I was inspired this weekend at 23rd Annual Event of the International Black Summit which was held at the National Suites Hotel in Ottawa. Hundreds of people of African descent flooded in from all over the world! It was delightful to see people of African descendants across four generations – grandparents, parents, great-grand children and children all together in one room, celebrating their ancestry, giving thanks to the founders of the International Black Summit and best of all, feeling that spirit of unity and honor for all as they joined in a continuation of the Conversation that started 23 years ago. It felt like a family reunion and you could feel the incredible warmth with which everyone welcomed everyone.
The International Black Summit is a 100% volunteer led organization committed to empowering and transforming the lives of people of Black African descents all over the world. I heard repeatedly how individuals had been transformed through those Conversations – Conversations which are rooted in the Declaration of the International Black Summit (please see Declarations at the bottom of this post). I was curious to find out how individual lives had been transformed in their day-to-day reality and the more people I interviewed, the greater my appreciation grew for the many people of African descendants, who created such an amazing opportunity for people of Africa descendants to realize their vision for the Black community and the world.
Most of the folks I interviewed would tell me:
“This is my family”;
“I feel belonged here”;
“I can be myself”;
“There is nothing for me to hide or defend here”;
“I can just be”;
“This is a space where I feel fully embraced”;
“I come to the Summit to be vulnerable”;
“It is a space where I can share love and receive so much love”;
“It is a space where I can be with like-minded people”.
“I have created myself into a world citizen and have now travelled to 5 continents! This has all happened because of the International Black Summit. It has been a breakthrough in my life and I live the passion of the Summit”. These were the words of Chekesha Showers, a retired teacher from California, who is also a facilitator body at the International Black Summit.
( Chekesha is at the center, white-haired woman below – sorry for the quality of this photo – camera failure 🙂 )
“I ended 25 years of marriage gracefully, entered into a new marriage courageously after meeting someone new in four weeks (now happily married for 5 years) and opened a new store! This would never have been possible without the support of the International Black Summit to crystallize my vision into reality and watch it manifest in my life” Niamo M-Davis. (Below is a picture of Niamo and her husband Jonathan, who share an amazing love connection and story)
“The Summit has offered me a body of Distinctions and Tools, which I apply to my life. I can live my life now ‘in the bother of it’… I can live in the uncertainty of things and know that uncertainty is not a place of fear and it is o.k to take time to figure things out in that space of uncertainly” Orin Saunders, a business man from New York City.
So what does the International Black Summit do to give such a boost to people of African descent that transforms their lives? I interviewed some individuals who have attended every single summit since the inception in 1991.
One of those individuals was Orin Sanders who beamed with light as he chatted with me during one of his breaks as a facilitator. He recalls the first invitation letter he got to attend the first Conversation, and as a young black man, living in New York, he found it intriguing there could be such a Conversation happening for black people. He recalls that the first Conversation was the most incredible and powerful Conversation in his life as those who attended explored all what it meant to be a black person. At the end of that Conversation, they were all inspired to do something and used all the ideas and thoughts to create the Declaration and had a vision to create something in the form of a Summit. They called in The _____ (blank) Summit, until the Conversation became clearer to be called the International Black Summit. Since then, Orin has attended every Summit and has continued on his transformative journey. It must be noted that the Summit happens once a year but Conversations are happening throughout the year. He gives thanks to the Summit for the transformative power it has had in his life in developing his own vision and being able to manage his own business from Conversations of the Summit and incorporating the Declaration of the Summit and the Distinctions of the Summit in his own life. Although an Architect by profession, Orin has listened to what life is saying to him and has followed his passion into the hair industry.
“You come here with your own essence… you get the opportunity to explore that unique essence you bring to the world… and the Summit creates that safe space for you to explore questions and issues, it is a space for you to clear yourself and hear what life is telling you… it is a space that allows you to be yourself. You will discover things about yourself that not even your family knows about you but you will feel safe in sharing with your Summit family.”
