Monday, June 1, 2020

Peace Seeks Justice

Yes, the country seeks peace.
But the angry protestors seek justice,
The grieving mothers seek justice,
The oppressed generations seek justice,
The homeless seek justice,
The innocent in the prison seek justice,
Those silenced by power seek justice,
The children separated at the border seek justice,
Those trafficked to brothels seek justice,
Those who are still bought and sold seek justice,
Yes, the country seeks peace,
But peace seeks justice! 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Crime: Tall, Dark and Handsome!

Why are people called 'black'? I have been to Africa multiple times and I have not seen one black person in my life! Most were darker than my skin but all various shades of brown. As a matter of fact, most indigenous African communities do not call their people black. 'Black' terminology was created by people who were designing a system and ideology that would oppress those who did not look or talk like them. Those people travelled around the world to conquer the diverse lands and the indigenous communities because they were greedy and mean. They carried the simple to foreign lands and exploited them as slaves! And because every one is equal, they could not keep them as slaves for too long, even though there were systems, infrastructures and laws in place to protect their atrocious scheme! At the end of a very long day, humans beings were able to prove they were always equal! Slavery had to be abolished, at least on the face of it! However, the western societies kept the term 'Black' to define and categorize people. Many in those societies never came to accept that 'black people' were equal to them! They embraced two lies at the same time because no human being is really black and none is lower than the other ever! 

The saga of hatred for fellow human beings and love for inequality continues in the United States of America. Not all are racists but there are enough to keep the system discriminatory against those of darker skin and on top of that if you are a grown dark man, things can be worse for you. There is no end of stories where a dark, tall and handsome boy or a man was brutalized or killed just because of how they looked. Nothing, their degrees, wealth, social standing or their hard-work could save them from the wrath of a police officer who saw them as a lesser human being! On May 25th, another man called, George Floyd, was killed by a cop, named Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The cop pressed his knee on the neck of George while he was handcuffed and suffocated him to death! All of this was recorded on the camera and eventually the entire world saw the horrendous crime. However, none of that triggered immediate arrest of the cop, it took the system four days and several protests on the streets to make that happen! Horrific events like these and sub-events within these events make people angry, helpless and hopeless! Not all but some do get aggressive because this murder is just one more injustice on top of all the oppression for generations, and worse, the possibility of swift change is very little! My heart goes out of every angry and hopeless youth who is out there fearing for themselves and their loved ones. If you are asking me why am I so impacted since I am not categorized as 'black', I am sorry for you! Those who misuse power against one person/group, they will do it again against another person/group! Moreover, Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Not only we should all be outraged now but we should sustain it until the system is changed substantially because majority of those in power will not do anything out of their own good will! 

I am not George Floyd,
And I can still breathe!
But it becomes hard to breathe,
to think about all those
who couldn't breathe before him
just because they looked like him
Tall, dark and handsome!
It becomes harder to breathe to realize 
that the beautiful souls were killed
by those who were paid to protect them
Just because they were
Tall, dark and handsome!
People's protests are wronged,
If few become violent,
Even though MLK Jr. said,
"Riots is the language of the unheard"
They will be sent home,
Just because the majority of those protesting are
Talk, dark and handsome!
My hope is gasping,
My desire for justice is diminishing,
Because the protestors will be criticized,
The protests will be silenced,
Unfortunately, like my brother George,
Discrimination too is;
Tall, dark and handsome!
Racism is so tall 
that it touches the top authority,
it sits on the highest hill of power!
The system is so dark 
that many are blinded 
to the fear, pain, and suffering 
and atrocities of the oppressor!
And the crime is disguised handsomely,
because it is carried out 
over and over again
by the owners of law and order!
Hey Derek, how hard is it to understand
that even though George had killing looks,
He shouldn't have been killed, 
just because he was:
Tall, dark and handsome!
It suffocates me to think of those 
who may not be able to breathe in the future, 
Because they are, like my son,
Talk, dark and handsome!

