TRANSCRIPT: Unlearning colonial somatics as women of colour w/ Kelsey Blackwell

Agrita: When did you first have this awakening that your body is colonised, and that it needs to actively be decolonized?

Kelsey: Yes. So, I would say that my body knew before my mind knew, and how that became clear to me is I spent two weeks doing an intensive of improvisational movement and expression and what led me into that space was a desire to follow what sounded fun. What sounded like something that I would enjoy. I didn’t have a background in doing a lot of improvisational type things, but from that those two weeks of everyday being with other bodies and having a lot of space to tell my story, move my body, move my body alongside other bodies, dance, singing, I felt freer and more alive than I can remember feeling in some time, maybe since I was a little girl. And not only did I feel more free and alive in my body, but walking in the streets of Oakland; other people who I didn’t know would comment and say, oh, I like your dress or I like your hair. There was something about my energy or something about my presence that shifted, and I got curious like, well what is going on here? 

What is possible in this space of total expression that’s not possible or that I haven’t been able to access in other spaces? That’s where I started to see the ways in which working in, you know, a corporate job, living under patriarchy, living under white supremacy, how those systems have gotten into my body and disconnected me from those life giving ways of being in relationship with myself and my environment, so that’s kind of what sparked that inquiry for me. 

Agrita: You’re a somatic coach, and I’m sure you’ve heard many different stories of women of colour. Is there a sort of pattern in the way in which women of colour talk about their bodies? The sorts of struggles that they have with decolonizing their bodies whilst living on colonised land? 

Kelsey: Yeah, good question. I definitely see patterns and it was the patterns that I was seeing in working with clients that led me to create the Decolonizing the Body program. Oftentimes, when clients come to me, they have an awareness that their body, they feel disconnected from their body, and that can manifest in a lot of different ways. It can show up with a sense of always feeling like you’re thinking, thinking, thinking and not able to slow down. It can show up with a sense of like oh, I feel these aches and pains in my body, but I’m not quite sure what to do with them, so I just kind of ignore them. It could also show up with a sense of like ah, I’m feeling like something is missing, I’m not feeling like I’m my fullest self. I think that coming down into the body might have something to do, some way of supporting me with that, and so when I started working with women of colour, some of the themes that I saw were an intrinsic knowing that the body was holding wisdom but not actually sure how to be with that or how to relate to that. So that could be when I know something I feel tingles up my spine or I really feel a lot of activity in my gut. Like my gut is always active, but I don’t quite know what to do with that, right? 

Another thing that I noticed was the ways in which living under racialised capitalism and patriarchy, the ways that those systems, by design, disconnect us from certain aspects of what we need to be whole and well, and some of those things were difficulty making boundaries and saying no. Difficulty taking up space or feeling like we deserve to take up space. Challenges receiving and not feeling guilty about it like receiving a compliment and just accepting it or receiving support and not feeling like oh I have to repay this in some way, kind of a natural deflection of our gifts and skill set. Difficulty slowing down or feeling like we can slow down. A desire to connect with ritual and not necessarily knowing the way. A desire to do work that feels really aligned with who we are but feeling scared or unsure if that’s possible for us. And these systems, which I call The Program, there’s sort of a multi-headed Hydra, this like monster that reaffirms itself any chance it gets, and so these systems, the interplay of them is what has led to these ways of not being able to be confident and take up the space and claim our worth and claim our dignity and claim our belonging. And that is by design. 

I wanted to name that because another thing that I see is that, I mean the women I work with are so smart and we often can see the ways in which we discount ourselves or the ways in which we’re not showing up our boundaries or the ways in which we’re not going after our dreams, rather than look at what are the systems at play and how are they living in my body? How can I impact from that rather than look at the larger structures that are sort of containing us? We blame ourselves, ah, if only I could just be more disciplined, if only I just worked harder, if only I could eat better food and get more rest, right? We blame ourselves for these challenges we have in our lives and from working, with so many women, I was able to see, ah, this isn’t about any one individual shortcoming, this is about the ways the systems that we live in have perpetuated themselves by keeping us in a diminished state

