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Qamarism: An African-Centered Counseling Approach


Coming from a house of counseling parents, I grew up acclimated to an environment of helping, consideration and introspection. As I have experienced the curriculum regarding the theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy as posited in Gerald Corey’s text, I’ve realized that the various counseling approaches to which my parents exposed were centered upon the models in the book. Exposed to personal centered approaches and narrative approaches of looking at especially the intellectual African-American experiences with which I was raised; via the cognitive behavior approaches when they dealt with drug and alcohol dependent consumers; via existential approaches when they dealt with clients dealing with death and loss; and via Feminist approaches while supporting clients living in the LGBT community; I was slowly developing a counseling approach. This paper explores my development of my unique method. My Qamarist approach which acknowledges that race, gender, sexuality, etc. are all important qualitative axis we traverse in an ultimate axis of existence, each quality containing a range of pyschophysiosocial abilities with which our lifetime is spent in learning how to maneuver and cope.


  1. Kawaida Theory, African Humanist Centrality & Reclaiming Power away from the Racial Narrative

I was raised in a African-American environment, by a community of upper-middle, middle class African-American folk. They fully were committed not only to civil rights, but also the Black Power Movement, the Nation of Islam, radicalism and the then emerging theories of Afrocentricty and African-Centered thought. Although some of these ideas were still very developmental, our communal centerpiece was Kwanzaa, a holiday developed from Dr. Maulana Karenga out of his Kawaida theory. Revolving around seven principles, celebrated during Kwanzaa as the Nguzo Saba, Kawaida Theory focuses on the nature of “goodness” as it applies as not just a moral ideal, but also as it applies to our psychosocioeconomic communal interactions. Overtime and research I found that even the pan-African, idealized principles struck universal themes of what makes healthy, sustainable human communities. Sometime during my undergraduate, conflicted with the everyday frustrations of society’s racialized interactions, I needed to find a scientific neutrality of the black and non-black world I lived in. And through learning Spencer Wells’ Human Migration Theory through his work The Journey of Man and through Jarod Diamond’s work Guns, Germs and Steel, I applied them to KT. And as result I concluded on a non-racialized, pan-African and pan-human interpretation because of our universal DNA and specieial birthplace–Africa.

Kawaida Theory

Although the African-American holiday Kwanzaa has existed since 1968, and is the core of my upbringing and character, is still a very marginalized and racialized holiday. Although the core principles have an application beyond race and have very common themes with Asian Confucianism and the most idealized incarnations of Marxist utopian concepts, it has been authored and perpetuated as racially black in many instances. The idea of black has to be properly assessed and in fact in order to resolve my own inner conflicts with identity, ethnicity, culture and nationality, I had to consider: What are the actual dynamics of race? In that pondering I had to come to acknowledge that race is an absolute construction. In the 1940s the general categorization was white and colored, which mainly resulted in especially WASP ethnic people being categorized as “white” and non-WASP ethnicities being pooled into the “non-white” category. Then time changed to make more divisions. However the classic “one-drop” rule, as was reinforced in my upper-division GE multicultural class, even a person with predominantly European features–if on their birth certificate had “black”–was forced to live a double life of descriptive inconsistency. So upon realizing that Dr. Maulana Karenga of California State University, Long Beach masterfully synthesized a new holiday around a pan-African, “communalist”–as my dad would say–concept of Kawaida Theory, the ambiguity inherent in the wording of “black race”–primarily because “race” is an inherent unscientific idea contradicted by the more substantiated concept of species–both Kawaida and Kwanzaa can be ethnically distributed and celebrated by all Americans and all people without having a blatantly “black” visage thanks to the underlying ecological and humanistic principles housed in its African theme.  

African Humanist Centrality

In college, being an African-American student, single, sexually ambiguous, anti-misogynist and multiculturally submerged into Japanese culture, I was constantly wondering “had I sold out?”, “where do I fit in?”. In so far as racial considerations, I found two valuable scientific sources to provide me a sort of reassurance and guidance for my ethnic, racial and cultural wonderings. The first was a book recommended to me by my high school buddy, now a computer specialist working in the Language Acquisition Resource Center of San Diego State University’s linguistics department. The book was Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. The book particularly opened my eyes to the environmental and social organizational factors that dictated the development of human civilization. Although I found the author was later criticized for having a too “environmentally deterministic” approach and seemingly providing justification for the state of today’s powers, he brought up very valid principles of agrarianism, egalitarianism, food supply control, geographic boundaries, governmental style, etc as to how groups of people maintain a powerful narrative and influence. Coming from a black nationalist background, I found it especially interesting and useful.

