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Lions Roar : May 2016
I AM A PERSON OF AFRICAN DESCENT practicing Buddhism in the age of #BlackLivesMatter. I am also trained in the Insight Meditation tradition to organize and lead Buddhist sanghas. Most of the work I do is in pastoral counseling. My chal- lenge is how to present the Buddhist teachings in a way that is culturally relevant to African Americans, who are acutely aware of the precariousness of their lives. The conclusion I have come to is that Buddhists need to connect African Americans to a larger story than the Buddha’s individual liberation, one that is relevant and inspires them to advocate for their lives in the #BlackLivesMatter age. Let’s look at one Buddha story that is culturally irrelevant for most African Americans today. Siddhartha was born into a wealthy family. Most African Americans are not wealthy; in fact, many of us are poor due to generations of impoverishment created by wealthy people. Siddhartha’s father protected him from knowing about the countless ways people suffer. African Americans are not protected from the suffering of economic disparities, racism, violence, injus- Buddhism in the age of #Black LivesMatter We need to update the traditional narrative of the Buddha’s life, says PAMELA AYO YETUNDE, for people who know suffering all too well. She offers some alternative stories for the time of #BlackLivesMatter. PHOTOBYANYABREWLEYSCHULTHEISS/STOCKSYUNITED