5 Empowering ways to connect with your child this summer.

You is broke.

Now that the school summer break is in full swing, how’s it going? Are you tired and fed up yet? I’m sure a lot of parents on social media saw the meme’s flying around at the end of term showing teachers jumping for joy, and parents already counting the days till their children return to school in the autumn. As much as we love them, caring for our children over the summer can often be emotionally exhausting. Many of us are left daunted by how we can enjoy the break and hold onto our last frazzled nerve at the same time.

 

A couple of summers ago beneath my fake, ‘strong black mother’ cape, I secretly dreaded the holidays and buried my shame around not really understanding how to bond or connect with my child. To avoid these feelings, my default was always to lean on the summer clubs so I wouldn’t be emotionally overwhelmed, or disrupted by the changes to my term time routine. Then last year, it hit me how fast my daughter Zuri was growing up. I felt ashamed and guilty about not enjoying the break, so I decided to plan a more strategic approach last year and use the space to love bomb her with cultural events and activities to make memories, focus on our relationship, and build our racial esteem as a family. This compassionate space was so powerful, that Zuri cried a lot when it was time to go back to school. I also missed her terribly which had never happened before.

 

Some of us may find this level of parental intimacy uncomfortable, because we’re not use to engaging with our children in this way. Our work responsibilities may create limited time, or maybe you were raised in an environment where parental play was not a priority so this feels awkward. If this is your story then it’s important to really be gentle with yourself. It might feel hard at first, but little and often works, and this is also a powerful opportunity to upgrade your pathology, and begin building a deeper legacy of connection with your child. Today, I am excited to serve you by sharing the tools and ideas we now use every year to slay our summer.  

 

Create the space to build closeness.

In order to be more present for our families, scheduling space to have fun and hang out is crucial. This will not only be used to spend more quality time with family, but also to give yourself permission to rest and be more emotionally available during the activities. Book and schedule whatever time you can get off work (even if it’s only a few days) and reschedule anything in the family diary where possible, that doesn’t support this commitment.

 

Use these bullet points to build your family bucket list.

I love this part of the process because everyone gets to be involved in building the program of fun activities. Set a time and call a family meeting to brainstorm the following……

  • Write a list of how each of you wants to feel about the holidays.
  • Ask each family member to contribute activities that are connected to how they want to feel. (this tool helps to build a child’s emotional intelligence, as they not only learn how to define their feelings, but also how to articulate what actions will meet those needs.)  
  • Research local events, music festivals, and museums etc, for any activities to explore. Include some same gender specific activities also to nurture the male/feminine  energy.
  • Choose some cultural s/hero’s you can research and learn about together.
  • Have a good list mix of scheduled events and chilled home activities, this way no one gets too overwhelmed with all the organisation and running around.
  • Plan how and when you will spread the events across each week.
  • Set some gentle boundaries around daily screen time, so you can all be engaged and committed to the activities.

 

Capture the summer experience in a creative way.

With most of us posting and storing our memories on social media these days, a hard copy family diary or scrapbook is a refreshing way to record our feelings, joys, challenges and events with good old fashioned paper and pen. A trip to the local pound/dollar store will provide plenty of scrapbook crafts to bring the joyous family quotes, pictures and stories to life. You can still post your fun on social media, but it’s always wonderful to read the diary entries at a later date and relive the warm fuzzy feelings that accompanied them.

 

Teaching life skills, feeds empowerment.

Teaching is so much more powerful than rescuing, but sometimes our busyness keeps us caught up in checking off our lists, instead of empowering our children with what and how things needs to be done. Cooking a simple meal, growing something, or sharing some easy financial literacy, are simple suggestions to get you started. As your child practices and perfects her new skill, you save valuable time as she’s now empowered to complete it independently. As a natural consequence of sharing this energy, The relationship will build between you as your self esteem and confidence grows independently. As a side note, it’s also important to say that this is not only about practical tasks, but also a chance to review and teach the family values. I have an earlier post on this with a free ebook, which will help you define and implement them as a family. www.juneallen.net/values

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Build racial esteem with cultural education.

