On 1st June 2023, during the second session of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, a Special Event was co-created by the UNESCO and the GHfP Institute, featuring our team’s presentations on how the intergenerational dialogue and inquiry has contributed to healing, resilience and well-being.
Our partners highlighted the magic of the dialogue circles and that it is in the circle where the legacies of enslavement and colonialism are acknowledged, the transgenerational trauma recognised, the human bond cherished, and systemic transformation imagined.
One of young participants articulated clearly as follows: “I lost faith in the current systems, but I regained faith in the circles.” The encountering, listening, storytelling, and re-storying, continue to unfold in the circle where participants of different generations and backgrounds collaborate in healing and co-creating a system of caring.
The 2nd webinar of the Series featured the presentations from the keynote speakers, Dr Joy DeGruy and Thomas Hübl (PhD), who are both renowned for their insights into intergenerational trauma and collective healing.
Following their keynote presentations, Joy DeGruy and Thomas Hubl engaged in a dialogue about the opportunities and challenges of healing the wounds of history and ancestral trauma, and how global communities must take responsibility for supporting a flourishing future for the whole of humanity.
Dr Joy DeGruy is a nationally and internationally renowned researcher and educator. For over two decades, she served as an Assistant Professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work and now serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Joy DeGruy Publications Inc. (JDP). Dr DeGruy is committed to the healing of those that continue to suffer from past and present injuries and for the well being of all people.
As a result of twelve years of quantitative and qualitative research, Dr DeGruy has developed her theory of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, publishing her findings in the book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome – America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing”. The book addresses the residual impacts of generations of slavery and opens up the discussion of how the black community can use the strengths we have developed in the past to heal in the present.
Thomas Hübl, PhD, is a renowned teacher, author, and international facilitator whose lifelong work integrates the core insights of the great wisdom traditions and mysticism with the discoveries of science. The origin of his work and more than two decades of study and practice on healing collective trauma is detailed in his book Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds. Thomas’ next book, Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma—and Our World, will be published in September, 2023.
Mysticism and the principles that guide the actualization and practice of embodying these profound experiences are at the heart of Hübl’s teachings. In all his courses, participants can expect to learn from his extensive experience as a teacher of meditation and study of wisdom traditions. His didactic talks draw from evidence-based research and the leading edge of transpersonal, interdisciplinary studies.
In this opening session held on Monday 3rd April on Zoom, Mrs Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, was joined by Professor Medwin Hughes, the Vice Chancellor of UWTSD, to introduce the series.
The keynote speaker for this session was Zeinab Badawi, the award-winning international TV and Radio journalist who has worked on a major 20-part TV series on the History of Africa.
Following the keynote presentation, Mrs Gabriela Ramos and Ms Zeinab Badawi engaged in a deep dialogue about UNESCO’s Routes of Enslaved Peoples project and the significance of learning from the history of Africa, including exploring the importance of giving voice to people of African descent, and valorising their culture and contributions to modern societies.
Zeinab Badawi a BA Hons in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University and a post-graduate degree in history (awarded with a distinction) from SOAS, London University. She has worked extensively in the British media for four decades, and is best known for her work in the BBC’s international division at BBC World News TV and BBC World Service Radio on programmes such as ‘Hard Talk’, and ‘Global Questions’.
Zeinab is President of SOAS, London University, a member of the International Advisory Boards of think-tanks Afro-Barometer and the Mandela Institute for Development Studies, a member of the high-level panel of the Africa Europe Foundation, a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, a council member of the Arts, Humanities and Research Council of UKRI, a director of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Royal Opera House and Hampstead Theatre in London, and she is a member of Italy’s annual Venice Seminar.
Zeinab was a member of the Rhodes Commission (2021) on the future of the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford. She has previously served on the boards of the British Council, BBC Media Action, the National Portrait Gallery, the Institute for Historical Research, the Overseas Development Institute and has been Chair of the Royal African Society and Article 19, the freedom of speech advocacy organisation. She was also on the advisory board of the Foreign Policy Centre.
