Never Stop Breathing (NSB) is an initiative founded by Kenneth Ngwa, Ph.D. and is associated with GlobalHealth Catalyst.
NSB strives to be a communal and programmatic ally in spirit to movements that promote communal well-being whether mental, physical, or social. As an advocate for systemic responses to intersecting health and social inequities, NSB embraces health justice as a fundamental human right. NSB works with interested persons and institutions to create solutions by working hand in hand for progress. Through mobilization efforts around its core values – Community, Advocacy, Research, and Education (CARE) – the movement seeks to mitigate disparities, and enshrine health justice into the fabric of our normal experiences. NSB encourages individuals and institutions to develop Ideas, Platforms, and Programs (IPPs) that create, enhance, and galvanize local and global action to identify, narrow, and eliminate structural barriers to quality of life for marginalized communities.
Breathing is fundamentally a communal act. Just like love and peace and joy and hope are communal acts of being and belonging, so too is breathing. We breathe because we belong together; and we breathe better together. The quality of our breathing, and our manners of breathing, are all grounded in shared experience. Oppressive systems are, by definition and function, choking and suffocating systems. Like viruses and parasites in the ecosystem/body – such systems represent forms of existence that are conditioned on the erasure of the other. That is what makes oppression insidious and shocking. Liberation work, by contrast, is a form of communal breathing; it is the production of new oxygen for the communal body. To dismantle systemic racial and health inequities is to create channels – communal lungs and airwaves – that enable the oppressed and suffocating bodies to breathe, and breathe again.
Good Breathing adds value to life and moves life forward. To breathe is to receive oxygen from “outside” of the body and to release carbon dioxide. Breathing is a form of exchange. And when that exchange is corrupted or polluted, breathing becomes dangerous, cumbersome, labor intensive, and even deadly. To advocate for others is to breathe on them. Here we find religious language in the spirit as the paraclete – the advocate or helper – committed to unending work and life (cf. John 14:16). The survival of life and its continuing value are not a guarantee; they must be advocated for. Advocacy is to the social body’s existence what breathing is to the biological body’s existence. Through breathing advocacy, life is not just routine; it is qualitative and interminable. It demands good air and resists polluted air; it embraces the holy spirit and resists the evil spirit; it infuses culture with the force/power and dignity of life.
Just as breathing infuses new oxygen into the biological body, so too research infuses new knowledge and insights into the communal body. Research that identifies and exhales toxins from the communal body, will also create a breathable movement (the inhaling) of healthy air into the body, and produce good outcomes. To this end, we are particularly interested in holistic healing traditions in Africana worlds; and resonant work in the field of Integrative Medicine as defined by the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM): “the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.” Our research breathing resonates with ABOIM’s five basic criteria of Integrative Medicine: (a) partnership relationship between patient and practitioner; (b) consideration of all factors that influence health, wellness and disease, including the whole person (body, mind, and spirit); (c) the use of conventional and alternative medicine to help the body’s innate healing response; (d) prioritizing less-invasive and less-harmful interventions, when possible, while attending to the whole person in addition to the disease; and (e) the concept that medicine is based on good science and is open to critical consideration of new paradigms.
Good education as breathable education. Such education transforms the learner and reconnects them to a routineness of learning that is communally accountable; it is informed by history and memory. This kind of education is resonant with the African saying, “I am because we are, and because we are, therefore I am.” This Ubuntu saying is as much about epistemology of life as it is about a philosophy of life. The causal and correlative form of being expressed in the saying is metaphoric of the ways the education ought to breathe life into the community, as well as into the intersubjectivity of communal life. The key epistemological force of the saying is not the “I” or the “we”; it is the because – the preexistent, but also the possible conditions that hold together the “I” and the “We.” Breathable education is education that focuses on, and accentuates, its capacity to breathe life into the “I” and the “We” and the “Because” of shared knowledge and life. It is not just persons that change as a result of education; it is also assumptions about education itself and its capacity to create specific social outcomes. For the gospel writer, Luke, the movement of the spirit and its alighting on Jesus was a combination of a clarifying moment for the “I” and a breathable moment for a custom of learning – he went to the synagogue “as it was his custom” we are told. And the breathability of his education was communal because – because he was chosen to align education with enhancing the breathing capacity of the poor and marginalized (Luke 4: 16-19). The revitalizing, breathing custom inaugurated by the Hebrew prophet, Isaiah (61:1-2), performs its new act of communally exhaling injustice and inhaling justice for a healthy and flourishing community and world.