400 Years a Slave | Our Black Ancestry

Scars of a whipped slave (April 2, 1863, Baton...

Scars of a whipped slave (April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Original caption: “Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer. The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

400 Years a Slave   9 November 2013

 

After weeks of anticipation, I finally saw the movie 12 Years a Slave.In trying to unpack my thoughts, the one thing I do not want to do is review the film. Others will do that far more adeptly than I. Suffice it to say, the film was STUNNING — in every sense of the word, at all possible levels.As an African American genealogist, I am more informed than most about the history of African American people and our subjugation to slavery in the Americas. From my personal family tree, I can name 12 ancestors whose humanity was violated. And that is just the “top note” as I know there are others whose names will never be found.For the past 30+ years, I have been on a mission to bring their stories to light — not just for my own edification, but for public exposure. It was thus that I created Our Black Ancestry for the purpose of “empowering our future by honoring our past.”Every name I learn, every document I uncover, every story I reveal … all of it constitutes a mere fragment in the worldwide complicity of economic aspiration that resulted in a heinous crime against  humanity. It is a crime that has never been fully addressed, punished or resolved. White Americans relegate this past to the fond digression of films like Gone with the Wind. African Americans often refuse to look back, perhaps in an attempt to control the antipathy that surely must reside in our wounded souls.The powerful essence of the movie was that it encapsulated a visual depiction of the words I read in books and documents.As I witnessed the unfolding story of Solomon Northup, I was mentally transported into a cotton field where my great grandparents toiled without relief in  Lowndes County, Alabama.I lay in the bed of my great grandmother in Noxubee County, Mississippi as she succumbed to sexual objectification by the man who fathered her 17 children — thus being elevated over a 10 year span from “farmhand” to “housekeeper.”I experienced the anguish of an inconsolable mother whose cries for her stolen children were so overwhelmingly rife with anguish, her fellow slave retorted that she “stop wailing.” She then endured further punishment by being sold away by an owner who refused to entertain the unconscionable pain he had caused.As Northup was hung by the neck and left dangling in desperation, I envisioned my uncle who was lynched.I shared the pathos of generations of people — my people — kidnapped, chained, whipped, crippled, violated and traumatized in every possible way. Slave masters reduced themselves and their prey to a level of barbarity that defies imagination, unleashing a vicious cycle of violence that informs our society unto this very day.  I cannot fathom the cognitive dissonance of these men and their consort wives who did what they did and justified it with the word of a God I do not know.In the end, as Northup climbed into the wagon of his rescuers, all he could do was gaze with sadness and longing at the ones he left behind. In the final analysis, it was they who were the most tragic of victims because their subjugation was never to be relieved. Sixty years removed from the only relative I knew in person who was enslaved — my father’s grandmother — I am limited to a vicarious awareness of what she and my other family members endured. There is no doubt in my mind… I would NOT have survived. Yet, I am grateful they did because, if not for them, I would not BE.

 

via 400 Years a Slave | Our Black Ancestry.

 

 

 

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When Black Men Ruled the World: 8 Things The Moors Brought to Europe – Atlanta Black Star

The reflecting pool in the Patio de los Arraya...

The reflecting pool in the Patio de los Arrayanes , at the Moorish Alhambra of Granada, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When the topic of the Moorish influence in Europe is being discussed, one of the first questions that arises is, what race were they?As early as the Middle Ages, “Moors were commonly viewed as being mostly black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for negro,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.Author and historian Chancellor Williams said “the original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were black Africans.”The 16th century English playwright William Shakespeare used the word Moor as a synonym for African. His contemporary Christopher Marlowe also used African and Moor interchangeably.Arab writers further buttress the black identity of the Moors.  The powerful Moorish Emperor Yusuf ben-Tachfin is described by an Arab chronicler as “a brown man with wooly hair.”Black soldiers, specifically identified as Moors, were actively recruited by Rome, and served in Britain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.  St. Maurice, patron saint of medieval Europe, was only one of many black soldiers and officers under the employ of the Roman Empire.Although generations of Spanish rulers have tried to expunge this era from the historical record, recent archeology and scholarship now shed fresh light on the Moors who flourished in Al-Andalus for more than 700 years – from 711 AD until 1492.