The summer break is now one of our favourite times of year to work as a team, (hopefully with some sunshine) to explore, educate and celebrate our identity. What could be more irresistible to our black children than having a cultural learning experience within the community with engaged parents who adore spending time with them. In this month already, my daughter and I have attended our annual African storytelling festival which honoured the late Jamaican poet, Louise Bennett. We’ll be highlighting Marcus Garvey’s birthday on 17th August and also attend the annual steel band competition on 27th August at the Notting Hill Carnival. The African presence is not always taught appropriately (if at all) in ‘mainstream’ European dominated education. However, our cultural S/hero’s continue to provide a rich hue of flavor and black brilliance around the globe so we must continue to absorb and re-tell their stories as part of our legacy.

 

I know this piece has focused specifically on the summer holidays, but including more time for family to play during term time (even if its a hour at the weekend) is a great way to nurture and maintain your family self care. If your summer break has been a disaster up to this point, I hope this piece has provided some value to give yourself permission to restart and reclaim the joy in your family space! When we make the time to prioritise and implement these tools, our children will not only experience our love for them, but also how much we actually like them and adore being in their. I’d love to know you spent yours in the comments below.

 

Have fun,till next time.

June

The joy of an outdoor power pause.

With all the tragedy in recent weeks along with our daily busyness, it can often be hard to stop, reflect, and be present. Our overstimulated minds from aggressive advertising, multitasking and the illusion of needing more, constantly robs us of our inner calm and natural, spiritual place of wholeness.
We belong in nature, and when I give myself permission to take a power pause and reconnect to the earth, I remember how easy it is to attune to my Higher Power, especially around trees. The glorious weather in London has been the perfect excuse to wander barefoot in the park and recharge my melanoid soul. 

Being outdoors during the summer has always been an important family event and I’ve taken my daughter camping at music festivals ever since 2010 (when she was 2). Despite enjoying the time we spent at these festivals, there was always a longing to experience it at a deeper, cultural level with other black people. Last year, I could hardly contain my excitement at discovering a wonderful organisation who flipped the ‘black folks don’t camp’ myth on its head. I finally found a space where melanin rich folks could celebrate our culture through the power of storytelling.

I know there’ll be those who whine that having black only spaces is ‘reverse racism.’  P.S.A. Black people cannot be racist, because our choices do not affect white people as a group, e.g. we can hate racist white folks all we want, but it won’t stop your whiteness being prioritised for a job, bank loan, housing etc. but I digress and that conversation is for another blog post. The truth is, these black spaces are needed in response to, and having some respite from the ongoing everyday racism we experience. Also, with all the recent racial trauma and deaths, it is even more difficult for us to grieve and heal as a community, so it’s actually as healthy boundary, and act of self love to take time out from the people and structures which enforce and enable the abuse. It’s important just to spend time with each other in our shared experience to recharge.

My first experience at the African Storytelling festival when I arrived, was excitement in the car park as brotha’s and sistah’s pulled up in over packed cars, with children hungry for woodland freedom. There was a warm sense of family from the beginning, I had offers to help build my tent, and Zuri (my daughter) was off in a flash exploring and chatting to other children as they arrived. The storytelling workshops were a wonderful opportunity to share and identify, we learn history, our values, spirituality and the importance of community. The performances were also powerful tools for connection that had me initially terrified of speaking amongst strangers, to embracing a childlike joy as I embraced the freedom of engagement. We must never underestimate the glory of hearing stories about us, told by us. Mirroring is a powerful tool for building our identity and raising self esteem.

I cannot even begin to convey how healing it was to absorb the power of the drum which echoed through the woods the whole weekend. I remember thinking, despite the traumatic journey of my ancestors from Africa, to Jamaica and then onto the UK, my soul remembers it’s source, the rhythms, the fyah and ancestral energy ricochet straight back from the Motherland.

One of my favorite memories last year, was when a large group of us were strewn over the grass outside my tent, reasoning, sharing and laughing as we shared food and snacks. My pot became became their pot. I arrived a stranger and became an sistah to many, the auntie to a beautiful little girl who was happy popping by to explore my tent and play with my daughter. The campfire at night was a delicious space for chatter and song, I even saw a breadfruit being roasted and devoured with abandon. I felt right at home, here is a sneak peak from last year.

As the year has flown past and the countdown begins before to unpack my tent again, I just had to grab the founder and powerful warrior for a chat about how this project was brought to life and what to expect this year.