Agrita: Hmm. So, linking back to the broken systems that we have, especially in Western countries or in countries that are trying to be more Western, when we talk about decolonising BIPOC bodies, particularly women of colour and their bodies, we have to address the issue of racial violence, but also sexual violence and this is something that women of colour unfortunately experience at a very young age. The dominant culture usually feeds this idea into us that melanated bodies, they’re not beautiful, we’re either too hairy, too big, we have hyperpigmentation, the list goes on, but at the same time our bodies, they’re exotified and fetishized by the white gaze. When we grow up, we’ve had this idea that our bodies aren’t beautiful, but then suddenly, we’re getting this attention. So Kelsey, how do we, as women of colour, really start to desexualise our bodies to understand that we’re going through this violence that we don’t need to go through? We can stand up, like you said, your clients are super smart, they know exactly what is happening to themselves, but a lot of the times we don’t know how to help ourselves because, again, we’ve been in that cycle of self-degradation, thinking that we can’t do it. How have you helped your clients to actually understand that they’d have that potential, and that yes, we are sexual beings, but we’re not here to be sexualized?

Kelsey: Yeah, this is such a good question because it brings up the impacts of trauma, the impacts of trauma on our bodies. When we experience a traumatic event, be that violence against our body or being sexualized and experiencing the harm that comes from that. There is a challenge to one of our fundamental needs as a human, and those fundamental needs are we all need to feel safe. We all need to feel that we belong and that we all need to feel that we have dignity. When these acts of violence occur, we lose all one or two of those things and the body responds immediately to take care of ourselves in that moment. So, say, for example, I’ll give an example that’s maybe not the most potentially triggering for your listeners. But let’s say, for example, we’re walking home and we’re being followed by somebody, so our safety is under threat, so our body immediately mobilises to take care of getting safe. Maybe that’s walk a little faster, you know, we call a friend right? Our heartbeat speeds up? We go into that fight or flight mode. And let’s say in this example, we’re able to get away from whoever is following us, and then after that the body actually needs to complete the trauma cycle, so the threat needs to be recognised. Say you met a friend, oh, you were being followed, how are you? What’s happening in your body? You’re safe now. OK, like that’s not happening anymore. So, our nervous systems can settle again, right? Then our body has that in its DNA. It’s like, oh, okay, I know how when I feel like I’m under threat, I know what to do so that I can get safe. So now anytime that is occurring, anytime there’s some kind of triggering event, maybe you’re walking again and it you feel like someone looking at you, or maybe you feel like someone following at you, or maybe you feel like someone you know sexualising you, your body is going to turn on that safety mechanism that it learned from that first incident, right? That safety mechanism may or may not be what’s actually needed in that moment. It may be the right response, or it may not be. 

So, some of the work around, how do we, living inside of a society where patriarchy exists and where women of colour are over sexualized, some of this is to look at well, what is my history around that and what are the responses that I learned? How did my body learn to take care of myself when that is happening? Can I feel that in my body? Can I actually feel, oh here it is, my heart is beating, my stomach is dropped, my palms are sweating, I’m in a trauma response here? And from that place take care of including our full experience and discerning what is the appropriate response based on my present-day environment. Because what can happen is we are habitually responding without having that moment of awareness to actually assess what’s safe and what’s not safe. When we’re in that habitual response, it feels like we can’t trust our body anymore. It feels like I don’t know who’s safe and who’s not safe. You know, I want to go out and meet new people, but I’m afraid because what if I get in another bad situation, right? And so, some of the healing is, first, if someone has that kind of traumatic history, is to complete the trauma cycle, like coming back to the body, okay, what’s happening in my body. Where can I feel the ground? Can I feel my breath? All right, can I notice my environment, with more awareness? What is the appropriate response here? 

The other piece of the work is sometimes what’s arising is in a trauma response. It’s something a little bit less, it’s like a pattern we learned earlier on right around how, how boundaries are supposed to be made. Maybe we come from a family where boundaries are really porous, so we don’t actually know how to do it. So then when someone is saying inappropriate things to us or when something goes down at the workplace, that’s like not cool, because we haven’t learned how to assert a boundary or to step forward with our full dignity, then we lose that in that moment. And so, the other piece of this is like, well, how do I walk with my boundaries and with connection to my dignity and with connection to my belonging, and how do I practice maintaining connection with that, even when I’m under pressure? 

