer, professor, poet, and Episcopal priest, Murray was an iconoclast who pushed against the limits—both the conventional and strict legislation and the narrow thinking around issues of race and gender equity. The struggle wasn’t abstract: Murray’s own life —as an African American intellectual whose gender identity felt fluid —personified it. 

Born in 1910, in Baltimore, Md., Pauli was taken in at 3 years old by the maternal wing of the family following the sudden death of Pauli’s mother. Embraced by loving grandparents and two aunts—Pauline and Sarah—Pauli exhibited a proficiency in reading and critical thinking, assessing, early on, the vast discrepancies in conditions African-American families lived in as compared to their white counterparts. Murray’s formative years were spent in a segregated North Carolina where she was among the first to integrate classrooms, courtrooms and conferences to sit alongside the world’s most influential powerbrokers. 

That gulf of injustice settled deep inside. A visionary, Pauli Murray understood that the same arguments employed to assail Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial discrimination could be made to attack gender inequity — and, consequently, these pivotal insights became a professional signature. 

Confidante to President Franklin D. Rooselevelt’s wife Eleanor and  an inspiration to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who cites Murray in her first Supreme Court brief regarding the Equal Protection Clause), Pauli frequently stood in close proximity to power. 

Rejected by the University of North Carolina for being Black, and arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus, Pauli didn’t dodge conflict, even if there was no precedent or model. Yet, there’s often an excruciating price paid for being “ahead of one’s time.” 

Richly recounted in Pauli’s own voice—with archival audio drawn from intimate oral histories and interviews dating back to the 1970s — Pauli’s timely story is augmented by testimonies from a host of contemporary thinkers, educators, and present-day civil rights activists and there are many parallels to today’s ongoing struggle for racial and gender equality.

Murray’s story, artfully told, with the help of editor (pronounced syn-quay) Northern, a former Bay Area resident, and filmmakers Betty West, Julie Cohen, and Talleah Bridges. The film is showing at theaters now from Amazon Studios and releases on Prime video on October 1.

Northern is an artist, filmmaker, and editor who’s been working in documentary for over 18 years. He has edited numerous projects for PBS including “America by the Numbers” featuring Maria Hinojosa and “Your Voice Your Story.” He also spent 10 years working as a lead editor for Stanley Nelson’s Firelight Media (“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” “Black Panthers”). To date, he has over a dozen short films on permanent display at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, along with the 2021 documentary, “The One and Only Dick Gregory.”

I spoke with Cinque Northern about this absorbing retelling of Pauli Murray (b.1910-d.1985). Please see the link to a portion of our conversation below.

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https://wetransfer.com/downloads/f45303a149989a34ad4a92a9d76cbf1820210927193714/a77cded8dbbca5c4c28756bea57a756620210927193714/14a142

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Books

Poet James Cagney on Closure, Reckoning’s Limits, and What’s Next

Oakland poet James Cagney was 19 when he asked his mother “Are you really my mother?” Her answer changed his life forever. He learned he was adopted, that his birth parents, who already had seven children, couldn’t afford to raise him. 

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James Cagney/Photo Courtesy of Zack Haber

Oakland poet James Cagney was 19 when he asked his mother “Are you really my mother?” Her answer changed his life forever. He learned he was adopted, that his birth parents, who already had seven children, couldn’t afford to raise him. 

As a baby, Cagney had been given to an older couple who raised him. His adoptive mother had been his birth mother’s teacher in cosmetology school. The women knew each other well, but Cagney never knew his birth family as a child.

Cagney grew up as an only child in North Oakland and forged a close, loving relationship with his mother. But things were different with the man who raised him. While Cagney has emphasized that his father wasn’t abusive, his parenting was passive and detached. In his poem “Someone Else’s Child,” Cagney asks “Did you ever hold me as a baby?” to which his father answers “Naw. ‘fraid I’d drop you. ‘sides. You were someone/else’s child.”

After learning about his adoption, Cagney’s life would become even more turbulent in about the next dozen years. During that time, the parents who raised him died. Then there was the literal earth shaking, the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, contributed to him losing the home he grew up in, and he became homeless.