JA: Tell us about yourself and your movement?

GC:  My name is Griot Chinyere, and I’m a storyteller and the artistic director to ashanti-chi which is a company whose main aim is to promote, preserve and celebrate the oral tradition of African storytelling. I use it as a leadership tool to train and empower people. I use it with children, adults, prisoners, young people, the suited and booted, the rough and ready, domestic violence victims, the homeless etc. It’s a powerful tool that was introduced to me at 10 years old and I love the healing power it gives when used correctly.

JA: How did the festival project come about?

GC: I come from a long line of storytellers and I wanted to find another way to preserve  the tradition. I have also been to lots of others festivals where I’ve been the minority and loved being outdoors, but always wondered where my community was?  I’m not one to complain about things so I wanted to do something about it. I began by doing some expedition leadership training where I learned how to build fires, map & compass reading, food foraging etc. and then I worked to combine the things I love about the old traditions and nature, together for people who looked like me. When I was 10, I went home to my mother’s village and it was an amazing feeling to experience being in a village, to be surrounded by people who look like me and recognise me. There are many (Africans) who live in the UK who may never have that experience, so I wanted to create a space for us to be who we are, where we are. This is how the Nne Agwu Afrakan storytelling festival was born.

JA: How has the festival evolved over the years since it started?

GC: When I first started it was just an evening with a few storytellers walking through the woods. It then progressed to an overnight event from 6pm till 6am, then 2 nights and it grew from there.

JA: Why do you think black folks don’t camp?

GC: When I first started, I heard a lot of people saying that they didn’t want to do the camping thing, but I’ve noticed over the years that more people are willing to give camping a try. There is also the option to attend the day’s events and not camp overnight, the venue is accessible via the tube.

JA: What can campers expect from the festival this year?

GC:It’s the first year that we are using the festival to honour someone. It was mentioned that it was the 10 anniversary of Louise Bennett (Miss Lou’s)  death on 27 July and how did I feel about honouring her this time which was a no brainer. She was a storyteller, a poet, a folklorist, an oral  traditionalist more than anything. She went to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in England, and although they spoke BBC English, she was an advocate for her authentic, Jamaican voice. She probably stopped a lot of Jamaican children getting clipped around the ear for speaking patois, as they became familiar with her work. The way that she told her stories, as well as the stories themselves encouraged Jamaicans to be proud of who they are, it was an acceptance of self.  She also revealed the connection between patois and some of the African languages, for example in Igbo language, we say ndeewu means, greetings to you (one person) but if there were many people it’s ndeewunu and unu in Jamaican patois means you many. She was able to make those important connections across our journey.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is a massive fan of Louise Bennett and has recently become our patron. His poetry tells stories which transforms the negative to the positive. He provokes thought with ways of moving forward, giving us jokes so we feel good about who we are.  We are having our opening ceremony with him on the Friday. I am also hoping that one of Louise Bennett’s relatives will also attend. We want to set the right tone so we can enjoy the space and support each other and any newcomers.

Throughout the weekend we have musicians, yoga, night walks and the best storytellers from around the country. We have a wonderful vegan chef, a wellbeing area, a herbalist, and a small African market with actor Chris Tummings who will be sharing his hand made bamboo saxophones. It’s our way of connecting with and honouring our ancestors. We give thanks and listen in order for us to rise and shine in our greatness.

Whether you’re able to make the festival or not, make some time to get outdoors and explore Ra’s glorious creation, it’s great for your health and an amazing opportunity for family self care. For my melanoid family in the US, I found this gorgeous site which organises inspiring camping events for black people.  http://www.outdoorafro.com/

The Nne Agwu storytelling festival runs from Friday 29th July, to Monday 1 August 2016 Full details and the line up can be found below. Don’t miss it!

http://www.shanti-chi.com/#!african-storytelling-festival/c1wkp

 

Do your values belong to you?

black values

 

Have you have ever just sat down and thought consciously about what really matters to you? Are you making choices in line with what feels peaceful at soul level? After writing my previous post about the power of legacy and the late Muhammad Ali, I was inspired to write this one as a springboard to get you started building your own.

