The United States-based Wisdom Mind Network (WMN) hosted the Black Wisdom Online Summit from 12–15 September—an online event in which 20 Buddhist teachers of Black-African descent shared their insights on the Dharma within today’s racial, social, and political contexts. The WMN was inspired by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams’ recognition that many wisdom teachers are experiencing re-marginalization because they do not have ready access to the current digital landscape. In an effort to make such teachings available, participants all over the world were given the opportunity to tune in to the Black Wisdom Online Summit.
Host Konda Mason, a social entrepreneur, activist, and spiritual teacher, facilitated a handful of interviews, one of which was with insight meditation teacher, life coach, and author Ruth King. Both women referred to the late Dharma teacher Dr. Marlene Jones as a pioneer for her work to include Black people and People of Color in the modern Dharma movement. King also discussed the distinction between equanimity and indifference, which is of particular significance in the context of the Black experience of generational and current-day oppression.
“I don’t think our causes should kill us,” King explained. A large part of her work involves talking with institutions about how they perpetuate and maintain racial disparities, and she shared that her suggestions are often met with resistance. Mindfulness and “working from the inside out,” she said, has allowed her to live within a spaciousness that gives her the capacity to hold these complexities and respond appropriately. King also highlighted the importance of seeing things as they are when it comes to racial relationships, so that reprogramming can take place: “You have to be curious about how you have been conditioned and how to transform it.”
This notion of reprogramming was a recurring theme throughout the summit. Dr. Larry Ward, founder of the Lotus Institute and a senior Zen Dharma teacher, encouraged participants to learn from the example of the rosebush; he has planted one in his backyard and meditates on it daily, reflecting on how the plant is continuously deconstructing and reconstructing itself: “This is what we must learn how to do, in our bodies, in our minds, in our communities, in our institutions, in our cultures, all over this planet.”
In his view, the apocalypse for humankind is nigh, bringing with it the end of 500 years of colonialism. And while the backlash has been significant—with the rise of white supremacy and the perpetuation of racism—he emphasized that in Buddhism, every deconstruction is an opportunity for reconstruction.
“I have begun to work especially on trauma and resiliency and beginning to integrate that into our mindfulness trainings and practices,” Ward explained during the summit. “I think this is crucial. Most human beings in the world today, and especially ourselves, are still carrying generational trauma and generational resilience, current trauma and current resilience; and we must become skillful in our meditative and contemplative practices to integrate things that reset, rewire, and enhance our nervous systems, so that our nervous systems actually become capable of supporting the healing, transformation, and liberation we want to see and be in our societies, in our homes, and with ourselves.”
In her discussion with Mason, King also shared her gratitude toward the Black Wisdom Online Summit and its organizers for providing the teachers and participants with the opportunity to express and to share through the much-needed platform.
“The only thing I can say is just how excited I am that this series is happening because . . . the Dharma is so precious to me and it has been such good medicine, that I am really happy that we’re—and you’re a big part of this, which I appreciate, you and others I know—but just this way of continuing to put your arms around us and creating ways for us to be held, and seen, and honored through the lenses of these powerful teachings,” said King. “So, I’m grateful, I just want to say how grateful I am and what a beautiful time it is for us and how hopeful I feel. And I just hope it can continue. May it continue.”