by Ayo Handy-kendi, the Breath Sekou and Mama Ayo, the storyteller
We (John and I) are just returning home, as of Tuesday eve July 2nd after travelling on June 19 (Juneteenth Day) from D.C./Capitol Heights to Joshua Tree, Palm Springs and Cathedral City. California.
Wow, what a shift being on the other side of the U.S.A, in the Mohave/Colorado desert with rocks, mountains and starlit nights all around, at the Joshua Tree retreat center with 17 vortexes of powerful energies; in the Joshua Tree National Parks on one of its highest mountains, then in the celebrity casino cities of Palm Springs and Cathedral City.
We returned from quiet and peace to tanks on 4th of U-lie in our D.C. streets. As we are unpacking, we are unpacking our first impressions of our 2019 Global Inspiration Conference (GIC 2019) sponsored by the International Breathwork Foundation (IBF).
We have a lot of pictures that we can share now, after the excursion. With all intention like the youth, I was planning to send pictures along the way . But, our attempt to send pictures and a live stream was totally NOT supported. My phone overheated shortly into the conference days and Wi-fi kept crashing, overwhelming Joshua Tree's retreat capacity.
This turned out to be a challenge in our team organizing efforts which we creatively had to overcome. However, the limited access actually turned out for me to be a blessing, as I was able to truly disconnect from the technology and the peace there was so meaningful.
Yes, the GIC was really great - just a wonderful place Joshua Tree Retreat Center is with an amazing staff. Add to this metaphysical space in the desert, people from all over the world, and many from North America all converging to Native lands to breathe together and advance the world of breathwork. With attendees from the 50 states and countries, some 300 or more gathered the first day of the GIC and the magic began.
This was my fifth GIC so it was so special to welcome many of my international family to my birthplace and to hear their impressions of America and about their travels. I helped with greeting the new arrivals in the registration area, while at the same time, organized the GIC Store so I was able to feel the full excitement of many amazing people arriving to an amazing place at one time.
My Galee (headwrap) off to Lauren, James, Jodie, Erin, who really did a great job of finding a very special place to host this years' GIC and then develop a powerful program of speakers, workshops, panels, and features. To just get so many of the pioneers of Breathwork together was a real program effort which meant presentations by Dr. Judith Kravitz, Dan Brule, Jim Morningstar, along with a panel of organizers of professional breathwork training schools, which included yours' truly Optimum Life Breathology training and Jessica Dibbs training school of the D.M.V. area along with international schools, Judee Gee, Viola Edwards and Brigitte Martin Powell , along with the aforementioned
What I always love about the GIC is that you gain so much opportunity to learn new techniques from practitioners who have not been practicing as long, but gaining mastery, quickly, as breath training offers that chance to excel. Breath practice for trauma, emotional physical release and recovery; rope breath; learning the concept of practicing breatharians on the run; along with breath techniques that were shared to the youngest, as part of our IBF program, "Breathing in the Classroom" program-- were just a few of the many expressions of breathology and breathwork demonstrated. I was able to offer our "Power of the Breath" workshop, accompanied with "live" music by John and our instruments Earth Love Tune Up Crew(ELTUC) which is always a real treat.
Despite, John and I working hard as part of the on-the-ground team effort, we learned a lot from the workshops we were able to attend. We also had a ball participating in the Women's and Men's Healing Circle held at a massive Labryith playing in the many spontaneous drum circles that sprung up or playing with the staged performances; offering a brand new story performance in the talent show; clearing the land and the halls; serving as part of the wellness team; and just being present as Elders in this camp. It was a beautiful opportunity to engage in a Cacao ceremony for the first time. And we had several parties where we danced into the night with a local rock band that totally had us rolling with their soulful beats and favorite renditions; and held the bottom, during the drum circle training by Brother Andrew and Sister Monica, and later in the week danced the star-lit night away in ecstasy with playlist by Sebastion, Daisy and Griet Verstraete.
The GIC 2019, in my summary was fabulous. It had its trials like all events, but with a great JT staff, GIC teamwork, amazing breathed-up people, and a great program, I saw a lot of smiles and happy people.
Our after GIC retreat, was complete by living our Air B& B in Cathedral City, returning to Joshua Tree Retreat Center and spending the night on the highest mountain, seeing the Milky Way, watching the sun rise as we played music, chanted and breathed together. Going to the desert was revealing, as the Ancestors channeled more to me of my path, so now rejuvenated, we continue our breath movement recharged.