Values are personal principles that many of us have absorbed without question from our family, community and social environment. We get caught up in doing the ‘right thing’ in line with someone else’s values, even when it doesn’t support us, or sit well in our spirit. If you’re feeling a little confused about which values belong to whom, I’m taking this time with you to get clear on these fundamental principles to build your vision.

Consciously defining our values is an important part of claiming and redefining our identity, especially as we grow. For people of colour, values are particularly important in order to create and maintain a sense of cultural identity, safety, and consistency around resisting the onslaught of racism we experience on a daily basis.There are so many areas where racist ideology is aggressively projected onto us, that we can unknowingly prioritise the values which uphold this dominance, and enable the ongoing subjugation and neglect of our own cultural needs and values.

What often brings us to this point of personal exploration, is a significant life event that calls a halt to us doing, and demands that we pause and think of our being. My pivot point came in the summer of 2007, as I sobbed inside the bottom of my wardrobe clutching a positive pregnancy test. It wasn’t having a baby that brought on my tears, but having to face the ugly truth that I had nothing to give my child, except a trunk of recycled dysfunction and my emotional rock bottom. I didn’t know who I was, and was terrified of the kind of parent I would be if I did nothing. I did know, that I wanted to be a great role model both as a parent, and a black woman. I wanted to model a strong sense of self in line with my values, and was willing to go to any lengths for her to stand in her own power.

I began turning this around by first defining what MY values were. Not what my family thinks, not what is socially dominant, but what did I actually think about my position in the world. What did I obsess about? What makes me laugh? What makes me furious and where do I feel love and compassion?

To begin, I Goggled a list of core values and began working through them to see which ones moved me. This clarity was where I began rebuilding my self respect and sketching the blueprint for my future. I wanted to focus on 3 to keep it simple, but there were so many I wanted to keep. I especially struggled to choose between culture, family, spirituality and education which are all key parts of my personal growth. After much deliberation, I finally chose three core values I knew would broadly cover the previous topics I could not whittle down. My final choice is……..  

triple values

On a side note, it’s also important to be mindful and prepared for people in your close circles to question and challenge your new values as you begin implementing changes in line with your vision. I encourage you to stand firm in what you believe and give yourself permission to set gentle boundaries with those who refuse to honour who you have now chosen to be. You don’t have to accept anything that is passed onto you, it’s healthy to question everything and move forward to build the awesome life you deserve.

  

Defining my values was such a powerful exercise for me, that I decided to turn it into a mini ebook, which I’m excited to be offering free to help you begin living the life you want and building the legacy your children deserve.Once completed, you will benefit from the following….

 

  • You’ll make clearer, confident choices about your career, relationships and social environments.
  • You’ll be a lot less stressed because your choices can be made quicker.
  • The clarity will keep you focused on the results and accountable for things which are not in alignment with your list.
  • Your behaviour will now mirror everything that is important to you.
  • You’ll build a stronger family unit as everyone is involved in the process of maintaining these redefined values.

I hope you found this useful and would love to hear your experience of working through my worksheet. You can find the free ebook as promised at the bottom of this post. Please come back and comment to let me know how you got on.

Speak soon

Love and blessings

June

Free Tools

The Inspirational Ali Legacy

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On the 3 June 2016, the great Muhammad Ali became an esteemed ancestor. He not only left a blaze of sporting excellence inside the boxing ring, but also a glorious legacy of truth and integrity inside the black struggle. What I adore most about the Champ, was his commitment to speaking up about racial injustice at a time when black leaders were regularly being murdered by the government for doing so. Despite this, he remained fearless and consistent in fighting to free his people.

 

It was only when I became pregnant that I really started to think seriously about legacy, and what I was doing with my life. What did I inherit? What behaviours would I teach inside our connection, and what wealth would she inherit when I pass? I thought about my slave legacy, the disastrous relationships, my financial illiteracy, and fears and vague notion of values. I knew they were not in line with what I wanted from life, or hers, and then set about writing a plan to build the internal foundation from which to build an abundant legacy my own.

 

Defining your values.

Creating a legacy requires taking consistent actions in line with your values. Values are defined as the personal principles and standards of behaviour by which you live. I found it helpful at first be really clear about what my values were, so I’ve created a worksheet for you in the next post about values, for your own clear definitions. Your life decisions will become so much clearer when you know what you stand for. Get your partner and children involved also, it will be a much more powerful exercise if you do this as a team effort.

