Trauma of slavery and epigenetics

Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that can switch genes on and off.  Recent epigenetic studies have shown that stress, socio-economic deprivation, racism and other traumatic experiences of our ancestors can play a part in turning on or off certain genes in our DNA. That is to say, for instance, the trauma of slavery can be passed on transgenerationally.  See an example in the work by Professor Ariane Giancobino.

Several of the forthcoming UNESCO Symposium contributors have argued for the importance of healing the trauma of slavery, such as in the work of Professor Joy DeGruy, who maintains that the systematic dehumanising effects of slavery have continued to impact many African American people’s experiences in the world.  Equally, Professor Aimé Charles-Nicolas has called for systematic healing of transgenerationally transmitted traumas inherited directly from slavery or passed down through racism rooted in slavery.  Such an imperative has been reinstated in the International Scientific Colloquium on “Slavery: what is its impact on the the psychology of populations?” in Martinique and Guadeloupe on October 2016.

Professor Benjamin Bowser and others also urge our societies to pay more attention to how education might continue to perpetuate such trauma, and likewise, new approaches to teaching and learning about trans-Atlantic slave trade and slave history may contribute to healing and cultural transformation.

Coming to the Table

Coming to the Table is a national organization whose vision for the United States is of “a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past – from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned.” It started its work in 2006 from the efforts of Susan Hutchison and Will Hairston, both descendants of European heritage enslavers who had formed bonds with descendants of people their ancestors had enslaved.

The name of the organization comes from the “I Have a Dream” speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King. The mission of Coming to the Table is to “provide leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.” Coming to the Table promotes four approaches to achieving its mission.

Coming to the Table holds National Gatherings every two years. There are also local groups around the country.  Another national but virtual component of Coming to the Table are its working groups, such as the Linked Descendants working group.

Through the Coming to the Table website, anyone may have access to a set of recommended resources. STAR, Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience, is a workshop. Transforming Historical focuses STAR on the trans-generational transmission of harms done by injustice and inequity. Other resources come from the domain of Restorative Justice.

In the local and national gatherings of Coming to the Table, two tools are used consistently: the Circle Process and These Guidelines for Sensitive or Challenging Conversations. The book, Gather at the Table, is an accessible entry into Coming to the Table’s work and a good starting point for conversation.

 

Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation

Kellogg Foundation‘s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) enterprise has initiated a national process aimed at addressing centuries of racial inequities in the United States. TRHT seeks to advance racial healing in communities across the country to create environments where everyone can thrive. It is based on the understanding that the roots of slavery is the belief in a hierarchy of human value, and by jettisoning such a belief, and transforming our collective consciousness, we can re-envisioning a more humane, equitable and loving society.

The Design of TRHT focuses on changing narratives, enabling healing and relationship building, developing more systemic transformation through law and economy. For more information on the TRHT, please read:

TRHT-Booklet

TRHT-Design-Team-Recs

TRHT-Implementation-Guide

 

UNESCO 2018 Symposium Announced

Entitled “Healing the Wounds of Slavery: Towards a Mutual Recovery“, the Symposium is co-organised by the UNESCO and GHFP, and hosted by the Berkley Centre at the Georgetown University, Washington DC. on 18-19 Oct. 2018.

This dialogue amongst carefully selected multidisciplinary experts is envisioned to address the root causes of racial prejudices, racism and discrimination derived from slavery, past and present. In particular, this symposium