Yoga Behind Bars invites you to take a few minutes with us to meditate on the purpose of Black History Month.  We recognize that life can be busy with many distractions.  If possible, find a quiet space for reflection and gather whatever props you may need to help you feel comfortable.  You can do this meditation in any position that feels comfortable to you.

As you will be reading through the meditation, we will offer pause lengths, but you are welcome to take as much or as little time as you want.  You might want to read the whole paragraph before following the prompts.

Let’s get started by finding some relaxation in our bodies.  You may use the below technique, but we recognize there are many others.  You are welcome to use any technique that feels best to your body.

(30-45 seconds) In whatever comfortable position you settled into, we invite you to look around and see where your body is in relation to the space you are in.  Maybe you want to enlist your other senses. Notice any sounds and smells, as well as the temperature of the room.  No need to try to figure out the origins and causes, we only want to recognize that they may or may not exist.

(30 -45 seconds) Take a few deep belly breaths and on each exhale try to release any tension you might be holding. This might be bringing slackness to your jaw, or dropping your shoulders, or uncurling your toes. You may want to think about feeling the earth or object that is supporting you.

(30-60 seconds) You can close your eyes if that feels good to you or soften your gaze for this part.  Try to allow your mind to bring up an image of the word connection. Consider what you might be seeing, hearing, and feeling with this word.

In the summer of 1915, Carter G. Woodson, the son of freed slaves and a graduate of Harvard, traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of Emancipation.  This celebration was attended by thousands of African Americans who traveled from across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the destruction of slavery.

Inspired by what he experienced, soon after he and others formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).  Through the organization’s work over the course of the next decade and a few iterations, he established Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month, using February because it encompassed the birthdays of two American figures who played a prominent role in shaping Black history, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Woodson built Negro History Week around traditional days of commemorating the Black past. He was asking the public to extend their study of black history, not to create a new tradition.  As he stated to an audience “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements”. (Read more about Black History Month)

(~1 minute) I invite you to take a moment to notice any emotions that may have arose as you were reading.  Can you name the emotion?  Was there anything new that you learned? Take all the time you need to sit with your thoughts and emotions. When you are done take 3 nice cleansing breaths.  In through your nose and out through your mouth.  Maybe you want to bring sound to your exhale if it feels good to you. (hhhh sound)

This year’s Black History Month theme, “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” explores the African diaspora, and the spread of Black families across the United States.  As an organization, we are acutely aware of the disproportionate impact that mass incarceration has had on Black families.  In youth facilities in King County and Pierce County, WA over half of the youth are Black.  And while WA is 6% Black, 18% of the people in our prisons are Black.

(Take as much time as you want for this last meditation)  We invite you to reflect on the role anti-Black sentiments have played on the Black family structure throughout American History.  You may want to look at both the difficulties, but also the strengths of the Black culture – including their contributions to America.  Carter G Woodson believed that Blacks should be proud of their heritage and others should come to understand it.  At the end of your meditation, perhaps you can set an intention to learn more or honor his intention in some way that feels right for you.

From our hearts to yours – thank you for participating in this meditation with Yoga Behind Bars!

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