Even when the world is telling me things about myself that aren’t true? How do I meet that moment in a way that holds my humanity intact? 

Obviously, this is really difficult work to do, and it’s not work that we’re going to get, we’re just going to do it and get it, it takes repetitions and the first time we start to do this, it can feel very scary. It can feel very uncertain. It can feel like maybe we’re doing the wrong thing and that’s why it’s really helpful to work with a coach or work with somebody who can help you hold the bigger picture as you’re stepping into new practices. So, I guess the final thing I’ll say is that the work that I’m supporting people with is how do we, within ourselves, be the caretakers of our wellbeing, even when we’re in a society that is actively challenging our ability to do so? And how can when we, bravely and courageously, make this the place that we move from and the values that we hold. How does this have an impact of supporting other marginalised bodies to do the same thing? And when we’re in a collective where that’s happening, we are strengthened. And that’s where I think a larger systemic change can happen from. Just going out and trying to change a system on our own isn’t going to be fruitful. It’s too much for one body to take on, but when we’re in relationship with others who are similarly committed and acting from that same place, then we are fortified and there is more possibility for larger systemic change, you need more bodies to enact a larger structural change

Agrita: I guess that’s a colonial construct for self-help. Usually, self-help approaches are individualised and people end up feeling really alone. But of course, if you need to address systemic issues, you cannot be doing it by yourself, so I really like how you emphasise on the collective. That is definitely a part of my own decolonizing process and my decolonising journey, realising that I’m not by myself, I’ve always been part of a community, it’s not just restricted to who shares my ancestry, who is from my country, it extends well beyond that, so I like how you emphasise on community, it’s something people really need to need to kind of hone into. 

Kelsey: Totally, and I think, well, one of the patterns I’ve seen is that women of colour can take on too much. We try to take on an entire system or we try to take on an entire workplace culture. I don’t want other people to have to deal with this, but this isn’t right. One of the things that I love about somatic work is that it really shows us that our bodies, our individual bodies can only hold so much. Like we’re not going to process in our own individual body, the horror of slavery, or the horror of genocide, or the horror of displacement. There’s no way that one body can reconcile that. And yet, when we see this happening in our world, we can fall into depression. We can feel ineffective. We can feel like we’re not doing enough because part of the capitalistic model is a priority of the individual over everything else, and so we can feel this undue burden to be the one to shift these huge systemic issues, when really what our environment is calling for is, I believe, is a healing and stabilisation within ourselves, and then being with others who are in that work as well. And moving from that place as well to enact change in a sustainable and sane way. 

Agrita: When I started realising that there’s something missing from my body, there’s something disconnected. I soon realized, so talking to my parents and hearing how the cultures have shifted, I’m from India and India has experienced a major cultural shift. It has become a country which is really modernized, a lot of people, for example, in India don’t even like to speak their native language while they’re still living there because they feel as if being more Western will just help them be better human beings, kind of dehumanizing themselves and their own communities without even realising it, so I’m very happy that immigration has granted me the opportunity to understand that, I guess distance does help you step back and see what are the issues going on in our own communities, but it’s always been in my mind, where did this start? A lot of people say, well, you can’t really blame colonisation all the time, that happened ages ago, but the effects of colonisation are still in my country, are still in the minds, the bodies, the spirits of my people, and unfortunately it’s not just limited Indians, it’s in so many people of colour, they still perceive, for example, eurocentric beauty to be the highest standard, they still perceive white bodies to be superior. So where do we start in realising that yes, we are speaking the language, for example English, we’re speaking that language that is from colonial times, and the clothes that we wear, the lifestyles we have, they are part of that system that we’re fighting against, but how do you make people realise that it’s okay to be in this environment, it’s okay to kuse the resources of this environment, this land, and at the same time hold people accountable?

