Never Stop Breathing (NSB) is an initiative founded by Dr. Kenneth Ngwa, PhD, an educator and author. 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 and community wellness 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. 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 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 thrive.
To advocate for others is to give new life. 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 oxygen is to the biological body’s existence. Through 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.
We are particularly interested in holistic healing traditions in Africana worlds that would compliment the Western world 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 transforms the learner. There is an 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 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 infuse 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. His education was communal because he was chosen to align education with reviving the poor and marginalized (Luke 4: 16-19). The revitalizing custom inaugurated by the Hebrew prophet, Isaiah (61:1-2), performs its new act of communally exhaling injustice and inhaling justice.