But the book that really drove home the concept of the “loophole in racial nationalist construct” that I was realizing was The Journey of Man, by Spencer Wells. His book describes his process of deconstructing racial notions and supporting his hypothesis of “human migration theory”, tracking phenotype and DNA patterns across the world, finding a universal pattern in the Khoisan peoples of the Kalahari desert south of the Serengeti plains. His following of DNA patterns creates a narrative of an organizing, cooperative, adventurous, yet genetically adapting human species flourishing upon the Earth since birth from the Great RIft Valley. That narrative I was even able to see confirmed–in a surely lost to revision–2008 Wikipedia entry on Dr. Molefi Kete Asante’s controversial cultural theory on “Afrocentrism”.

Reclaiming Power away from the Racial Narrative

In this process of self-realization, I was able to build a personal narrative that was universal utilizing a genetic, biologically evolving and environmentally adaptable African-originating specieial identity and therefore narrative. Once in college, my father introduced me to a book authored by Clyde W. Ford entitled The Hero with an African Face. In it Mr. Ford champions that the ability to construct positive narratives, is integral for African-Americans and “black” categorized peoples (Ford 1999). Although scientifically we all have disproven race as a colonial concept, those same colonial bodies still exist, human pragmatic behavior still popularizes the compliance with racial narratives and social organizational resource distribution is still disproportionate for those in the “black” categories. But despite the challenge of the disparities the book poises itself in address, it is a beautiful illustration of the core idea of Narrative Therapy and Theory that “We live our lives by stories we tell about ourselves and that others tell about us. These stories actually shape reality in that they construct and constitute what we see, feel and do. The stories we live by grow our of conversations in a social and cultural context.” especially in its application to people like me, who are born into an environment full of anti-black-culture sentiments and immigrating/emigrating populations and political stances (Corey 2013).

III. Pacific Southwest Pan-Asian Up-bringing & Existential Therapy and Theory

Born in Hawaii, having half Filipino cousins, raised on Tang Soo Do, regularly eating Chinese and Vietnamese food and schooling bilingually in Japanese, the Asian influence. Naturally, while studying any Northeast Asian martial art, Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto are all spiritual influences that come forth through practice–the most central is in awareness of technique and practicing meditation. Those spiritual practices epitomize the idea of “mindfulness” and idea that although have come into the West via Ralph Waldo Emerson, Existential philosophy and therapy. Those ideas were initially described in Chinese and Japanese by legendary Buddhist clergy like Kukai and Takuan Soho. Takuan Soho is reputed to helping the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. The monk’s famous treatise was The Unfettered Mind, focused upon mindfulness via Buddhist Zen concepts.

During the fall of 2010, my father visited me while teaching in Japan and we visited the temple complex founded by another famous Buddhist scholar, Kukai. Kukai–as Dr. Nakamura of the SDSU School of Art and Design suggested to me in one conversation about Japan–Kukai was like the Christian Martin Luther. He essentially brought Zen Buddhism from Ancient China and proliferated the ideas of meditation and mindfulness at a layman level (Takuan 1986).

Pacific Southwest Pan-Asian Upbringing

The trajectory of my life was situated in a most particular way that in my own eyes determines the style and presentation of myself as a counselor. Although I am obviously “black” as acknowledged by our hyper-racialized American culture makes me aware, I have a battery of Pan-Pacific cultural identifiers that gives me a unique aesthetic. Firstly, born in Hawaii, I am technically a kama aina or native by geography, though not by ethnic blood. So I do relate to the Hawaiian civilizational process. I am most obviously Californian and San Diegan due to my lineage and upbringing in California and San Diego via my father. Being from here I identify with the spring blooming of the lavender jacaranda trees and orange poppies. I also feel a connection to the surrounding mountains, Miguel, Helix and Cowles. I also have an undeniable affinity for the beaches and deserts. In addition I’ve an inclination towards Asia and my upbringing in Filipino peers, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines, Korean karate and Japanese language. Most influential of Asian culture and accentuating to the Kawaida principles with which I was raised was the Korean karate, Tang Soo Do. Within that branch of martial arts both the virtually Alderian Confucianist and Daoist sociophilosophical ideologies are systemically enforced (Hwang 1978). And I naturally comprehend the salsa of Mexicana and Amerind culture that proliferates this state and county. As a counselor, it is the cultural milieu that I will bring to my clients in conjunction with a comprehension of all of the “mainstream” American industries staple to the West Coast.