Please consider breathing with us for GIC 2020 in Sweden, then in 21 in Germany and then in "22 in Kenya, and all in between, connect with the IBF our annual conference, as we support the world with breathing initiatives. To learn more about IBF and the annual GIC, view .https://www.ibfnetwork.com/
Ayo Handy-Kendi, the Breath Sekou aka Mama Ayo the Storyteller, sharing for the first time, a story performance on breathing and bullying, at the talent show at the 2019 GIC held at Joshua Tree, California
PART I: WHEN JOHN MET AYO.
I.m. not sure when we met or where we met, but, seems like John and I were a natural fit. John Davies 3 and me, Ayo Handy-Kendi, married in 2003 but we had been together since 1999. John is my 4th husband and I am is 2nd wife. We had a lot in common - both native Washingtonians, only 4 months apart in age, who grew up in D.C. when it was truly "chocolate city".. John went to the high school in N.W that was the rival to my high school in S.E., and our backgrounds were similar - we both grew up in 2 parent households, in which there was an entrepreneur parent present, and in both households, our parents really believed in spirituality, education and human rights for all, especially, Black people.
We both married quite early, right out of high school and at the time, I met John, we were married to someone else.. I remember seeing John at the "Community Warehouse", the local, hang-out, where you could get wholesome soup; your bulk organic vegetables, spices, herbs and other types of "herbs". At the "Warehouse", a tight-knit community bonded around the anti-war, civil rights music and slogans of the times, and this would be the foundation of D.C.'s "cultural community".
John was the tall, quiet, kinda "geeky" guy, who always looked stoned, rocking as he talked, with eyes filled with mischief like a "big boy" up to something.playful. I remembered I liked that he laughed easily. However, because he was so quiet and unassuming, I really paid little attention to this "really nice guy" and didn't connect.. But, I would continue to see him for the next several years, always in a position of helping me accomplish something, like a guardian Angel appearing just in time, when I needed him. .Then one day, a good girl-friend suggested that the guy she was dating was too "spiritual" for her, but would be just right for me". She described him, but I could think of no one who met her description. She said that she would introduce us and that his name was "John".
At that time, I was going through a horrible, abusive, tormenting marriage to husband #3. This brother's trauma was being played out in domestic violence and anger toward me, as we struggled for 6 years with his raging crack-cocaine addiction, and unwillingness to face his childhood abuse. After being dragged in the streets, and chocked, I could take it no longer. (This story is in my Black Love Book, too painful to repeat here). I bought that man a one-way ticket back to his home-state in Florida and sent him back to "face his demons".
Shortly after he left D.C., on a super bright day, I went to my local health food store, and there was this guy, that I seemed like I keep running into just when i needed support. He asked me why was I "beaming" and I said, "because I just sent my mad husband away, and I.m. about to get a divorce". John smiled at me and said, "great, I.ve been looking at you for years"........We went out on our first natural date that week.....to a movie.. That was in 1999 and we've been going to movies, and health food stores, ever since. It turned out that this man, was the very man that my friend had mentioned to me. John and I became one.
(To BE Continued).
Nya Akoma is the greeting on Black Love Day. It is pronounced N-yah
Ah-coma". It means "get a heart, be patient". The Akoma is an ancient African symbol. It is NOT a Valentine.
The history of Valentine's day includes the the co-opting of this symbol to represent romance.
For the true confusing history of Valentine's Day, read The Black Love Book - an anthology on Love and Guide to the wholyday - Feb. 13th - Black Love Day".
The Black Love Book 3rd Ed (E-Book) by Ayo Handy-Kendi
by Ayo Handy Kendi
NOTE: Original essay was written in 1995. Ironic, here in 2019, as much as things have changed, they still remain.
In the climate in which many were working on the destructiveness of Black on Black
crime and the sad reality that Black youth had a 1 in 4 chance of being killed or
incarcerated before age 21, Black Love Day was born. During a time in humanity in
which many people were struggling with spirituality and inter-personal issues of identity
and roles, prompting many relationships and marriages to fall apart, Black Love Day
was born. At a period in history, in which the fast pace of American life produced high
levels of stress and achievement pressure, causing many to struggle with substance
abuse, food, sex, gambling or some other addiction just to cope, Black Love Day was
born. At a time in the world in which “intimacy” diseases were taking out people in large
numbers in their early 20.s and 30.s, Black Love Day was born.
