L. Olufemi Sudarshana, Hughes - Jonas (Olufemi)
‘For a Future to be Possible’ Thich Nhat Hahn’
Trustee of Processwork UK
L. Olufemi Sudarshana Hughes-Jonas (Olufemi)
‘For a Future to be Possible’ Thich Nhat Hahn’
I‘ve been a trustee for RSPOPUK and on RSPOPUK Committee for over 4 years. I’m privileged to witness Processwork (PW) in action on an organisational level. I’m grateful for the opportunity to support this immensely dedicated team.
My first contact with Arnold Mindell’s PW was a profound experience of World-work in India (1997) Ever since; I’ve been an unofficial yet avid student of PW. I’m passionate about grappling with and discovering the process of inner and outer diversity that can unfold, supporting deeper understanding and momentary resolution.
In 2005/6, I assisted Processwork Diplomates in two Open Forums on Refugees and on London Bombings. In 2006 I began planning Open Forums in Brighton – I was grateful to be assisted by process work students from various parts of the country. I assisted the facilitation of other forums led by PW diplomats until 2009. Meanwhile, a dedicated group in Brighton had grown around the work to become ‘Community Dialogue for Change’.
I started forum work in response to three things: Firstly, the impact of community tensions that I experienced in my hometown of Brighton. Secondly, in response to feeling severe body symptoms – the latter corresponded to the outbreak of bombing in Lebanon in 2006. Thirdly I sensed a skillful and supportive intervention was needed: Mindell’s Open Forum method, the spirit of a Deep Democracy approach, offered community a means to dialogue, where all the parts could be held with skill and care to deepen understanding and awareness. The forums titled ‘The Middle East in Us’ ran over one year.
This drew in many diverse parts of the community including a few Israelis and Palestinians, a variety of Jewish people from secular to Orthodox, Muslims, Christians and people from Iraq, Lebanon, local campaign groups, students and residents. We grappled with our diversity, remembering those closest or emotionally affected by the issues. Framing that dialogue is not always between equals – not a level playing field: sometimes through dialogue we find the ‘other ‘ in our-selves, that all of us are needed as we grapple with tough times together.
My early life experience was a real training ground for my work today. I grew up in Scotland, the daughter of a Nigerian father and Indian mother. Experiences during my first 30 years: growing up in a children’s home with a punitive, religious regime; working 15 years in factories as a sewing machinist on low wages; living in an all-white, working class community, at a time when racism was the norm – all were devastating, yet proved invaluable insight into oppression and social justice. This became a gift and cultivated a fierce desire to support deeper awareness and relationships, in working on inner and outer diversity conflicts.
As a factory worker, I became a union representative negotiating better pay and conditions for 250 women workers. I sat on the Wages Council that set minimum rates of pay for all sectors on low pay. Aged 31, I received a scholarship from the Tailor and Garment Workers Union to study at Ruskin College and later I attended University studying politics.
In 1980’s I returned to work for Trade Unions on Social justice issues e.g. Facilitating workshops on challenging racism with Unionists, from ethnically diverse Hackney to mainly white workers in the Dagenham car plant. I’m proud that it was women sewing machinists from this plant that helped usher in the Equal Pay Act of 1980/84. I worked in various London Local Authorities on Diversity issues; including homophobia, raising awareness of disability discrimination, running personal development courses that offered opportunities for women domestic workers and more. I also trained in Counseling.
From 1990’s to the 2000’s, I increasingly combined the work of Diversity with Conflict Resolution. I had out – grown the models commonly used in my field. Process work became my chosen method and philosophy and study in 1997 up to the present. I also worked for Mediation Services, in Public and Community sectors. I’ve worked with prisoners for many years on Alternatives to Violence, bringing in Poetry. And, worked for Threshold Women’s Counselling.
Following my early Open Forum work 2006-9, I then worked with CDC (Community Dialogue for Change) to run Open Forums, on themes like Isolation to Community, Abundance and Austerity until 2013. We have restarted in 2015. I’m currently on the planning group of the London forums formed in 2014 after World-work (international Processwork event) in Warsaw.
When I’m not singing in choir, or walking, I enjoy short story writing. I’ve used performance with my writing and poetry to raise awareness and support best practice for those tackling diversity matters e.g. Police Officers, Schools etc. Process workers have enriched my life, supporting me to wrestle with making a future possible, both personally, for our earth and for all living beings.