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Phoenix Rising in Resilience (AZ)

We are an online collaborative dedicated to raising awareness about ACEs, trauma-informed practice, and resilience-building in the greater Phoenix area. Given the unique history of this city and region, Phoenix Rising will explore personal and historical sources of trauma.

Historical Trauma in France- The Death of Another Beautiful Young Man

 

I am saddened to hear about the death of another Arab young man in Marseilles, France. The reason I started this virtual community was to share stories and shed light. Let's travel to France....

After our time at the Ashram in India, my then 8-year-old son was insistent that we move to China. I had absolutely no intention of going to China. In his few short years he had become an avid martial artist and was determined to study Kung Fu in the Shaolin Temple. My limited adult mind thought it totally and completely impossible for my African-American boy to be accepted into such a cultural institution. I was reluctant and my son was determined. In his greatest efforts he enlisted my mother to help his cause. My mother's response,

                                                  "My son wants to be a warrior monk! Now, you                                                            take him to China!"

A few weeks later, we were in China, and he was studying Kung fu. On our first day eating in the common area, I noticed the sweetest looking young man. He looked so very sad. I quickly realized that he didn't speak English. In my terrible French, I asked him why he looked so sad. He told me that it was his first time away from his home in France, he couldn't speak English or Mandarin and the Internet wasn't working in his room, so he couldn't call his mom. I invited him to use my Internet to Skype his mother. From that day forward, he showed up everyday to sit with us at meals or invite us to join him to go to the city.

I have learned to truly value my relationships that develop despite the lack of verbal communication. In those first few months, we all struggled to communicate. Yet, we quickly became family. There were many outings when we didn't speak at all and in reality it wasn't necessary. He began calling me "Mama" and that was all the communication we needed. Once we hurdled the communication barrier, we spent hours and hours talking. Eventually, we lived together in China like a family. He was an older brother to my son and a dear son to me. The 3 of us were inseparable. 

My new French son had a father who was Tunisian. In the late 1800's France conquered and colonized the North African Arab country of Tunisia. Tunisia remained under France until winning independence in 1956. Most of the countries from the Maghreb region of Northern Africa were also colonized by the French. As a result of this history, many French citizens of North African descent are met with strong discrimination in France. It is said that racism in France is not a matter of skin color as much as it is an issue of class. Nonetheless, the disparity among the classes leaves many young Arab men in the desperate position of oppression and with unfair treatment. 65% of the prison population is Arab men. 

Since welcoming my French son into the family, I have watched this intelligent, loyal, kind, hard-working and compassionate young man struggle to find himself and decent jobs in France. At one point, he was living in Australia because he said he had the opportunity to work at a non-factory job and save money. I have heard countless stories about the young men in his neighborhood struggling with depression, substance abuse and incarceration. So many of them are lost and without direction. It is stunning to realize the parallels between Arabs in France, and the Native and African population in America. 

Ubuntu is a South African philosophy that means, I am me because you are you. As communities we must remember that we are all interrelated. It is impossible to exist without your neighbor and their contributions to your life. When we create societies that are oppressive and imbalanced, uprising and violence ensues. When we exchange relational correspondence for interactions based on convenience we lose humanity.  As evidenced by the increased number of middle and upper class community shootings, no one is immune to the effects of violence. If you are compassionate, I become loving. 

Yesterday, my sweet, devastated, Arab son called to tell me that one of his best-friends was shot and killed in France. It is heart-breaking that instead of allowing history to guide new principles and behavior, we often allow it to stymie a whole new generation. With light comes hope. Let's continue to illuminate the darkness. 

All my love and mother's protection to sons all over the globe. Ase.

 

                                             

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This post is so important, the way you draw links that show how traumas of oppression are linked globally, have similar mechanisms. This is exactly why the work you're doing on historical trauma on ACEs Connection is so valuable. Thank you so much for agreeing to host this virtual community! I hope more folks in Phoenix will also get involved, such a rich region for this work! 

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