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STATEMENT FROM JENNIFER LAKHMI CHAND KELLY, YOGI TREE CENTER FOR GROWTH
OWNER/TEACHER, AND MARY JACOBSON, YOGI TREE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER/TEACHER:
The murder of George Floyd was a tipping point in a long history of brutality and violence by police
against Black people in the United States, which speaks to a much larger sickness and evil that
permeates our society. The trauma and injustice endured by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
(BIPOC), as well as LGBTQi, and other marginalized populations is a stain on all humanity. We must take
responsibility for our part in this problem and do the internal and external work necessary for change.
The Yogi Tree has always welcomed students and teachers of all backgrounds to practice yoga and to
gather together in community. Despite our long-held values of equality and diversity, we resemble the
majority of yoga studios in Los Angeles as a predominantly white community with an orientation to
white privilege. Therefore, we now believe that it is not enough to say we are inclusive, that “we are
all one.” This historic moment is calling us to pivot toward the more proactive, loving action of
cultivating an anti-racist space. We must take this opportunity for specific action in our studio, among
our teachers and students, and in our trainings and events. In this way we will begin to support and
elevate the non-white voices, perspectives, and leaders in our midst. We humbly acknowledge our
complicity in white supremacy and how so-called “conscious” communities like ours have propped up
toxic systems and racial injustice. For this reason, we have taken two immediate steps to lay the
foundation for ongoing, substantive changes:
1. We are listening, learning, and following. Clearing the fog and recognizing our privilege is a relief
for some and a shock for others. White people must unlearn assumptions and behaviors
afforded to them by their privilege, and engaging in this process exposes the white fragility that
shuts down progress. Because we are a predominantly white studio in demographic and in
culture, we believe our goals cannot be met unless we confront this white privilege and fragility
in ourselves and others. Otherwise the insidiousness of systemic racism in our spiritual
community will prevail.
2. We are providing space for discussion and education. We are committed to creating safe spaces
for BIPOC/LGBTQi/marginalized people as we conduct our group discussions and education. We
welcome input and critique from our students and teachers directly affected by our
shortcomings in this area, although we are not asking for your labor. This work is messy, painful,
and ESSENTIAL. We will make mistakes along the way. We are committed to handling our
macro- and microaggressions – past, present and future – with accountability and reform.
Specific complaints about The Yogi Tree staff, students, or environments should be directed to
Jennifer Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mary Jacobson at
While engaging in our personal work to confront white fragility and white privilege, we support the
following agenda taken from Ben & Jerry’s, whose full-throated dedication to anti-racism is the most
recent development in their commitment to racial and social justice. While we are only beginning our
work in this area as a community, we want to provide unequivocal communication about where we
stand on the issue of white supremacy, its manifestation in systemic racism, and our role in it.
Our Society faces an urgent need to take concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
To do that, we are calling for four things:
First, we call upon President Trump, elected officials, and political parties to commit our nation to a
formal process of healing and reconciliation. Instead of calling for the use of aggressive tactics on
protestors, the President must take the first step by disavowing white supremacists and nationalist
groups that overtly support him, and by not using his Twitter feed to promote and normalize their ideas
and agendas. The world is watching America’s response.
Second, we call upon the Congress to pass H.R. 40, legislation that would create a commission to study
the effects of slavery and discrimination from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate
remedies. We cannot move forward together as a nation until we begin to grapple with the sins of our
past. Slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation were systems of legalized and monetized white supremacy for
which generations of Black and Brown people paid an immeasurable price. That cost must be
acknowledged and the privilege that accrued to some at the expense of others must be reckoned with
Third, we support Floyd’s family’s call to create a national task force that would draft bipartisan
legislation aimed at ending racial violence and increasing police accountability. We can’t continue to
fund a criminal justice system that perpetuates mass incarceration while at the same time threatens the
lives of a whole segment of the population.
And finally, we call on the Department of Justice to reinvigorate its Civil Rights Division as a staunch
defender of the rights of Black and Brown people. The DOJ must also reinstate policies rolled back under
the Trump Administration, such as consent decrees to curb police abuses.
Unless and until white America is willing to collectively acknowledge its privilege, take responsibility for
its past and the impact it has on the present, and commit to creating a future steeped in justice, the list
of names that George Floyd has been added to will never end. We have to use this moment to
accelerate our nation’s long journey towards justice and a more perfect union.
RESOURCES FOR ANTI-RACISM WORK
“Justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private.”
— Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at
The first yoga sutra of Patanjali, Atha yoga anushasanam, is frequently translated to mean “Now, the
practice of yoga begins.” While we may have only applied this sutra to our time on the yoga mat, we can
now engage this wisdom as both individual and community yoga practitioners in confronting the
problem of racism in our lives. In this context, we can remember that what is asked of us is simple:
BEGIN. Similar to the action of stepping onto the mat, we can begin our practice by coming to the
subject, staying present and beginning our work exactly where we are in that moment.
We offer these recommendations as a doorway into personal and group learning. The suggested
material moves from basic review to more in-depth exploration of anti-racism through the lens of
current events and the origins of the current policing crisis – but racism affects people in all marginalized
groups and the resources listed are by no means exhaustive. Understanding anti-Black racism is one way
to appreciate the many forms of discrimination, exclusion, and injustice endured by all marginalized
The first and third Thursdays of the month are devoted to community check-in and discussion of our
anti-racism agenda. Everyone is welcome in these sessions, however, we understand as a community
we represent a spectrum of awareness. You may be coming to this work for the very first time or you
may be well-versed in this issue from personal experience. In order to create some shared
understanding of how we will approach this work, we ask that before joining the community
discussion you read/view the material in the “Start Here” section.
