ISMETA’s Statement about Racist, Body-Based Violence and Oppression
The International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association denounces the systematic use of body-based violence and oppression against Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the United States and other countries around the world. We are horrified by the murder of George Floyd, and countless others who have died at the hands of police, as well as private citizens. Similarly, we acknowledge that disproportionate numbers of BIPOC have died in the U.S. from COVID-19. As somatic movement professionals, we acknowledge that racism is embedded not only in our criminal justice and healthcare systems, but also in our individual bodies, and must be addressed there.
As a field, we offer resources to people who desire to inhabit their bodies with more ease, efficiency, and vitality. Many somatic movement approaches cultivate vagal tone, or the capacity to settle and soothe the nervous system in the face of conflict and overwhelm. Moreover, a number of our professional members specialize in healing body-based trauma through mindful movement, touch, breath awareness, mental imagery, and sound. These resources may potentially support the healing processes of people who have endured body-based violence and oppression.
That said, the field of somatic movement, as it developed in Western countries with influences from Eastern mind-body practices, has been primarily shaped by white practitioners and responded to the needs of white clients and students.
This tendency has been changing over the past decade, as we intentionally evolve our organization and our practices to address the needs of more diverse populations. For example, though it was put on hold due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, our upcoming conference with Pacifica Graduate Institute, October 20-24, 2021, Engaging Embodiment: Somatic Applications for Global Health, Education, and Social Justice, will offer opportunities to consider how somatic movement practices can better serve social justice movements for individual healing and collective transformation. In light of the recent tragedies that have further exposed the structural inequities in our societies, we now recognize the urgent need to expand and deepen our efforts to listen to the voices of BIPOC. ISMETA’s Action Group on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) will host black ISMETA members to speak about their experiences and needs within our organization, their professional expertise, and how ISMETA can best support the movement to build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization moving forward.
We also acknowledge that in order to fulfill our vision statement to “transform ourselves and the world through conscious movement,” we need to examine implicit biases that we carry as members of cultures that have been built, over hundreds of years, on racist tenets. Thus, we have begun to engage in professional development webinars and practice groups that explore how racist beliefs (and the intersecting constructs of sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism and able-ism) are embedded non-verbally in our individual bodies, postures, and movements. A number of our members, for example, have begun a 12-month long practice “somatic abolitionism” practice group based on the book, “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem. Please stay tuned for more information about “embodied social justice” professional development opportunities offered by ISMETA.
In the meanwhile, we offer some resources about healing body-based violence that are currently available from experts in the field of somatics:
- My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies (Resmaa Menakem, 2017)
- Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (adrienne maree brown, 2017)
- The Body is not an Apology: The Radical Power of Self-Love (Sonya Renee Taylor, 2018)
- Embodied Social Justice (Rae Johnson, 2017)
- Oppression and the Body: Roots, Resistance, and Resolutions (Christine Caldwell, 2018)
- Diverse Bodies, Diverse Practices (Ed., Don Hanlon Johnson, 2019?)
- Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma (Peter Levine, 1997)
- Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy (Pat Ogden, 2006)
We welcome comments below about how ISMETA can offer more effective organizational support for BIPOC members during this time of heart-wrenching upheaval, and beyond.
With respect and a commitment to help heal the disease of racism,
ISMETA; The International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Associatio