Kelsey: Yeah, this is such a complex question. One of the things that Frantz Fanon says is that a colonised people must adopt the standards of their coloniser in order to survive. So, the more eurocentric we can become in our features, like lightening our skin, straightening our hair, wearing blue contacts, speaking the language, the closer we get to that, on one level it’s about power, but on another level it’s about humanity, so the more human we become, the closer we are to the Euro lens. And so, from that perspective, I can’t blame my fellow black and brown bodies when they are doing everything they can to protect their humanity and to protect the humanity of their children, right? This is how we lose native tongues, how we lose foods, how we lose rituals because they aren’t passed down, because teaching our children these ways could make them less, in the eyes of those who hold power

So, I think one of the things that I try to do in my work is to share the history of how we got where we are. I think when we offer the history, it lends itself to compassion. Compassion for ourselves in the ways that we may have tried to Euro-cise ourselves, and compassion for others who maybe don’t know the history and are in that in a very real way. And your question is how do we survive inside of white supremacy, the way I’m interpreting it is how do we survive in white supremacy without fully abandoning or fully drinking the Kool-Aid? How do we still hold reverence and respect for our ancestral traditions and yet live in a society in which there’s not room, or that’s not honored or respected? Well, in many ways this is the work right? I think because culturally, and because The Program, as I like to call it, really loves when bodies of colour self-flagellate, it really loves when we feel shame, when we feel not enough, when we feel like we’re not doing a good enough job, and in fact, I would say that if there were a message to share with all the women of colour that maybe are listening to this, is you are enough and you are doing a great job. 

We can feel this tension of like, I have to pay the bills, I have to maybe go to a job that I don’t love, I have to deal with a boss who does not hold values that I respect and at the same time I also really want to honour and make space for where I come from. I think this is where I like to approach this work from a place of pleasure, because we can get into this “either or” thinking where it’s like either I’m going to just abide in the system as it is, or I’m going to completely be against that and be it live in the woods and have a completely different life, right? I think when we’re in that kind of mindset, we’re getting in trouble because we don’t live in an “either or” world, we live in a “both and” kind of world. So, how do we hold that both and, like the both and is in our world right now. There’s so much suffering, there’s so much violence, there’s so much hate and misunderstanding, and at the same time, there’s so much beauty and there’s so much love and there’s so much creativity and there’s so much possibility. So, how do we hold that complexity in our individual bodies? The pathway toward pleasure, and this is the pathway I think for somatic work and also for reconnecting with our decolonial practices, is like, what can I move toward that feels good? When I start to listen to my body, what could I move toward that that would feel good to what’s happening from the neck down? Because the head, that’s a whole other conversation. The head is going to probably say, oh no, we can’t do this right. So, with time it comes along, when we feel good from the neck down,

What I see in a lot of Indigenous cultures is a cycle, or way of living, that is in connection with the natural cycle of nature and the environment. And in that natural cycle there are periods of activity and growth and expansion, and then there are periods of rest and things being dormant and things being quiet. 

I think that we tend toward, because of capitalism, always being in this growth, always being in this expansion, always feeling like we need to be striving. When we start to listen to okay, what would feel good from the neck down, it may be how can I invite a little bit more pause? How can I invite a little bit more rest? How can I invite a little bit more space, even if my head is like oh no, this is not good, which we could talk about later if you want to, but how can we start to honor what the body is asking for? When we do that, not only are we confronting the systems that we live in, but we’re also honouring the knowing that comes that’s in our bodies, that comes from our mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, and that’s what I love about coming at decolonial work from a an embodied perspective because I think we can get really heady about decolonisation, and there’s a place for that for sure. It’s really important to understand how these systems work and you know what’s actually happening on a psychological level for sure, and for people whose histories have been erased, for people who may not know their ancestors that far back, it can feel like a really insurmountable challenge to try to reconnect with our ancestral ways through research in books, because there’s a lot of unknowns, right? So, what gives me comfort is to know that my body knows the way, and how my body tells me is through pleasure. That accessing of pleasure, or that accessing of what my body wants, and this is one of the meditations we do in my work, is like, what does my body want? Can I give it that? That’s a meditation, moment by moment. What does my body want? Can I give it that? We build that muscle, and that listening and following, not only does it confront these systems, but it gives us more resilience and it gives us more space to be in a society that is so complex

Agrita: I really like how somatics is very body-centric. That’s something that you don’t really get to see, again looking back to the sort of self-help and self-love advice you get to see on social media, through books, it’s very much fixated on the mind and not so much on the body. I wonder if this is a product of the sort of broken understanding, by the dominant culture, of the spiritual and the material body being connected? Like you said, I also love how Indigenous cultures, what they see out in Nature and in the world, they try to replicate that into taking care of themselves and their communities, their bodies. Do you think that if we tend to this rupture between our spiritual and material selves, it will help us to not only be in tune with our spiritual selves, but also with our bodies, which we are often completely ignoring?