There are lot more articles and videos that explain the generational systematic oppression of blacks in the US, here are a just a few articles to support my points above: 
  • Discriminatory Practices in the American Criminal Justice System: The Politics of Policing and Punishment:
  • Police Brutality - An Anthalogy :
  • Police Brutality in the United States:
  • Racism, Inequality, and Health Care for African American:

Stress and anxiety in times of Quarantine

Here's a talk on dealing with Stress and Anxiety during COVID-19 times. Some simple tips and techniques for coping. Hope it is helpful!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Fear in times of COVID-19

COVID-19 is impacting all of us in some way or the other. We are experiencing various emotions as we are practicing social distancing and staying home. We are witnessing thousands of people dying due to this pandemic and worse, some of us have lost a dear one to this disease. If you or someone you know is  feeling afraid because of the factors related to COVID-19, please listen to this talk. This talk is hosted by Jorge Brito from the American Red Cross delegation and we I share some simple ways of dealing with fear no matter where you are in the world. Please leave feedback or questions, I will try to respond in a timely fashion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Peaceful Grieving

Almost two million people have contracted COVID19 and until today 120,863 people all over the world have died and we don't know how many more we will lose to this pandemic! My heart goes out to those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones. The world has never seen such ruthless attack on the human race before and all of us are affected in some way or other. Like many others, I too have been wondering what if COVID19 comes close and takes away someone I love or if I am taken away from my dear ones. I am not afraid of dying because I believe in life after death. However, I know there's nothing harder than losing someone you love! The poem here is the culmination of the insights I have gathered in the last decade as I have been grieving the loss of my father. I hope it will speak to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one and looking for hope and healing! 

Life is more than what meets the eye,
It is stronger than what this earth can bind,
People transition to the other side,
Traveling on the higher tide! 

They continue to live in another style,
They also exist in the fruits of their earthly life,
Their souls may have changed the garb,
In our thoughts, they still abide! 

Grieve the loss , because it is right,
Know they still cherish your smile,
Celebrate their life on this earth,
Before they took the heavenly flight! 

It is hard to accept their demise,
Maybe you couldn’t even say goodbye, 
Breathe deeply and let this moment slide,
This wound will slowly heal and you will survive! 

And one day, we will all meet gay and bright,
Until then, share what’s inside,
Talk, write, or sing, oh dear, unwind,
With hope, take another stride!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Happy Republic Day, India!

Like in the past, we visited the Indian embassy today to celebrate the Republic Day of India, it is the day when the Constitution of India was established. There is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi right in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington DC. I looked at Gandhi ji's statute and pondered on the Constitution of India and teared up because of the prevailing situation in my motherland. I have been following news stories where the assassin of the Mahatma is being glorified and systemic efforts are made to undermine the constitution of India by the leaders of the current ruling party in the country! 

I stood there, gazed at the feet and the determination in them. He was certainly not about himself or his party. He was called the Father of the Nation because he had truly learned to value and accept every single member of his country regardless of their caste, socio-economic status, gender or religion. I wondered, if he is watching us, he must feel sad that the values of non-violence and secularism are not being upheld in the country. I wondered what he thinks about the violence against minors by the police in Uttar Pradesh, how he feels when the women in Shaheen Bagh are insulted and defamed, while they are protesting peacefully, how his heart hurts when the students in Jamia Millia Islamia are treated like criminals by Delhi Police or when the international media reports on substantial increase in hate crimes in the country (please click on the blue letters for more details). I was filled with a realization that Mahatma Gandhi's soul is hurting and so are hearts of his followers!

Reflecting and in conversation with Gandhi's statue in Washington DC. 26th January 2020

Gandhi ji helped us win freedom from Britishers in the past and today his values can help us win freedom from hatred, social discrimination and violence in the country. It is time to apologize to the great soul! Let us refocus on the teachings and values that helped gain our freedom and were so thoughtfully woven in the Constitution of India. I feel so grateful for, and proud of the millions of people, especially the students and the women of India, who are standing peacefully against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and the looming National Register of Citizens that fundamentally attack the secular component of the Constitution of the country. Every peaceful protestor fighting for his/her rights keeps Mahatma Gandhi alive in this world! 

As I paid tribute to Gandhi ji today, a poem began to emerge in my awarenesses... 

