It’s a Friday morning in September and Sudan Green is driving one of his three younger brothers to school.
“See you, man,” he says as his brother gets out of the car. “Be careful.”
Be careful? I ask. Is this your farewell note to everyone? Just him? For some special reason?
He stops ; on the phone, I hear him turn on his flashing light. “When people close to you have been taken away,” he said, the signal fading, “you have some caution about those you hold nearby. “
Seeing Green, like most of the people he has known his entire life growing up in Philly, is no stranger to loss. One of his earliest memories as a toddler? See someone shot in West Philly, near 47th and Kingsessing, where his family lived at the time.
“Having mentors around me and people who change my life is probably the reason I didn’t go looking for a gun or drugs,” says Green.
It would be years later, at the end of 2018, when he would experience one of the most painful tragedies of his life: the murder of his best friend, Nantambu, in Germantown, where Green had grown up.
But Green is no stranger to the role of Big Brother, either. It is a badge of honor that he has worn for as long as he can remember. Older son of poet / musician / goddess Ursula Rucker – he also has an older half-brother – Green grew up leading his pack of siblings. Tayyib Smith, who produced two of Rucker’s albums, remembers Green as a little boy hanging out at Larry Gold’s music studio while mom worked.
“Sudan has always been placed in a leadership position, like it or not,” says Smith. “I remember he and his brother had the code for a particular door in the studio, and it was like an adult honor for them, because they could move around the studio without the help of an adult. And I remember seeing that they were taking Pride in there.
A loss, then a different path
Moving through the artistic and creative circles forged by his mother, Green was exposed early on to the power of community, the glitz of entertainment, the sheer force of music, language and words. He attended the private progressive school in Philadelphia for a while, which he says was life changing, breaking out of the toxic masculinity that often permeated his neighborhood.
He didn’t realize it yet, but these worlds showed him the full gamut of masculinity, of humanity.
“The fact that I had mentors around me and people who changed my life was probably the reason why I didn’t go looking for a gun or drugs and didn’t have unhealthy relationships with these people. things, ”he said. “Because I’ve seen a lot of these things in front of me, like most people of all races, but it’s about what you do with it.” “
Of course, he was also a kid who wanted the same things that so many Philly kids did: work at Ubiq on Walnut Street, with his cool sneakers and streetwear. To hang out with his friends, even when it meant getting involved in the shadows, violence, or “jumping people,” immature activities that Green says he grew up on.
“I just believe in being strong in your morals and going back to your standards on a daily basis, ”Green said. “You wonder who are you presenting yourself for and why? “
He grew up and started making his own music; he lived in New York for a few years, tapping into the yoga community through the now defunct, paid studio Yoga For The People; he further broadened his view of the world. He attended Smith’s Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship.
Then, in 2018, Nantambu was assassinated.
“I fell into a depression. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. It was crazy, ”he said, his voice starting to break. To cope, he turned to music, writing a song called “Spirits Up!”
The earth continued to revolve around the sun and, lo and behold, it was 2020, with all its turmoil, the tensions that had always been part of Green’s Philadelphia rising to the surface of the nation. The Whites – not enough, but more – have started to pay attention.
Green leaned into the protests, of course, but he also listened intently to what they were revealing about the pain, a pain he recognized in his bones; he decided to do something about it.
This something? It encompasses the influences that have shaped Green his entire life: music, community, love. He organized Spirits Up !, a nonprofit movement that invites blacks and brunettes to come together through free community yoga, mindfulness and wellness events.
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During the past 18 months, Spirits Up! organized nearly 50 events that touched the lives of over a thousand people. At one point on June 17, 2020, over 400 people, mostly people of color, were doing yoga at Malcolm X Park.
“Having the foresight, wisdom and maturity to bring people together in a space that is centered, welcoming and safe for black people, it’s revolutionary, ”says Smith. “I think Sudan is a brilliant man with enormous potential. And I think the Spirits Up! addresses are a priority for everyone who talks about the health and well-being of the city.