I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part One)
Yoga, Race, and Culture
Robin DiAngelo on White Fragility | Amanpour & Co. (9 minutes)
Jane Elliott: The Brown-Eyed/Blue-Eyed Exercise (40 minutes)
The tenets of Black Lives Matter
Holy Post – Race in America | Phil Vischer (18 minutes)
13 th is a documentary by Ava Duvernay. Netflix has made this film available for free on YouTube. (100
How to Talk to Your Kids About Anti-Racism: A List of Resources
Robin Diangelo full lecture (84 minutes)
You Asked, I Answered: 7 Difficult Questions About Racism
You Asked, I Answered: 7 Difficult Questions About Racism
Understanding Intent vs. Impact by Fatima Dainkeh
Understanding Intent vs Impact
I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part Two)
Conan and W. Kamau Bell (34 minutes)
“When They See Us” a four-part miniseries by Ava Duvernay on Netfli
“Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad
“How To Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
“Radical Dharma” by Rev. angel Kyodo wililams, Lama Rod Owens, with Jasmine Syedullah, PhD.
“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo
“The Pandemic Is A Portal” by Arundhati Roy
“The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force,” by Center for Policing Equity
Defunding the Police: What Does it Really Mean?
Free Course from Yale University: African American History: From Emancipation to the Present
There are many existing organizations that have been doing amazing diversity, justice, and anti-racism
activism and need support to continue and thrive. These are only a few:
People’s Budget LA (affiliated with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles)
Color of Change
Color Of Change | We help you do something real about injustice
The Marshall Project
Equal Justice Initiative
Nationwide Bail Fund
Below are some terms that may be helpful when exposed to or participating in discussions about racism
in ourselves, our community, and our society.
Institutional Racism — the policies and practices within and across institutions that, intentionally or not,
produce outcomes that chronically favor, or put a racial group at a disadvantage.
The Aspen Institute
Intent vs Impact – the understanding that our intentions don’t always align with what we say or do, and
this can impact how others receive what we say or do.
she+ geeks out Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Blog
Racism — 1, a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial
differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; 2, a doctrine or political program based
on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
Systemic Racism — (sometimes used synonymously with "structural racism") The historical, cultural and
social psychological roots and results of a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural
representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group
The Aspen Institute
White Fragility — the tendency among members of the dominant white cultural group to have a
defensive, wounded, angry, or dismissive response to evidence of racism.
White Privilege — whites’ historical and contemporary advantages in access to quality education,
decent jobs and liveable wages, homeownership, retirement benefits, wealth and so on; described by
white author Peggy Macintosh in 1989’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” as ”an invisible package of
unearned assets which I can count on cashing in every day, but about which I was meant to remain
The Aspen Institute
White Supremacy — a term used to characterize various belief systems central to which are one or more
of the following key tenets: 1) whites should have dominance over people of other backgrounds,
especially where they may co-exist; 2) whites should live by themselves in a whites-only society; 3) white
people have their own "culture" that is superior to other cultures; 4) white people are genetically
superior to other people.
STATEMENT FROM JENNIFER LAKHMI CHAND KELLY, YOGI TREE CENTER FOR GROWTH OWNER/TEACHER, AND MARY JACOBSON, YOGI TREE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER/TEACHER:
In conjunction with our Anti-Racism Initiative and in light of the revelations of abuse and sexual misconduct in the kundalini yoga community, The Yogi Tree humbly presents our Anti-Guru Initiative, which is intended to break dysfunctional patterns that can be associated in spiritual/healing communities.
Our Initiative will be built on the following basic components:
Our efforts will manifest in discussions, study sessions, and changes to our class offerings and structure. We are in the very early stages of planning and we are taking time to be thoughtful with our process. We will keep you posted on the developments and, in the meantime, we welcome your input and feedback. If you would like to contribute to this initiative, please contact Jennifer Kelly at email@example.com or Mary Jacobson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE LIBERATION INITIATIVES
The Liberation Initiatives describe the collection of efforts in our community to evolve beyond the
hierarchical and fear-based limitations of the Piscean Era. The intense upheaval of 2020 exposed the
many societal constructs that no longer serve our individual and collective humanity. The INlighten
Community has confronted two issues most prominently in this era thus far: racism and guru culture.
Our kundalini yoga community was shattered when our once-revered leader, known as Yogi Bhajan or
the Siri Singh Sahib, was exposed for decades of corruption, sexual predation, violence, and fraud.
Shortly after these initial revelations, while the world was shut inside their homes, we watched a
uniformed, sworn police officer kill George Floyd by cruelly depriving him of his breath for nearly nine
minutes. These twin events, while comprised of significant distinctions, both reflect the dysfunction in
our culture of twisted power dynamics and violence brought on by the false understanding of avidya and
the blanket of confusion of the mind described in Patanjali’s yoga sutras.
From a yogic perspective, our ultimate goal is to liberate ourselves beyond the false boundaries of maya.
How do we begin to address these issues? We can not experience or claim true liberation without
spending a significant commitment of time and heart excavating the unseen and unacknowledged biases
and victimization we hold. This process requires that we engage in the “anti” work before we move into
the true liberation described in the sutras as “non.”
Racism –> Anti-Racism –> Non-Racism
Guru –> Anti-Guru –> Non-Guru