Workshop#1- Accepting Voices @ UoT: Fri 27 October 2017


This workshop is open to all.  Registration is required, limited places available.

NOTE: If you are a current Grad Student at U of T please see note about spaces available to you for free through UTGSU Grad Minds.

Very pleased to announce opportunity to participate in innovative, ground breaking workshop, offered in partnership with
University of Toronto Graduate Student Union’s Grad Minds Committee.

About Hearing Voices

Hearing voices is intentional, ordinary language descriptive of a range of human experience that has been mystified, is often feared and yet which is also remarkably common.

Hearing Voices also refers to an emancipatory approach that accepts such experiences as very real and meaningful if sometimes difficult to live with, and that seeks to share ways we can learn to live with such difficult experiences and support and connect with each other.

This approach also includes many other similar experiences that can be hard to live with and harder to talk about and make sense of.

When we learn to put aside our fear of both ourselves and each other we generate possibilities that we can find and create new roles, connect with each other, and find richer experiences of being human as we co-create a world that’s easier to live in for all of us.


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bad self – Cabaret Voltaire

Posted in Don't Suck-Dance !, music | Leave a comment

Dancing With My Inner Critic – Steve Chapman

“This talk isn’t very good.”

“Thoughts” “voice”, inner voice” “inner critic” –  whatever you call yours there are at least as many ways of learning to live with it as there are ways of learning to live amongst humans.

Many will tell you to dominate, overcome, ignore, fight, yell at, ignore, drug-em up-  in a squillion versions of  “push-through”,  “get-over-it”,  thinks and talk your way out” and any of which might work for you -at least sometimes at any rate,.
Or you might find that they actually lock you into an escalation or arms race that takes much of your attention and most of your energy.

What if non of those might-is-right approaches work for you and yours?
at lest not all the time.
What else could you try?

How about a creative approach like learning to dance?

Steve Chapman on fighting, resisting his inner critic  ..until one day he made a puppet of it and was “able to have a adult conversation”.

And learned to dance with it…

Here he is below with his inner critic…

There’s also aw blog, whis is not up to standard either:

Can Scorpions Smoke



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What does “recovery” mean to you?

This started as a post on facebook group in a conversation about recovery. It got a bit long so I tweaked it to go here.

I have a blog [this one] with the word recovery in its title, I’ve no interest in selling any idea of recovery, or even what it means. I do know what it means to me and I know that changes.

Words change – they are mere symbols of something , tokens we pass between us to help convey build, change and create new meaning.

When I first heard it used I was puzzled and excited, it was in context of how I had a choice. I did not need see myself as ill person, embarking on new career [in new country ] as a mental illness patient/ “service user”. That was not why I left one continent to live in another.

“Recovery” was certainly, for me, if nothing else, a better offer than the other crap. “The other  crap” was basically learning to see myself as biologically faulty/deficient, living a life of drugs, drugs, more drugs and progressive deterioration, a shrinking life as non-human, non-person, nonbeing, ending in an predictably early, sad, lonely death no one cave a crap about.

I didn’t -don’t- know what recovery is, but I was sure that not being offered it as an option sucked sure as a ducks arse sucks water.

Wellness and Recovery
I’ve facilitated WRAP groups for years and for at least the first two would share how “recovery” was a word I was intrigued by and curious about but didn’t really have an understanding of I could put in words, I’d never read a “definition” I liked [but then I don’t like definitions] but was happy to park that until I did, and focus on “wellness” as an idea I could grasp and organize my own ideas around.

What are words worth? Words

Words dont mean what they say,
can’t say what they mean.
-Wordy Wrappinghood

No word means exactly the same thing to any two people for more than a brief moment in time and this is even more so when what the word symbolises is complex and personal.

It is not necessary to either agree with others’ ideas of what a word means or yet have our own precise understanding of what a word means to find it somehow useful. Words are, always, mere in-the-moment symbols of something else far more complex.

When I decided to start a blog I thought hard about what to call it and surprised myself when the name I liked best included the word recovery. I’m good with the choice. It’s a useful word because it encourages us to ask each other what does it mean rather than pretend we know.