The textbook acknowledges that “Existential therapy focuses on exploring themes such as mortality, meaning, freedom, responsibility, anxiety and aloneness as these relate to a person’s current struggle.”

Reflecting Buddhist ideas of impermanence, Existential Therapy’s focus of making person’s aware of their changes and limitations, as apparent in Corey’s description: “The existential view of human nature is captured, in part, by the notion that the significance of our existence is never fixed once and for all; rather, we continually recreate ourselves through our projects. Humans are in a constant state of transition, emerging, evolving and becoming in response to the tensions, contradictions and conflicts in our lives” (Corey 2013). This psychological postulation acutely parallels the Buddhist theological postulations of impermanence and the idea that we are always seeking divine wisdom or Enlightenment. During my junior year at Helix High School, I began to look into a variety of books on religion, especially as my parents moved away from Islamic practices towards more indigenous African spiritual concepts. So including reading Of Water and the Spirit by Patrice Malidoma Some–an exploration of West African Dagara cosmology and divination practices–I also spent time reading Shambhala: the Sacred Path of the Warrior a Tibetan treatise on Buddhism, compassion, morality and mortality. The book touched upon many concepts that related to my training in martial arts and our constant focus upon endurance and mastery of technique. The underlying concepts that these Buddhists studies–in addition to my experience with pilgrimages to Eihei Temple in Fukui prefecture, Kouya Temple Complex and Shitenno Temple in Osaka Prefecture and Todai Temple in Nara Japan–solidified the theological concept of “suffering” and human experience as being limited to our ultimately individual experience of our senses. The concept aligns virtually seamlessly with Existential theoretical ideas on existential anxiety and aloneness (Trungpa 1984).


  1. Feminist Theory, Boyhood to Manhood & Black Masculinism

Although I grew up as a male with male privilege, I was the youngest in what a US census designated “black” household and ranked lowest in authority for leadership in my household. So while many would see me as the only male child and naturally see my activities as “masculine” in comparison to the other males around me, my actual focuses were very reserved and cerebral and additionally influenced by the two higher ranking females in my household–my older sister and mother. My dad made regular efforts in masculinizing me to maintain a gender influence balance. He enrolled me into Tang Soo Do, a Korean karate he excelled in during his youth. The influence of that environment allowed me introduction to the rugged, but meaningful characteristics of masculine hard-power combat culture such as jockstraps, lockers, gear, athletic masochism, weapons, adrenaline, bawdiness, camaraderie and the equalizing and the gender neutral revelation of effective technique. In Tang Soo Do I trained as a child, in forms, sparring and flesh wounds with adults twice my size–often students of my alma mater San Diego State University–until I earned a second degree black belt and graduated SDSU with my bachelors.

With feminism revolutionizing social justice especially for women and feminine gender expression, it has in some ways also allowed voices against the mistreatment of men–especially those with a heavily masculine gender identity separate from the WASP ideal. Issues especially reflected of minority males, male sexuality, circumcision, military recruitment, etc. have not been widely acknowledged as both misandrist and misanthropic endeavors by the patriarchal establishments and only marginally in the mainstream feminist discourse.

Feminist Theory & Therapy

Feminist theory is a paramount necessary ideology for humanity beyond just sociophilosophical principles but also biophysiological principles. Many of the most organized and effective organisms on the planet are predominantly female including colonies of insects, reptiles and even mammals like lions.  In fact one species of lizard exists without males whatsoever. But further beyond that, the self-sufficient female society has always existed, especially apparent in the Amazonian warriors of Sub-Saharan African ruler, N’Zinga, polyandrous ethnicities and even evidence of the gender rule breaking Queen Hatshepsut of Ancient Egypt. The idea of gender equality and elimination of stereotyping in order to see the individual objectively underlies feminist theory. Accordingly, my comprehension of Africa epitomizes that egalitarian feminist ideal and gives me a hunch that a proper ideology African-Americana incorporates what I feel is an inherently indigenous African egalitarian philosophy of gender parity that borders on the Berdache of the Americas (Williams 1986). Our textbook notes that, “Feminist therapy is built on the premise that it is essential to consider the social, cultural, and political context that contributes to a person’s problems in order to understand that person. This perspective has significant implications for the development of counseling theory and for how practitioners intervene with diverse client populations” (Corey 2013).

Additionally, I’ve come to realize that much of sexism that objectives women into sexualized roles lf servitude. This legacy is especially preserved in archaic American laws that don’t protect the safety of sex-workers, provide sex-workers rights or reasonably regulate those industries which largely trap and often traffic women. However opportunities like assisted certification the International Surrogate Partner Association or participation, development and proliferation of academics in sexuality as pioneered by Kinsey, Comfort and Masters & Johnson can stabilize and save lives of women and provide a stronger therapeutic basis for families suffering domestic violence.