The Moorish advances in mathematics, astronomy, art, and agriculture helped propel Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.Source:  Stewartsynopsis.com/moors_in_europe.htmUniversal EducationThe Moors brought enormous learning to Spain that over centuries would percolate through the rest of Europe.The intellectual achievements of the Moors in Spain had a lasting effect; education was universal in Moorish Spain, while in Christian Europe, 99 percent of the population was illiterate, and even kings could neither read nor write. At a time when Europe had only two universities, the Moors had seventeen, located in Almeria, Cordova, Granada, Juen, Malaga, Seville, and Toledo.In the 10th and 11th centuries, public libraries in Europe were non-existent, while Moorish Spain could boast of more than 70, including one in Cordova that housed hundreds of thousands of manuscripts. Universities in Paris and Oxford were established after visits by scholars to Moorish Spain.It was this system of education, taken to Europe by the Moors, that seeded the European Renaissance and brought the continent out of the 1,000 years of intellectual and physical gloom of the Middle Ages.Source: Blackhistorystudies.com/resources/resources/15-facts-on-the-moors-in-spain/Culturespain.com/2012/03/02/what-did-the-moors-do-for-us/

 

via When Black Men Ruled the World: 8 Things The Moors Brought to Europe – Atlanta Black Star.

 

The 8 Stages of Genocide

Genocide Logo

Genocide Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 8 Stages of Genocide


 

By Gregory H. Stanton, President, Genocide Watch

Classification Symbolization Dehumanization Organization Polarization Preparation Extermination Denial

Genocide is a process that develops in eight stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive measures can stop it. The process is not linear.  Logically, later stages must be preceded by earlier stages.  But all stages continue to operate throughout the process.

1. CLASSIFICATION: All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi. Bipolar societies that lack mixed categories, such as Rwanda and Burundi, are the most likely to have genocide. The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend ethnic or racial divisions, that actively promote tolerance and understanding, and that promote classifications that transcend the divisions. The Catholic church could have played this role in Rwanda, had it not been riven by the same ethnic cleavages as Rwandan society. Promotion of a common language in countries like Tanzania has also promoted transcendent national identity. This search for common ground is vital to early prevention of genocide.

2. SYMBOLIZATION: We give names or other symbols to the classifications. We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies”, or distinguish them by colors or dress; and apply the symbols to members of groups. Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to the next stage, dehumanization. When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups: the yellow star for Jews under Nazi rule, the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden (swastikas) as can hate speech. Group marking like gang clothing or tribal scarring can be outlawed, as well. The problem is that legal limitations will fail if unsupported by popular cultural enforcement. Though Hutu and Tutsi were forbidden words in Burundi until the 1980’s, code-words replaced them. If widely supported, however, denial of symbolization can be powerful, as it was in Bulgaria, where the government refused to supply enough yellow badges and at least eighty percent of Jews did not wear them, depriving the yellow star of its significance as a Nazi symbol for Jews.

3. DEHUMANIZATION: One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group. In combating this dehumanization, incitement to genocide should not be confused with protected speech. Genocidal societies lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech, and should be treated differently than democracies. Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable. Leaders who incite genocide should be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen. Hate radio stations should be shut down, and hate propaganda banned. Hate crimes and atrocities should be promptly punished.

4. ORGANIZATION: Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility (the Janjaweed in Darfur.) Sometimes organization is informal (Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants) or decentralized (terrorist groups.) Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for genocidal killings. To combat this stage, membership in these militias should be outlawed. Their leaders should be denied visas for foreign travel. The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations, as was done in post-genocide Rwanda.

5. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center. Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide, so are the first to be arrested and killed. Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups. Assets of extremists may be seized, and visas for international travel denied to them. Coups d’état by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions.

