Honoring Untold Stories.. Writing, Witnessing, and Illuminating our African-American past

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson launched “Negro History Week” in the 2nd week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Black History Month was later established in 1976. Woodson fervently believed that Black people should be proud of their heritage and that all Americans should understand the largely overlooked achievements of Black Americans. Yet the burying of information remains a challenge.

In our current cultural, social and political world, we are living in a tremendous amount of struggle. Politicians, journalists, scholars and average citizens are witnessing a major challenge to democracy…

Dictatorships and authoritative governments are on the rise as Extremists populism seems to provide hope for people who are feeling bouts of hopelessness.

And in looking at the world today, one of our greatest threats to democracy is dis- information and misinformation. We are all kind of left wondering and shaking our heads… Where do we turn to find the truth?

We have “fake news” websites. There’s talk of alternative facts. Even the things that we see on television and videos may not be real. There’s Artificial Intelligence making Harrison Ford to look like a man in his 30s for his final Indiana Jones film. Amazing and yet, quite scary. Magazine covers have photoshopped models and celebrities for decades, successfully making these images to become “perfect.” The end result is a human body and face photographed without a mark or wrinkle. No blemish there for the naked eye to see.

We are told that the sermon on the mount and the “Beatitudes” is too woke. Helping the poor? Whoever thought of such a thing! And of course, the current trend of removing Black history in public schools.

We have current political candidates that say there is no such thing as racism. There was even a textbook published saying that Rosa Park refused to move to the back of the bus, but no mention of the reason why. I suppose even saying that people don’t get along will hurt school children.

With our current crisis and problems, if we look to nature, we may find a better path towards understanding. For example, take climbing hikes. An often difficult task that may involve rock scrambles using your hands to help you go up a mountain. The sheer physical toll on the body with climbing is notable. There is a certain level of pain and suffering, but if you push through and keep climbing, the view is clear, beautiful, breath-taking and above all, peaceful, once you reach the summit.

In some ways, trying to find understanding of our perceptions of truth is like climbing mountains. There is pain in pursuing knowledge and information about African-American history, which of course is not separate from the history of the United States as a whole. The history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, which includes kidnapping, the rape of Black women, bondage, torture, and the selling of men, women and children for generations. To learn of these horrific accounts is the painful climb up the side of a mountain; wanting to turn back, but continuing on anyway.  Afterwards, we all come out on the other side and with something very important… Illumination.

We can then gain a better understanding of the self. We learn that one person’s suffering is all people’s suffering. We begin to feel that there must be efforts made to find resolution and peace. This is where meditation helps as an aid to us.

Mindfulness as a daily practice is beneficial, as well as movement of the body. Activities like forest bathing, hiking, cycling, yoga, etc help us in our search for well-being.

Honoring the legacy of African-American history is to continue onward. Reflecting on the achievements and the struggles are a constant reminder of where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. These stories and narratives must be told, no matter how painful; and all of us, regardless of our ethnic background, must hear these voices because they speak for all of humanity. And in so doing, we can then celebrate the journey and triumph of reaching the highest heights, in spite of adversity, together.

May we find solace in this ongoing work! For your listening pleasure, please enjoy Sweet Honey in the Rock – “This Place Inside Where I can Rest.”

Featured Image Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

The Dark & Light of Black Joy: The Role African-American History Plays

To help bring in and celebrate Black History Month we’ve asked NCMC board director Les Arthur, a former teacher of African-American history, to give us some of his reflections. Please join us in any of our programs this month to inspire your own reflections.

The Dark & Light of Black Joy
The Role African-American History Plays

By Leslie Arthur

“The struggle continues!” This is a statement(1) that our Black Elders during the Civil Rights/Black Power movement used as an important mantra all the time. But why is there a need for constant struggle? And what is the significance of protest and social movements?

When we look to nature we try to understand and study Harmony and Struggle. Both forces are opposites and yet are one in nature. For example, cold as opposed to heat, rest as opposed to movement, dark as opposed to light. We see these actions in our outdoor activities like hiking, forest bathing, cycling, etc.