 

Fill in the gaps.

Once you’ve completed the worksheet and are clearer about what’s important, you should be able to see any gaps, similarities or differences between the values you may or may not have with your friends and extended family. It’s OK for them to be different and neither party is right or wrong. It just means that you’re giving yourself permission to be your own person and/or family unit. You want to start taking responsibility for the new vision you have for your life.

 

Dream and execute.

Now that you have more of idea of your vision, you can start brainstorming ways to create the life and legacy you want to build. Plan and think consciously about how you can integrate your values into everyday life. Dream big, start small, but be consistent. When I did mine, I realised that I wanted to create a daily morning devotional time for spiritual connection, which honours my ancestors and African spirituality.  It took me a little while to write, and I still tweak it occasionally, but we now spend 30 minutes in the morning with a short preamble, a libation ritual, prayers, meditation, a gratitude list and affirmations to close. My daughter absolutely loves this ritual as it creates a wonderful space for intimacy, positive cultural connection and a peaceful springboard which sets us all up for the day.

 

Be unapologetic.

Before Mohammad Ali died, I was still a little anxious about sharing my black thoughts, because I regularly see successful black entrepreneurs being racially abused during live broadcasts, and none of them even talk specifically about racism. However, after seeing so much recent footage of Ali showing up in his fearless glory, I know I must do what is right and not hide inside the fear. I want my daughter to be proud of me for practicing the same depth of integrity. She also needs to be equipped with the tools to maintain her own racial wellness, so I want her to see the tangible actions I take to produce justice and not be all talk.

 

My commitment to the ongoing black struggle, is to continue to share my experience, hope and truth with a view to building a movement with tangible tools for empowerment and emotional wealth. This, I hope will liberate the individual minds of black people; to heal and build a legacy of greatness for themselves and the community.

 

Every decision you make is another opportunity to build your own legacy. Any pain underneath your why will make you unstoppable. I don’t weep for the death of Ali, I take inspiration from his shining example of what it means to really  live a life of purpose. Today he has been laid to rest and my thoughts are with his family. Rest well Champ, you will always be the greatest!

Simple mindfulness and sleep deprivation.

With the best will in the world, sometimes things just don’t always go to plan. My to-do list has completely drained me this week so it was really important to listen to myself when things felt overwhelming. In the past, my default has been to shame myself and the negative thinking would have run riot. I had prepped a whole list of things to do today, but after a terrible nights sleep, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to share a break down with you, of how I actually practice simple self compassion and mindfulness in my own life.

Take a power pause.
When I give myself permission to take a few conscious minutes to pause, breath and reflect, I can really get in touch with the thoughts and feelings underneath the overwhelm. This is how I begin to take responsibility for how I feel, instead of dragging the negativity through the day, throwing it over anyone in my path.

Identify your feelings.
We can only change what we are willing to feel and understand. In the stillness, I can own the frustration and anger inside the exhaustion. It’s important not to judge yourself for having any negative feelings, just stay present in the silence and observe how the energy feels inside your body.

Discharge the energy.
As I am present to my irritation, I also understand the importance of discharging the energy so they don’t impact the choices I make during the rest of the day. One of the ways I love to do this is through writing, hence the blog post. I’ve learnt that feelings are just different levels of energy that will teach me who I am, and what I need. The challenge arrives when we ignore them or don’t process them in a healthy way. (I’ll be doing a specific Periscope session and blog on this another time.)

Define how you want to feel?

Once the energy has been released, I’m in a much more peaceful place to make compassionate decisions about what I need and how I want to feel. Simple things like sharing thoughts about why I couldn’t sleep with a friend, listening to some music, being out in nature and playing with my daughter are really easy ways I was able to reconnect and call positive energy into the now.
Lastly, It’s ok to reschedule.
Now that I have processed the energy and made some choices to support how I want to feel, I can also think more critically about rescheduling the rest of the day to create a space this evening for a generous restful wind down. I didn’t want to spend all day wallowing in my sleep deprivation, so I also made a power shake and took my daughter out in the sunshine for a melanin top up on her new bike!

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