Within this critical time period, where many adults didn.t know if they.d have a job
from week to week to be able to take care of their families; with poverty rampant in a
land of plenty, with a widening gap growing between the haves. and have-nots, Black
Love Day was born. In a frightening period of time, in which we read of children being
abused by adults in frightening ways; where alienated, White youth were killing their
classmates, committing suicide at alarming rates, and carrying out racial hate crimes
like their parents, Black Love Day was born. At the dawning of the new millennium
which promised “Age of Aquarius”, humanitarian behavior, yet still faced with Klan
rallies, church burnings, continued brutal lynchings of Blacks by Whites, noose hanging
threats and news reminders of the existence of fear and racial polarization in the
Nation, Black Love Day was born .
Many of the relationship issues, today, are similar to those that were seen at the
beginning of Black Love Day ( BLD) envisioned and proclaimed in 1993 by Sister Ayo
Handy Kendi, a community organizer in Washington, D.C. She is the Founder /
director of the African American Holiday Association (AAHA), a non-profit, tax-
exempt, 501 (c)(3) membership organization. A spiritual message, from the Creator, was
given to Sister Ayo inspiring her to develop BLD. The concept has been gaining greater
acceptance each year.
Black Love Day (BLD) is a commemorative holiday or "wholyday” of observance,
celebration, reconciliation, atonement, and demonstration of love, showing at least 5
specific acts (tenets) of love – towards the Creator, for self, for the family, for the Black
community and for the Black race. Whites show “love in action” for Blacks and inspect
their own racial attitudes.
The objective of BLD is to encourage Blacks to take a day to actively raise themselves
up through Black self-love instead of self-hatred, by demonstrating love through service,
celebration, forgiveness, apology, public and private rituals of reconciliation and for
Whites to take the same day to raise themselves up, by being more reflective of their
racial attitudes of fear, guilt, denial and negative behaviors of white privilege, white
supremacy, prejudice, segregation and bigotry . BLD offers a chance to use the
transformational, spiritual power of love, as a healing tool on the day of Feb. 13.
February 13 was chosen by the founder of BLD because February is the month for
the observance of Black History Month and the number 13, in astrology and
metaphysics, is the number of spiritual transformation. As Black people put love in
action and involve themselves in the love rituals of BLD, and as Whites take personal
inventory of their attitudes and be more mindful in their demonstration of loving acts of
service and kindness towards Blacks, this will help all people grow more spiritual. As
one grows spiritually, this increases the ability to love. The return to love is a healing
force and can be used as a tool to address many of the destructive behaviors,
disrespectful attitudes, abusiveness and self-hatred which fuels much of today's family
disruption, violence, racism, crime, anger and race polarity. BLD offers just one solution
to make a difference to increase the peace and stop the violence for all people.
BLD offers a cultural and wholistic alternative to Valentine's Day whose primary
focus on romantic love between couples, is based on pagan European culture and rituals,
and encourages Blacks to be mere consumers, buying the customary Valentine tokens of
affection. Instead, BLD offers each individual or family member, every neighbor, co-
worker, or gang member; any organization, group and all citizens of the world-wide
community -- a chance to make a difference by giving of themselves, through loving acts
and by being more mindful of love for a day to actively, rejuvenate relationships.
The rituals and symbols of BLD are a synthesis of spiritual, metaphysical, African
and African America customs which aid in heightening Black cultural pride and self-
esteem. Gifts can be given if one desires to express their love, however, gifts must be
purchased only from Black merchants, in the spirit of Ujamaa (cooperative economics) to
recycle money within the Black community. It is recommended that gifts be made or
chosen to enhance the spirit, mind and body or chosen to reflect the love of African
Diaspora culture and heritage, instead of the impractical trinkets and unhealthy, sugar-
laden gifts traditionally given for Valentine's Day.
BLD gives both Black and White communities one day to rejuvenate their
relationships; a day of harmony in the Black community and a day of honesty in the
White community. Hopefully, this one day of reconciliation will feel so good in both
communities, that they will want to re-create these feelings again and again. Just
possibly, this chain reaction of love will transform the nation as never before.