If we apply the ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang to ourselves, we too reflect these forces. Often time with family and friends we give our time, our energy, our ideas, and our efforts, but then there are other times that we receive many positive actions and opportunities. Both reciprocal forces occur in our lives daily.

The efforts to attain human rights for Black and Brown People has been a struggle for hundreds of years. And with opposing forces, conflict must always be met with solutions. A People’s culture and history is just such a solution.

African-American history teaches us how our elders survived the hardships of the transatlantic slave trade. How we fought and emerged from being enslaved and cultivated our own farm land. How we built schools and businesses during the Reconstruction Era. How the Black People organized protests and fought back against structural racism, Jim Crow laws, and segregation. How our constant social movements of the 20th century provided us the energy and wherewithal to pursue the vote, economic opportunities, and avenues for full citizenship.

We are presently, though, facing another backlash as extreme conservative forces fear their conception of “democracy” is fading. If there was ever a time to continue and increase our knowledge of African-American history, it is now. Self-esteem through black aesthetics, beauty inventions, achievements, education, and access to knowledge of how the world works — those solutions to the opposing forces of conflict are rooted in African-American history.

Black history teaches us how we are the change agents that we need to be right now and right here. African-American history gives us Black Joy. It gives us the positive affirmations of culture and shows us that no matter how difficult a situation is, it is possible — as the elders teach us — to “see things, rearrange things, and make some new things for the future.”(2)

1 A luta continua (in English: the struggle continues) was originally the rallying cry of the FRELIMO movement during Mozambique’s war for independence.

2 Quote by the late Cliff Carter one of the founders of the Chad School in Newark and a community activist.

Leslie Arthur worked in the NJ Public School System for 30 years teaching African American History, U.S. History, Latin American Culture, and Economics and is a Ph.D. candidate in African American History from Rutgers University. He is also an avid hiker and a certified hiking leader with the Appalachian Mountain Club, which promotes diversity in hiking and outdoor activities.

Wednesdays 7pm EST ONLINE in April: SELF-AWARENESS SELF-CARE SELF-HEALING — Power Tools for BIPOC Strategists, Activists, and Supporters


Link to sign-up: https://ncmc-bipoc-power.eventbrite.com

Co-facilitators: Kazi & JJavier Cruz | Dates: Wednesdays, April 6, 13, 20 & 27 | Time: 7:00pm to 8:00pm EST | Cost: FREE | Age: Adults 18 years and older | Guidelines: You must be a Person of Color or identify as such to attend. You must be active in a movement. You can attend from any location in the world. | Platform: Zoom |

The ongoing grassroots movement for freedom, justice, and equality waged by peoples of color (POC; BIPOC) in the Americas has for the most part been carried forward on the shoulders of a few — fighting unselfishly and relentlessly for the rights of the many.

As rewarding as the occasional victories may be, the day-to-day struggle can be filled with stressors that often lead to compromised physical and mental health issues such as depression, misplaced anger, anxiety, burnout, addiction, domestic strife, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Join us for four weeks of discussion, engagement, and sharing solutions for keeping the movers of our movements mentally healthy, physically strong, and conscientiously clear.

Link to sign-up: https://ncmc-bipoc-power.eventbrite.com

A free BIPOC program of Newark Center for Meditative Culture, a New Jersey 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Be Still Monday Zoom Sessions Continue: Enroll with Links Below

Mondays, May 18, June 1, and June 8: Enroll in as many FREE Zoom sessions as you like. You must register to access Meeting ID and Password:

10:00 AM Sessions
ENROLL AT: https://bit.ly/3bf8MTp
5/11 Re-Connecting with the Natural World (Cornelia)
5/18 Taking a Pause for Deep Relaxation (Andrea)
6/1 Chair Yoga: You Are Creator of Your Experience 1 (Ella)
6/8 Light Yoga: You Are Creator of Your Experience 2 (Ella)

