Brooklyn Aikikai is Committed to Anti-racism
Systemic racism and oppression of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) communities is not new in America. This country was built on slavery and stolen land, and for hundreds of years our society has treated BIPOC lives as if they did not matter.
George Floyd’s killing by the Minneapolis Police was also not a new occurrence. And his death, as well as the killings of Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and many, many others are evidence of the racism and brutality that exists against Black people in America. In addition, we call out the names of Black transgender people killed such as Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Michelle Tamika Washington, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Muhlaysia Booker, Tracy Single, Kayla Moore, and Zoe Spears. These members of our communities face a disproportionate amount of violence towards them. Just as these deaths have catalyzed protests around the country, they have solidified this dojo’s commitment to be anti-racist — that is, to work to confront the biases present in our community, to educate ourselves, and to address racial disparity and inequality in our community.
The practice of Aikido and Zen is to unravel into our true nature, which transcends subject and object. But we live in a conditioned reality of created cultures, societies, and races: a nation of “selves” founded on White domination. Through greed, anger and delusion, we cling to these “selves” as defenses against real love, real communion. When this self has been seen not to exist, there can no longer be subject and object, oppressor and oppressed. Everyone and everything we see are limbs of each other. Everyone is mother, father, and sibling - extending to plants and animals, the very Earth herself and the ever-changing cosmos. The essence of Aikido empowers people to take positive action in their lives which can, in turn, be used to progress towards equity in our society.
We recognize that systemic discrimination, bias, and cruelty has existed toward many communities in this country: those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQI), immigrants, undocumented workers, and many more. We stand with these communities, and all human beings who are oppressed. Our plan to directly address systemic racism and bias begins with anti-racism training and training on LGBTQI basics.
All certified instructors at the dojo will be required to attend at least one training addressing systemic racism, and one LGBTQI basics training. In the future, any student from this dojo who wishes to certify as an instructor will be required to complete both trainings.
Our dojo will host two trainings open to the general membership and extended community annually. One will focus on anti-racism, and the other on LGBTQI basics. All dojo members will be strongly encouraged to attend. These trainings are meant to be a starting point - a way to give people the tools and context to have difficult conversations that hopefully lead to a deeper look at ourselves.
In accordance with our vision, we will strive to make the dojo membership more inclusive. We recognize that our membership and therefore by extension, our culture, is mostly White. As a dojo in New York City, our goal is to reflect the diversity of the city. In 2019, dojo members initiated a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee in order to address this issue. Their recommendations on educating ourselves, outreach, member diversity, and more will be critical. We also recognize that while this group might lead us as experts in activism and training, every member of this community is responsible for this work.
Our ability to have this space for Aikido and Zen practice in New York City is itself made more possible by the privileges of Whiteness, class, and able-bodied-ness which leads to benefits from this broken system. We have been very fortunate that so many people have given to us over the years, and we recognize that for many oppressed people in society this simply might never have been possible. This is not to ignore the vibrant dojos in America being run by Black individuals and people of color, but rather to acknowledge the experiences in this dojo. We use this privilege to stand with those who suffer and stand against those who view the Black existence as a threat.