Our society is embedded in the soil of structural racism. The weeds of unconscious biases need to be pulled out with a consistent and committed approach so that we can cultivate a legacy of equity where each of us lives in our full humanity I feel.
Own Drum was founded on a calling to slow down, listen, and to use my valuable skills to help to create change in the world. Aligned with my vision Jennifer Kidd, who I met at an interfaith dialogue training 8 years ago in Ukraine, decided to partner. Together we are committed to creating space through Dialogue, Training and body-mind Workshops to deconstruct the racist ideology that remains a pervasive part of society. We hope to encourage others to make a conscious effort to combat racism in the private and public areas of their lives.
I’ve lived in many countries from China, Panama, Brazil, India, and Cuba, to Spain, and speak several languages. Experience has taught me that exposure and sharing of personal stories can help us to connect and learn from one another.
I grew up in Liverpool in a Pakistani, Muslim family. Studying a Masters in Race, Ethnicity and Diaspora was a pivotal step on my journey to finding my voice, my space and expression of my whole self.
I’ve manoeuvred myself unconsciously within the status quo of structural whiteness. I took it for granted that I had to constantly be biting my tongue, tone pleasing and changing codes of conduct to try to fit in, but at a cost to myself and my own needs. These everyday gestures accumulated as on going stressors.
The destructive effects of colonialism on parts my family, has resulted in wounds on the body heart and mind through internalized oppression intergenerationally.
I have over a decade of experience in intercultural dialogue and interfaith work at British Council and the 3 Faiths Forum where I created and facilitated creative trainings and workshops. I also volunteered in Migrant and refugee organisations and began to write articles on cultural racism and refugees in detention. I've experienced fulfilment to have had the opportunity to engage in critical thought on race in academic, professional and socially significant ways.
However if I am to do this meaningful and vital work, like many black and people of colour, we need to be grounded in connection to our bodies that hold our stories and in balanced self-care so that we can cultivate our needs and wants without minimizing our energetic selves.
I experienced an illness whilst working amidst stressful office politics. It was a clear example of internalized oppression at play from my British Pakistani manager. This led me to take a break from my career and train in Restorative Yoga and yoga for stress, burnout and fatigue. The body-mind work I teach is mindful and the somatic nature can help with processing and integrating emotions through embodiment. I feel my work has resourced and supported many participants over the years but it has also grounded me through many huge changes, from chronic illness, pregnancies, births, international moves and now I see, is the supportive soil in which my work with race is rooted and cultivated.
I've led numerous workshops in London and Spain from yoga for burnout, stress/anxiety, insomnia and fatigue to self- compassion. I feel I'm now at an intersection to use my work for the embodiment of race work. This I believe can offer a grounding anchor from cognitive and intellectualized work that is also accompanied by presence and self-compassion to assist the hard work of dismantling structural racism.
Only by doing the work primarily inside of ourselves, where the real change is embedded, can we allow the flowering to lead us to take action outside of ourselves. My hope is to collectively, one person at a time, create a positive and sustained social change. Changes stemming from the individual reflecting and acting upon their world, rippling out to the community, and through tangible actions, to social systemic changes that impact our present and our future generations for the better.
“I am not the problem, your history is. And as long as you pretend you don’t know your history, you’re going to be the prisoner of it. And there’s no question of you liberating me because you can’t liberate yourselves. We’re in this together.” James Baldwin
Own Drum centres Black and people of colour. But as Baldwin points out, “we’re in this together”. While we acknowledge the vital role separate spaces can provide for healing and learning, we also believe it is essential that White, Black and People of Colour learn how to talk about race together.
I acknowledge my accountability as a White person inadvertently benefiting from and unconsciously perpetuating racist structures. Through Own Drum, my intention is to bring the tools that I can, to dismantle these structures.
I met Faryal on an interfaith dialogue training for workshop leaders in Ukraine and when she proposed creating anti-racism dialogue and inclusion training together, the idea immediately took hold. For a decade and a half of my work has involved leading workshops, facilitating, teaching, training, and coaching with a variety of participant groups, including intercultural dialogue. Holding space for people to come, share, and grow together.
Storytelling is my medium. The key theme of much of my work is deepening connection through the sharing of stories. Stories invoke our humanity and increase empathy between us. I also have extensive experience in embodied training and coaching around communication. Drawing on my performance training and experience, I work in the realm of non-verbal and verbal communication to support greater self-awareness, and the possibility of new, chosen behaviours and power dynamics. Practicing skilful communication (which absolutely includes listening) helps the process of interracial dialogue. Ability to choose how we communicate with others defines our relationships and offers us the possibility of creating new anti-racist cultures.
I studied History at Cambridge, writing my dissertation on masculinity through the lens of the seventeenth century ‘Pequot Wars’ in colonial New England. Pursuing a deeply embedded love of performance, I then trained in acting at RADA. I subsequently acted, collaborated, and wrote for theatre in the UK, Europe, and the US. In 2015, I founded my own company, Seedbed Theatre, a storytelling company which shares stories and offers experiential communication training to businesses and charities.
As a partner in Own Drum, I aim to listen, to learn, and to ally. In this way, I will work with Faryal to create courageous and compassionate dialogues and training towards a future of justice, security and equality for Black people and for all People of Colour. I believe that this end will bring healing and a return to wholeness for us all.
Farkhanda Chaudhry has a strong background in equalities, community
development and training. She has worked in a variety of settings at local
and international levels in the NGO sector and the Public Sector. She has
over 30 years of experience working as a trainer/facilitator.
She has worked for DFID in Iraq as a Gender Advisor to the south of
Iraq, which included supporting women in the political process and
capacity building. Farkhanda ran conflict resolution/relationship
building programmes in Kuwait and facilitated study visits from Iraq to
Pakistan in collaboration with the British Council. She also worked on a
project bringing together Muslim and Jewish people linked to the
Jerusalem Council to explore religious diversity and anti-discrimination.
Interfaith dialogue trainings were also led by Farkhanda in a series of
trainings that took place in Manchester, Lyon and Ukraine.
Her recent work includes a European partnership tackling hate speech,
exploring extremism and radicalisation with youth workers, mentoring &
coaching future leaders, Christian/Muslim dialogue facilitation in
Ghana and peace building training in Finland.
She is a practitioner of non-formal educational methodologies in
learning and is passionate about creating spaces which stimulate to
challenge our own perceptions of the world around us and to understand
other people’s stories from their perspective.
She was awarded the MBE in 2005 and the International Women of the
Year Award in 2006. She served as a Justice of the Peace with 25years of
Farkhanda met Faryal in Ukraine in 2013 at an interfaith dialogue
training run by the British Council and has partnered with Own Drum as
an Associate Consultant.
She loves the outdoors and spending time with her family.