Black Psychoanalysts Speak

Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (PEP Web) has made an important film available without subscription on their website. In Black Psychoanalysts Speak, participants -- primarily 11 Black psychoanalysts who participated in two conferences focusing on diversity in psychoanalysis (2012, 2013) -- contend that psychoanalysis has a long history as a progressive movement devoted to the common good.

BlackPsyA screenshot

Screenshot from the film, Black Psyschoanalysts Speak.

Psychoanalysis, they say, asks us to look at processes of self deception that not only perpetuate individual unhappiness, but also oppressive and inequitable social structures. Psychoanalysis has for the most part, however, focused on training students and treating patients who are relatively privileged. As I have discovered, there is a fair amount of resistance to exploring what light psychoanalysis can shed at intersections with race, class and culture outside the consulting room. Hearing similar experiences expressed in this film, I felt very inspired to continue my own explorations.

Finding this film coincided with my launch of a new series of posts at another blog. As I mentioned in my initial post there, events that have that have unfolded or intensified in the past few months -- police brutality and resistance to it emerging with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Native American and First Nations resistance to the KXL Pipeline, corporate land grabs and other challenges to sovereignty and protection of sacred lands -- have inspired me to explore my connections to these issues beyond those that have naturally come as a result of involvement in social and environmental justice work:

Among my ancestors were settlers who arrived here on the Mayflower. And some who were slave holders. I am a descendant of colonists, people who anchored ideas and values of white supremacy into this land and built a nation upon them. Sometimes it's difficult, in light of ongoing oppression and exploitation in the United States and elsewhere, to integrate the realities of my lineage. But for reasons that I’ll explore in a future post, distancing from ancestors delays transformation and healing -- for everyone.

I'll probably cross-post or at least link to this series on this blog, since some of posts will reflect my experiences of psychoanalysis and my interest in the intergenerational transmission of trauma and social healing that has deepened over the past few years.

So, here's the first one: Truth and reconciliation, honor and healing, and another leap into the deep end of the pool

"Dakota 38" calls from the shadows to move us toward the light of peace, love and reconciliation on Earth

Dakota 38 is one of the most profound and beautiful films I have ever seen and I wanted to share it today, Christmas Eve 2012. For me it reflects the spirit of the season, the year ahead, and what I hope will be a more conscious, intentional focus of the human collective for many years to come.

In 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, had a dream in which he was riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. In the dream, he came to a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time of his dream, Jim didn't know that on December 26, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln had ordered the largest mass execution in US history in the town of Mankato, Minnesota.

Four years later, Jim and a group of riders planned a 330-mile horeseback ride from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato. They planned to reach the site of the hanging on the anniversary of the execution. The film -- Dakota 38 -- is the story of their healing journey.

I find this story timely and remarkable for several reasons.

Closest to home is the spotlight on the culture of violence in the United States, illuminated by the events in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th. The massacre in Newtown has drawn global support and solidarity for the healing process that is now underway. As the national discussion grows, many articles reflect that at least some Americans (including me) place this tragedy in a larger context of the violence that we as a nation perpetrated against Native Americans, and Africans torn from their homeland and forced to become slaves to European colonials in the New World.

Consider also the emergence of the Idle No More movement just four days earlier on December 10, 2012. Four women from Saskatchewan -- Indigenous and non Indigenous -- decided that they could no longer be silent about Bill C 45, legislation (later passed by the Canadian Senate on the same day as the Newtown massacre) that they consider an attack on First Nation people and the lands and waters across Canada. This grassroots movement aims to "repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth". In just a short time, the Idle No More has also attracted support and solidarity from people around the world.

As I queud up Dakota 38, I was not certain I would end up sharing it, at least not until after Christmas. In the face of so much national trauma lately, I have mainly been listening to as many voices as possible. I brought my sharing on social networks under the scrutiny of "right speech" -- a principle that considers, among other things, the right time and place to speak or be silent and just listen, witness, and hold the field steady as people come to grips with its horror, try to sort things out.

What became clear in my heart during the first few minutes of the film, hearing people speak of their experience, is that sharing Dakota 38 on Christmas Eve felt right. This mass execution spoke to the shadow, the darkness I feel as a descendant of European colonists. But as I listened, I could hear the profound gifts of peace, love and reconciliation that these descendents of the Dakota 38 have to offer all of us.

What they speak to is not just an "Indian thing". It reflects a process of healing and transformation that is at the core of celebrations like Christmas, a process that I see spreading across the global range of the human family. It requires reconnecting with our dark and painful past to find what was lost or forgotten so that we can move forward or birth something new in the present with greater peace and wisdom.

In African culture this is the concept of Sankofa. It is also an idea found in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and other psychological models of healing.

Sankofa Bird street painting in Kumasi, Ghana [Photo credit: Gorodilova]

So, in the spirit of the season, however you celebrate and understand it, I offer this gift via Chief Phil Lane who first shared a related link, and Jim Miller, and Smooth Feather Productions who offered the full movie to everyone at no charge:



Also see:

The Light of Humanity in the Darkness: Reflections in the Shadow of Sandy Hook (Phillip Hellmich, 12/20/12 at Huffington Post)

Idle No More is not just an "Indian Thing" (Wab Kinew, 12/17/12 at Huffington Post)

First Nations prepared to fight Harper , Enbridge in international court (Erin Flegg, 12/23/12 in the Vancouver Observer)

Idle No More: On the meaning of Chief Therese Spence's hunger strike (Greg Macdougall, 12/22/12 at

New documentary remembers largest mass execution in US history (December 23, 2010, Minnesota Public Radio)


t r u t h o u t | Rethinking Education as the Practice of Freedom: Paulo Freire and the Promise of Critical Pedagogy

What Paulo made clear in "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," his most influential work, is that pedagogy at its best is about neither training, teaching methods nor political indoctrination. For Freire, pedagogy is not a method or an a priori technique to be imposed on all students, but a political and moral practice that provides the knowledge, skills and social relations that enable students to expand the possibilities of what it means to be critical citizens, while expanding and deepening their participation in the promise of a substantive democracy. Critical thinking for Freire was not an object lesson in test taking, but a tool for self-determination and civic engagement.


Anybody else out there feeling a desperate need for a more informed and engaged citizenry?

After you read the article by Giroux, take a look at The Avatar Decade by Susan Reed:

"The populist message of 'Avatar,' that everyone can ultimately act on their conscience, makes it a movie not just for the 21st century, but for all time. The positive use of technology is helping to level the battlefield as people find new ways to connect on issues of global importance that transcend the self-interest of nation states."

In different ways both articles speak to a new energy afoot. There's something new coming and I'm hearing all kinds of voices beginning to bring it into words.