Where we are – Black Lives Matter

We’ve spent weeks under lockdown, separated from family and friends, concerned about our health, navigating how we can get our needs met whilst trying to keep a roof over our heads. Even if no one died in your family or got sick we’ve been exposed to images of dying people, overworked health care workers, isolated sick people and a rising dead count. It’s been a lot. If like me you’re a Black (or BAME) person you’ve also had to deal with the fact that we are overrepresented in the sick and the dying. The reasons are complex, and the research is not fully transparent at this time.

As the lockdown began to ease African Americans left their homes to find a higher percentage of them are represented in the ill, the dying, the unemployed, the incarcerated and more. Making matters worse 3 African Americans – Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd -were killed in plain sight and those responsible were not being held to account and have not as yet been punished. It seems like while everyone else gets justice if they’ve been a victim of a crime, black lives do not matter hence the chant that it does. Black Lives Matter. 

The third of these, the killing of George Floyd at the knee of a police officer, has sparked protests across the world. It’s as if we finally have a space to talk about years of injustice – historical and present day. It’s a time when we can dare to hope that humanity can work together to bring about a more just world so that everyone has access to the good life. 

But for many this is also traumatic; reawakening old wounds; personal experiences of overt and covert racism over a lifetime. Like any trauma or grief there are many stages to enter. As a country we’ve either been in denial or depression around race equality. Anger and sadness are here now. But this is not only about a death, it is about societal structures and individual leaders who can be held to a higher and more just standard. This can only be done with the support of the majority and there seems to be some willingness to make changes – alongside shock of how it is for some.

Perhaps we can be patient with each other as we try to find the words to explain our different knowledge and experiences. We mostly see the world through our life story, and it takes some humility and mental flexibility to be open to another viewpoint. History has many sides and we need to talk about these more and how they still impact the country we live in.

Many people – white and Black – have been sharing resources of books, films and podcasts. This means that people can educate themselves and not constantly ask victims to evidence their negative experiences so it can be assessed as real. It gives an opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. 

I continue to live in hope and believe we can make it better for all. For society to thrive everyone needs to have a stake in it, it is dangerous if some people get so little that they have nothing to lose. Even if we can’t fix a problem, we can acknowledge that it exists. We say, “it’s good to talk” and so it is. Silence supports no one. Secret suffering is not good for our mental health. What’s the smallest action you can take to make your environment just and fair? You’ll benefit too. 

Suggested books: (my Amazon link)


  • Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo (2019 Booker prize winner)
  • Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch
  • Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala (Sunday Times Bestseller)
  • Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Sunday Times Bestseller)
  • Diversify by June Sarpong
  • Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufman
  • Black British: A Forgotten History by David Olusogo


  • How To Be An Antiracist by IbramX Kendi
  • So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Olu
  • Me and White Supremacy by LayLa F Saad

Movies & T.V (Nexflix)

  • When they see us
  • 13th
  • The Hate u give
  • Dear White People

Race and therapy

I felt honoured to be asked to speak to a group of therapists about working with difference, focusing on African Caribbean clients.  The whole process of preparation and execution has been really instructive.

I wanted to share my 7 steps on this part of my journey as it may trigger something for others:

1.  As an African Caribbean counselling student I felt I had to struggle through the training without that part of my identity being included.  We were very good on ancestral characters but these seem not to link to real world experiences of differences.  The training was very holistic and addressed many parts of my growing self and included thoughts, behaviours, imagination, spirituality and body awareness but no aspect seem to address how it might feel to be a black female in the white female world of therapy.  The male minority and gay minority (all white) felt able to voice their feelings around their experience.  I imagine encountering staff who mirrored those aspects of their identity helped this; there were no black members of staff.

2. Since graduating I have explored my growing sense of what it means to be a black female counsellor – in my personal life, in the community, in group therapy, with clients, with other black female therapists.  With other black therapists there is some mirroringso I get my thoughts and feelings reflected back and this deepens my awareness and growth.

caribbean queen

3. With group therapy and peer support there is a long-standing, mutually agreed, confidential set up.  We share our individual struggles and we are supported and challenged.  They do it to me and I do it for them.  This involves great trust and highlights our awareness of who we are now and our continuously deepening individual and relational journeys.

4. Being asked to do this talk meant that the subject of race and therapy is more acceptable as a discussion topic to the profession in general and is no longer unspoken.  By agreeing to do the talk I would now break my silence on the subject, practiced so well during my training. Back then I felt it best to leave it off the agenda rather than force the subject onto people who were, on the whole, not very interested.  I did not wish to make people feel uncomfortable or guilty and knew it would be a lifetime’s journey into this and other parts of me.  It is not possible to explore everything in 3.5 years and therapists continue in personal development outside of what we do for our clients.

5. So now I find I am being given space and voice and I have given myself the same.  But what does that mean?  Am I now the black expert?  Could I possibly speak for all African Caribbean people and their experience of therapy?  Is it about migration, family structure, education, housing, racism or slavery? Where do I start and what do I want them to know, understand and experience at the end?

6. I prepared as best I could, given conflicting ideas of what I wanted to achieve.  I arrived to an all white audience as I had imagined.  Who were they and why had they come when other chose not to?  I feel exposed because they know who I am and I am about to let them into some very personal experiences, thoughts and feelings.  Although there are theories and concepts, this subject is personal to me, and not just delivering continuing professional development.

7.  There were so many ways it could go.   Here is what happened:

a) I prioritised engagement and discussion as I wanted to know where they were in their experience of difference and what queries they had.  I’ve sat through too many equality sessions where people attend because they have to but they take away nothing.

b) I wanted an honest style where people would feel able to ask anything they wanted. I guess I chose education and authenticity over being challenging.  For me a lot of therapy is about raising awareness and connecting to unconscious thoughts, feelings and beliefs so this is what I could facilitate here too.

c) My desire to be open and responsive meant that I paid less attention to structure and this is the area to improve for the next talk.

So this whole process has been very helpful for me, and I enjoyed facilitating the session.  It feels very much like a moment in time, a turning point. How do you relate to the differences you find in the world?  Have you been silent on something then decided to speak up?  Leave a comment below to carry on the conversation.