Niyonu Spann, founder of Beyond Diversity 101, talks about her idea of heaven and how she invites everyone (including white men) to fully bring it.
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My idea of heaven is folks being able to be “full-up”, be fully who they are and bring their gifts or be choice-ful about that. That really is my idea of heaven.
Advice for White Men
Live up to the truth and remember my child
You are never alone
What I have yearned for forever is to have co-whatevers. Co-leaders, co-facilitators, co-musicians who can bring it—where I can bring it fully and that doesn’t mean that they then pull back, because “you’re too strong with yours” or whatever. So that’s my idea of heaven, so I’ll start with that.
But I think it’s a time in our society—at least here in the U.S., which is where I’ve been most of my life—when white men in particular have a very tricky path to healing, because I think so many of the circles that we would define as kind of healing spaces or spiritual places or activist circles jump on white men quickly as soon as they act in any way fully—full up.
So there’s so much—folks are so ready to catch a white man doing the wrong thing (the “wrong thing”) speaking too much, speaking too boldly, being too joyous about who he is, you know, any of that stuff.
And I experienced this a lot at Pendle Hill. I felt that it was very much a culture that—because it was primarily white, middle class, middle aged women—I was very aware that the culture was not very conducive to white men acting in any way except for very humble, toned down. Sort of a toned down way of being.
And so when we would occasionally get a white man that didn’t act that way, I saw him catching hell. But I was very aware of that and so, you know, the world in general has been so colonized and terrorized by white men that its such a hard thing to balance out, but where I put my energy in the moment is trying to make the space for “Bring it. Bring it. Bring yourself more fully.” Because I don’t think I can heal until you… you know. I can’t see like, “OK, put yourself on pause while I…” You know, I don’t think that’s leading towards us all being whole.
So that’s my thing. I completely get the ones that say, “Let the white men just sit in the corner and be quiet while we do our thing.” I understand where that comes from. But that’s not what I want to be up to. Probably because of my idea of heaven.
Oh live up to the Light that thou hast
And more will be granted thee
Be granted thee
Oh live up to the Light thou hast