He bounced around as a guest in friend’s homes, lived in an SRO, and most notably, lived with his birth mother in Sacramento for about two years. He forged complex, difficult, but ultimately rewarding and loving relationships with much of his birth family, but he never got to meet his birth father, who died before Cagney even knew he existed.

He began penning deeply autobiographical poetry about his familial experiences. It would take him about 20 years to write and collect this poetry into his first book, “Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory.” He was 50 when the Oakland-based Nomadic Press published it in 2018.

Since then, he’s become a celebrated and widely read poet. “Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory” sold out of its first print run and Nomadic Press just reissued it in a second printing with a new foreward and introduction. His next book, “Martian: The Saint of Loneliness,” just won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Nomadic Press will publish it fall of 2022.

I talked with Cagney, now 53 and living in East Oakland, about his experience writing and publishing “Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory.” We also talked a little bit about “Martian: The Saint of Loneliness,” which, in taking a turn away from autobiography, expands his poetics. I edited our conversation for readability and brevity.

Zack: It’s been over three years since “Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory” was published. How has the book’s publication and its reception affected your process of dealing with the difficult experiences the book addresses?

Cagney: More than anything it allowed me closure. Up until the time I decided to publish all that material, I was feeling that my story was so personal it didn’t feel like it was necessary or a goal to share it. I didn’t think a lot of other people would have empathy for my sort of weird, broken family thing. I didn’t feel like my story had enough drama to attract a lot of attention. My family was not nasty. I mention alcoholism in the book but it’s not like my father was a maniac. I was very fortunate and blessed. So, the book was mostly just me trying to sort out my own identity in the wake of all that confusing craziness.

I decided to publish the book just to provide what I would have liked to have seen in the world when I was younger. I wanted to communicate to people who have had similar weird family experiences. I also wanted to acknowledge the love and respect a lot of people in the poetry community have paid me over the years. Many people have been very respectful and responsive to the poems that I’ve done. And especially with the proximity and the newness of Nomadic Press, I decided to go forward, publish all that stuff, and just get it out of my head.

The most important part was claiming space for myself in poetry by validating my own life through these pieces that represented who I was and where I came from. I gambled on the love other people had shared with me by sending it out into the world to see what would happen.

But to be honest, Zack, nothing has shifted (laughter) because especially with the pandemic and being under house arrest for a year, the alienation has never gone away. When I think of the disconnection that made the poems exist, I guess I could confess to you that feeling persists. I’ve just gotten used to the weight and tension of it. It’s sort of like walking a dog that wants to pull you as opposed to walk with you is what my issues feel like sometimes. I still feel like I’m wrestling and settling with that.

I wish I could tell you something has changed, or a new sun has risen over a different land. But the way I felt writing those poems, I unfortunately still feel that way. I just feel a little bit better about it. I feel I’ve matured with it. I feel I’ve accepted more of it instead of fighting and whining against the way things just happen to be. I also feel really grateful for the response the book has gotten. I feel good closing a particular chapter of my life. I guess that book represents the first third of my life: my childhood and early adulthood. What that book does is validate I was here, and I survived. And maybe that’s enough.

Zack: To me, Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory reads like poetic autobiography in the present tense by continually addressing the past as it relates to the now. But since the book took about 20 years to write, you and that now shift dramatically in different poems. What does 20 years do? How did that duration affect how the book took shape?

Cagney: It’s interesting for me to take a look at the book as a whole and see the poems that were started in the mid-’90s and poems that I wrote in the year before it got published, to see that conversation and growth. I guess those are like two different Jameses. The earlier James was still trying to figure things out and was maybe overwriting and working too hard to create poetic images and stuff like that. When I was in high school, I studied journalism and almost took that up as a career. What that platform gave me, in those early years, was a sense of trying to interrogate the truth as I had been taught to find it through journalism to then create a structure and framework for that truth that I was gradually learning from open mics and reading books. The more current James has been introduced to experimentation and gotten the point of compression. I push the story into a smaller space and am able to be more experimental by making strange, unusual decisions; and I don’t feel I have to be so strict with the truth.

The book represents a serious, huge growth period for me as much as it does negotiating of family. I can see the old and new James in conversation and trying to balance themselves. It’s finding a balance between my older mindse,t which is more much raw in trying to figure myself out and what poetry is and can do, and now me, many years later, having gone through this process of family and identity and poetry and applying much stricter edits and purpose in the kind of poems I’m trying to create.