6. PREPARATION: Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. Members of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is expropriated. They are often segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved. At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared. If the political will of the great powers, regional alliances, or the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized, armed international intervention should be prepared, or heavy assistance provided to the victim group to prepare for its self-defense. Otherwise, at least humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees to come.

7. EXTERMINATION begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human. When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing. Sometimes the genocide results in revenge killings by groups against each other, creating the downward whirlpool-like cycle of bilateral genocide (as in Burundi). At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection. (An unsafe “safe” area is worse than none at all.) The U.N. Standing High Readiness Brigade, EU Rapid Response Force, or regional forces — should be authorized to act by the U.N. Security Council if the genocide is small. For larger interventions, a multilateral force authorized by the U.N. should intervene. If the U.N. is paralyzed, regional alliances must act. It is time to recognize that the international responsibility to protect transcends the narrow interests of individual nation states. If strong nations will not provide troops to intervene directly, they should provide the airlift, equipment, and financial means necessary for regional states to intervene.

8. DENIAL is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile. There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them. The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts. There the evidence can be heard, and the perpetrators punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav or Rwanda Tribunals, or an international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or an International Criminal Court may not deter the worst genocidal killers. But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some may be brought to justice.

 

© 1998 Gregory H. Stanton. Originally presented as a briefing paper at the US State Department in 1996.

 

Group Therapy Model for Refugee and Torture Survivors

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Group therapy model for refugee

and torture survivors

Ibrahim A. Kira PhD*, Asha Ahmed PhD*, Vanessa Mahmoud, Msw* & Fatima Wassim, MA*

Abstract

The paper discusses the Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors’ therapy group model for tor­ture survivors and describes two of its variants: The Bashal group for African and Somali women and the Bhutanese multi-family therapy group. Group therapies in this model extend to com­munity healing. Groups develop their cohesion to graduate to a social community club or initi­ate a community organization. New graduates from the group join the club and become part of the social advocacy process and of group and individual support and community healing. The BASHAL Somali women’s group that developed spontaneously into a socio-political club for Af­rican women, and the Bhutanese family group that consciously developed into a Bhutanese com­munity organization are discussed as two variants of this new model of group therapy with torture survivors.

Key words: group therapy, refugees, wraparound approach for torture treatment, community healing

Introduction

There is an increased concern about the relevance and effectiveness of current mental health programs and existing interventions

*) Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors CTTS, Georgia, USA. iakira@dhr.state.ga.us

that are derived from individualistic western cultures and based mostly on addressing single personal identity trauma, for example sexual abuse, with clients from different cultures and with refugees and minority populations who are cumulatively trauma­tized with personal and collective identity traumas.1-3

In general, treatment of refugees who have survived violence and torture is com­plicated and not manuals-bound. Most evidence-based traditional group therapies have been developed to address specific single personal identity trauma, e.g., sexual abuse, or post such single trauma symptoms using different cognitive behavioural, psycho-dynamic or other theoretical and technical approaches. However, refugees and torture survivors went through, and are possibly still going through, a host of different trauma types that include personal and collective identity traumas and which have cumulative effects. Cumulative trauma dynamics are dif­ferent from the dynamics of single trauma.4 Additionally, refugees and torture survivors usually belong to different cultures which are more collective than individualistic and may belong to different religious heritages other than those form which such group therapies were developed.5 It is important to adapt current evidence-based group therapies, regardless of their theoretical and

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technical approaches, to address cumulative trauma and collective identity traumas that clients endured, or are enduring, in order to be acceptable and effective with refugees and torture survivors. Most refugee populations and torture survivors come from collective cultures and the core (or index) traumas for most of them are collective identity traumas. In the case of ethnic persecution, which is a collective identity trauma, the group char­acter is even more evident. The traumatized refugees have become victims of persecution and or torture because of their belonging to a certain group. In collectivistic culture, heal­ing usually take place within the group context. When people get persecuted because of their group characteristics, a group therapy seems logical and has more therapeutic potential. In collectivistic cultures, it is common for families and community elders or religious or political leaders to be the first source of support for personal problems or health con­cerns. Family group therapy and community work can be especially effective. Using modi­fied or newly designed group interventions can be a potentially effective component in a wraparound multi-component, multi-model process for treating victims of political vio­lence.6-8