Because let’s be honest: seeing a group of white women or suburban children doing yoga, talking about wellness or sharing the names of their therapists? It’s important, but it’s not revolutionary. But among black and brown men, the stigma surrounding mental health issues and barriers to seeking care persists: just 26.4% of black and Hispanic men aged 18 to 44 who experienced daily feelings of loss. anxiety or depression were likely to have used mental health services, compared with 45.4 percent of non-Hispanic white men having the same feelings. What when black men ask for help and would prefer a provider of the same race? Well, they only make up about 4% (albeit rising) of the psychology workforce at the doctoral level.
“You go to white wellness areas, and they’re super nice. They have a lot of support, and that’s my goal. I don’t wanna do it if it’s not gonna be really nice. We have to take people out of the ordinary. You can’t just do the recreation center all the time, ”says Green.
And so bring well-being to light and bring people of color to to kiss this? It’s revolutionary. This is what makes Green the natural fit for Generation Change Philly, The Citizen’s new series in partnership with Keepers of the Commons to shine a light on and support the next generation of Philly change agents.
Since the launch of Spirits Up !, Green has also achieved her certification as a yoga teacher and the group has received fiscal sponsorship from BlackStar, the non-profit organization that produces the BlackStar Film Festival and serves as a platform for them. artists and designers of color. He was approached by sneaker brand Allbirds and LuLuLemon as a brand ambassador, worked with Ars Nova and artist Hank Willis Thomas on events.
Despite everything he has accomplished in the past 18 months, Green’s work has only just begun: he is committed to opening up a physical space, a cool recreation area for yoga, mindfulness, meditation. and workshops, ideally in Germantown and West Philly. But he doesn’t want to rush; he wants it to be nice. Truly attractive.
“You go to white wellness areas, and they’re super nice. They have a lot of support, and that’s my goal. I don’t wanna do it if it’s not gonna be really nice. We have to take people out of the ordinary. You can’t just do the recreation center all the time. It is also moving forward with its plan to offer a virtual platform. “I want to be able to reach everyone. “
Smith admires the path Green has taken and recognizes the pitfalls that abound.
“A lot of times the people most connected to the community are supposed to do everything from a sweat equity space and then jump through a blank stare to qualify for a nonprofit system that isn’t really about invest in you, but the tax benefits make it see like they’ve invested in you, ”he says. “I think this is the fight that Sudan and its advisers must wage. And that’s a challenge. I mean, as far as I read on Build Back Better money… I don’t see a lot of capital, energy or empathy flowing to organizations like the one in Sudan, or a host of people who bring innovation and passion to space. “
Green knows this, is not naive. And he’s mature enough to understand the difference between being exploited and being supported on his journey: Oh he Fortunately working with Penn, with IBX, with Comcast, doing the work to bring his work to more people.
He wants to do the job in an inclusive way, for black men (and all people), including those who want to embrace wellness while being part of pop culture, if they so choose; in other words, you can practice yoga and healing while still loving beautiful things. You don’t have to be, say, a bearded ascetic: it doesn’t have to be a choice, because wellness runs deeper than the clothes or sneakers you wear.
Morale! home page, there is a text that describes the mission of the group as “To work collectively to heal the black community through yoga and meditation.” By any means necessary. “
just reread The autobiography of Malcolm X, I ask Green about this last sentence, famous adaptation of Fanon and Sartre. Green says that as much as this quote inspires him, he is even more motivated by another quote widely attributed to the revolutionary leader.
“A man who represents nothing will fall in love with everything. “
“I just believe in being strong in your morale and going back to your standards on a daily basis,” Green said. “You wonder who are you presenting yourself for and why? “
To show up. Perhaps this is what Green does most significantly: he presents himself on behalf of the community that raised him; the brothers who admire him; the best friend he lost; and the city that needs him more than ever.
The Philadelphia Citizen partners with the nonprofit Guardians of the commons on the “Generation Change Philly” series to provide educational and networking opportunities for the city’s most dynamic change makers.
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