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Liberate Meditation, a Meditation App for People of Color

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Mental health is a widely discussed topic in today’s society. Despite so much discussion currently occurring, there seems to be less hype when it comes to discussing mental health within communities for people of color. It can be hard to find outlets to help deal with the different sources that take a toll on our mental health.

With that in mind, Julio Rivera is making strides to change the narrative around the way we deal with these issues.  Rivera took the time to think on his own needs to help create a platform for people of color to manage and deal with different triggers in a positive setting. Mr. Rivera spent several years working in software programming and he combined this skill with his own journey for peace to create Liberate Meditation. Liberate is an app that provides a meditation platform specifically for people of color.

I had the pleasure of talking with Rivera to get a better idea of his journey with the app and possibly what the future holds.

Early: What started your interest in meditation?

Julio Rivera: My interest in meditation started about three and a half years ago. September of 2015 I went through a crisis, an existential crisis, where I was severely burned out at work and I no longer felt fulfilled from doing software programming. Ever since I was very young, I was programming. I just no longer felt fulfilled with it. I went through this crisis of depression, anxiety and stress. At the same time, I was like if I no longer feel fulfilled with engineering then what am I here for? What is my purpose? I went through this dark period where I just didn’t feel a sense of purpose. I was trying to find ways to mitigate these strong overwhelming amounts of stress and anxiety. So that’s when I picked up meditation.

Early: There are some apps out there that are similar to yours, but what is it about your app that makes it unique and stand out from the others?

Julio Rivera: First, no meditation app out there is putting a primary focus on the experiences of a person of color. We are tackling the problems that our society has that causes our community to feel stress and anxiety. For example, micro-aggressions is a topic you will see on the meditation app and I know for a fact there’s no meditation app out that has a category specifically for micro-aggressions. The other new thing we’re doing is actually putting teachers of color at the forefront. It’s very difficult to find a teacher who is a teacher of color. All of our teachers identify as black indigenous and/or person of color. One of the unexpected outcomes of the app that I didn’t foresee is that because people would be able to find voices they could resonate with, they started to meditate more often.

Early: Why do you think there’s such a small amount of people of color teaching meditation?

Julio Rivera: I don’t think there is a shortage. Liberate is actually putting a lot of these teachers in the spotlight. A few of these teachers are popular and kind of known in the meditation space. Meditation came to America through white privilege because white people were able to afford to travel to some of the countries, like South Asia, and bring over what they learned so meditation has kind of come through white teachers. Because of that, traditionally, the white teachers come and start holding meditation and there’s going to be a natural progression that white people are going to gravitate towards this. One of the side effects of this is that people haven’t been actively thinking, “how do we make these practices more accessible for people of color?” There are teachers out there that aren’t necessarily known but are coming up because of organizations like Insight Meditation Society. They’ve made it an issue of theirs to bring more teachers of color. Now that a lot of people are setting the intention, a lot of teachers are being put in the spotlight and a lot of Buddhist organizations are making it a priority to train teachers of color.

BNA: Do you feel there is or can be a separation between the act of meditation and spirituality? If you do, how do you think your app helps reconnect the two?

Julio Rivera: Meditation and spirituality are very much intertwined inherently. Mindfulness is called a secular way of mediation. It roots from Buddhism. But when you learn mindfulness you learn meditation but the teachings of Buddha are basically removed from that. When you go meditate in a mindfulness space you may not even see the statue of Buddha. I think that is helpful because some people have fear around practicing Buddhism and what that means for their religion and their faith. Especially for the people of color community. A lot of us come from the Christian background. So that’s a fear that I understand a lot of people of color have. My opinion is that you can practice Buddhism and learn about Buddhism and you’ll actually find that it helps reaffirm your existing faith, which has kind of happened to me. You can divide the religion from the meditation. I think underneath both religion and meditation are spirituality, connecting to something that may be bigger than us.

BNA: For someone that is interested in trying meditation, what advice would you have for them?

Julio Rivera: One of the most important things is that you are making it a daily habit. Even if it’s 5 minutes a day, 2 minutes a day, whatever you need to do to make sure it is something that you start doing. Then, you can build off from there. I think often people get frustrated or intimidated because they can’t sit down for 10 to 15 mins. They can’t make time for it. So, start off small and work your way up. It’s a long journey.

BNA: What are your plans for the future? Do you plan on developing more apps or do you see expansion on the horizon?

Julio Rivera: In the near future, maybe 6 months to a year out, I am thinking about putting together more meditations that are relevant and getting more specific. One of the things that’s coming up is a group of meditations for men of color. I would like to do more meditations specifically for the queer community, the indigenous community. More meditations for black queers, black trans, black women. Meditations in Spanish,  more meditations for people of color in their native tongue. I think those are a lot of opportunities that I foresee. Two years from now, maybe by the end of 2020, I want to put together Liberate’s first black indigenous and people of color only retreat. I think it would be beautiful. The vision is to do more pop-up style POC retreats because I think it’s in these physical spaces, when we come together we can heal a lot of the racial trauma that’s living in our bodies. One of the most important conversations for us to have as a community is, and I am quoting Ruth King in her book Mindful of Race, but she presented the question of:  “what does life look like after the oppression? what can we create for our lives? what is thriving in our own personal lives?” As people of color we talk and share a lot about our suffering but not about what’s on the other end of that.

