Liberate, an app designed specifically to support the meditation practices of people from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (POC) communities, has gained a fast-growing following. Launched in May this year, the app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play and can be downloaded free of charge.
The app was created by software engineer Julio Rivera after an empowering meditation experience with a POC sangha at the New York Insight Meditation Center led by Sebene Selassie and Dalila Bothwell—both featured on the app. When he could no longer meet with the sangha in person, Rivera sought out an app that could replicate it and found none. So he designed his own.
Liberate features Buddhist teachers from a range of traditions, including Bonnie Duran, a professor of social work and public health at the University of Washington in Seattle and a core teacher in the Insight Meditation Society teacher training program; Joshua Bee Alafia, a cinematographer and teacher in the Theravada tradition; Lama Rod Owens, a teacher trained in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism; and Kaira Jewel Lingo, a former Zen Buddhist nun in Thich Nhat Hanh’s sangha. Users can listen to meditations and guided talks, most ranging from 5–20 minutes, on topics specifically aimed at the needs of BIPOC meditators, as well as meditations specifically aimed at queerness and transgender experiences. Some of the content offers a deeper dive into important topics. Jan Willis, visiting professor of religion at Agnes Scott College in Georgia, offers a 46-minute talk on racism through a Buddhist lens, which is followed by a 42-minute Q&A.
Despite being new addition to an already dense market of mindfulness and meditation apps, and aimed at a niche community of meditators, Liberate has already garnered more than 10,000 downloads on Android-based devices.
“A significant amount of people have reached out and shared how much this app has been helpful for them and that this has been something that they’re looking for. So I think that, first off, this is really helping the community in a profound way.” said Rivera. “Experiences are being validated, they are being heard and they are being seen.”
“My initial intention was to get some of my favorite teachers on an app. That would make it easier for me,” he told Buddhistdoor Global. “But I see that there is so much more that this can do as far as asking ‘how do we collectively heal from the wounds of internalized oppression, marginalization, colonization, and racial trauma?’ I see Liberate as a catalyst to support our community through this healing process.”
In addition to offering people of color an online community and access to well known meditation teachers, it also serves as a gateway into Buddhist ideas for many who otherwise might not have access to or interest in joining a sangha in person. “A lot of new people are being exposed to the teachings of the Buddha,” said Rivera.
When asked about his future plans for Liberate, Rivera noted: “We have experienced a lot of growth in a short amount of time, so I am working on getting a team of volunteers to help out.” He also hopes to find ways to reach out with guided meditations specifically for men, who he sees as underrepresented as users on the app. In addition, he hopes to host POC-only meditation retreats in cities that do not yet have them by the end of 2020.
Liberate Meditation (App Store)
Liberate Meditation (Google Play)
Black Founder Creates Meditation App for People of Color (Black Enterprise)