I’ll say this, to me anyone who insists “recovery” is limited to being about getting back to something, a time or a state of being is missing an important aspect of being alive..

For some time now, like Joanne I prefer to think in terms of healing- it means coming to wholeness. I like that. Besides I’m named “healey”, so there.

Any word only has the meaning we choose to give it or choose to take from it.
Whatever word you choose it’s your meaning. Shared meaning can be built but tafes effort and patience and a lot of listening with each other.

When it comes to the word “recovery” it seems to me that there are typically [at least] two intertwined but disjoined conversations about the word and its meaning and meaninglessness .

In “mental heal” it was adopted first by survivors, taking ideas from 12 steps approaches, people sharing stories of their ow struggle and sharing what they’d found worked for them, This was the start of people discovering that many people did indeed find a way to “do” something other than what they’d been led to believe by Docs and other MH workers was all they had right to expect having been given a MH diagnosis/life sentence.

There was a need to call that collective experience something , the word people chose at the time was “recovery”.
I till think it’s a pretty good choice that some very cool people made. Even if you think the word doesn’t work and /or you think progress is faltering, it is worth remembering its story and where it came from and its worth honoring the efforts and lives of those who created the foundation of where’re at.

It’s up to us to move things forward from here.

To me “recovery” as an idea or concept in mental health started as resistance to what was being offered by services – which tended to fall on a scale somewhere between “not much” and or something close to “institutonalised evil”.

It always was ambiguous, requiring anyone who wanted to find it to do a lot of hard work , themselves and with others. It never was like a pill, just take it and forget , had to engage with it and make it what it could be, what we wanted it to be, for us,

These days it can be more confusing because institutions, services and systems are under pressure to change and are adopting the term, sometimes in good spirit of that history and often not at all and every point in between, all in the same institution. If you take as a given the pronouncements of what recovery is by institutions that clearly have Norfolk n clue then please understand that’s not the only version.

Peak Recovery?
I expect we’re not quite there but we may have passed “peak recovery”, that time when “mental health” institutions get most money for each mention of recovery in their documentation, strategic plan, website, and witless tweetings etc As a buzzword its power to accrue funding is on the wane but “recovery-washing” is everywhere.

Sticking feathers somewhere dark …
“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken”
-Tyler Durden

…and talking about recovery, calling yourself recovery oriented does not mean anything much worthwhile. Adopting recovery terminology as a facade or front to create impression of change but not really believing it and not really changing, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours IS how institutions do tend to behave.

These days, though, “trauma informed” trumps “recovery” every time.

Recovery is personal is political
Here in Canada the MHCC talks of “personal recovery” – a term I do kinda like because it acknowledges the uniqueness of each person’s struggle and path, and it also emphasises what whatever services and those in services offer, its actually not about you and what you do for me – it’s about me and my life.

The commission did talk about services support personal recovery, language don’t seem to have stuck except in a few places.

It also puts choice in my hands. I’ve said more than once to workers who were being a bit arsey when assisting or advocating with a friend “whose recovery is it? Who gets to make the choices?” It can be quite useful that way.

What any person needs is unique, as example, what I need is not much of what service “offer”. I’ve been grateful for meeting a few v good people when I most needed it – who mostly offered me resources I didn’t have access to without them but mo so they listened when no one else would and let me see they believed in my ability to find my own way.

I also like the term because it leaves open [and I don’t think this was the intention] a huge space for us to realise that that the lion’s share of what’s needed is other forms: social recovery, system recovery. Society we’ve created and each of its institutions, especially “mental health” institutions are way, w-a-a-a-a-y more broken down than I ever was or could be but I can release myself from needing for everything wrong there to be put right be for I can feel any better. .

I have friends who say “I don’t have a mental illness I’m suffering fro capitalism’ and I’m sure they’re not wrong. I think its bang on but though I’d call it, as Bell Hooks does, the imperialistwhitesupremacistcapitalistpartiarchy but I’m not suffering and to me its a notion as disempowering and alienating as believing I have a chemical imbalance: it’s difficult to find hope there. Or at least there’s work for more lifetimes than I’m prepared to wait for.