Orin’s vision allows him to live his life from key fundamentals, no matter where he is or what he is doing. “My vision is a world that nurtures the human spirit, my spirit; An environment of abundant well-being.” He is a business man/ entrepreneur in New York City who owns 2 beauty salons, specialized in African hair styles and products. Orin also trains individuals to become entrepreneurs world wide in the hair industry and therefore honours the declaration of the International Black Summit to “Build economies to fund our community”. Orin referred to the Distinctions of the Summit by which he had to live his own life to be a facilitator . He explained to me that the Distinctions are constantly being developed but he leads his own life and his business by following five main distinctions:
Noticing: He provided the example of the downside of the economic situation that hit his business in 2008. He noticed that with the advent of social media technology, he had less control over keeping confidential client information as everyone could share information with everyone else, including his staff. This reduced the number of clients coming to the salon. By noticing the change in trends, he knew that he had to adjust certain key things in how he operated his business but also started noting his own triggers.
Trigger: He examined his triggers of discomfort, frustration, anger, the knot in his stomach… He kept on asking himself: “What is this pointing to?” and he got to the conclusion that he can’t do things they way they were any more. Something needed to change.
Declaration: His declaration was to decide on the future of his Salon. He knew that if things remained in the state they were, he could do it no more. This led him to re-look at the structure within which he was operating and to ensure that all structures were complete.
Completion: He worked on ensuring that he had proper structures in place to support his team to work effectively by putting in simple things such as schedules, having meetings regularly, clarifying, etc. With little business coming in, he knew that perhaps he needed to let people go but his philosophy did not believe in firing anyone. His technique was to have a conversation about completion with members of his team. Some members opted to leave because their work in the salon was complete within themselves.
Vision: As this work became completed and his vision became stronger, he also shifted his business within the global phenomenon. “The shift had to occur in me first, before it could occur outside of me.” This is what this whole transformative process is all about! “I was no longer stressed. I got flat clear about where I wanted to go and as some people left, new people joined the business and this had to happen to bring in new energy.” Today, he is still in the vision.
I also chatted with a young man named Zachary Morris who was attending the Summit. Zachary shared with me that he is here to live on his Grandmother’s legacy and to make an investment in himself to be able to hold himself accountable to himself and be mentally strong to implement his vision for himself. His grandmother, Mama Koumba, was known as the Mother of the Summit, and he now has a better idea of what she stood for and can see the impact of following the Declaration and the Distinctions in his life. Zachary is a barber instructor in a prison in Chicago (a former student of Orin) and after this weekend’s Summit, he is now clear about how to implement his vision. In his classroom with inmates, he knows how he can teach them to progress so that they can have a job after they have served their time. He knows that he will teach them what it takes to be entrepreneurs – and very importantly, they can practice while they are in prison. As an athlete, he can see now that he can work with his volleyball team to create possibilities by using the techniques he has learnt at the Summit.
Above is a picture of some members of the host team in Ottawa. On the far left is Melissa Rowe, also a dear friend of mine, who has attended the Summit for several years. This has resulted in her seeing herself from a different perspective. Melissa, constantly uses the Distinctions from the Summit in everyday conversations to help others clarify or to get a Clearing for herself. She used to tell herself that she cannot write but today she is a published writer! “The Summit is like my extended family.” Those of us to know Melissa, also know who much voluntary work she puts into the community of Ottawa in lifting others and supporting individuals to move forward through life coaching and her work within the Social Services field as a registered social worker.
