By Melody Allen, MA, EAS-C, LPC-S
During winter break, I flew to Washington, D.C., to visit Betsy Hostetler for a weekend work meeting for conference preparation. Betsy and I are co-directors of the North American Systemic Constellations Conference, planned Oct. 5-8 in Virginia.
Our task has been to organize, invite, and appoint a team of volunteers to offer keynotes, featured presentations and panel discussions to the North American audience of systemic constellations, a methodology founded by Bert Hellinger from combined studies in Zulu tradition, transactional analysis and family systems theories. The philosophies are applied in all career disciplines for family and business problem solving.
In between our planning meetings, Betsy and I had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The museum is devoted to the documentation of African American life, history and culture. It was established to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans.
The museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. The museum has been all the rage for art enthusiasts, educators, museum lovers, American history buffs and cultural activists.
The wind was blowing so cold on my warm Texas skin as we waited in the supposed VIP line which was just as long as regular admission: I had scored some prime tickets from a long-term client and museum patron.
As we waited, a checkered audience filed into line: children on field trips, church groups and individuals all sizes and colors. The museum trek began with a dramatic elevator ride back in time to the bowels of a slave ship. We were immediately drawn into an experiential journey of long ago. As visitors walk the ramps from floor to floor, they are transported along the timeline of slavery to modern-day race relations among blacks and whites in North America.
The museum was so profound and traumatizing at the same time. It was so hard to see and feel the years of oppression and the abusive nature of mankind. The museum evidenced many offenses toward Black America at the hands of White America: some of these crimes in today’s vernacular would be named human trafficking, labor exploitation, unlawful imprisonment, assault, assault with deadly weapons, rape, police brutality, unfair wage practices, and educational depravity.
As I walked through the halls, I was filled not only with rage but also with hope since I can function in daily life with some modicum of safety.
Yet, as I saw the pictures of my ancestral lineage, I began to think of modern-day stories of racism that should not be happening but be as relics in a like museum. I thought about the book entitled The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness which speaks to the over-incarceration of black males, the documentary 13th, which is a play on words about the 13th Amendment that abolishes slavery and refers to a new model of slavery in the privatized prison setting, and all the mothers who have lost their black boys and men to recent police brutality.
On the other hand, it was also profound to be visiting with Betsy, a tall white woman from the North, with me, a short black woman from the South, and be able to hold honest and frank conversations about related and divergent topics.
The weekend continued with a visit to a movie that Betsy recommended. The movie was "I Am Not Your Negro," a documentary based on author and activist James Baldwin, who was ironically the author of “The Native Son.” Our cinematic event followed a movie on my plane trip to Washington called Loving, about a highly publicized and harassed interracial couple in Virginia, the location of the conference, that took place in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the museum visit was not the intention of the weekend, it definitely was a great background for one of the conference themes, that of social justice. My story of the museum is only one of the constructs that we have to uncover to heal America.
As a believer in the Jungian concept of synchronicity, it felt so relevant and apropos that as leaders of this 2017 North American Systemic Constellations Conference we would be exploring differences and cultural themes.
It also fit with the conference theme of “Bridging the Divide: Healing the Personal and Collective Soul,” as well as our desire as conference co-directors to explore social justice. We were not just talking but also living how to have difficult conversations and facilitate understanding, compassion, resilience and responsible communication.
I was happy that Betsy had a genuine interest in visiting the museum and not just a cursory interest. I don’t particularly identity myself as an activist but rather an academician. However, when it comes to having a voice, sometimes to have a voice the two worlds meet. So the purpose of this blog article is to further invite and entice each person’s truth into the conference space.
It was a great foreshadowing about the type of work that I believe can come out of the North American Systemic Constellations Conference. If there are any people who feel like the conference can't hold their story, please know that the conference steering team is preparing to be expansive and diverse in invitation and execution.
Join us for the 2017 North American Systemic Constellations Conference Oct. 5-8 in Virginia Beach, Va., for health professionals, educators, organizational and life coaches, consultants, clergy, community activists, change makers and others interested in alternative health and innovative practices. A pre-conference is also available. More info here. We'd love to have you subscribe to our e-letter here.
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