Dr. Amanda Kemp Leads Plenary in the Spiritual Practice of Listening and Transforming Hurt

Addressing Racism, Annual Sessions

Our Thursday night speaker, Dr. Kemp, is a big believer in the spiritual practice of listening.

She links this to the discipline of mindfulness. It always works, and she says; “you are doing mindfulness right whenever you do it.”

Dr. Kemp grew up in foster care with a yearning to be safe and loved. Her early interest in social justice led her to write and address her first poem to Dr. Martin Luther King at the age of nine. She has never lost that leading in her work today.

Amanda has two degrees, and she feels blessed by her education. Her public speaking and justice work today is centered in the reality that young black men don’t feel safe, and she wants to help people change the way they think to address that.

Dr. Kemp’s son is her ‘why’ for much of her work. Not long ago, he emailed her from boarding school with these thoughts: “I don’t have the same human experiences as white people. I have to be on the lookout constantly, like prey in the wild. When I’m triggered, I don’t have control of my body. When an animal is running from a predator, it’s not thinking about anything else except survival. I am 16 years old and I know that feeling.

To seek racial justice and cultivate ‘beloved community,’ Kemp says you need to hold space for transformation. Her colleague Niyonu Spann defines this as “being unconditional love and unconditional acceptance while standing on the ground of your values.”

Dr. Kemp began by training Friends in the following meditation exercise as preparation for doing a difficult task:

  • Get both feet on the ground
  • Breathe, and be conscious of your breath
  • Center your heart
  • Allow unconditional love and unconditional acceptance

Dr. Kemp says that practicing like this allows people to relax. Those who are often silent begin to share their thoughts. The exercise helps you shift your own thinking from the quiet fuming one might do (as warrior justice seekers who are running to make a point). It moves you from a ‘fight or flight’ position; it allows you to be present to others and to be bigger than your ego. It supports you in opening and connecting, and thus you can become the change you want to see.

As you practice, you’ll begin to shift, to think of people you don’t agree with as an opponent, not an enemy. And once you cease demonizing a person, you actually give them some space to shift their own thinking.

To battle for justice and think we are all one – is uncommon, according to Dr. Kemp. But if you practice, and get to that place, it helps you realize that some part of that “other” you are opposing, is in you. If you don’t cultivate love inside you, the fire within you is going to burn you. So, Dr. Kemp says breathe, rest.

Once you get used to holding space for transformation, you are ready to reflect on yourself. To consider:

  • Your fragility
  • Your unconscious bias
  • Your white supremacy
  • Your ancestors

Finally, Dr. Kemp says, to reflect on yourself, you need community, because you can’t see yourself without community.

She left us with this final question: “Will you just transfer the hurt, or will you transform the hurt? To do that is going to take transformation.”

Learn more about Dr. Kemp at www.dramandakemp.com