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Papers & Essays

Tentacles and Shape Shifting
I recently learned about and watched an amazing conversation between Báyò Akòmoláfé, Ph.D. (author, speaker, Executive Director of The Emergence Network) and Resmaa Menakem (healer, author, speaker, master coach, trauma specialist).

These two men are brilliant and this conversation amazing! As a student of consciousness, through the scrim of Jean Gebser's work (The Ever-Present Origin), I was struck by how this conversation about Blackness/blackness was also a conversation about the confines and dominant nature of Mental Consciousness, especially in its deficient form...which is where we find ourselves today.

Bayo Akomolafe talks about how through the colonialization by white Europeans (aka preeminant bearers of deficient Mental consciousness) that black and brown bodies were “humanized.” This humanization entailed “cutting off their limbs, their tentacles…[i.e.,] their ability to connect with ancestry and animal spirits, the ability to communicate with the mountains...and made them rational beings.” For me, this beautifully-put and horrific-in-action description, is a reminder of all that was taken when consciousness shifted out of the one-with-nature, inner landscape connection, and active dreamscape inherent in the magical/mythical realms into the right-sided, patriarchal, dichotomous (literally black vs. white), discursive, power-driven, and ultimate fragmentary nature of the mental consciousness state. As Resmaa Menakem follows…"it is now time to re-remember, to re-connect…not to repeat an old cycle, but to usher in that which is truly new." In Gebserian terms, this would be a return to Origin, but in its irrupting Integral form whereby the awarenesses and positive facets of all experiences and knowings of the past millennia (our tentacles) be part of the bundle. 


As a white body, my lineage did not suffer the horrors of those who are black and brown. And yet, as a student of consciousness and griever of the current and unfolding “climate collapse,” I felt very connected and impassioned listening to the exchange of these two men. It helped me to realize how I too at times feel as if I have been subject to “white capture” …the modernist, white, patriarchal, roaring freight train of the deficient mental state that wants to dominate, control, over-power, and ration.

This bleakness softly held, I also believe there is movement afoot. Both Bayo and Resmaa, in this conversation, offer visions and imaginings of what might yet come. They are both committed to help bring about some unknown form of manifestation (or ‘concretion’ as Gebser would have said). Of their efforts to figuratively turn the Titanic (or better yet, to reconfigure it completely), I am deeply grateful.

Bayo Akomolafe eloquently states:


“In a different trope, we will find the world speaking to us other things; we will know how to listen in different ways through the bodies we call our own, through dreams, economic order, new ways of dressing up, in the ways we greet each other…there will be exquisite new tastes, new senses, new smells. We will find ourselves doing other things. Our kids will look back and say ‘you all did this and it’s strange to us!’…and we might not even recognize this difference…a kind of ‘molecular de-territorialization.’ [!!] The world is also an activist, it is not all just left to us. …Our work is to lose our way, to learn how to find our tentacles, learn how to listen, and then we might shape shift.”

This essay is based on an exchange that took place via Zoom on August 5, 2021 between Bayo Akomolafe and Resmaa Menakem (Where does Blackness go from here? A public discussion with Bayo Akomolafe and Resmaa Menakem).


Click here to view it.

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