Often “Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory” feels palpably unresolved to me, like the pain of holding one’s breath. I like that because it helps me relate to what’s happening in the book, which often seems to be about not being able to find peace or finding incomplete peace. It makes me curious about your forthcoming book, “Martian: The Saint of Loneliness.” Is that book a continuation of the themes of its predecessor? How is it different from its predecessor? What would you like to share with readers about it?

I told my editor, Michaela Mullin, who worked on both books, that “Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory” is who I am, and “Martian: The Saint of Loneliness” represents what I do as a poet. There are themes in “Martian” that absolutely converse with what happens in the first book, but this collection is very different. I guess I just wanted to get all my biographical stuff out of the way in “Black Steel Magnolias”In “Martian,” I address a lot of race issues, the history of America, Black Lives Matter, as well as love poems and meditations on my feelings of isolation nonetheless.

Part of the image I’m looking at for “Martian” is that there’s a lot of families who have lost people to gun violence and racial violence. We often call the names and talk about those who are lost. One thing the book does, in an indirect way, is it pays attention to the people who are still here and have to hold that loss. What questions would you have for Trayvon Martin’s best friend? What is the story of the feelings people have about the disappearance that their friend or brother or sister leaves after being murdered by police or dying through COVID?

I’m familiar with grief from the last book. Maybe this next book tries to look into the hole that grief has left and ask: what do we do now with this space, this darkness, with what’s left by this person’s invisibility? What happens now?

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

Castlemont High Coach Launches “Books Before Balls” Project

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

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Tamikia McCoy/Photo Courtesy of Tanya Dennis

 

Michael Franklin

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

For two years, she played with the Running Rebels, an Oakland all-star basketball team.  After earning many degrees, McCoy returned to her beloved Castlemont as Coach in 2019, and quickly realized a responsibility to her students beyond winning games and created Books Before Balls.

Another Castlemont alumni of that same year was not as fortunate as McCoy.  Like McCoy, Michael Franklin was a basketball beast.  He was awarded first team All-City for the Oakland Athletic League 1993-1994 and was Northern California’s All American that same year. 

Franklin continues to hold the record for scoring 43 points in one quarter in a game against McClymonds. Tragically, he was killed Dec. 14, 2016, at a gas station at 98th and Edes in Oakland.

Coach McCoy’s concerns about violence inspired her to create the Books Before Balls Project to address academic and social gaps that are working against student success. 

“For violence and bullying to cease, the underlying reasons have to be addressed,” said McCoy, “Food scarcity may seem unrelated to violence, but it’s a signal that economic opportunities are lacking, which leads to trauma and desperation.”  

McCoy is also concerned that Castlemont’s library was closed and is spearheading a campaign to reopen and revitalize the library.  

She has joined with Oakland Frontline Healers and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkids movement to address issues of food scarcity, lack of economic opportunity, lack of resources and lack of support for students entering college.  

Together, they are creating a model that is duplicatable and hopefully will be adopted at other OUSD schools. Oakland Frontline Healers are a collaborative of 30 nonprofits and doctors offering services, food, and resources to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.  

Players and families will be tested weekly by Umoja Health before games, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for those that wish to take it.

With a grant from the Department of Violence Prevention, Building Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkidsmovement, are honoring Michael Franklin’s life by hosting a series of “Mike’s Knights” Basketball Tournaments at Castlemont High School beginning the last Friday in November.  

Participants will be paid stipends to participate in the league or cheer squad and will be tutored and mentored during the tournaments, which will include family forums to discuss ending violence in East Oakland.

Books Before Balls invites the community to donate to the organization to support the Lady Knights’ basketball team, the success program that funds first year college students, or join their initiative to reopen the library. 

 For more information contact:  Ladyknights2019@yahoo.com For youth interested in joining the eight-week tournament contact Adamika Village at adamikaadamika@gmail.com 

Together with school leaders and administrators, and with the support of Oakland Frontline Healers, Books Before Balls is staging a “Student’s Against Bullying” event Friday, Sept. 17 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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