I refuse to and don’t need wait for all the experts to finish arguing [as if they ever will] about what’s wrong and what’s needed to put things straight. I can just get on with figuring out what works for me and what I can do to live a life closer to the one I’d like, to be a version of me I like being..

I think the current WIKI on “Recovery Approach” ain’t ‘alf bad at giving a brief potted history of how the word has been /is being used in “mental health” […now there’s another term that’s thrown around without regard to complex meanings.. ]

For what its worth my personal meaning of  “recovery” is something like this…

When we can get to a place where we’re comfortable with the choices we are able to make and making
and can say to all those voices in the “chorus of someones:
Thank for your for your concern, your opinions, and your moralizing.
Thank you for your dogma and all your shoulding on me
but I”m good.
How are you doing? 

[Please note that it’s much harder to articulate in polite language than in the manner I prefer to express it.]

that wiki..

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I feel no shame about my mental breakdown: it helped make me who I am – David Harewood

Tuesday was World Mental Health Day, and I was encouraged by a friend to tweet a word of support to help raise awareness of an issue that affects so many people in different ways.

I picked up my phone and tweeted about my experience, 20-odd years ago, when I suffered a breakdown and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. In truth I didn’t think what I’d written was a big deal. So I was astonished at the reaction: 30,000 people all over the world liked or shared the post.

My own breakdown started shortly after I left drama school. Despite a successful start, within a couple of years of becoming professional, I found myself deeply unhappy.

It is fitting that I am writing this in the same week that government figures revealed the huge effects of ethnicity on life chances in Britain, because my own breakdown had everything to do with identity. Outside drama school, in the world of acting, I was being forced to get to grips with the reality that I was no longer just another actor. I was a black actor.

Perhaps I was profoundly naive, but at no point during my time studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art did the colour of my skin cross my mind.

I was a comprehensive school kid from Birmingham; I’d never heard of Bertolt Brecht, I’d read Othello and cried at a production of King Lear when I was at school, so I knew Shakespeare was kinda special. But that was about my limit. Suddenly, at drama school, I was exposed to all these amazing plays by all these astonishing writers. I played King Lear in my second year.

But in the real world I was never going to play those roles. Outside Rada, those opportunities weren’t open to actors of colour, and leading roles were rare, particularly on television. I very quickly had to adjust my sails for shallower waters. It was immensely frustrating, since I knew I was capable of much more. But my blackness had trumped my talent.

Things came to a head when I played the part of Sloane in Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane at Derby Playhouse. When the play was first produced in London in the 1960s it caused a scandal and I leapt at the chance of the central role. What I didn’t realise was that I was venturing into the treacherous waters of representation, and the question of how, as a black actor, one is supposed to represent blackness. Sloane is a scheming, murderous, sexual deviant who ends up in servitude to two highly dysfunctional characters, and maybe I should have seen how my blackness could be seen to add a racial element to an already inflammatory set-up.

The play was very funny. Press night was a success so I dared a peek at the reviews. I’d heard they were generally positive and they were. Only the journalist from the local black newspaper had given it the thumbs down, and he wasn’t holding back on naming names. “Mr Harewood should seriously examine his choices as an actor,” he wrote. “He shouldn’t represent the community in a such a vile manner.” He ended his piece by suggesting that if people did go to see the show, they should walk out if, like him, they were disgusted by what they saw. And so, for the remainder of the run, on some nights, as I delivered Sloane’s sordid soliloquy at the start of the second act, some of my brothers and sisters would get up and leave.

Here I was, struggling with my black identity in a white world, and rejected by people who looked just like me. It was a confusing time. I began to lose confidence on stage. I started drinking, before and after shows. Manically throwing myself into performances was the only way I could block out what was happening in my head.

But it was my next job that pushed me over the edge. I was cast as the “fool for interracial love” in a touring production of a very flawed play about black identity. It was a disaster, made even worse by the unwanted sexual advances of another member of the company. I couldn’t wait to get back to London, to see my friends and be happy again.

But it was already too late. I haven’t got enough space in this article to tell you what happened between then and the day I was sectioned at the Whittington psychiatric hospital in Archway, north London, but I will say this: I had the most extraordinary time. Much of it I don’t remember but I have vague memories of travelling around London, performing “street theatre”, bursting into song on the tube and chatting to complete strangers.