Bapu, sorry, we are failing you, 
Some of us are forgetting your teachings,
In the land of unity in diversity,
We are witnessing lynchings!
Erroneous discourse is hateful,
Some are even glorifying your assassin, 
Sorry, we have let violence slip 
in our streets, universities and our reasoning!
Sorry, our students are no more safe
if they say freedom,
Sorry, our mothers are insulted 
when they say freedom! 
Sorry, for some,  'azaadi'
has become a dirty word,
Sorry, communal hatred,
we couldn't curb!
But, Bapu, aren't you proud,
of the Indian youth,
Singing freedom on the streets
the sound, your soul does it soothe?
And do the women of India,
of all ages and walks of life,
give you hope,
that the Idea of India will thrive!
Bapu, 'Inquilab' is still alive,
The desire for equality is alive,
Even though there's oppression,
'Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna' is alive!
When the police charged the latthis,
With roses, those students replied,
In the rallying youth of India, 
Bapu, Gandhigiri is still alive!

Jai Hind! Inquilab Zindabad! 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Healing the wounds from the Puerto Rico Earthquakes: Components of Community based Psychosocial Support (CBPSS)

Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, PhD
Disaster Mental Health Advisor
National Capitol region
Washington, DC

Disasters, whether natural events or human generated, wound the geographic location that they impact, and wounds the emotional fabric of the survivors.  The physical wounds, can be seen, treated and will heal, with appropriate treatment in a short period of time. The emotional wounds, are not seen, and because they go unnoticed, they linger on in the psyche and the memories of those affected. Community-base Psychosocial Support (CBPSS) supports affected people to share their history, visualize their experiences, and  through community walks beginning to transform loss into a re-establishment of place, a new beginning, and feelings of resilience.

A healthy seed cannot grow into a plant without fertile soil, light and water, and yet we resist to recognize the importance of the environment in our life.  It is important to consider how place molds our behavior and optic when facing a problem such as the destructive earthquakes in Puerto Rico. 
Place is important for human beings right from the beginning. The greatest need that the affected people  have right now, is the ability to control their own experiences. Whether we are happy or sad, is related with the place where we decide to spend our lives.  Our actions, thoughts, and feelings are shaped not only by our physical or psychological make-up, but by our place. The residents of Puerto Rico are dealing with the destruction of their emotional ecosystem, their livelihood, and their loss of safety and security. Our body-social memory has been disrupted. 
The population has lost their places. Places are thus both personal and social, made of human and non-human lives. Through making and maintaining places, individuals sustain the mazeways and enacted assemblages created through personal, bodily, social, and material worlds. Ecological characteristics provide structure for individuals and social groups, and may include places of worship, schools, marketplaces, and parks. Social institutions that are located throughout places and neighborhoods offer regular activities and rhythms for local and social communities. 

There are three pillars that interact in a dynamic movement of affected people and resources in place

First, the welfare and recovery of the affected people depends upon a dynamic process of interactions between the affected people's needs and resources in place. To determine the needs of the affected people  the CBPSS personnel conduct on-site interviews with survivors, explore historical images, elicit maps of the place, and displays photos with scenes of destruction. Rather than treat the audience as spectators, they are called upon to be guests and resident experts, to perceive the disaster destroyed geographical location  as an inhabited place. In this matter, slowly, the affected people begin to unfold and open-ended pathways of memory that generate possibilities of shared belongings in a re-established place. The affected people, through psychosocial support activities accept the new reality, engage in the difficult process of mourning, begin a process of emotional transformation of the self, and as a group visualize and develop a new community. The dialectic of loss is reframed into a path of development, where we can discard the old and embrace a new beginning, a re-established place. 

Several factors interact, playing an equally important role in the growth and welfare of a person. We can classically distinguish the various factors as geographical (space, ecological factors), physical (food, shelter, protection, medical care), psychological, (attachment, affection, self-esteem), spiritual (belief system, identity, and values) and social (family, friends, sense of place to which one belongs). A person is not an isolated individual but one who belongs and interacts in a given time and space with the community where he/she finds him/herself, whether it is the original or an adopted community. Therefore, to facilitate recovery and reconstruction and enhance resilience and well being, we must  act on various levels: individual, family, place, or community.  

