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Breathe…

The physiological process of taking air into the lungs and then expelling it, has gained new meaning, a new normalcy of sort, within today’s volatile context. Breathing itself is being challenged by the complex circumstances of our times and the intersection of devastating realities. So many of us, in response to another stunning, public killing of a Black American, are holding our breath, involuntarily. Still others breathe not a word as if this pattern is a newly disclosed secret that we will live with always or at best, live through. The media routinely displays Black men taking an untimely last breath while helplessly under attack. Those who breathe fire and life into protest are perceived as heroes or perhaps viewed as dangerous and disruptive, while local and global activism continue to raise important questions about equity and social justice across the nation.

When will we ever be able to breathe freely?

And still, so many of us are masked, despite the controversy of the need to cover our mouth and nose, and are self-isolated, in an effort to evade COVID-19. Daily, we are numbed by the onslaught of the latest bad news. We can barely catch our protected breath. This is so unfortunate because breathing is the most important marker of being alive. It also represents a special opportunity to grapple with fear, anxiety, or pain, simply by relaxing the body and releasing crippling tension that assaults a person’s total well-being. Just by taking it all in, and then slowly letting it all out. Deeply. Deliberately. With Intent.

At the birth of my first grandchild, I saw her breathe for the very first time. This miraculous explosion of life in this little body, left an everlasting imprint of personal faith and permanent connection to this infant. Breathing defines intimacy or even suspicion,  as when we are so very close up to one another, in each other’s space, that we can capture the other’s rhythm, feel their pulsing, racing heartbeat, and actually hear them breathing. We truly see each other then, for better or worse.

When will we ever be able to breathe freely?

The twin phenomena, anti-Black racist legacies of slavery, intertwined with a persistent, bullying pandemic, universally threaten the very lives of Black people, reflecting structural bias and systemic barriers that are historic in nature, violent and enduring.

As helpers and healers, we are so close to the fault lines, both personally and through our close alliances with the poor children, youth, and families of color that we serve. We partner with so many who share our values, for whom we are grateful. We function as social ventilators pushing out oxygen, breathing life and choices into others traumatized by the ongoing struggle to survive.  Economic opportunities.  Educational equity. Health care.  Affordable housing.  Criminal Justice fairness. Safe policing.

When will we together be able to breathe freely?

My athletic middle child introduced me to track as a sport and to the significance of breathing. I became intrigued with cross-country runners, who go the distance, running on open-air courses for miles, though difficult and often foreboding, natural terrains. They run marathons, pushing to a finish line they imagine, while inhaling and exhaling, feeding their muscles maximum oxygen to keep the breathing stable and to tackle the strenuous run. As they breathe, they confidently manage the stress, while fostering much needed energy and resultant self-esteem necessary to reach the goal.

Friday, June 19 (Juneteenth), is commemorated and celebrated in the U.S. by many as a day that marked the end of slavery. The decades of pursuit of full freedom for Black Americans must be recognized and understood, indeed, embraced by our community’s will; it is best characterized as a marathon, a long distance race, not a sprint, that requires us to keep breathing. This race must be paced, focused and guided by hope, love, unity, spiritual stamina, and finally, real institutional change.  

We all must stay on course. The race for freedom is not over yet.

Breathe. Freely.

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Author

Name: Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman

About: Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman, Ed.D., ACSW, Executive Director, provides agency administrative oversight, consultative support for all programs, and ensures overall contract and program compliance. Dr. Chapman has more than 40 years of experience supervising national, state and local human services programs, and is an expert on child and family welfare and child protection.

ABOUT US

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Founded in 1915 as an orphanage in the District of Columbia, NCCF is a private, nonprofit child and family welfare agency with a commitment to serving poor, disadvantaged, abused, neglected and/or abandoned children, youth, and their families.

Current program services include emergency shelters and transitional housing for homeless families, a high-intensity therapeutic group home, therapeutic and traditional foster care and adoption, independent living for youth transitioning to adulthood, teen parent services, and community-based prevention services that promote academic achievement, parental involvement, economic and vocational stability, and healthy families. Our programs have become social service models, redefining both NCCF’s reputation and the agency’s position in the human service continuum in the Washington Metropolitan Region.

blog-sidebar-aboutUs-logo

Founded in 1915 as an orphanage in the District of Columbia, NCCF is a private, nonprofit child and family welfare agency with a commitment to serving poor, disadvantaged, abused, neglected and/or abandoned children, youth, and their families.

Current program services include emergency shelters and transitional housing for homeless families, a high-intensity therapeutic group home, therapeutic and traditional foster care and adoption, independent living for youth transitioning to adulthood, teen parent services, and community-based prevention services that promote academic achievement, parental involvement, economic and vocational stability, and healthy families. Our programs have become social service models, redefining both NCCF’s reputation and the agency’s position in the human service continuum in the Washington Metropolitan Region.

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