Help arrived when I had an audition in central London and turned up three hours late. The casting director, who later became a dear friend, recognised something was wrong and called my agent. Friends came and took me home. We all knew something was off but didn’t really know what to do because it looked on the surface as though I was having a great time. I visited a doctor but he fobbed me off with a bottle of pills after 20 minutes and said to my mates: “He seems to think he’s Lenny Henry! He should take these and get some sleep.” I threw the tablets in the bin on the way out.

The first time I realised I was in serious trouble was when I tried to get out of the hospital ward I was on but I couldn’t because the doors were locked. I’d been sectioned.

I had amazing support from friends and family, who visited me often and stressed to everyone at the hospital that although I appeared to be a scary big black guy prone to outbursts of song and verse, I was in fact an actor experiencing a nervous breakdown of some kind. My brother Paul offered me the best advice: “Dave … I know you’re flying a bit but if you wanna get out of here you’ve got to tone it down and start acting normal.”

I took his advice. Even though the Largactil (an anti-psychotic drug) was making my head spin, I resolved to start taking control and cutting out the outbursts. Eventually, with rest and the amazing care of my mother, I got myself out of there, and within six to eight months was back at work.

I’ve never had a repeat of what happened, and although many of the issues and pressures of identity and blackness are still with me, I’m much better at coping with them now.

I’m more experienced, in life and in the industry too, and reasonably secure in who I am and how I fit in. Personally, I believe that episode has given me enormous strength. I’ve never been ashamed to talk about it – it’s my go-to pub anecdote – so I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to say it publicly. But I’m glad if what I said has given someone comfort or strength. If people now see me as the weirdo in the corner, that’s no concern of mine.

If you’ve ever experienced or are experiencing some form of mental illness, I’d urge you to get some support and wish you the best of luck. It’s more common than you think. If you can find your way through the craziness, there’s treasure in it, I promise you. I know because I found some. As King Lear says: “Oh ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light; yet you see how this world goes.”


Posted in Crazy World, making sense of "mental illlness", my story, skin I'm in, story | 4 Comments

Whatever your voices are, only you can decide.

“Hearing voices” – and hearing voices that others don’t- is not just describing a wide range of human experiences that has been mystified and made taboo but which is remarkably common.

In fact, hearing voices regularly is about as common as left handedness – and its not that long ago people who were left-handed were told they were evil,  had hands strapped down, broken were hit in school and worse to “normalise” their deviance.

Perhaps one illustrative difference between left-handedness and hearing voices might be that that not many of us experience being left-handed for a period, whereas 75%, three-in-four, of us will experience an episode where we will hear a voice, or voices, that no one else does.

“Hearing voices” also refers to an approach – and a broad one- in which we accept hearing voices as part of human experience – one that might be difficult but that has some meaning, and might even offer us clues and insights to finding our way through life’s [even] larger difficulties.

No one but you can own your experience.

In a hearing voices approach it is a key value and a basic practice that we do not tell others what [we think] their voices are.

We might – perhaps  inevitably will – have our own ideas and theories, explanations but we don’t seek to impose our own ideas or theories or explanations on you about what you experience.

Partly because we don’t know – because nobody does know or can know what another person is experiencing unless we ask – and listen really hard…

But mostly out of basic, simple respect.

Because we know first-hand and only too well what it’s like having so many voices telling us what to think and what to do and what to call ourselves and what words to use for all that.

Because we remember how much that just sucks.

Because there are already more than enough people using their power to define what we do and do not experience, to define us and to delineate and limit our lives for us.

Because doing that to each other really fucking sucks.


Because by choosing not to join the chorus of tellers and name-callers, we show our utmost respect for and belief in a person’s ability – as well as their basic human right – to decide for themselves what explanation best works for them.

Because this very same right we would claim for ourselves we also offer to each other.

Because hearing voices as an approach is not so much about hearing or about voices – it is about how we are with our selves, with our experiences and how we are with each other.