Zeinab has received many media awards as well as honorary doctorates from SOAS, London University, York University, and the University of the Arts London; and she is an honorary fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford University. Other awards include the President’s Medal of the British Academy for her services to broadcasting and education, the UN Association-UK Sir Brian Urquhart award for distinguished service to broadcasting, education and the UN, and International TV Personality of the Year awarded by the Association of International Broadcasters.
This Special Issue brings together five articles from different disciplines. It aims to contribute to the emergent critical voices in research about collective trauma and collective healing by introducing novel perspectives and inviting further debates on the relevant issues evoked. For this reason, the Special Issue focuses on collective healing through a number of prisms. First, it delves into the notions of wounding and trauma, with a view to advance a well-argued theoretical framework for understanding collective healing. Second, it identifies underlying ethical pillars for collective healing, especially the principles of equality and well-being that affirm human dignity founded on our intrinsic non-instrumental value as persons. Third, it interrogates one of the deeply seated root causes of transatlantic slavery, and establishes a connection between capitalist expansion and systematic subjugation of human beings to brutal forces for the sake of materialistic production and wealth accumulation. Thus, this Special Issue attempts to survey historical dehumanisation in some of the mass atrocities, probe their continued legacies in contemporary societies in Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and highlight some of the political, psycho-social and grassroots approaches to collect healing in various contexts. In doing so, it further reflects on the conceptual, methodological and structural challenges involved when moving towards collective healing.
Formally launching and disseminating this Report is an active response to UNESCO’s Global Call against racism. It will inspire the world to learn from the histories of slavery, acknowledge the harms of structural injustice and institutional racism, and promote inclusion, pluralism and intercultural dialogue.
Watch the recording of the UNESCO Launch event here:
In this A Narrative of Love conversation, the UNESCO Slave Route Project Advisor, Dr Joy DeGruy, explores what it feels for black African Americans to negotiate the multiple challenges of living in a racist society, including internalised racism, the learned helplessness, and structural dehumanisation. Dr DeGruy also highlights key elements that can move the society towards healing, at both personal and collective levels.
More importantly, Dr DeGruy offers pathways that individuals, organisations, and governments can embark on to repair, rebuild and restructure our common habitat through partaking in the mutuality of shared humanness. Thus we can all Be the Healing.
This is a must-read and provides illuminating ideas in terms of how we might understand the significance of healing the wounds of collective historical trauma such as trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery.
Supported by the UNESCO Slave Route Project, the GHFP has completed a Desk Review aimed at mapping meaningful approaches to healing the wounds of slavery.
The Desk Review draws on a conception of healing wounds that perceives the wound of trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery as systematic dehumanisation. This in turn highlights the imperative of healing as addressing dehumanisation through four processes:
Process One is directed at dehumanising acts per se;
Process Two is directed at the traumatic effects of being dehumanised;
Process Three is directed at the dehumanising relationships; and
Process Four is directed at the structural conditions that enable and have enabled institutionalised dehumanisation.
In reviewing the relevant literature and case studies, the Desk Review has mapped out some of the key practical approaches to healing. Understanding the significance of collective healing and taking practical steps towards healing are amongst the most powerful ways to eradicate racism.
In her review of Toni Morrison‘s book “Beloved”, Dr Scherto Gill suggests that one of the book’s features be that it allows us to remember the unremembered, and reminds us of the need to face the oppressed collective memories of slavery. Without embracing these memories, the unremembered continues to hold our societies, and we live simultaneously in the present and in the past.
Dr Gill says:
Clearly, the unremembered is never forgotten, and they wear different guises today in racism, poverty, and violence, the three evils of structural oppression identified by Martin Luther King Jr.
That unremembered demands to be remembered, is because memories can imprison but also liberate. By remembering, the formerly enslaved can re-acquaint with their bodies once so violated by brutality and torture, and can return to their community, a community from which they once ran away, because it identity was associated with commodity and utility.
Dr King calls this new place of belonging our Beloved Community, built on dignity, mutual respect, and compassion. For Morrison, this Beloved Community must start with listening to unremembered past … because she knew only too well, it is in the remembered that lies seed of forgiveness, redemption, and healing.