Featured photo: Trymaine Gaither (Washington State University, facilitator for upcoming community session). Photos provided by Crim Fitness Foundation
Written by Tanya Terry
Upcoming workshops to involve 20 police officers and 20 Black community members are meant to help initiate healing that is much needed, according to Theresa Roach, associate director for the Mindful Flint Initiative, Crim Fitness Foundation.
The name of the program the workshop will take place through is the Mindful Civic and Community Leadership Program.
“We’re looking for people to learn how to lead in a mindful way,” Roach noted.
She said the program does not mean participants and other community members will stop advocating for a better community.
“It means we tap into our mindfulness to become better advocates and to be more mindful and more conscious advocates for our community,” she added.
According to Roach, participants will be getting vulnerable, talking about experiences and talking about changing things in Flint to protect the community from the trauma and violence that exists between the police and the Black community.
“The issues and the violence are legitimate. Those are real things that are happening all over the country….Honestly, it’s something that’s killing people…If you ask most Black people how they feel about it, they’re probably worried about their families, especially their Black fathers, sons, nephews.”
Since there are some police officers in Flint who are also Black residents, the extra level of stress on them will be discussed through the program. Roach said some of the police officers are also scared about conducting traffic stops because of all the tension between community members and police. Police officers will go through training in de-escalation for all involved parties, as well as extending empathy.
“The people that are showing up for this are interested in making some change in the way we do things,” stated Roach. “This is all voluntary.”
During the program, mindfulness-based stress reduction training will be taught for six weeks, once a week for two hours per session. This training is currently being done all over the country with certified teachers. Both the community members and the police will be given tools for managing every day and toxic stress, as well as trauma. Crim Fitness Foundation is working with Washington State University, Brown University and Mindful Badge to make this possible.
Mindful Badge was developed by Richard Goerling, a retired police officer and veteran.
At the end of the six weeks, groups who take the mindfulness-based stress reduction training will come together for a day-long retreat. Roach believes since the police and Black community members will have both taken the training, they will develop a shared vocabulary, shared understanding of mindfulness, tools to start navigating hard conversations and tools to tap into their own empathy.
“With the mindfulness-based stress reduction, we tend to see people are more tuned in to their own feelings. It really depends on what people are coming to the experience with. But people may experience a higher awareness of their own sadness of the situations that we’ve seen. They may be more aware of their anger about things. They may be more aware of feeling hopeful because of the people in the room.”
A screening process is taking place for current applicants to the program. During this process, potential participants will be told mindfulness may make them more aware of feelings like grief or nervousness, but it can also bring a lot of joy. They will learn effective ways to respond to these valid feelings during the workshop.
A waiting list is for available for potential future sessions the Crim Fitness Foundation is working to secure funding for. To access the waiting list, go to at Crim.org in the mindfulness section, and click “view learning opportunities.”
The Mindful Civic and Community Leadership Program began as a pilot program for less than 10 first responders following a suicide. Mindfulness has been proven to help reduce depression and suicidal thoughts.
Roach said even if groups get larger in the future, the workshops will intentionally be kept relatively small so intimate conversations can be shared.
“It’s a very intense program, but it’s very hopeful.”