Kelsey: Totally yeah, great question. So, one of the things I love about somatics is that the word soma, which I think is a Greek root word, points to the living organism in its wholeness, the whole of our being, and right now I think somatics is understood as the body, and that’s cool, the body is part of it for sure, but the living organism and our wholeness, we’re not attending just to the body, but we’re also attending to our thinking body, our spiritual body, our emotional body, our creative body, our feeling body. All these aspects of our humanity are what are being listened to and followed and integrated in this work. Because what the path of the work, or the fruition of the work is like, how do we live into our full humanity? What does it actually mean to be embodied right now? How do we attend to every layer of what that is, so that not only are we in our fullest expression and our fullest gifts, and our fullest contribution, but we’re creating a world where that is the baseline for creating from and for understanding and for visioning and for the ways that we are organising our systemic structures? That is what we’re up to in this work, so our spiritual body comes into somatic practice in a very big way, our interconnected, our inter-relational body comes into somatic practice, our ancestral body. The body that’s feeling for or visioning for the future? That body comes in as well, and then we look at all of those aspects of ourselves and we’re holding that awareness as we move toward what matters to us. It’s like, I moved toward this job search, do I still get to be listening to spirit and ancestors and what my environment is communicating with me and what my feeling is possible for my future? How do all those aspects, how do I take care of, being attuned to and listening to all those aspects as I move toward, you know whatever is next for us? 

You ask how do we get so disconnected? Well, there’s so many theories on this, but I see, and this might be somewhat controversial statement, but it’s how I see it, I see that the mind, in many of our bodies, operates as a power over system. It’s a power over our body. It’s a power over, for some folks, our spiritual knowing, it’s a power over our ancestral knowing. The mind likes to be driving the ship and the mind, many of our minds, were put in the position of being in a power over to these other ways of knowing by how we were trained in school, right? By how we are affirmed in this society. Where does that come from? Well, we can look in history and it’s like when we see the atrocities that were enacted on Native populations by Europeans, they were able to use spirituality to justify some of their means. But again, like true spirituality, there had to be a disconnect there and what was put in the place on the highest altar power, right? What made sense to the mind through this mechanism of receiving power? It’s like, well, we’re going to diminish and squash these people, and I’m not going to feel this because we need their gold or we need their land or we need them to work for us, so that thinking self became the dominant way in which the coloniser was able to disconnect from the atrocities that they were committing. And then, of course, that ethos gets taught to subsequent generations to perpetuate the systems that were created. Because as soon as we bring other parts of ourselves into the conversation, we can no longer abide in the systems that we’ve created. They don’t work. Many of us see that, the most marginalised bodies see that. 

Agrita: I think that’s very powerful take to it, relying on your intuition. You know when people say listen to your heart over your mind, listen to your gut feeling, your intuition, it’s again emphasised in Indigenous cultures and communities. Like you said, feeling what is in your body, that is not something that we get to learn when we grow up or when we’re part of these Western cultures, so I think that’s really powerful. To give your mind a rest for a while and actually understand that your spirit self and your material self, they are already carrying so much wisdom and knowledge, and we just need time for it to come out. That is definitely part of my current awakening, understanding that I might be a 21 year old human being, but I’m much older than that. My wisdom is much greater than that. 

Kelsey: That’s exactly right, and what if you had heard that through school? What if we were teaching that right away? What a different world we would have, and it’s often the most sensitive bodies, the ones who can actually make it work in society who get told that they’re deficient. You’re feeling a lot of the bullshit and then you become the problem because you can’t turn off what you’re feeling, right? I’m like, no, no, no, no, these bodies are the canaries in the coal mine. These are the bodies that we should be not only listening to, but who should be designing another way in which we can relate. And I just want to say this isn’t to say that the mind is bad, right? We need our minds and I love my mind! I would be able to speak to you today if I didn’t have this working for me. But it’s about how do we move from a power over to a power with inside ourselves, right? 