Boyhood to Manhood

Of course with any exploration of counseling approach, I have to consider my background. I was raised in a predominantly overt heteronormative African-American environment. During my elementary school years, my father took up the reigns of a youth program for African-American boys called Boyhood to Manhood–a sort of anti-boyscouts. We spent Saturdays in a para-military styled order, beginning with the Pan-African Libation ceremony, invoking the blessings of God, Progeny and Predecessors. We read and recited the eight principles of adulthood–honor, reliability, respect, ancestry, purpose, unity, faith, trust; the Pledge to Self and Nation and the Nguzo Saba. We sang African language songs and practiced counting in Bamabara and KiSwhahili. We did craft projects, drumming, volunteer activities and even pursued advancement via an academic curriculum via projects of the Drum Book and Spear Book. As an African-American male child, I knew a pristine order bordering on that of Israeli or South Korean youth. But as society happened, so did the buckling of African-American leadership as we grew older, resources became scarce and adult interpersonal values shifted. The void of post-adolescent guidance I began to feel entering high school and college led me on my own quest of understanding the role of gender and sex especially because Boyhood to Manhood instilled in me that it was much deeper, cultural and ancestral than music videos, sports stars and Hollywood glamour.

Black Masculinism

Although there are masculinist scholars like Jack Malebranch (Donovan) who put forth a version of masculine ideals that is still sterilely “white” dependent upon a vilified, anti-intellectual, under researched black male stereotype of a non-white anti-masculinity (Malebranche 2006). My background encouraged my pursuit to develop an understanding of the African gender spectrum. That exploration led me to books like Boy-wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities which charted gender variation originating from African continental populations. It helped me conclude that masculinity is a cultural practice and aesthetic non-dependent on sexual practice, even for men of African backgrounds (Murray 1998). And while self-proclaimed masculinists and men’s rights advocates can comprehend the universal relativity of Kinseyan sexuality and of the gender spectrum, he and his supporters are unable to separate from their colonial pseudo-scientific racial mindset of denying those same male rights and sexuo-gender flexible dignities to African masculinities other than us only having a place in their occidental mindset as either “feminized, amoral gays” or “unsophisticated, misogynist straights or bisexuals”.


  1. Principles of Qamarist Counseling Approach and Theory

My personal approach, the Qamarist approach, incorporates traditional African-American communal principles with which I was raised, The Eight Principles of Adulthood, The Nguzo Saba and the humanist and scientific ideas that our acknowledgement of Africa as our biological Center and an alternate logic pattern opposed to the intense rhetorical engine of strictly East versus West. Next, my approach incorporates Existentialist therapy and theory in acknowledging the transformational nature of the human experience, its sensualism and impermanence and the power of our individual choice in seeking the wisdom our moments. Lastly my approach incorporates black masculinism which necessitates the incorporation of ethnic pluralism, unlike currently typified masculinism, yet still acknowledges that masculinism ultimately compliments feminism as its opposite color, with pre-feminist, pre-Stonewall Modern culture as being especially earmarked as misanthropic toward anyone concentrically exterior to the male WASP demographic in general. Overall my approach acknowledges that race, gender, sexuality, etc. are all integral qualitative axis we traverse in an ultimate axis of existence, each quality containing a range of pyschophysiosocial abilities with which our lifetime is spent in learning how to maneuver and cope.


  1. Works Cited

Corey, G. (2013). Theory & Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Diamond, J. M. (1999). Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: Norton.

Ford, C. W. (1999). The hero with an African face: Mythic wisdom of traditional Africa. New York: Bantam Books.

Hwang, K. (1978). Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do). Springfield, N.J: U.S. Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation.

Malebranche, J. (2006). Androphilia: A manifesto : Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity. Baltimore, MD: Scapegoat Pub.

Murray, S. O., & Roscoe, W. (1998). Boy-wives and female husbands: Studies in African homosexualities. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Takuan, S., & Wilson, W. S. (1986). The unfettered mind: Writings of the Zen master to the sword master. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

Trungpa, C., & Gimian, C. R. (1984). Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior. Boulder, Colo: Shambhala.

Wells, S. (2003). The journey of man: A genetic odyssey. London: Penguin.

Williams, W. L. (1986). The spirit and the flesh: Sexual diversity in American Indian culture. Boston: Beacon Press.


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