“We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course [Stamped from the Beginning] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.” Self-interest drives racist policies that benefit that self-interest. When the policies are challenged because they produce inequalities, racist ideas spring up to justify those policies. Hate flows freely from there.”
Capoeira Angola with families is more than an opportunity to cartwheel and kick. It’s a practice that integrates physical, emotional and historical learning. It takes all of those things we learn (or don’t learn) in schools and puts them in the context of real lives and real people. And, yes, there are cartwheels too…
From the blog Rise Up for Students (a blog about education and equity in the Pacific Northwest) by Matt Halvorsen
A point that stuck with me since first coming across this article…
“alongside that (the) pledge (of U.S. allegiance), if it’s something that remains important to you — let’s also pledge our solemn respect and remembrance of the past and present by acknowledging that we are living, working and schooling on stolen land.”
Check out his work and his engaging insights…
The practice of land acknowledgment dates back centuries (at least) among indigenous communities, and is more common in the mainstream in Australia, New Zealand and Canada than in the U.S., but it is a growing movement here as well. The idea is that before an event — whether it’s a school day, a sports game, a meeting or even a family meal — you take a moment to name, thank and consider the people whose displacement allows you to be where you are. Whose historical trauma makes it possible for you to thrive as you do in the place you live?
Black, Brown, Colored: Martial Arts / Opinion
By Clarence Jackson
There have always been threats to Black life. There have always been threats to human life. In America those threats became one of the most dominating factors of life. With all of the White Supremacist actions we should remember the KKK never left, the hate groups and the hate, the politicians that support them, their institutional support systems are all part of American tradition. I invite you to consider that you are being irresponsible if you are an African American and are not devoting a considerable amount of time to the study of self defense by the many trained professionals that offer it.
I have spoken with numerous police officers about their difficult jobs and been told time and again that you should arm yourself. If you call them they try, but it takes time to get to you. Officers and military have been offering training for years. Good, solid working people trying to raise families and thrive in this world need to not only be able to protect themselves and ensure the lives of their children, they need to be networked to ensure the safety of communities. Decent hardworking people should not be victimized by anyone. Including people inside of their communities, but we certainly can’t continue to be surprised by the underbelly of American society. Love each other, grow food, participate in society and live well, but safeguard your life in the American way. And always remember self defense is always paired with legal study, knowing the laws, I would even argue knowing lawyers, officers and possibly politicians to ensure that you are not only properly following the laws, but connected enough to it to create the best options for safely navigating any aftermath in the horror of having to defend yourself.
Black, Brown, Colored: Education
By Njoli Brown
In Wisconsin a school asked its student body to list “3 good reasons for slavery” (along with three bad ones).
Another school, in South Carolina, decided to take its students on a field trip for Black History Month. Activities included: picking cotton and singing slave spirituals…. Yes, you read that correctly.
It was only this February 2019 when a school in northern Virginia thought it would be a good idea to teach about the Underground railroad by playing a “runaway slave game.”
There’s no way around it. There are some people who are too damaged to keep from letting their racism shine through. That being said, you don’t have to ride that train.
Before even starting though, as the adults in the room, this work needs to begin with teachers and parents—deepening our own understanding of the history, paying attention to the broader context, considering the children’s developmental age, and clarifying goals in doing this type of education.
On the site Teaching Tolerance are provided a list of “key concepts” which it seems would be important to consider and reconcile with before jumping into the deep end of a conversation about the racial, social and economic foundations of slavery with your young people.
- Slavery, which was practiced by Europeans prior to their arrival in the Americas, was important to all of the colonial powers and existed in all of the European North American colonies.
- Slavery and the slave trade were central to the development and growth of the economy across British North America and, later, the United States.
- Protections for slavery were embedded in the founding documents; enslavers dominated the federal government, Supreme Court and Senate from 1787 through 1860.
- “Slavery was an institution of power,” designed to create profit for the enslavers and break the will of the enslaved and was a relentless quest for profit abetted by racism.
- Enslaved people resisted the efforts of their enslavers to reduce them to commodities in both revolutionary and everyday ways.
- The experience of slavery varied depending on time, location, crop, labor performed, size of slaveholding and gender.
- Slavery was the central cause of the Civil War.
- Slavery shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness, and white supremacy was both a product and legacy of slavery.
- Enslaved and free people of African descent had a profound impact on American culture, producing leaders and literary, artistic and folk traditions that continue to influence the nation.
- By knowing how to read and interpret the sources that tell the story of American slavery, we gain insight into some of what enslaving and enslaved Americans aspired to, created, thought and desired.
I wanted to provide a few start up resources for those of you who are genuinely interested in teaching about historical and modern day slavery in a way that is held in empathy and authentically speaks to the trauma of the institution. There are tremendous amounts of materials out there and hopefully some of these act as an inroad and inspiration.