Torture consists of different traumas that target an individual or group. Col­lective identity is an important factor in this complex trauma. The multi-systemic, multi-component, wraparound psychosocial rehabilitation approach for torture treat­ment addresses the three systems affected by torture: The individual, family members and the group.6-8 Group therapy for torture survivors is an important component of this model. Group therapies in this model extend to community healing. Groups de­velop their cohesion in order to graduate to a social community club or initiate a com­munity organization. New graduates from

the group join the club and become part of the social advocacy process and of group and community support and healing. Fol­lowing this model, the Centre for Torture and Trauma Survivors (CTTS) currently conducts family and women’s groups for Iraqis, a Burmese men’s group, a Bhutanese family group, and an African women’s group of members who survived both torture and HIV (caused by rape during torture). In the following, we describe two of these groups as two variants of the model where each ends up establishing a sustainable community or­ganization, the Bashaal women’s group and the Bhutanese multi-family group, albeit in different ways.

Bashaal: a comforting shoulder In August 2006, CTTS began a thera peutic group for Somali, Ethiopian and other Sub-Saharan women who had suffered war trauma and torture. The group was led by a Somali case manager/community liaison and a consulting therapist. They were able to combine the case manager knowledge of Somali culture and language with the therapist’s experience with trauma and dis­sociation. They began the group by focusing on the common thread of female genital circumcision.

In the following months the group fo­cused on the women’s support of each other, the importance of their faith and culture in their survival, and their need for help in interfacing with systems. In the process of addressing day-to-day concerns and health problems, the women began to talk about the trauma they had experienced.

Three group changes have marked the growing empowerment of the women. In November 2006, the group members took “ownership” of the group by naming it Bashaal, which refers, in Somalia, to a late afternoon women’s gathering in the pres‑

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ence of wise elders, a time to share their stories of troubles and triumphs. They share ginger tea and dates, while relaxing after the day’s chores. The second significant change was to move the group from the offices of CTTS to a community room in the heart of the Somali and Ethiopian community, near the main Masjid mosque. The organization and use of the center was negotiated by the physician, with the support of the Somali community. The room is furnished in a trad­itional Sub-Saharan manner and is cared for by the women. In the summer of 2008, a new therapist started a second women’s group with the Somali case manager/com­munity liaison, while the first group con­tinued as a self-sufficient group, sometimes mentoring the new group!

The group has interpreters and various interns who assist and visit and who help members reach the goals they have set for the group. The goals of the group are:

a)  To give members a safe place to gather and to talk about their concerns, includ­ing their recovery from torture;

b)  To assist in the acculturation and immi­gration process by discussing cultural and religious differences they encounter;

c)  To increase members’ feelings of personal empowerment and mastery in various aspects of their lives through trad itional women’s handicrafts and basic living skills;

d)  To diminish symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression through psychotherapy and support;

e)  To form a social organization that brings women out of isolation and that can eventually be maintained by members with a steady core membership.

After an initial assessment of the potential group members’ experiences with torture and trauma, using the instruments devel‑

oped for the Center for Torture and Trauma, approximately 20 members were selected by the case manager for membership in the group. Meetings are held once a week, on Fridays, prior to Jumah (Friday) prayers. Participants are transported to meetings or arrive via public transportation. Refresh­ments are often served, particularly tea and sweets. Members greet each other tradition­ally and get to know the rules of the group. Confidentiality, privacy and safety are em­phasized in the group.