We know of the heart as a symbol for Valentine.s Day. Yet, long before Europeans
used decorative, lace hearts to symbolize romance, this ancient African, Adinkra
(pronounced Ah-dink-rah) symbol was called The Akoma (pronounced Ah co mah). The
Akoma means literally “the heart” and symbolizes love, patience, goodwill, faithfulness
and endurance, with its origin traced to the Asante people of Ghana and the Gyaman
people of Cote' d'Ivoire. This symbol, as well as other Adinkra symbols, have been re-
discovered and re-popularized, in modern times, by African-Americans in search of their
stolen, African cultural legacy. Thus, the Akoma was adopted as the symbol for BLD.
The greeting on BLD is Nya Akoma (pronounced N-yah Ah-coma) which means “be
patient, get a heart”. On the day of February 13th, take 24 hours to be more mindful of
love, be patient, get a heart and return to love. In the Spirit of the Akoma,
Unbelievable, but I.ve been back from my annual IBF - GIC conference for over 3 weeks now, but I.m. still adjusting. After jet lag, many adventures, and all kinds of challenges upon my return, I.ve just been rolling with the flow of things. It seems, I had a major attitude adjustment while away for the week of the International Breathwork Foundations, 25th Global Inspiration Conference (GIC). and my 3 day- after conference holiday in Paris.
As always, the GIC broadens my awareness of the world because it allows me to travel to unique places and at the same time, meet and grow from others who practice "breathwork". This year, the GIC was hosted in Les Jardins de l’Anjou, La Pommeraye, France, and was attended by over 300 persons, represented by over 31 countries.. It was an amazing conference, filled with many amazing people and experiences and during the time, I personally made many shifts of consciousness through the expanded educational and personal development workshops, the love and joy that was so graciously, shared. This being my 4th conference, I.ve attended as well as presented at, I expected adventures, but this year, I handled them with greater flow.
Just getting to this rural area of France, which was 4 hours away from Charles De Gauil airport, was adventure, no 2, after BIG adventure no 1, arriving to our flight in time, yet, to be told that our BWI flight had been cancelled due to rain, and that we only had an hour and 1/2 to go around the beltway to Dulles AP, in rush hour traffic. Traveling this time, with Dr. Arntrice Westbrook, one of my newest certified breathologists and her mother, Ms. Westbrook, was also an unique experience, cause most of my GIC trips, have so far, been by myself. I felt especially responsible that they would have a good experience, and what a way to start a trip off, I thought.
Well, we made the flight and from that point on, it was adventure after adventure, and with each adventure, a greater sense of knowing that "I" plan, but the Creator is truly, the best of planners. Letting go and letting God is not a saying, it's really a practice. Each time, what appeared like "a problem" turned out to be an opportunity for growth and "flow" - a knowingness that all would be alright.
Here's just a few highlights of what I.experienced. My Germain room-mate Uta had a near death experience, but I was at the right place at the right time to support her medical needs. And when I went to my designated area for my workshop presentation, nothing was available - no pillows, no mats - no wires for the sound system, but everyone pitched in, we got what was needed within the 20 minutes delay, and the PlayShop turned out fabulous. Because I was detoxing, my stomach would fill up with "gas" but, I would breathe through the "stress response", so this need offered me lots of opportunities for self-care, and I allowed others to take care of me, instead of "helping" so much, which is my usual "M.O". Then, I returned from the conference for my Paris journey, and when I arrived at the hotel, the confirmation had been cancelled, but I was able to get a better room, with a great room-mate, which reduced my cost. And i missed my flight upon returning, to the States due to the shuttle bus, but instead, got a non-stop flight, next to a delightful family of Mom and 2 toddlers, which allowed me to be supportive of them, but enabled me to be in a better seat with more expanded leg room. , And once I got home, the hotel had over-charged me, wiping out my bank account with all kinds of check charges,, yet, money has come, the bank has supported me, and even the hotel has corrected itself and apologized. FLOW through grace of "letting go".
Now, I.m. going to be truly authentic here - I .m. not saying, that my first reactions were always so great, but that attitude adjustment, I spoke of, really enabled me to use my tools - taking a "deep breath" to slow down the reactive mind, really works my family. And using O.L.B. techniques for breathing into a "gaseous" stomach, or holding a fussy baby close to your belly to calm them down, or speaking your truth, but "breathing through" the anger, so you stay calm and in control of what you are saying - all worked, and keeps working, if you work it. Since returning, I.m. lighter and less burdened by the "have-too's"
I.m. back from France and will always remember this trip, because of the growth, I gained and the many blessings I received. . Now, as soon as I get Google to cooperate and "flow" with me, I'll have pictures to share, so stay tuned.
With my deepest Breath, Sekou Ayo