Camille Sapara Barton (they/them) is a Social Imagineer who operates as a catalyst for social change, dedicated to creating networks of care and liveable futures. They work as an artist, facilitator, consultant and curator across the realms of embodied social justice, grief, pleasure and drug policy.
Rooted in Black feminism, ecology and harm reduction, Camille uses creativity, alongside embodied practices, to create culture change in fields ranging from psychedelic assisted therapy to arts education.
In 2022, Camille launched the GEN Grief Toolkit – a collection of embodied grief rituals to support personal and community grief work. They are currently based in Amsterdam, working as the Director of Ecologies of Transformation, a temporary masters programme at Sandberg Institute, that researches how art making and embodiment can create social change.
Read on to learn more about the incredible work Camille is doing and their experiences as a Resilience Toolkit Facilitator.
Describe your experience of facilitating The Resilience Toolkit in 1-2 words.
How are you working with The Resilience Toolkit?
I’m using it in quite a few different applications. I would say there are maybe 3 or 4 main strands of how I’m using it. The first strand is really woven into arts education. Within the Ecologies of Transformation program, the group I’m working with have had consistent Resilience Toolkit practice sessions and nervous system embodiment education with Char, who was actually in the same cohort as me in the certification. Since the first year they’ve been working with Char once every 2 weeks and also doing sessions to begin our classes, so they’ve all had a kind of personal practice. And that kind of way of talking and thinking about the felt sense and trying to work in trauma-informed ways has very much been woven into the ways that we’re thinking about our production together. So that feels like a quite dominant thread.
There’s another thread in the grief work that I’ve been doing. I developed something called the GEN Grief Toolkit over the pandemic, which is a collection of embodied grief rituals and practices, which was originally developed to support environmental organizing, but also people’s personal use as well. And that used the Toolkit quite heavily, as a way for people to check in and see where they’re at before going into a ritual and a way to track if they’re becoming overwhelmed. And the invitation if they were becoming dissociated or overwhelm is actually to pause, use a practice, or just decide to kind of leave it at that point. So it’s using the Resilience Toolkit framework to expand people’s capacity to be with big sensations like grief.
And then I also incorporate it into the work I do within the psychedelic assisted therapy space. I do a lot of trainings with soon to be and some current psychedelic assisted therapists, depending on the licensing in different states and places. A lot of the work I’m doing in that context is about resourcing them to use Toolkit practices or other embodied practices, to be more of an anchor point for their clients, and as a way to strengthen the therapeutic alliance and hopefully increase the beneficial outcomes for their clients.
So I think those are the main threads. And then in just general facilitation, if I’m doing that in a range of spaces, I tend to offer practices with a bit of a Resilience Toolkit frame.
What has been most satisfying in your work as a Resilience Toolkit Facilitator?
Seeing that The Toolkit works in emergency contexts. I was in a training last year where I was facilitating, and it was quite a big group. It was also at this stage of people starting to do things again, at that point in the pandemic when it was becoming more possible, but still quite precarious. I noticed that my needs for care in the space and the things I would have liked to be in the space, were not necessarily there. And so there were a few people that were struggling, and a few people that maybe could have been supported more if the organizers had anticipated that people might be coming with a little trauma, or people might have higher support needs, and asking, “what’s our capacity around what we can actually offer?”
But because that hadn’t been done, we ended up being in a situation where we had one person in particular who was having quite pronounced trauma responses. There was a moment where I saw that this person was having quite a big danger response to loud noises, and I was able to go to them and immediately start engaging them consensually with Toolkit practices – finding something that maybe worked, really working in a trauma-informed way to to see what might be helpful for them to settle, and also really trying to allow my own nervous system to act as an anchor point for them. And it was the first time, I think, in a context like that where there had been this emergency moment, of really being able to see that within the space of 20 min or so this person’s state had really shifted. So it deepened this knowing for me, of “oh wow, this really works!” And I felt quite pleased.
Describe a challenge you have encountered in your work as a Resilience Toolkit Facilitator.