The therapist facilitates a therapeutic group process, incorporating relaxation breathing and guided imagery for stress relief, pain management, and relief from intrusion phenomena. The group is organ­ized around a theme or activity each week, pre-selected by the members and the thera­pist the week before. Themes include: im­migration experiences, parenting, marriage, communicating with doctors, tribal conflict, difficulties in protecting and raising sons, finding husbands for daughters, maintaining authority with children, memories, night­mares and dreams, financial difficulties, cultural differences, divorce, losses, grief, rage and loneliness. Activities can include crocheting, knitting, quilting, drawing, sew­ing, simple automobile maintenance, driving tests, scrapbooking, jewelry making, etc. These activities are all activities they can continue outside of the group. They are nor­malizing, calming and soothing to the mem­bers. While they are working on a project they hold their discussions, just as one might on a visit to a friend. Within this context, the shame and guilt that they might otherwise feel when thinking or talking about many issues is diminished. Members look forward to these meetings every week. They report using their crafts as ways to calm and soothe themselves at home when times are difficult. They are supportive and respectful of one

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another. They cry and laugh together and celebrate each person’s small triumphs or significant losses. In this way, the group is truly a comforting shoulder for each woman.

Bhutanese Multi-family Therapy Group for Torture Survivors’ Families

The group started in November, 2008, con­sisted of between five and eight families. The group was led by a bilingual mental health counsellor, and a Bhutanese case manager/ community liaison co-facilitator who has a masters degree in Political science from Nepal. The goals of the group are:

a)  To give members a safe place to gather and to talk about their concerns and their stories, including their recovery from tor­ture;

b)  To assist in the socio-cultural adjustment;

c)  To increase members’ feelings of personal empowerment and mastery in various as­pects of their lives;

d)  To diminish symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression;

e)  To form a social organization for Bhu­tanese torture survivors who continue to support each other after the group and advocate against torture and oppression, which helps with the continuation of per­sonal and community healing, advocacy and social support.

However, the focus in the first stage switched to survival issues, because of the new added traumatic stress, arising from the dire economic situation in US at the time. The therapy focused, at this stage, in devel­oping assertiveness training, problem solv­ing skills, using humour, laughter and other skills, for example, journaling and making to do lists.

Clients are encouraged to share their story but they are not pushed to. Most of

the members are interested in discussing religious topics. They are also interested in discussing the politics of Nepal and Bhutan. The experience one time of a member who was very quiet in all sessions, but who spoke up for the first time about politics and gave his opinion, shows the relevance of this topic to group participants.

General Principles for torture groups:

1)  Helping clients regain control of their life. Also, providing a safe space to practice control during group time. For example, letting them have cell phones and giving them the choice to answer it (it could be from their job agency, sick relative, etc.)

2)  Giving them choices and teaching them to choose for themselves. Letting them make the rules for the group and then adding more important ones if neces­sary.

3)  Abstaining from re-traumatizing by recalling memories of torture. Encour­age, not force them to share about their torture. Most of them are afraid, guilty, embarrassed, feel responsible for what happened to them.

4)  Most importantly, establishing and gaining their trust. Making them feel very comfortable in any way possible. Talking about their history, where they came from, history behind their coun­try, learning about their culture and its practices. Letting them educate the therapist and case managers about the conditions they came from. Talk about politics and religion, their favorite mov­ies, songs they like.

5)  Using laughter and humour: Laugh­ing is the shortest route to the heart. Strat egies of telling jokes and laughing in the moment helps them forget about their pain for now. Talking about the

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new host culture, inviting them to share any funny events relating to the host culture that they experienced are help­ful interventions.

6)    Using art and other creative activities. Collage was liked by all members. Tell­ing stories by looking at some emo­tion cards, writing letters of gratitude, accultur ation activities, educating about the new culture and its practices, hav­ing them draw their interests, hobbies, strengths, accomplishments, successes, and positive focused therapeutic activi­ties were all utilized.

7)    Balancing power dynamics in the group was important. Getting down to their level and accessing them, reflection of power in dress, seating in the group, not practicing too much control, or making strict rules were important.

8)    Letting them vent and complain be­cause they have no place else to do that. Listen to them closely without any judgements, supporting them, but not letting them obsess about complaining and intervening when they are com­plaining too much.