So, next time someone tells you
“your voices are…” or
“the voices are”

or such like –
and you want to have some fun, try telling them something like this,

“You know, when you say that, just like that, you sound just like ‘a voice‘.”

and watch the look on their face…

and you’ll see how much they really care about you
or care more about  pretending they know what they cant possibly know.

Posted in bollocks, dialogue, hearing voices, Ideas | 2 Comments

Burn Your Village To The Ground – A Tribe Called Red

“Well… Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday for Native people. In a way, each day is a day of thanksgiving to the Creator for the original people of Turtle Island.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy turkey, pie and family as much as the next person, but at the same time the Thanksgiving myth largely shared in mainstream culture perpetuates a one sided view of a complicated history surrounding this holiday.”

Wait, we cannot break bread with you.
You have taken the land which is rightfully ours.
Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations.
Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs.
We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, and you will play golf.
My people will have pain and degradation.
Your people will have stick shifts.
The gods of my tribe have spoken.
They said do not trust the pilgrims. And especially do not trust Sarah Miller.
For all these reasons I have decided to scalp you
and burn your village to the ground.

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double dare ya – bikini kill

Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya
Girl-fuckin-friend yeah
Double dare ya
Double dare ya
Double dare ya


We’re Bikini Kill and we want Revolution Girl-style now

Hey girlfriend
I got a proposition goes something like this:
Dare ya to do what you want
Dare ya to be who you will
Dare ya to cry right out loud
“You get so emotional baby”

Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya
Girl-fuckin-friend yeah
Double dare ya
Double dare ya
Double dare ya

Don’t you talk out of line
Don’t go speaking out of your turn
Gotta listen to what the Man says
Time to make his stomach burn
Burn, burn, burn, burn

Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya
Girl-fuckin-friend yeah
Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya

You’re a big girl now
You’ve got no reason not to fight
You’ve got to know what they are
Fore you can stand up for your rights
Rights, rights?
You do have rights

Double dare ya, double dare ya
Double dare triple fuckin dare ya girlfriend
Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya


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Lobster tales…

Best thing I read this last week..
was this piece by Benjamin P Hardy at
and thanks to Matt at for pointing a claw to it.

How to Reach the Next Stage of Your Personal Evolution

“Every next level of your life will demand a different you.” — Leonardo DiCaprio

Life is a multiple act play. In each succeeding scene in the play of your life, you will act in different roles, have different supporting cast members, and take on new challenges.

Going from one scene to the next is a transition, involving loss and newness. Without question, change and transition are always difficult, if that change is real. It’s easy to become over-attached to a certain role you’ve played, perceiving that role as your identity. It’s painful realizing that various characters from previous scenes don’t make sense in the next scene, yet still you awkwardly try to fit them in.

If you let it, life will take you on a grand journey beyond anything you could ever plan for. If you are receptive and open, you will be and do things far outside your current view of yourself. To quote Biblo Baggins, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

The roles you will play

Lobsters are soft squishy creates that house themselves within hard shells with rigid and spiky insides. As a lobster grows, its shell becomes constraining, even suffocating and painful.

Once the lobster becomes too uncomfortable: it hides from predators under a rock, jettisons its old shell, and fashions a new one. This process repeats throughout the lobster’s life.

Each of the lobster’s shells may look drastically different from the previous one. Indeed, in its new shell, the lobster may be unrecognizable to its closest friends and even to itself.

Likewise, the various scenes in your life may demand you to be someone you never intended to be.


Although you may have been timid and quiet in the previous scenes, your new situation may require you to lead and speak boldly.

Each situation is different.

In our individualized culture, we like to see ourselves devoid of a context, as though we are a self-contained entity. However, identity and meanings are housed within contexts. Take for instance the shirt you’re wearing. To you, it may be a shirt, to a baby it may be a blanket, and to a moth it may be lunch.

The relationship between things (the context) is the reality, not the things themselves.

In-between scenes (and shells)

Between each stage in your journey, you’ll go through minor — and sometimes major — identity crises. Although this isn’t necessarily enjoyable, it’s necessary and natural.

