A Statement from Energetic Justice on Tada Hozumi and the Ritual as Justice School
CW: psychological, emotional, and sexual harm/harrassment and/or abuse*
We at Energetic Justice hope these words will provide some clarity on our relationship to the work of Tada Hozumi (hereafter referred to as “TH”), and the collective concerns we have about the stories that continue to surface of alleged psychological, emotional & sexual harm*, harassment*, and abuse* TH has been perpetrating against people (primarily, to our knowledge, BIPOC and white femmes) in our movement spaces and in TH’s local contexts. This statement is signed by those of us in support of these allegations being further investigated and held accountable, and by those of us who are reporting experiences of harm.
*Up front: We who are writing and/or signing this letter in support of these words want to be clear that we are not legal professionals, and are navigating potentially conflicting international legal definitions that vary greatly and do not always match up with the language we use to describe situations within our anti-racist or feminist organizing. We write this letter to alert our networks of what we are currently aware of in the realms of alleged harm/abuse/harrassment, and what we believe causes concern for further investigation and address. The following is based, again, on alleged testimonials. We try to use the term ‘harrrassment’ most consistently in this letter as it seems to potentially be the most relevant term and covers the types of contexts, from a legal standpoint, that we are hearing is potentially happening.
In the summer of 2020 we were alerted by people within our community about emerging stories regarding harassment and/or other forms of harm/abuse by TH, and that these stories were arising from people across racial identities. As TH is a former keynote from our first ORIENTATION cohort, we put energy into reading both TH’s statement on the harm they have caused, as well as hearing directly from people citing their own experiences and witnessing of harm and/or abuse by TH. We are in an active process of listening, reflecting and discerning how — according to the principles of Transformative Justice — we can move forward in the midst of this very difficult and disheartening situation. This feels especially tender as we are in the thick of a very trying time in the middle of this pandemic, building mechanisms for mutual aid in this racial capitalist disaster, and recovering from the insurrection attempts here in the U.S. We hope to do our part in supporting the truth to come out and to centering the needs of survivors.
We are concerned with TH’s public statements which seem to assert that by people sharing their stories of harm/abuse and holding boundaries with TH that these survivors are enacting “bullying” against them and perpetrating what TH has referred to as “accountability abuse”. We are also concerned that TH appears to be continuing to operate their somatic practice in the midst of multiple allegations of sexual and psychological harm (and/or harassment/abuse), and after TH publicly alerted their networks that they are in a process of working through issues with breaching sexual consent in some of their relationships. TH continues to say that they are open to critique and accountability, while — from our experience — they continue to refuse call-ins by stating that people trying to hold them accountable aren’t accurately understanding indigenous frameworks, somatics, or animism.
We believe it is possible, based on the following and what we have been learning from conversations with people who have had relationships with TH in person, that TH continues to cite things such as animism and other energetic frameworks to dodge the accountability that is being asked of them based on alleged testimonials, not just by white women/femmes but by people across racial identities.
As we have checked in with members of our own networks and community spaces, we continue to learn of situations in which students and fellow organizers are reporting harassment by TH, often in the name of ‘cultural somatics’. We have watched TH publicly call-out survivors who have shared their stories of harassment, including femmes and disabled people of color, and we have been warned by others in the movement around the gaslighting and backlash we should expect from TH as individuals and as an organization if we were to share our own stories of harm and harassment by TH, or to support survivors in their potential aims for holding TH accountable within our shared industry and movement.
Kelly Germaine, our current Managing Director, had 2, 1–1 Coaching Sessions as a client with TH a few years ago and learned about their work through an introductory webinar hosted by what was then known as the Liberatory Leadership Project (LLP). EJ Leadership and others in our community would also operate on a collegial level with TH through virtual conversations, and at times cite TH’s work, though the majority of our community has never met TH in person. While a lot of TH’s work was initially very appealing and resonant for our community at Energetic Justice, and felt aligned with the cultural somatic work we were already engaged with through the work of Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP, we eventually came to witness what we would describe as red flags about TH’s work and behaviors. We came to discern that — in our experience — TH’s work was not psychologically, physically or emotionally safe, nor was it in integral accountability to the Black Disabled Femmes who birthed Healing Justice and to whom we understand ourselves to be primarily accountable.
Based on our experiences and our direct conversations with Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP we find it highly likely that TH is not at all practicing what Resmaa Menakem founded as Cultural Somatics a.k.a. Somatic Abolitionism and that this distinction is very important to maintaining the safety and integrity of Cultural Somatic work and the legacy of Black Abolitionist Movement for ending structural racism. In a recent call regarding this letter with Resmaa Menakem, we learned directly from Mr. Menakem that he is not all in approval of the apparent direction in which TH is allegedly holding their practice and the way they are framing/practicing their work, particularly TH’s connection to and apparent (fully or partial) endorsements of white supremacist ideological frameworks like those of Jordan Peterson and others that TH seems to be supporting and amplifying via their social media. Resmaa Menakem has read this statement and endorses it.
Our concerns currently include instances where TH stated they felt like they were on a date during professional sessions they held with EJ Leadership. Kelly Germaine remembers that during a 1–1 session, TH taught about how (according to their understanding of cultural somatics) body boundaries were not real at the quantum level, and how survivors of sexual violence were calling in this violence to themselves from another spiritual plane; including a theory TH asserted in the session that telling someone not to touch your body in a certain area was not permissible according to cultural somatics since at a certain level we were all one. After these comments and other arising concerns, Kelly Germaine ceased booking 1–1 sessions. TH’s alleged statements in these sessions, and other potentially related content on their site, became increasingly concerning to us as we learned more about the ways in which TH has allegedly used group and individual somatic sessions and their theoretical frameworks for sexual and/or other forms of predation.