9)    Help problem-solve. Brain storm with them to solve the current problems in their life (ranging from filling forms to accessing transportation, getting jobs, learning English, etc.).

10) Help create a cohesive bond between them, so they have access to support outside the group setting. They can help each other which will help them feel good about themselves if they can help others.

11) Teach basic coping techniques with stress, adaptation to a new culture, find out how well they cope currently and find strengths in them. Learn their ways of coping and help reinforce those if they haven’t been coping well.

12)      Psycho-education about their symp­toms and how it relates to their overall traumatic experiences, about PTSD, how it is affecting their life and how they can minimize the symptoms, cope with them, take care of themselves.

13)      Teach them the importance of self-care. Most of them are very modest, gener­ous, put others first and leave them­selves out.

14)      Getting them involved with community events. Invite them to attend events related to the celebration of torture survivors, cultural celebrations, and potlucks.

15)      Teach them assertiveness, conflict resolution, parenting skills. Help them practice/role model newly learned tech­niques in the group and get feedback.

16)      Letting them tell their story without forcing them, but a little probing may be necessary. Make sure they feel safety and trust.

17)      Find out about their religion and spir­itual strengths and practices. For most of them that is the first resource or coping strategy to turn to their religion.

18)      Involve their family and community.

The Bhutanese group provided another model for achieving the community organ­ization goal. While community organization in the Bashaal group happened spontan­eously, in the Bhutanese group it happened intentionally. The case manager, the co-fa­cilitator of the group, who is a Bhutanese community leader and previous political science professor in Nepal, initiated the call for group organization after the sixth session, and started to help them apply for non-profit status. In this model the case manager, a Bhutanese leader himself, who has a master’s degree in political science, initiated establishing the non-profit organiza‑

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tion for the Bhutanese community of torture and non-torture survivors. The organization celebrated cultural events and organized art and craft expositions and participated in the Georgia coalition of refugee stakeholders.

Summary and conclusions

Torture consists of different traumas that target an individual or group. Collective iden­tity is an important factor in this complex trauma. The multi-systemic, multi-compo­nent, wraparound psychosocial rehabilitation approach for torture treatment addresses the three systems affected by torture: The indi­vidual, family members and the group. Group therapy for torture survivors is an important component of this model. Group therapies extend to community healing. Groups de­velop their cohesion to graduate to a social community club. New graduates from the group join the club and become part of the social advocacy process and of group and community healing. The Bashal Somali women group and the Bhutanese multifamily groups are variants of this model. The wom­en’s therapy group has developed to be a social club for Somali torture survivor women that convenes and arranges social activities and work on arts and crafts. They hold their events to celebrate and sell their products and to lobby against torture in the community at large. The Bhutanese group provided another variant of the model for achieving in com­munity organization goal. While community organization in the Bashaal group happened spontaneously, in the Bhutanese group it hap­pened intentionally. The case manager, the co-facilitator of the group who is a Bhutanese community leader, initiated the call for group organization. While the CTTS group therapy model with its variants have a theoretical face and validity, future studies are needed to provide empirical evidence of its effectiveness in achieving and sustaining its goals.

African Music and Traditional Healing

Uganda harp.

Uganda harp. (Photo credit: New York Public Library)

Nzewi.

Backcloth to Music and Healing in Traditional African Society

The African Knowledge of Sickness

The old African world thrived on a balance of the physical and the intangible. In other words there was mutual dependency between the physical world and the active immaterial or supernatural forces, and African peoples survived because of the ability to harmonize the religious and the secular, the spiritual and the mundane, the intangible and the material realities.

The human person possesses, and is animated by, both profane and spiritual egos in symbiotic existence. The disease or malfunctioning of the one impairs the stability or efficacy of the other, and thereby the health of the whole. The cure of the sick must then be holistic for the African – healing the ego that manifests tangible ailment entailed co-jointly healing the co-acting ego that has become latently infected. The process of properly curing a physically ill person in the African medical practice then compels healing the person’s psyche or spiritual well being as well as the physiological. When herbs fail, heal the spirit.