1:00 PM Sessions
ENROLL AT: https://bit.ly/2WBvmQQ
5/11 Meditative Resurrection of the Daily Constitutional (Kazi)
5/18 Yoga: Relax & Renew — Making the Mind-Body Connection (Fadja)
6/1 Yoga: The Breath — Elevator and Regenerator (Fadja)
6/8 Re-Connecting with Our Inner Wellness (Cornelia)

7:00 PM Sessions
ENROLL AT: https://tinyurl.com/y8dafpmx
5/11 Building a Mindful Community (Kamilah & Andrea)
5/18 Mindfully Managed Stress: Using Your Toolbox (Kamilah)
6/1 Mindful Household Budgeting Workshop (Andrew)
6/8 Plant Spirit Meditation Medicine: Stress Resilience (Kazi)

Contact us at info@newarkmeditation.org with any questions.


An experiential day retreat exploring the revolutionary path of Self Healing via Self Knowing

Sunday, November 10th  |  10am to 4pm
Attend Full or Half Day  | Open to Men and Youth 14+
Index Art Center, 237 Washington Street, Newark NJ

Limited Seating. Register at ncmc-mens-retreat.eventbrite.com

The day will consist of a short talk on the critical importance of men incorporating Self-Healing protocols into their daily lives, Meditation, Qi Gong exercises, Sexual Health and Fitness, Wilderness Therapy, Medicine Drum Circle, and a talk about Healing Generational Trauma. Vegetarian lunch included.

Presenters:  Damani Saunderson, Khalil Maasi, J. Javier Cruz, Ihsaan R. Muhammad, Leslie Arthur, Ib’nallah S. Kazi (Presenter bio-notes available on the registration site.)

Suggested donation:
• Men Full-Day: $20 (10:00am-4:00pm)
• Men Half-Day: $15 (10:00am-1:30pm or 12:30pm-4:00pm)
• Young Men: FREE for ages 14 -17 accompanied by adult (limited tix)
• Male Students: $15 for ages 18 and over w/ID $15 (limited tix)
• Pre-Approved Volunteers: $10 (limited tix)

REGISTRATION AND DETAILS AT ncmc-mens-retreat.eventbrite.com

A donation-based program of Newark Center for Meditative Culture.


Thanks Giving Reflections from the Indigenous Culture of America

thanks giving graphic-01.jpg

NCMC wishes you a day of abundance or simplicity — and thanksgiving — for clear water, good food, and Mother Earth to sit on!

Greetings to the Natural World!

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Waters
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms — waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.
Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants
With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.
Now our minds are one.

(Excerpted from a Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address)

The Three Sisters of Corn, Beans, and Squash

For many Indigenous People in the Americas, the triad of corn, beans, and squash is called the Three Sisters. Traditionally grown together, this crop trio are all interdependent on one another. Beans grow up the corn stalks and add the nutrients (nitrogen) to the soil that the others need to grow. Squash is planted in between them to keep the weeds out. These three staples remain the heart of most Indigenous diets and are often eaten in companion with each other.


A great start for our Fall Session of Free Meditation Classes in the Ironbound

New Location, New Time, New Day!

 Thursdays, September 13 – November 15 | 5:30-7:00pm | ICC Family Success Center, The Wellness Room, 317 Elm Street, Newark, NJ


Above: On September 20th, we had three english-speaking students and one spanish-only and our meditation circle was ready to go. Mindful moments of students practicing walking and sitting meditation. But wait, where’s the men? Donde esta los hombres?! Oh, he’s taking the picture!

In these on-going weekly meditation classes with NCMC instructor J. Javier Cruz and assistant Jennifer Becher you will learn basic meditation and how to apply mindfulness in daily life to live with more ease, more joy, and less stress. Sessions include meditation, light yoga stretches, readings, and discussion. You are welcome to join in at any time. Translations to Spanish and Portuguese as needed.

Contact us at info@newarkmeditation.org for more information.

A free community service program of NCMC in cooperation with Ironbound Community Corporation.


