Sunset Ritual: Healing Trauma in Englewood

 The healing event on the Englewood Line Trail.

The healing event on the Englewood Line Trail.

Healing is contagious - and necessary. On Sunday, August 19th, dozens of members of the community came together during the “Sunset Ritual: Healing Trauma” event to curate a healing circle and ritual in Englewood. Hosted by Grow Greater Englewood (GGE) and Phoenix Diverse Holistics Collaborative (PDHC), facilitating the outdoor healing space was the culminating session in a summer-long program of healing interventions by the two organizations. Funded by the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities grant, this project pooled healers from across Chicago to engage the Englewood community in broader discussions about self-care, self-love, trauma, African-centered and indigenous healing practices, restorative justice, and the power of positive affirmation. In this way, the culminating event was also a way to share and pay homage to so many ancestors that pulled from these traditions historically.

 Dr. Phoenix and her Sankofa Rites of Passage group.

Dr. Phoenix and her Sankofa Rites of Passage group.

The event was held just before dusk on the elevated, Englewood Line Trail. Perched above homes and buildings, healers adorned in all whites, community leaders, residents, youth, and spectators joined in a communal practice of song, tears, laughter, prayer, African drumming, dancing, and Black joy. The circle was led by Dr. Pamela Phoenix, an experienced health and wellness practitioner that focuses on the mental, emotional, and physical wellness of youth and families. The circle was also joined by the Sankofa Rites of Passage group, a cohort of adults in the process of learning African-centered traditions, values, and practices. Youth sang and shared poetry about the importance of resilience and being free.

 Poem by one of the youth.

Poem by one of the youth.

In addition, the circle was joined by several restorative justice circle keepers living in Englewood. These circle keepers participated in a restorative justice facilitator training in July hosted by GGE and PDHC. Participants received certificates upon completion of the training. They were then tasked with holding circles in their communities.

 Circle keepers at the training in Englewood in July 2018. 

Circle keepers at the training in Englewood in July 2018. 

Trauma is a direct response to stress and the fight or flight that we deal with everyday in our communities. Finding ways to deal with these emotions is critical. Our emotions create chemical messengers inside the body that impact our biological system. Fear and Anger can increase adrenaline & steroid levels in the body. In addition, emotional and psychological shocks (i.e. assault, abuse, gun violence, etc.) create traumatic residue in our system. Healing practices that involve art, plant-based medicine, and other traditional healing modalities release stress and create space to engage old or chronic trauma that is often buried deep in our emotional state.

 Healer holding up affirmation card. 

Healer holding up affirmation card. 

We need more events like these in our communities - everyday. During the event, Englewood residents talked about the value of having positive activities going on in the area. These events raise our collective consciousness and vibration. It is on us to continue to see how creating spaces to heal trauma - especially as it relates to food justice - can become real and valued practices in Black and Latino communities. 

Elisha Hall