Second, we must consider a holistic approach to recovery of the earthquake affected communities. The holistic approach of mobilization takes into consideration the results of an assessment of needs and resources of the affected place, in time, and assist the affected people to identify the geographical, psychological and social capital available to them, and at the same time, identify interventions that will enhance the well being. A deeper appreciation of the lived, place-based experiences of the affected people would enable the stakeholders to consider more ethical and sustainable forms of community action.  

Sharing stories and experiences  from the past (e.g. has this happened here before? or how did your elders cope with the situation?), will revive lessons, in the affected people that will evolve into creative practices in re-establishing place. The affected people will think differently about the new possibilities in at least three ways. First, inclusion of all affected creates the feeling of being visible to partners and external stakeholders. Through their narratives and performances in community theaters, affected people documented their presence (how they used, moved through, and made their place, neighborhood, and community).  The affected people are able to assert the right to be a part of the recovery (healing process) of their place, neighborhood, and community. Second, they communicated and enacted their experiences of place as inhabited, an understanding based upon psychological attachments, bodily and social memories, and fragile social ecologies. Affected people, as they consider the tensions of acceptance of the loss of everyday life in their place, are encouraged through CBPSS to remember life in an otherwise previously part of an affected neighborhood and community. 

If the earthquake affected people are understood as having been wounded by prevention activities after Hurricane Maria, or lack thereof, and the devastating power of the disaster itself, other images of place might focus attention on why places, peoples, groups, and environments, have been injured.  

Finally. the  active metaphor of  “wounded place” is operational in the psychosocial realm.  If the affected people, their place, and neighborhood are wounded through displacement, material devastation, and emotional raections, so too is the whole community and its inhabitants. 

Disaster wounds uncover old wounds, be those tied to the particular histories of the affected people in the place, processes, and traumas of displacement. The un-wrapping of old wounds and common stories about place, are important in terms of intergenerational relations and silences, and the affected individual, families and neighborhood  capacity to repair. CBPSS may offer possibilities of place-based mourning and care across generations that build self-worth, collective security, and social capacity. Materially, CBPSS activities motivate the creation of social capital, provides a range of memorialization activities, creates new forms of public memory, and is committed to intergenerational education and social outreach.

The third  pillar stresses the rights based ethic of care of a psychosocial intervention which lies in the complex interaction between the individual, the natural and made environment, and the social configuration of the affected place.   A CBPSS will address basic needs (food, shelter, protection and health) that will provide safety and security and increase comfort. Promote self-esteem and a sense of belonging to place (resilience). Value and use the resources of the person, the place and the community. Foster the reconstruction of the significant children and adults in their lives, family, group, and  social fabric. Increase social access through the school, place and community. Celebrate traditional, religious, and cultural aspects that promote growth in their place.

The psychosocial activities that are recommended to alleviate fear and promote well being are:
  • ‘Caring about’ someone or something helps individuals to recognize need in others, thereby resulting in attentiveness. Here I would include ‘caring about places’ as a type of care that encourages attentiveness in the ways that places are both deeply personal as well as socially shared. 
  • 'Taking care of’ someone or something in the affected areas and surrounding communities.  Place-based caring can be as simple as picking up trash on the beach to hosting a neighborhood potluck to organizing political protest actions; such feelings and actions produce responsibility to oneself, to others, and to places, neighborhoods, and social communities. 
  • ‘Giving care’ means that the feeling of responsibility for doing the work of caring for oneself and getting that work done produces competence in caring work. For example, in working in several affected communities after Hurricane Maria, I observed that, individuals may gain self-confidence, leadership skills, and social respect when collaborating over several months, and successfully creating a neighborhood community garden, planting trees, and fixing the “caminos” in the neighborhoods.
  • ‘Receiving care’ means that one makes sure the care work has been done and it has made things better; such a commitment produces responsiveness. This fourth type of care is not only the most difficult; receiving care also means that one must allow others to share in the responsibility of caring for oneself. To do this means to recognize the ‘other’ as different than the self in ways that might allow for inclusiveness and openness, including also listening to others, enhancing one’s own sense of self- worth, and crafting new social shells.

Peace Seeks Justice

Yes, the country seeks peace. But the angry protestors seek justice, The grieving mothers seek justice, The oppressed generations ...