REVIEW: NCMC People of Color Retreat with Bhante Kaboggoza Buddharakkhita

We wanted to share a few glowing comments and lessons learned through our people of color retreat that we held on Sunday, September 9th. The retreat packed a variety of methods in exploring how to cultivate wisdom and compassion to heal our community.

Naturally, Bhante took the lead in meditation and dharma talks, but he graciously stepped aside for some of our local instructors and presenters to share — An42158409_2317797014968138_1219361414565593088_o.jpgdrea led a yoga session, Kamilah led the dyads, Javier gave a dharma talk, Mesha did a reading, and Ihsaan emceed. Bhante also presented a 7-minute video of compassion in action showing his center’s local humanitarian projects in Uganda that will warm your heart — including constructing water bores, peace school for children, a women’s empowerment project, and an orphanage.

Attendee Jillian Faulks-Majuta of Majuta Wellness, especially was grateful for the discussion on how to cultivate compassion and wisdom and thought it was right on time for her. Here’s what she says she took away: 1) Start with ME. Be more compassionate with myself as I continue on this journey.; 2) Think of compassion as I continue to mother my youth and other living beings/things along my path.; 3) Practice, practice, practice as the wisdom will come as I continue to grow. Well said!

A few days later, she added that after the retreat she has been more mindful, especially with her children, doing 2 minute meditations before bed each night and even a little before school in the morning.

After attending our day-long, Mia Sikes, director of a meditation and yoga studio in Los Angeles posted, “I love Bhante! Filled my toolbox with teachings that a sista can work with!” She had plans to then attend a 6-week retreat that he would be co-teaching in Massachusetts that started last week.

We received a text (sign of the time) from Bhante saying that it was a “wonderful retreat” and “Bravo!” We’re so glad to hear that from the teacher!

We are as always grateful for the delicious fresh vegan meal catered as dana by Arelis Hernandez, farmer/founder of Rabbit Hole Farm. During the weekend, Kevin Porter, director of the Farm, attended to Bhante’s needs and served him at the retreat. The couple hosted him at their residence for the weekend.

Much thanks goes to our retreat volunteers Mary, Jennifer, Elvis, Venus, and David who quietly and efficiently got the job done before, during, and after the retreat and for the generous and patient support given to us by the Ironbound Community Corporation, especially that of Mayra Ramirez, COO there.

It was an exceptional weekend that began with the Farm Program on Saturday morning and the Book-Signing Event for his two books that evening. Planting Dhamma Seeds, Bhante’s spiritual journey, and Sowing Seeds of Peace, a meditation manual, are the first books published by NCMC. They were published in association with Uganda Buddhist Centre and though they were not the first editions, they are the first editions to be published in the United States! They can be purchased through Amazon at the links above. We hope to have Kindle versions available as well.

We feel very blessed that Bhante took the time to teach and spend the weekend with us during his busy U.S. teaching schedule.

September 8-9: Farm Meditation, Book Signing, and People of Color Retreat

With Bhante Kaboggoza Buddharakkhita of Uganda

Farm Meditation • Dharma Talk • Farm-to-Table Lunch
Saturday Sep. 8 | 11:30am to 1:30pm
Free: Donations welcome
Rabbit Hole Farm Newark
RSVP | Details: Keven/Arelis at rabbitholefarmnewark@gmail.com

Book-Signing • Meditation • Talk • Vendors
Saturday Sep. 8 | 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Fee: $15
Source of Knowledge Bookstore
RSVP | Details: Greg 973-388-4900 or Ayanna 862-944-8860

People of Color Full-Day Meditation Retreat
Sunday Sep. 9 | 9:30am to 4:30pm
Meditation • Talks • Movement • Art • Healing • Affinity
Suggested Donation: $30
Atrium Room at the Early Learning Center
Register | Details: ncmc-poc-retreat.eventbrite.com

People of Color Full-Day Retreat with Bhante Buddharakkhita of Uganda

Cultivating Compassion & Wisdom to Heal Our Communities

$30 suggested or as you can, greater or smaller.*

Sunday, September 9, 2018
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM EDT
Early Learning Center | Atrium Room
1 New York Avenue | Second Floor
Newark, NJ