A list of 60 books recommended for the classroom and as background reading for parents and teachers on the history of slavery and resistance in the United States. This lists provides materials relevant for all ages, from child through YA to adult. These aren’t just books to drop in a room but to act as a catalyst for art projects, writing projects, debate and discussion. I’d also refer you to this article from the Chicago Tribune “Slavery In Children’s Books: What Works?”
2. The Passage — Researched & Written by Fern Lewis / Directed by Dale Gooding
An animation which explores the slave trade and the journey of the Trans-Atlantic voyage. Wonderfully written and narrated. This is not “G” rated. There are some deeply emotional themes here. It is a film you should pre-screen in order to determine the appropriateness for your class’ age range and prepare for the depth of conversation needed to to process it.
“What we don’t know about American slavery hurts us all.” From Teaching Tolerance and host Hasan Jeffries, Teaching Hard History brings us the lessons we should have learned in school through the voices of leading scholars and educators. It’s good advice for teachers, good information for everybody.
4. The ABCs of Black History
The history of African people did not begin with nor did it end with slavery. It’s just important to educate on the continuance of this journey, acknowledging the identity of a people as more than just their epochal social status.
Do you have more resources to suggest? Drop them in the comments.
“It is of crucial importance for every American to understand the role that slavery played in the formation of this country, and that lesson must begin with the teaching of the history of slavery in our schools. It is impossible to understand the state of race relations in American society today without understanding the roots of racial inequality – and its long-term effects – which trace back to the ‘peculiar institution.”
– Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard University Professor, author America Behind the Color Line –
It’s been such an honor to have Guru Robert as a teacher, facilitating my silat journey. His patience, humility and deep understanding have been as engaging as his skill and I figured it’d be a pleasure to get his take on just 5 Questions about his ideas on teaching his student journey.
Robert Hilliard of Kuno Silat talks back to 5 Questions from Njoli Brown at NoPaper.
I’ve been around martial artists my entire life. I had two brothers that studied Okinawan karate. They where basically my first teachers. When they would see me and my friends imitating martial arts moves, they would came and make corrections. Occasionally they would let us spar with them. This would typically end with me and my friends on our backs, or a bit bruised up. The younger of my two brothers, who was actually a black belt, had a friend who was opening a Kung-Fu school in a local community center. My brother thought that would be good training for me, so he enrolled me and another of my siblings at the school. I trained there until I finished high school. After college, I ran into a friend that was studying Wing Chun. I loved the efficiency of that system and trained for over ten years. After that, I was introduced to silat by a neighborhood friend. I was instantly drawn to it’s effectiveness and completeness.
My experiences have been varied. I try hard not to look at them through the lens of good or bad, but as learning opportunities. I’ve had some teachers that were, what some would consider heavy handed, while others were nurturing and accommodated. Early on, some of my teachers pushed so hard that I got injured during training. When this happened, they would frankly state that it was not the training methods that caused the injuring, but my lack of conditioning, etc. Those were unpleasant experiences, but they taught me to listen to my body. It also taught me that good teachers don’t push their students beyond their physical limitations. I should note that those experiences happened while I was studying others systems. The vast majority of my experience with silat have been incredibly positive.
As an instructor, I try to create a warm and welcoming environment where people can come to class, work hard, and enjoying their progress. I teach my students that success in martial arts, or life for that matter, is not a straight line. It’s okay to struggle and fail as long as you are “failing forward.” As far as my student’s aspirations go, I want everyone to be ambassadors of the art and have confidence in their ability to execute what they’ve learned with confidence in class or in the street, if need be.
I manage my personal practice by making sure that I carve out time during the day to train all aspects of the art. I learned that it’s easier for me to train early in the morning (around 5:00 am). Of course, you can’t train everything in the system in one day, so I focus on certain aspects throughout the week. The jurus (forms), I train everyday. I also try to make sure that my general fitness is good. I’ve also learned to listen to my body, so I don’t train when I’m sick or injured. Instead, I give my body time to heal.
To make things relevant in my daily life, I use the two basic principles of silat: adat and hormat. Adat is how you conduct yourself. Hormat is respect for all around you. As a instructor, I believe that I should be a mirror for my students outside of class as well as inside.
Robert Hilliard is a student of Senior Guru Tim Anderson and a long time promoter of this Indo-Dutch system of silat as Head Instructor of Kuno NYC. He additionally has an extensive background in Wing Chun. Robert brings his classes alive by consistently imbuing them with a community feel while committing his students to a highly technical and detail oriented practice.
Semangat Baru is the name of our specific style of Pukulan Pentjak Silat. It translates to “New Spirit” and reflects our new way of viewing and teaching the ancient art of Silat. We operate free from any kind of “secrets” or “martial politics” that can become attached to coveted knowledge. The style itself focuses overwhelming an opponent with strikes, while finding leverage points to take their balance and ultimately subdue them.