We see these power over structures in our world and yet we don’t actually see how that is living in us, and one of the ways it lives in us is that the mind is like I’m going to tell you what to do and if you don’t do what I say then you’re going to get in big trouble or you’re going to fail or whatever, and it’s like, no. The mind wants to designed to share power with the body, and so when we’re actually able to enter into a power with relationship between our mind, our ancestors, our internal telling, our interconnection, when all those things are informing us we are so powerful because nobody is walking like that, right? There’s a few people when we meet them, we’re like wow, you’re so clear, you’re so grounded, you’re so confident, you’re so wise, and it’s like, hey, they just practice something, really letting themselves, all their antenna, be part of the conversation and then working together

The mind will learn how to share power. It will initially revolt, it’ll be like a wild horse and you’re trying to put a saddle on it and it’s like no, no, no, no! Like the first time you sit down to meditate, the first time you try to just feel your breath the first time, you step into a new practice that’s different from what you habitually have done, the mind is like no, but with time, the more we practice, the more familiar it becomes, and then they learn how to work together. 

Agrita: So, you mentioned pleasure-centric approaches that you talk about on your website. You mentioned that you have practices such as Inter Play and Pleasure Activism, is that incorporated into your work and is that what you were pointing towards? 

Kelsey: Oh yeah, I mean, I think that, especially when you’re working or doing anything with the body, you actually have to enter in, well, I won’t say have to but because bridging the gap between the mind and the body for many bodies is this wide chasm and it can feel like walking across this drawbridge with this vast expanse, like in the wind and the rain, it can feel like no way, because for many bodies, we may not have any connection to what’s happening down here, or we may feel down here and feel shame. We don’t like how our bodies look or it brings up memories of things that have happened to our bodies, and so if we try to like bridge that gap just by saying okay, do it, go now, then many people, many bodies, are going to be like I don’t think so. Not today. Maybe it’ll be sunny here tomorrow. I’ll try tomorrow. So, rather than taking that journey from just sheer pressuring of ourselves, is there another way in? Is there another way to get down into the body? One of the most, I would say the easiest way to access that space is through play, through pleasure. How do we play as children? When we’re in a place of play, there is a sense of often relaxation, creativity, opening up. There’s a generative quality, and so our body isn’t clamped down in fear. From that place, we’re able to feel our body. If we’re clamped down, it’s like okay, feel what’s happening here, but then I’d be like, ooh, I just feel tense or I just feel scared. So, from that place of play and pleasure and enjoyment, one of the things the Interplay says is that the work is sneaky deep. It feels like, oh, we’re just having a good time and then you’re like oh, so this is why I’m always leading and not following. I feel like I have to lead. Oh, where did I learn that? So, that’s when we start to build more of a relationship with our body and then from that place the bridge isn’t as scary. We’re like, it seems scary, but I’ve been over there and it’s actually kind of nice!

The other thing, and this is something I learned from Adrienne Maree Brown, who wrote Pleasure Activism, which has this beautiful essay from Audre Lorde uses of the erotic, I think it’s it speaks to what I was saying earlier about listening to the canaries in the coal mine, right? So, the canary is the first one to say danger, this is dangerous. So, sensitive BIPOC bodies are like the canary in the coal mine, we’re like huh, oh, this shit is bad, we need to get out of here, and then bodies that can’t feel it or like no, we’re just gonna keep moving ahead, and then we die and then it’s not long before they die too, right? 

Shucks, anyway, so Audre Lorde said when we have experience, and this is a paraphrase because I don’t remember the exact quote, but it’s essentially like when our bodies have experienced a certain level of pleasure, or a certain level of expression, or a certain level of out of self-respect, we can require no less than that. Once your body has seen what it feels like to be safe, to have your voice respected and heard, to have the space you need to take rest, to have this space to be creative, once you’ve really been able to experience that, you’re much less willing to give it up. 

So, with decolonising the body, some of our bodies have never experienced what it’s like to make a boundary and to stand in that with confidence, even when the world around us is like, no, you can’t do that. We’ve never experienced what it’s like to rest. We’ve never experienced what it’s like to start every morning in ritual, but when we taste that and we see what that does for our wellbeing, the pleasure that that gives us, the resilience that gives us, then we’re much less willing to accept less than that. We’re like no, that doesn’t work for me. Oh, you wanna do it at that time? Sorry I’m not free. 