We’ve tried Liberate and highly recommend it! This app is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. Give it a try and begin taking steps to conquer those triggers and stressors of everyday life. Let us know what you think of the app in the comments below.

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Crime

Derek Chauvin Found GUILTY on ALL Charges for the Murder of George Floyd

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BLACK NEWS ALERTS SPECIAL REPORT

The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

WATCH THE VERDICT LIVE:

Feed courtesy of Washington Post

What We Know:

  • The verdict was read in open court with unanimous decisions on all three counts, none of which carry a charge of life in prison. The three counts are as follows:
    • Second-degree unintentional murder (also referred to as felony murder): Sentence up to 40 years in prison.
    • Third-degree murder: Sentence up to 25 years.
    • Second-degree manslaughter: Sentence up to 10 years.
  • The panel of seven women and five men began deliberating Monday after three weeks of witness testimony.
  • The third-degree murder charge had initially been dismissed, but it was reinstated after an appeals court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds for it days before jury selection started.
  • Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd, who was Black, was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
  • Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd to die from low oxygen or asphyxia. The defense claimed that Floyd’s illegal drug use and a pre-existing heart condition were to blame and urged jurors not to rule out other theories, as well, including exposure to carbon monoxide.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 03: Graffiti artist Akse spray paints a mural of George Floyd in Manchester’s northern quarter on June 03, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police has sparked protests across the United States, as well as demonstrations of solidarity in many countries around the world. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • During closing arguments, prosecutors sought to focus jurors’ attention on the 9 minutes, 29 seconds they say Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, while Chauvin’s defense attorney told them that “the 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds” of the interaction.
  • Prosecutors called 38 witnesses, including the teenager who recorded the widely seen bystander video that brought global attention to Floyd’s death. She and other bystanders who testified said they are haunted by Floyd’s death and that they wish they had done more to try to save his life. The defense called seven witnesses, two of whom were experts.
  • Chauvin had agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder days after Floyd’s death, but William Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, rejected the deal because, officials said, he was worried that it was too early in the investigation and that it would be perceived as too lenient.

Floyd’s death touched off international protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The city of Minneapolis has spent months preparing for the trial and for the potential of unrest over the verdict.

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Education

Furman University Unveils Statue of its First Black Student

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Joseph Vaughn attended Furman University back in 1965.

What We Know:

  • A statue of Vaughn, the school’s first African-American student, was revealed on Friday, April 16th, 2021, in Greenville, SC. The statue was modeled after a photo of Vaughn walking up to the school’s library. Vaughn died in 1991 and served as president of the Greenville and Southeast NAACP student chapters. He graduated Cum Laude in 1968 before becoming a teacher in Greenville County.
  • He also served as the president of both the Greenville County Association of Teachers and the South Carolina Education Association. Qwameek Bethea, a senior student and president of Furman’s NAACP chapter was the one who convinced the university to build the statue. Vaughn was not originally welcomed by everyone on campus when he became a student. Vaughn allegedly found a noose hanging from his doorknob one morning shortly after he arrived.
  • The Vaughn statue was two years in the making and is part of a larger movement the University began in 2017. The Task Force on Slavery and Justice was created out of inspiration from an op-ed written in 2016. The piece was written by a student of the school and notably questioned the University’s legacy. Vaughn’s statue is one of a dozen recommendations the group proposed to the University for approval.
  • The school expanded its Joseph Vaughn scholarship for students in 2018 and renamed one of its dormitories after Clark Murphy, a black groundskeeper at the school, in 2020. Vaughn is the first person of color whose likeness is featured prominently on the Furman campus. The original unveiling of the statue was planned to be in January but was rescheduled due to high rates of coronavirus around the community at the time.

Members of Vaughn’s family showed up for the occasion as well, noting that Vaughn stood for “an instrument of change.”

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Headlines

Hester Ford, Oldest Living American, Dies at 115

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The North Carolina woman died peacefully in her Charlotte home Saturday, a family member confirmed.

What We Know:

  • According to the Gerontology Research Group, Hester Ford was 115 years and 245 days old at the time of her death. However, the family stated Ford was born on August 15th, 1904, which would’ve made her 116. Whichever age is correct, Ford was the oldest living American, having been confirmed as such in 2019.
  • Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, South Carolina. She married John Ford at age 14 and had the first of her 12 children the next year. The couple moved to Charlotte where she remained for the rest of her life. From her 12 children, Ford was granted 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and possibly more than 120 great-great-grandchildren.
  • In a statement, her great-granddaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe called her grandmother a true innovator. “She never ‘fit into a one size fit all box’.” Patterson-Powe continued, saying “She never complained, never showed defeat or entertained a pity party.”

“She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth,” said Patterson-Powe.

  • When asked about her secret to a long life, Ford stated, “I just live right, all I know.” According to her family, Ford enjoyed a daily routine of eating half a banana, going outside for fresh air, and reclining while looking through photos or listing to gospel music.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Thelma Sutcliffe of Nebraska, born in 1906, is now the oldest living American. The oldest living person on Earth however is Kane Tanaka of Japan who is 118.

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