Adrienne “Afua’ Coddette (far right) is another inspiring leader in the Black community in Ottawa and so is Jacqueline Lawerence (in black). Adrienne is well-known for her involvement in empowering black youth and taking them under her wings to nurture and care for them – she has adopted many youth! Adrienne has strong roots within the community of Ottawa. “I am a child of this community… this community created me.” She shared with me her history of being part of Impact Heritage, a group which a group of mothers, including her own mother, formed over 40 years ago and which provided a safe space for black kids to learn about their history, their culture and to be with other black kids. This group died perhaps due to lack of grooming of others to take responsibility for sustainability. However, Adrienne knows that impact that the teachings from that group had on her own life, her sense of identify and purpose. In 2002, Adrienne attended her first Summit which enabled her to become clear of her own vision, as by then she had already created several initiatives in Ottawa to empower black youth. Right there at the Summit in 2002, she made a commitment to herself to take at least one youth to each Summit with her. 11 years later, she is proud to have lived up to that commitment and in some cases she has taken more than one. Now, some of them fund their own way and help others along as well. She actually went off with 27 youth from Ottawa to help in the rebuilding process of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. After the Summit in 2010 in Baltimore, where she also took a group of youth, a new vision was born out of the youth so that they could stay connected and supported. It is the Be More Academy in Ottawa, under the umbrella of the 3 Dreads and a Baldhead – an organization which four black women formed several years ago. The Be More Academy is a positive space for black youth to gather and to realize their visions of themselves and the Black Community.
Read more about the 3Dreads &A :http://www.3dreads.com/
Be More Academy:http://www.3dreads.com/be-more-academy/
“When I sat in the Summit in 2002, I realized that the Summit had a ripple effect, like throwing a rock in the river. I thought, if I could expand the possibility, create a CommUnity… if everyone had the tools, they would create an opportunity for this city to BE MORE and contribute in a meaningful way.”
The International Black Summit has been held in several countries across the world and those transformative conversations are continuing on to Belize next year. The countries they have travelled to are North American cities such as Atlanta, Georgia, Oakland, California, Birmingham, Alabama, Toronto and now Ottawa; Caribbean and South American regions such as Montego Bay, Jamaica, Bahia Brazil and Rendovouz Bay Anguilla; African cities such as Nairobi, Kenya, Johannesburg, South Africa and Elmina Ghana and the European cosmopolitan hub of London, England.
More information about the International Black Summit can be found at: http://www.blacksummit.org/
The Declaration of the International Black Summit:
The purpose of this group is to provide an opportunity for participants to bring into being their vision for the Black community and the world and it is guided by the Declaration of the International Black Summit which states:
We declare ourselves, our community and all communities whole and complete. There is nothing to do except be.
We assert that we are responsible for generating community as possibility and distinction. We listen for and grant being to the possibility and creation of unpredictable results. Our conversation of, about, and for those of African descent is one of power, self-generation, abundance, responsibility, unity and integrity, with the possibility of being.
We stand for the expression of our spirituality, ending the murders of our men, women and children; building economies responsible for funding our community, maintaining wellness of being in our bodies, providing human services; establishing nurturing relationships; altering the conversation of who we are in the media; empowering our youth.
We declare that our community manifest itself in the world as contribution in the transformation of the universe. Atlanta, Georgia, 1991.
Since the inception 23 years ago, two other groups have emerged from it – the International Black Youth Summit, for ages 8 – 17; and the International Black Young Adult Summit, for youth ages 18 – 35 years.
To quote one of the interviewees “We can create anytime, anywhere. We don’t have to wait! We may not be in the physical space here but there is no separation.”
The tools and processes used in the Conversation allows each person’s vision to manifest in different unique ways. For Jonathan Davis, a political activist, a lawyer in training and now a Safety Consultant, he enjoys “being with what is”. His vision is for there to be “No more blacks. No more whites. It is all going to be about people having access to all that they need to feel fulfilled from education to health care to recreation and the space to self-actualize.” He is concerned about the youth and concerned about the educational gaps that are getting wider and wider but he also believes that ” We have the power from within ourselves to free our selves.” He works tirelessly in having conversations and empowering folks through his work but in all walks of his life, especially in empowering people of African descent.
TuneIn to hear what life is saying to you. What is your vision of yourself? How do you serve life and serve your community? StepUp and engage in a Conversation… it may just be the beginning of a transformative process for you! The tools and processes used by the International Black Summit are applicable for everyone.