Meet Dr. Rosenna Bakari, "Rogue Scholar Transformationist"
And learn how she is breaking barriers in non-traditional ways
Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve come across a lot of people fighting racism in different ways. One of these is Dr. Rosenna Bakari, who was introduced to me by Julia Hubbel, whose work has featured in a couple of reading lists. It really is a small world. I had the pleasure of talking to Dr. Bakari, and thought her unique approach was well worth sharing. Meet Rosenna Bakari…
1. Rosenna, are you an anti-racism activist? If not, how would you describe yourself?
I am a “Rogue Scholar Transformationist.” I use my elite educational experience to break down barriers in nontraditional ways. I write blogs, poetry, books that I self-publish, not just professional journal articles that few people can understand. I perform on the open mic stage, not just the classroom podium in a lecture hall. I create new approaches to look at old problems so to make mental wellness more accessible.
2. Tell me a bit about your previous work and writing in anti-racism?
I mostly write poetry and articles related to racism. As a Black woman, I focus on the intersectionality of race and gender. Black women are rarely invited to address their pain.
We keep trying to lift up Black men, Black children, or save our country. But, when it comes to addressing Black women’s issues, the world is silent. So, we tend to hide, ignore, or deny issues of domestic violence, adult survivors childhood sexual abuse, and relationship abandonment that leave us raising children alone. No one gives us permission to have feelings about these experiences other than forgiveness or superwoman syndrome.
So, my work around racism is often to advocate to entitle Black women to heal their pain. In order to heal it, you have to feel it. One of the most intangible acts of racism is controlling one’s entitlement to pain. Removing pain as a viable expression of wrongdoing compromises bodily autonomy. It makes your body invisible, irrelevant. Consequently, every time a Black woman complains about a Black man violating her body, the community rallies around the man, because we have detached ourselves from the right to connect to our bodily experience. We only give Black women the right to protest the bodily violations of Black men.
For the past decade, I’ve worked within the Black community to break the silence of sexual violence so women can find their voice. That is a consequence of racism and the intersectionality of race and gender. That is what much of my work centers around. I want full bodily autonomy for Black women.
3. You’ve just published a book 'The Healing Journey: Relationships Health and Wellness Guide' - what’s the link between healing and racism?
The link between healing and racism is passing down generational trauma. African Americans have adopted some slavery norms as culture. We disadvantage our children before they go to school, their first major indoctrination into white supremacy. Physical discipline was required to save a child’s life during slavery when children needed to learn to respond quickly to demands of oppression. A system made us adopt spanking as a primary parenting response and we’re still doing it. Many Black parents are convinced that they can’t raise a Black child without corporal punishment. All of our resources for motivation are outside of ourselves, which creates an addiction to pain.
We have to heal our addiction to pain that was manifested from slavery. When I finally found the healing journey, one of the discoveries I made about myself and many other people, was that I was motivated by pain. Either I was making decisions based on hiding pain, trying to avoid pain, or I only took care of myself in the presence of pain. All of my cues for living relied on my relationship to pain. The more I healed, the less I responded to pain cues to live. I stopped using anger as a primary defense. I began to take healthy risks to fulfill my desires. I increased my sphere of influence by living with an open heart. And, I became a teacher because when I looked around, I could see the addiction to pain embedded within our culture, families, organizations.
4. What’s your book about? Give me the elevator pitch.
It’s 365 days of personal development using prompts, self-awareness challenges, and monthly essays related to wellness.
5. And in more detail? How can people use it?
Use it as a book buddy. You will not be alone with this book, especially if you join the Healing Challenge 2022 movement where you heal with others as a team. Give a little time and attention to the book each day for a year, and it will give back to you.
I recommend people read through the book over a period of one week or one month just to get a feel for it. Then, go back and read it again daily by working through the book. Have conversations about the healing prompts that are raised in the book. Do the self-reflection activities and keep them in a journal. If you follow it for an entire year, you will have some great self-care habits.
This is not a one and done type book. It is meant to be revisited. Your responses to the activities will be different from year to year. So, you can watch yourself grow. Every day of the year there is a healing prompt to remind you to stay on the healing journey.
6. What do you hope to achieve by publishing this book now?
There are seven deadly sins of mental wellness: survivors of childhood abuse, veterans, survivors of suicide and early death, domestic violence, random violence and mental illness. Racism disproportionately brings these experiences into our community. Racism limits the resources available to address these issues. Racism adds to the complexity of properly addressing the issues.
So, I’m using my book to break barriers to help-seeking and inviting the community on a healing journey with me as the guide. We keep waiting for someone famous to lead the way, someone sanctioned by ABC, CBS, or NBC or ordained by Oprah. But, I’ve been shining the light from the lighthouse for over a decade. This book is my latest invitation, along with a year-long “Healing Challenge 2022” project to prioritize and normalize healing as personal development.
COVID has exposed our gravitation toward conflict, the assertion of power, restlessness, high suspicion and hyper emotional alert. We also lack the ability to self-soothe. These are signs of addiction to pain. Isolation, loss, and fear trigger the addiction. I’m ready to pay attention.
7. Can you share three key insights from the book that will speak particularly to those engaged in antiracism work?
I can offer one significant quote.
“As if we don’t have enough evolutionary incentive to maintain a good impression, the lifestyle in the United States is based on the behaviorist model, punishing even the smallest unwanted behavior. This model was deeply embedded during slavery. The slightest attempt at autonomy was met with severe physical and psychological assault on captured Africans. Upon entry to this land ruled by white supremacy, immigrants also quickly adapted to this system of punishment and reward. These patterns of our past are the blueprints to our current inability to admit when we are wrong.”
8. Have you written any articles related to this topic? If so, please share your top three.
9. What’s one antiracism article written by someone else that really spoke to you?
10. In relation to racism and healing, what is your vision for the future?
One way I define healing is “the ability to learn in the absence of pain.” Humans have inflicted such trauma on one another that we have pain as purpose. “No pain, no gain.” “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Research proves all of these to be untrue, but our addiction to pain is real. Humanity is toxic and the mental contamination causes an us versus them world. We become obsessed with safety and minimize connection.
When we fail to connect with each other, we are no longer safe. That’s the part we can’t seem to wrap our heads around. Fighting and dominance has not made those in power any safer than they were before slavery. Those in power are still enslaved by their minds and keep passing down dis-ease. My hope is that everyone will recognize the need to heal their hearts so that we can understand our connection again and break our addiction to pain.
Thank you, Rosenna. Folks, there’s a lot to chew on there. What resonated with you?
Read more anti-racism writer interviews.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.