Silat is a collective word used to describe martial arts originating from South East Asia, such as Malaysia and in our case Indonesia. Pukulan is a word that means striking. In this case denoting a silat system that places a heavy emphasis on hitting. Pentjak is generally considered to refer to the movements and performance of forms where “Silat” is an expression of those motions for use in combat. So “Pukulan Pentjak Silat” could be seen to mean something like “Striking form based Indonesian Martial Art”.
*Special “thank you” to Jelena Antanasijevic for the photos.
By Njoli Brown
One of the most powerful things we can give to our youth is the realization that they have an actual capacity to effect change. In my autumn projects in Brooklyn and the Bronx I decided to utilize concepts from civil engineering to develop
a sense of the importance of design in the nature and timbre of a community. But even more importantly, the objective was to mature the capacity to critically evaluate our environment to recognize ways in which it could be changed and/or supported.
The process was collaborative and grounded in the work of establishing leadership skills, common values and collective empathy. Through discussion, writing, movement and art we dove deep into the most difficult work of putting language to our ideas, debating and, at times, compromising.
We concluded the project by creating an interactive public gallery wherein participants could post questions as a pathway to research and activism.
By JL Umipig
It’s been 2 years now since I arrived to Central Park on a spring evening and was welcomed by Guro Njoli and two of my brothers of Pekiti Tirsia Kali (PTK) Vin and Chris. And I recall so distinctly why I returned after that first moment- it was the feeling of being held in a process of betterment and strengthening through comraderie. From day one, my brothers of MSMB and PTK held me to a caliber of that encouragement to better and strengthen my being.
I am one of the few Womxn who consistently trains with the brothers of PTK Elite and MSMBNYC. In two years I have watched sisters come through and I emphasize to them why I continue to train which consists of the reasons that most people do, to have consistent physical regiment for my fitness and health, to be able to defend myself when the time comes, and to strengthen my body and confidence. But also I continue and commit to PTK and MSMB because of what I felt in that initial moment that I began learning with this circle: the camaraderie and mutual betterment of self as a practitioner that I feel growing with my brothers. There is a real pride we have for the betterment of one another, the push to excel as a family unit, detached from competition amongst those in our crew. They push me to go hard, to be able to hold my own amongst anyone, no matter their size or their strength level. There is a belief that I feel from the respect my brothers hold for me, that when we train, our genders have nothing to do with our ability to train hard, and be able to step up to the challenges of body, mind and spirit that our practice teaches us to stand up to.
Our guros hold us all to our strengths, and also hold us to strengthening our weaknesses. I see how each of them in their teachings see the value of each individual in the group, and I watch the camaraderie between them that is model to us all. It roots our circle, the way they are able to respect and hold one another in collaboration and in unique styles of giving knowledge to our training. And as the little sister in the crew they rarely mention my gender, only with the recognition of how to apply their teachings to the very real degradation and violence Womxn face on the daily and how to use the learnings for my protection and ability to be prepared should I be confronted with the realities of misogyny and gender violence in this world. They teach me to use my size to my advantage, and help me understand my power to survive.
When we talk about Kali, we orient the learnings around the ability of Pilipino ancestors to fight and survive in battle with their colonizers, who were often larger and more equipped than them. These teachings of Pilipino Ancestral practices and traditions is the other reason I stay. My guros value this and respect the roots of the art, they help us understand the context and it brings me closer to my ancestors in a new way of understanding. I feel them in my movements. I feel their spirit of survival and resistance. And they and my brothers make room for me to share my learnings and cultural practices and values as a healer, activist and artist in connection to our training- another way they welcome what I have to contribute to our circle of my strengths.
“Respect everyone, Fear no one” our MSMB mantra is core to the way we train, is core to the way we learn, is core to the way we build camaraderie. Every time I come to train, I feel valued, respected and cared for as a member to this circle of warriors. I believe that is how my ancestors intended this practice to be upheld. So I bring myself fully to every training and every gathering, ready to step into my power. Sure, every now and then the testosterone is real, the frustrations of having to deal with my femininity being sometimes a hindrance because I can’t hide I am a Womxn physically and there are instances of societal stereotypes that surface (that’s real), and the moments of having to step it up extra notches to have new members that are men see me the way my brothers who I’ve trained with from the beginning is real as well. But what outweighs all of that is that my brothers will always remind me I am valued, that I am seen and I am held and so the humanization is real, the honoring is real and the love that makes me feel Family in this circle of brothers is real.
Jana Lynne (JL) Umipig is the creator of “The Journey of a Brown Girl” www.thejourneyofabrowngirl.com Director, Producer, Actress, Educator and Organizer she currently resides in NYC. JL has worked with different community organizations developing curriculum and programs that integrate theatre and visual arts with activism and leadership development, working with schools, community organizations, detention facilities, and rehabilitation and support group centers. She believes in the power of the arts to activate and move the human spirit for individual toward community empowerment and transformation. She creates with the intention to connect human experience and spirit between all communities.