I suppose the simplicity and the complexity of the Toolkit simultaneously means that when people have been practicing for a little while, and they feel comfortable with it, I’ve witnessed a desire for many to immediately start sharing and holding space for other people with the tools. Especially in the context of Ecologies of Transformation, it’s been challenging to articulate why that’s not the best approach. And also to acknowledge my own contradictions in the sense that I do think peer support and peer practice is very important and I don’t think credentialing is the only pathway to legitimacy…and I also see that we’re in a time where many people do something for 2 weeks, and then think they’re an expert, and we need to have some kind of containers for rigor and community accountability around how we demonstrate skill, how we hold space. So I feel those kinds of tensions in me and very much in relation to the desire that people have to receive this information and then immediately start holding space.
How are you seeing alchemical resilience and transformation show up in the work that you’re doing?
I think I am seeing it in different spheres. I’ve seen a lot within myself, entering the challenge of this role, being in this position of responsibility, and working in an institutional context – which I haven’t worked in, in a long time, having been a freelancer for about 6 or 7 years. I’ve seen a lot of that within myself – just how to continue resourcing and being with bigger sensation and being with bigger things to hold, and yet managing to track my capacity and resource myself. So there’s been a lot internally in my own experience, by staying with the practice, that has allowed me to stay in this job and stay in the process.
I think what I’m finding interesting is looking at the community and the peers I’m working with who, for example, have been doing stuff with the Grief Toolkit. I know that a collective in London called Misery, that originally started by offering sober club nights to the queer BIPOC community as a way to address mental health disparities. And so they would have art therapy interventions, and sometimes therapists at their parties you could have small sessions with. During the pandemic they changed to doing herbal medicine foraging walks outside with people. And now that they’ve just about started to do events again, they’ve actually begun to incorporate grief rituals within those contexts. I’m really curious and delighted to see these kind of interventions coming into spaces that maybe, have been more one dimensional or commercial, and actually trying to meet people where they’re coming to address the needs that they have in ways that can be playful and supportive and pleasurable.
I think I’m also seeing it in the psychedelic assisted therapy context. That’s such an intense space, because so much is changing and there’s a real gold rush energy about it sometimes. But even just noticing where the conversation was 5 years ago, there was so little being talked about around equity or access, or racial trauma, or even prioritizing therapists of color being included or trained, or prioritizing BIPOC folks even in being included in studies. And so tracking, what was happening in 2017-2018 to now is pretty amazing because of a smallish group of people who really started to push for that to be expanded. And now there’s just such a vibrant ecosystem of people working to try and create more of the structures we need for this to work for us.
The concept of alchemical resilience feels quite unique compared to a lot of the ways that embodied or somatic trainings or practices are being offered at the moment. I really appreciate how it gives space for collective action and engagement.
Describe any special projects you are working on.
With the process with Ecologies of Transformation, I’ve been working with this group for nearly 2 years now, and we’re coming to the end of the course in June. It’s been really beautiful to see the arc for them, and how they’re relating to not only their own bodies, but the way that they’re shaping work, and the way that they’re considering the nervous system states of people that are coming to engage with them in their projects. And then thinking about how they can allow people to tap into their own choice and agency around what kind of experience they might be open to in the moment. Tt’s beautiful just to see the applications of these things really blossoming now, as they prepare for this graduation show in June.
I also think about my intention to do this process, which I’ve often had to center in, and ask, “why did I choose to do this again?” I’m really wanting to try and create more capacity and more of a network in the European context of people who are trying to weave in nervous system regulation and more embodied approaches to social change, because there’s so many peers and inspiring people and mentors in my life who are on Turtle Island, and so I often have this feeling like, “how can I have more community in proximity – in physical proximity?” And so I’m starting to feel quite excited about that, of realizing that this group of people I’ve been working with in this particular way actually get to be in relationship to me in all these unknown ways in the future. Which is feeling really joyous.
What’s something that has piqued your interest recently that you would want to share with other Toolkit facilitators?
I would love to share about a book I just finished reading by Susan Raffo, called Liberated to the Bone. I really, really enjoyed it. It’s the new book that’s out as part of the Emergence Strategy series, and Susan Raffo has been involved, I think, with Cara Page and the folks who really were developing the framing around healing justice. It’s just a beautiful offering that feels again similar to this piece around alchemical resilience. It feels very much about how embodied healing is relational – the relational components – beyond just the individual frame. And that’s what I find so juicy and needed for me more and more, is just to have this relational context and be tracking how I’m moving with and working with that.
If you are interested in connecting with Camille, you can find them on instagram: @afrooankali