According to Identity Status Theory, before you commit to and achieve a particular identity, you’ll experience identity crisis. While experiencing identity crisis, you’re as the lobster whose outgrown its shell. You don’t quite know who you are, or what’s next.

Jeff Goins calls this phase “The In-Between,” — the tension between now and the next big thing. This in-between time is confusing and vexing. Like the naked lobster, you’ve outgrown and cast away your old shell, but haven’t found your new one yet. You feel exposed and vulnerable.

In each scene, you will feel like a child

At each new stage (or shell) in your journey, youwill feel like a child. You’ll be required to learn and do new things. You’ll relearn past lessons but from new angles and with new meanings.

Continual growth demands you continuously become a child again. As a child, you will crave and seek understanding. Once you learn and adapt, you’ll likely become complacent. Thus, you’ll need to become a child again so your thirst to grow returns. In this way, you’ll never get stuck or stagnate.

On leaving things behind

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” — Yoda

Personally, I’m in the midst of leaving one shell and entering another. To ensure there is space in my new shell, I’ve spent lots of time thinking. What characters make sense in this next scene? What habits and behaviors? What role must I play?

As part of the purging process, I’ve decided to create a new email because my old email is getting stocked up with junk. I got my phone number changed, after having the same phone number for over a decade. I’m taking an indefinite Facebook hiatus. I’ve talked to close friends who were influential and essential in the previous scene of my life, and told them of the new journey I’m on.

To be clear, I’m not saying relationships should abruptly end just for the sake of it. But as an example, my two best friends from high school don’t make sense as dominant characters in the current scene of my life. Context determines meaning.

In my current context — which I’ve consciously designed and chosen — I’m a husband, foster parent of three kids, student, and writer. The various roles I’m playing in this particular scene involve characters not in previous chapters.

For example, my Ph.D. research adviser wasn’t in the previous scene of my story. But she plays a huge role in the current scene I’m in. Furthermore, the writing and consulting work I’m doing attracts the people into my life that need to be here for this scene, so that we can help each other get to our next scenes.

Mentors come and go, as do friends. We learn and we teach one another, then close that particular chapter and hope that, maybe, one day, a future chapter will bring us back together. Come what may, we are eternally grateful for the moments we had together.

Thus, changing “scenes” does not mean my two high school friends are gone from my life or my story. Just that they aren’t in this particular scene. The connection and meaning between my friends and I remains very real. But the past is meant to be learned from, not lived in. As Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach has said,“Surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.”

Leaving the safety and comfort of your previous shell can be terrifying. But holding on to behaviors, beliefs, and even relationships that no longer make sense halts your personal evolution.

Though change is hard, it is to be embraced. Life is inherently a developmental and evolutionary process. Relationships are the most important and meaningful part. Evolution of those relationships doesn’t take away from them, but actually makes them more meaningful.

Each scene should be a progression from the last

Each succeeding scene will look and feel different from the last. In some scenes, you’ll be on top of the world. In other scenes, you’ll be hanging on for dear life.

However, you as a person should continuously be growing and improving. In each successive scene, your time should be better spent, your character more refined, your work more meaningful, and your relationships more authentic.

Regardless of how the changes externally look in each new scene, internally you should be becoming better and more matured. And you get to decide the rate at which you personally improve. Your ability to successfully adapt to each new stage — to grow from infancy to skilled — will determine how quickly you pass from stage to stage, or shell to shell.

Your potential isn’t fixed, it’s limitless. However, it is you who determines how far you go. Not your genetics and not society. You decide how you will respond to each stage of life you are in. How you respond will determine the next stage, and the next.

Go Lobster!


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If decolonization begins with…

If you think colonization ended some time ago, time to think again.
If you think a colonized world is consigned to the past, its time to think again.
If you think colonization has noting to do with you, then you might want to think again.

Whether you descend from peoples who were colonized or from peoples who did the colonizing, or from both…
what does it mean to decolonize?


If decolonization begins with decolonizing our minds
then what does it mean to decolonize our minds?

And what are you doing to decolonize yours?

The line above is taken from this video- dialogue between colleagues and great friends Bell Hooks and Cornell West…





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Hearing Voices Fall 2017 Toronto, Ajax, Oshawa, Whitby

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