Becky Thompson's BA was from the University of California at Santa Cruz, with a major in sociology with a minor in women's studies. Her MA and Ph. D were from Brandeis University. Her post-doctoral work at Princeton University was in African American Studies (as a Rockefeller Fellow). Her yoga training (RYT-500) has been in the United States, Greece, and Bali. In 2021 she earned an MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry at Stonecoast in Maine.
Becky is a scholar, poet, and activist. Her poetry collections include To Speak in Salt (forthcoming) and Zero is the Whole I Fall into at Night. Her two edited volumes of poetry include Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by and for Refugees (with Palestinian poet, Jehan Bseiso) and Fingernails across the Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the Black Diaspora (co-edited with Randall Horton).
Her scholarly books include Teaching with Tenderness, Survivors on the Yoga Mat, When the Center is on Fire, A Promise and a Way of Life and several other volumes. She has held appointments at China Women's University, Duke University, the University of Colorado, Wesleyan University, The University of Massachusetts, and Simmons University. Honors include the Ex Ophidia Poetry Prize, the Rockefeller Fellowship in African American Studies at Princeton University, the Ford Fellowship, the Mosaic Outstanding Teaching Award at the University of Colorado, the Creative Justice Poetry Prize, the Gustavus Myers Award for Outstanding Book on Human Rights in North America. Becky teaches yoga (RYT-500) at the Dorchester YMCA in Boston and internationally (Greece, Thailand, China).
What Becky Teaches
Becky teaches many courses at Simmons University including "Working for Social Justice," "Poetry and Prose: 21st Century Voices of Conscience," "Whiteness, Antiracism and Social Justice Work" and "Birth and Death: The Sociology of Joy and Suffering." Some of these classes are also graduate courses. She also teaches a leadership course "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World: Leaders for Social Justice" where students read books about social justice leaders while incorporating contemplative practices into the learning. For many years, she taught the doctoral course "Diversity in Education" that enabled her to work with an exciting range of teachers, therapists, and health professionals seeking ways to create and sustain social justice in their neighborhoods and work spaces. She has had the honor of walking alongside many doctoral students working on their dissertations at Harvard University, the University of British Columbia, Duke University, the University of Manitoba, and Simmons. The doctoral topics include: Jain yoga practices with Indigenous communities in Canada, transgender health care, trauma-informed, feminist adult education, Bantu Somali health in the US, and resistance to mass gun violence.
Whether working with first year undergraduates or alongside doctoral students completing their dissertations, her commitment to what Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga first named "theory in the flesh" makes space for reflexivity, offering us a resonant register, new sound. She brings to the classroom a feminist pedagogy that rests on encouraging students to think self-reflectively about how their intersecting identities shape their outlook. She sees the work of teachers as companions, not authorities. Feminist embodied pedagogy allows teachers to trust student experience and awareness, as they create expansive contexts for deep learning.
A New Collection of Poetry
To Speak in Salt circles around the resilience of people in transit from Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Sudan to Greece in what has become the biggest refugee crisis since WWII. The poems focus on people fleeing their homelands within a larger historical context, with nods to Sappho, Minoan pots, and silhouettes crossing the burning sun. This work draws upon my years meeting rafts coming from Turkey to Lesvos since 2015 and teaching poetry workshops in refugee centers. She is thrilled that this collection was granted the Ex Ophidia poetry prize by a press that specialized in finely designed books.
Recent Book on Teaching
Teaching with Tenderness: Toward an Embodied Practice follows in the tradition of bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress and Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Tenderness asks how teachers can draw upon multiracial feminist pedagogy, contemplative practices and trauma studies to encourage embodied learning. This book was inspired by lessons she learned from working with students over the last decades.
Yoga Book on Healing
Survivors on the Yoga Mat: Stories for Those Healing from Trauma is a collection of essays intended for trauma survivors and yoga teachers alike.
For more about Becky's writing and activism please visit beckythompsonyoga.com.