REGISTER NOW: ncmc-poc-retreat.eventbrite.com

Led by Ugandan Buddhist monk, Bhante Buddharakkhita (b. Steven Jemba Kaboggoza; bio below), this meditation retreat is specifically for those people from communities of color who are immigrant Americans or reside in America and who consider themselves as indigenous, enslaved, colonized, disenfranchised, and/or marginalized. People of Color retreats are especially intended to provide an affinity group for individuals who daily confront the effects of racism.

We ask that all participants attend the program in its entirety. The program is designed for all to feel comfortable, comprehend, and hold interest — whether you are a beginner, experienced, or committed meditator of any discipline. Consider inviting a meditation buddy to attend with you (it’s a nice supportive practice).

Included in the program will be guided meditation, Dharma Talks, walking meditation, yoga movement, Dyads, and Q&As. There will also be an Art As Insight Workshop. Assisting Bhante from the NCMC board community will be instructors Andrea Lee, Kamilah Crawley, and J. Javier Cruz, and announcer Ihsaan R. Muhammad. (Bios on the Leadership Page of our website.) A vegan meal will be served.

The venue is in a state-of-the-art LEED-certified green building with wheel-chair and elevator access. If the weather is nice we will also use the adjoining Outdoor Courtyard to the Atrium Room during some of the movement sessions. It is an easy and direct .6 mile/11 minute walk from Newark Penn Station. Street parking is available in the area.
Bhante Buddharakkhita’s most popular book, Planting Dhamma Seeds: The Emergence of Buddhism in Africa and his most recent book on meditation, Sowing Seeds of Peace, will be available for purchase. All proceeds after costs will go to his center in Uganda for their projects such as the Peace School for Children, Orphan Project, and Women’s Livelihood Project.

*Donations go to cover program expenses and gifts to teacher and instructors.

REGISTER NOW: ncmc-poc-retreat.eventbrite.com

Tentative Schedule

8:30 Volunteer Arrival
9:00-9:15 Participant Arrival. Please arrive no later than 9:15.
9:30-12:30 Dharma Talk, Guided Meditation, Yoga Movement, Dyad, Q&A
LUNCH (1 hour)
12:30-1:30 Mindfulness of Eating Guidelines, Meal Blessing, Meal, Rest, Interviews with Teacher
1:30-4:30 Dharma Talk, Guided Meditation, Art Workshop, Walking Meditation, Dyad, Q&A

Teacher Bio-note

Bhante Buddharakkhita was born and raised in Uganda, Africa. He first encountered Buddhism in 1990 while living in India, and he began practicing meditation in 1993. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk by the late Venerable U Silananda in 2002 at the Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose, California and then he spent eight years under the guidance of Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society, West Virginia. He is the founder of the Uganda Buddhist Center in Uganda. Besides spending time at his Center, he is the spiritual director of Flowering Lotus Meditation Center in Magnolia, Mississippi. Bhante has been teaching meditation in Africa, Australia, Europe, Asia, and the U.S, since 2005. His book, Planting Dhamma Seeds: The Emergence of Buddhism in Africa, tells the story of his religious and spiritual work in Africa. His most recent book is Sowing Seeds of Peace. He is a Visiting Monastic Teacher with Newark Center for Meditative Culture in New Jersey. He is on the council of advisers to Buddhist Global Relief in New York.

About NCMC

Newark Center for Meditative Culture is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving a diverse urban meditation community. Your tax deductible donations make it possible for us to deliver life-changing programs to the Greater Newark community.

All of our programs are offered as donation-based no-fee to the participant. Instead, we invite all participants to make voluntary gifts to the level of their ability, sometimes with suggested donation amounts. NCMC disperses the donations equitably between teachers and venue providers. We base this system on the practice of dana or generosity, which is inherent to many spiritual traditions.

Contact us with questions at info@newarkmeditation.org.