Traditional Africa recognizes that when the environment is sick, diseases become prevalent; and when such diseased material or spiritual environment is rehabilitated, human health becomes secure. When the group spirit is polluted, the minds of individuals become infected, the human sphere becomes sick. When a human body is sick, the animating spirit becomes poisoned, and the human sphere becomes unhealthy.

The traditional African concept of illness recognizes natural and supernatural causes, ordinarily co-acting together. Ill health can manifest as malfunctioning physiology, mental-spiritual disorder or unusual external misfortune. Illness may be self-generated (psychosomatic), other-engineered, congenital or caused by foreign agents. Sickness is not always diagnosed as the malfunctioning of body parts or organs in isolation, even though the seat of the sick-feeling may be located in a body part – external or internal. Sickness could be a sign for something else, positive or injurious, which is impending. When such a sign gets mistaken as ordinary sickness, or when it is ignored and unattended to, the person harboring the sign may suffer permanent injury, usually mental.

In the community-structured African socio-political system the sickness of an individual generates levels of conflicts: Conflict within the sufferer, conflict within the family and compound unit, conflict within the entire geo-political community. The conflict could have social, economic or religious dimensions. As such, the suffering of an individual affects the well-being of many others, and would compel group empathy in seeking remedy. The community is concerned to avoid the incidence of illness of any category, and to manage or contain incidents of illness as a group even though there are specialist healers. It is for the reason that an individual’s sickness can impinge on the normal functioning of an entire community that African health practice places a premium on preventive health programs. Preventive health includes scheduled and mandatory environmental cleaning, avoidance rites to ward off evil forces (human and of spirit mien), as well as constant musical arts theatre that coerces mass participation, annual group spirit purgation music-drama (new-year rites), compound hygiene etc.

The process of healing the sick, which involves the restoration of the psychic health of the sufferer as well as the community, is structured and systematic, often contextualizing the community in ritual-theatrical dimension, in order to heal the entire community psyche. The active, supportive involvement of the community boosts the life energy of the sick. A stable psychological condition is thus generated for the specialist healer to undertake the specialized process of physical or metaphysical medication.

On Becoming an African Healer

In some African cultures a person who will eventually become a healer is supernaturally selected through signs such as sickness. The signs, which often result in strange behavior or physiological ill health, manifest irrespective of age and gender. When diagnosed, preparing or capacitating the person to become a healer could entail the medical-musical theatre of “opening of the inner eyes” (to perceive beyond the commonly visible) or the “reception of extraordinary communications” (from the supernatural forces). When a sign selects a person that must be “purified” or empowered to become a healer, she thereafter becomes capable of perceiving knowledge of sicknesses and curative elements through super-ordinary sensitization. Hence there are induction ceremonies, often locally discussed as “capturing the spirit” or “welcoming the ancestral spirit-guide”.

Music in Healing

Guitar being played by Tom Walton: White Sprin...

Guitar being played by Tom Walton: White Springs, Florida (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

The term music here suggests the musical arts theatre of the structured musical sound, dance, dramatic arts and performance plastic arts.

Music in traditional Africa is the science of being; the art of living with health. Music is the intangible resonance of which the human body and soul are composed: The human body is the quintessential sound instrument; the human soul is the ethereal melody. A matching of human souls is the foundation of African harmonic thought and sound. Musical harmony is the consonance of complementary inter-dependent melodies and timbres – vocal or instrumental. Dissonance occurs when independent melodies or souls or tone/pitch levels fail to harmonize in accord with a culture’s normative idioms of interaction in life and music. Complementation of souls or the consonance of matching melodies generates healthy resonance – a healing energy. What constitutes dissonance is culturally, not universally determined. Dissonance of component parts or elements of a music event could be prescribed by a non-musical intention, which could be healing. Dissonance, whether of souls or co-sounding melodies/pitch levels/tone levels/timbres, arouses disquietude, a disruption of composure, which then compels a need to resolve irregularity. Otherwise, a state of disrupted harmony or accord would prevail, and could become injurious.