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Written by Conference Delegate

So, this was about the third conference that I had been reading about and yet not booked a place. I thought long and hard about why I did this. Me, an older Asian female, fairly recently retrained after a career, motherhood and lots in between. What was making me check the BAATN website, reading what each conference was going to be about and yet not booking. I think I booked two days before the conference.

Why aren’t our individual and collective experiences thought about by everyone? No really! WHY?

My therapeutic journey, including training, therapy and many hours of wondering have resulted in me having, of late, numerous questions leading to fewer answers leading to more questions about identity. I wondered whether by placing ourselves in a ‘Black and Asian’ group was a form of self-oppression. Why aren’t our individual and collective experiences thought about by everyone? No really! WHY?

I remember in my teens and early 20s identifying as black. It was a political statement. I’m not sure when I went from black to being Asian and possibly even brown (and what shade of brown bearing in mind the Shadism conference). I’m not terribly clear how I currently identify myself. There are labels that I attribute to myself and then find that they are distorted by others and therefore, no longer apply. And then there are the labels that others attribute to me which anger and dismay me.

I arrived with hope and trepidation, uncertain where I would fit in, where I would sit, how would I manage during lunch and breaks. And then, the workshops that I had heard about. Whooaah! I needed a little sit down. As I entered the community centre, it was already buzzing; people registering and a few familiar faces. Wow, so little had happened and yet so much was going on in my head. I don’t imagine I was alone in that.

As I took a ‘tentative but courageous’ (LOL! I heard my children saying!) step and spoke to a couple of familiar faces, I saw mirrored my own anxieties and then some. The miseries of the school playground came a calling. My grown-up, practical self thought, “I must make an effort to speak to those I don’t know”. And so, I did. And not so surprisingly, there WERE interactions. Some memorable, others not, some nervously stilted, others generous and warm. Not so different from life as I experience it every day.

I ventured into the conference room, gravitating towards my usual place at the back but found myself seated near the front. I wanted to take it all in now that I was there. And I did just that; the richness of the delegates almost visibly carrying their life stories, the discernible connectedness and generosity of spirit, the knowing of wearing traditional dress and vast, enormous, palpable feelings and emotions from across generations.

Dr Begum Maitra’s work with troubled teenagers reminded me that each therapeutic relationship, each story, each experience, each shared moment is unique. That I should never enter a relationship in a position of ‘knowing’ so that I may remain open to thinking and receiving my client.

Hey Mama! Look! I’m doing ok! That’s what I do!

Frank Lowe, the invisible glue of communities, devoting lives to supporting others and enabling futures where the odds predicted the worst.

Arike, the graceful, noble gentleman who was noticeable in the busy room well before he arose to share … his story. ‘Story’ does not do justice to what he shared, words don’t either. But, I hope we did Arike justice by listening with open hearts and allowing ourselves to feel alongside him. The idealistic me wanting to hold onto the notion that perhaps for the briefest moment we carried collectively his burden.

Please Lord, let it be so!

Her primal scream cut straight through to my core and tears flowed… and flowed.

And then there was the force known as CARMEN JOANNE ABLACK. I can’t write it any other way. Her primal scream cut straight through to my core and tears flowed… and flowed. She set me on a course of further wondering, led me to a door that I didn’t know existed. I have my hand on the doorknob and am turning it slowly, full of nervously excited anticipation as to what I will find.

I thought we were done; I was exhausted by the stories I’d heard and felt. But we divided into groups and then it really began. I was familiar with the terms ‘ancestral baggage’ and ‘transgenerational trauma’ but in those next 45 minutes, I lived the stories that the valiant men and women shared. They enabled me to relive my own story. I did not share and have not yet reached that level of courage. But I am grateful to those wonderful, gracious individuals who shared with me that day. I wish that such experiences were part of the National Curriculum or more importantly perhaps, a UK Citizenship Test that everyone should take.

Eugene, is booking open for next year’s conference?

Until I find the courage to be seen, I will sign off as:

Insaan (noun, human, Urdu)

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