On a few occasions, TH sought what could be described as informal colleague support from Kelly Germaine, each time related to accusations from femmes in their care or in relationship with them in other arenas. When Kelly would try to hold TH accountable to the possibility that they could have harmed and/or abused (and/or harrassed) someone, Kelly remembers TH would make declarative statements that they saw no possibility of these accusations having any merit and would indicate that they believed the issue to be rooted in white femininity, which seemed to neglect the reality that among these survivor stories were alleged testimonials from Women of Color. A consistent experience people in our network have articulated is TH bringing them into a very deep liminal somatic state during sessions, and then making inappropriate advances toward them, or seemingly taking advantage of their vulnerable state with emotional and/or psychological manipulation. Additionally, we and others have found that TH uses their theories on boundaries being rooted in white supremacy as a way to emotionally manipulate people into staying in relationship with them even when TH’s behaviors are, allegedly, harmful and unsafe. These are just a few of the ways in which we believe, based on multiple accounts of testimonials and allegations, that TH has allegedly crossed and blurred significant professional and interpersonal boundaries, and perpetuated abuse. We expect more may be shared in the future related to this.
We are also concerned with TH’s public statements about their perceived death of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work of Intersectionality, their references to Black Feminist organizing legacy/theory as cultic and codependent, their statements refuting the usefulness of believing survivors, and their recent declaration on their blog that we are in a post me-too era. Much of this seems to have occurred while TH has been under scrutiny for harassment (and/or harm/abuse) by not just a few people, but what seems to be many.
Many of us at Energetic Justice have chosen to create distance between ourselves and TH as we continue to discern how best to approach the situation. As more people choose to distance from TH’s work and these stories of harassment surface, we noticed TH has now created and posted to their website a “Protocol for Relationships” for their clients which includes asking their clients to agree to holding themselves as having “inherent responsibility to repair” relationship with them when conflict arises, and to “dance [their] relationships rather than manage them through boundaries” and to “work through discomfort, even feelings of unsafety”. We find these protocols to be exceptionally dangerous and potentially predatory in nature, and they would appear to be potentially designed to keep clients locked into relationship with them and into silence about any harassment or other forms of abuse/harm that is occurring. In our experience, these protocols appear to have been developed in response to the growing accusations against them and their practice.
Our experience is that TH often uses what they call indigenous and animist teaching to discredit claims of harm, which can be confusing to navigate for many of their white clients and audience. We are concerned that perhaps some or all of their animist teaching may be rooted in the teachings of Dr. Daniel Foor at the organization Ancestral Medicine (AM), who has also been called-out recently by 26 of their students for similar misuses of power within AM; This feels likely to us as TH told our leadership team that they were not trained in animism but were instead learning this through their collaboration with a former student of Dr. Foor’s.
We have found that we are not alone in our concerns regarding TH’s work, including this public article from Dr. Lisa Xochitl Vallejos in 2017, which outlines their professional perspective as a trained and licensed mental health professional on the problematic nature of TH engaging in this work without deeper professional or communal accountability. We stand by this cautioning, particularly as TH continues to promote themselves as a therapist while, to our knowledge, they do not have any formal psychological training. We are not certain if they have formal somatic training.
We share the above so that our community members and comrades in the movement can be discerning in their communications and relationship with TH and TH’s private practice, as well as the collective space called Ritual as Justice School which TH co-leads. We feel particularly responsible to share this information as we have promoted and amplified TH’s work in the past before we knew about these allegations or could piece together our collective experience of their work and behavior. While certainly there is a deep legacy of white women fabricating stories of sexual abuse/harm/harrassment by men/masc people of color, we do not currently believe this to be one of those instances for all of the above reasons and more.
We hope for a collective process of Transformative Justice in which survivors will be centered, heard, and cared for. We hope for TH to receive the support and care they need to heal, and to face accountability rather than continuing to respond as it seems they are responding: by publicly smearing the names and work of femmes who are alleging harm by them and/or maintaining distance from them. We stand by the right of survivors to talk amongst themselves, to share their stories privately and publicly at their own pace and discretion, to maintain appropriate boundaries and distance from TH, and to (if they choose) name the foundations and conditions of the accountability and repair processes they would like to see made possible. We are committed to moving at the speed of survivors and their nervous systems, and to doing our part to center the needs of those most impacted by racial capitalist ableist patriarchy in this process.
We anticipate more details may be made available soon, including what our capacity as an organization is for providing survivor care and support. Because the majority of the labor for producing and endorsing this statement has fallen primarily into the hands of chronically ill, disabled, and/or survivors in our community, we are exhausted. Therefore, we will be modeling what we believe to be the lessons we’ve learned from Disability Justice and Care Work by resting this weekend. The comments on this Medium post and on Instagram will be turned off and our email auto response will be on through the weekend. We will attend to any communications we receive related to this matter starting on Monday.
In the meantime, we ask that you considering sharing this letter in your networks in order to help support others in making decisions for themselves about how to interact, or not interact, with TH and the Ritual as Justice School at this time. Should you decide to share this letter, we encourage you to have a care plan for yourself and support for how to negotiate your boundaries within this conversation.
Kelly Germaine Strickland, MSW, LISW (she/her) / EJ Managing Director
Alyssa Storrs (she/they) / EJ Associate Director
Mercedes Grant (she/her) / EJ Practitioner and Community Member
Hannah Krieger (she/her) / Former EJ Community Member and Current Comrade
Courtney Mulroy (she/her) / ORIENTATION Alumni