Agrita: So it’s sort of like a reversal to the trauma defence mechanism that you talked about at the start. Our bodies are kind of like memory foam. We remember the good, the extremely good and extremely bad.  Unfortunately, we kind of cling on to both.  But if we focus on the positives, what we have we learned from the bad and now that we know how we feel good, then we can obviously try to channelize our energy into those areas and at the same time, learn from the things that have introduced traumas in our bodies. 

Kelsey: That’s right. 

Agrita: That full cycle. 

Kelsey: That’s right, it’s the full cycle, that’s exactly right. We hold both of those things. 

Agrita: Kelsey, when I first reached out to you, I was really fascinated about the Decolonizing The Body program for women of colour. For those that listening that would be interested in joining, could you give us a brief introduction to what can they expect out of the seven weeks with you?

Kelsey: Yeah, for sure. So, it’s seven weeks of doing this work, decolonising the body, that integrates body practices as well as creative practices like poetry, dance, music and song, and we’re doing this in community around specific themes. So, each week is a different theme and some of the things we touch on are the things that I talked about here. What does it feel like to slow down? So, we do work around slowing down, we do work around creating a ritual together where we do work around practicing what it feels like to really know what a yes feels like, to know what a no feels like in our body because our minds can talk us into a lot of different truths. But our body tells us what’s happening right and so how do we start to be in conversation with that around our boundaries? How do we let ourselves receive and feel what can come up when we let in praise, acknowledgement and support from someone else, right? Basically, what I hope that women get out of the program, is that they can do this, that we sometimes feel like I’m just bad at boundaries or I’m just bad at taking rest, and it’s like no, with support you can get this into your body. You can feel what it’s like in your body, to organise your soma in such a way where this is possible for you and then you can take this into your life and your work and your relationships. And there’s something really sweet about doing this with a collective, so oftentimes some women like to work with a buddy, so there’s that option, but to be supported and in conversation with others around this work and also just to have space to talk about the things that we don’t often get to talk about. Where do we get to talk about being racialised or being sexualized, and the impacts that’s had and just have the space to tell our stories and be heard about that? I mean, there’s something about just the witnessing of that, that can be very powerful for people, so that’s what the program is. I will offer it in 2022. I’m not sure when, so we’re actually finishing up the last session this month, but they’ll there will be another one, so stay tuned. 

Agrita: It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you today Kelsey, again, I’m going to reiterate it, the timing of this conversation was so important for me, when I finally came to this realisation that I do need to not only decolonise my spirit, my soul, but also my mind and my body at the same time, and I think a lot of women will find this conversation so liberating, especially those that are kind of struggling to do the same as we have already. If you could give some advice to the women of the diaspora, who are struggling still to being in tune with their bodies, to connect with their bodies whilst living so far away from their homelands, if you could give some advice to those women, what is the best place to start this lifelong journey of decolonising the body? 

Kelsey: Yeah, yeah, so good. Ah well, I would like to say a couple things. The first is that I hope that women of colour, especially those who are awake to the ways that they’re impacted by the society that we’re living in and are feeling the grief and sorrow around that, know that they’re not alone. Even if we’re not in community, or even if we’re not in spaces where we can talk about the ways in which we’ve been taught to feel deficient, or the ways we’ve been taught to feel shame or feel that we’re not enough, or the stress that we feel from working all the time. So that’s the first [thing], you’re not alone, we’re here. The other thing I would say is that, or what I would hope, is that it’s where can you be really, really kind and gentle with yourself, and is there a way in which you can make that a regular practice? It could look so many ways, it could be like I’m gonna take a walk once a week, just me, no phone, no kids, just me getting outside, or I’m gonna let myself eat something really delicious that feels good, not something that I should have but I want. I’m going to let myself just sit and enjoy that. I’m gonna buy myself a really pretty scarf and every time I wear it, I’m gonna remind myself that I love myself, right? What is just one small thing you can do that would be really kind and loving to yourself and then can you make that a practice? That would be the place to start, kind loving practice.