January 16, 2017 Me By Mel Cyrille 8 Comments

Courage and Conviction

So, something big is happening here that I’ve been sitting on for a little while as I’ve been processing and working out the rolling out of the decision. In a nutshell, I’m changing my business name and from now on, I’m operating as “Carried” for my carrying courses and under my own name for doula work and other services. I’ve been wanting to implement this change for several weeks, but Facebook has been denying my name change requests for my page, so I’m now at a point where I’m just going to share this with you all and create a new page – if you want to continue following me, I’d love that. If this revelation puts you off, it’s ok – we’re not in alignment with each other, but hopefully one day we will be.

The change of my business name has come because I’ve come to learn that using “Tribal Babies” is actively hindering social justice. I have been in contact with an agency – InterChange –  to consult with them about getting some more personal education on cultural appropriation and hopefully organising a CPD event for later next year. They were happy to talk about it, but wanted to make some enquiries about my business name before proceeding further. The questions they put to me opened my eyes to another perspective, and triggered me to do research about the word “tribe” and its use by white people.

For those of you who don’t know, I named my business “Tribal Babies” as in 2011 I “found my tribe” and the woman we all looked up to as our wise woman called us “Tribal Mamas” in honour of this – a group of mamas who found their tribe. When I was setting up my business at the end of 2011, I couldn’t settle on a name. The only one that felt like it fit was “Tribal Babies”, as my business was about the things us “Tribal Mamas” were all doing.

For many people though, the word “tribe” or “tribal” conjours up different images – more so if they don’t know of the word as a term for a community/people who feel like family. Things like poor, underdeveloped, primitive, national geographic, developing countries, back to basics, half naked etc. come to mind. It all seems so obvious to me now, and I feel foolish for not thinking beyond the fact I named my business because of my parenting and friendship support network.

The thing is, impact trumps intent of course. I named my business for my own reasons. What others take it as is the impact it makes. For people who it conjours up any of the stuff I mentioned, it’s perpetuating that image and it would be irresponsible of me to carry on using this name now I know better. For people of colour who know the true history behind the word “tribe”, it can bring upset, offence, annoyance, reminders of persecution etc. One big thing I learned was that many cultures don’t even call themselves tribes, they call themselves “people” or “nation” and that much of the time it’s been white people either describing these communities as “tribes”, or even going so far as to divide peoples into “tribes”.

Seeing the bigger picture and impact of what I’m actually perpetuating has been an eyeopener, especially given the fact that everything my business has been about has been to do with or endorses/promotes things like babywearing, breastfeeding, normalising birth, elimination communication, bedsharing, natural term weaning, home ed etc. These things are things things that are seen (in varying degrees) in England and other Western countries as being different/strange/weird, so you can probably see now how having the “tribal” tag attached to these practices further stigmatises the word.

I’m sorry to any person or peoples I’ve offended by using this as my business name. I know intention doesn’t trump impact, but please know that in my awareness I’m committed to change.

So, I’m holding my hands up, and admitting I’ve done wrong. I now know better, and so am committed to doing better. I’ve made the decision to operate under my own name as this is me. This is who I am. I’m not hiding behind a company name any more. I stand here accountable for my actions, and maybe just being me will help me to think longer and harder about the choices I make going forwards. With regards to my carrying consultancy course, that will operate as “Carried”, so if you work with me you will complete the “Carried Consultancy Course”.

It will take a while to implement the changes in full, as there are many things I need to do for the full transition to happen, and I have a whole site and lots of online course modules to move over, as well as rebranding, but my first step is changing the logo name on this website, and my Facebook page name as these are immediate ones.

Babywearing has brought so many positive things into my life – friends, acquaintances, a gateway to learning about other parenting practices, a business, nearly 5 years of volunteer work with families in Suffolk, and so much more. In the past year it’s brought me a valuable gift – insight into the harsh realities of this world that I’ve been unaware of on this kind of level for so long. I’m humbled, and incredibly grateful for the learning that’s ensued (and will continue to for the rest of my life), grateful that people who are marginalised are standing up and demanding their voices be heard, however uncomfortable that may be for many uninterested in the realities of so many people in this world. We can make changes for the better if we admit when we’ve done wrong, do better when we know better, leave our egos at the door and replace them with courage and conviction.

It’s terrifying putting this out there, acknowledging I’ve done wrong and knowing that there will be people who look at me thinking “you’re a fool to have never considered this” and yet others who think I’m foolish to think there’s a problem with this name. But you know what? I can look at this as a profound learning experience. My mind’s been opened up more than I could have imagined (thinking I was open-minded and aware of such issues anyway!), I’m actively searching for more stories from people who live with systematic racism against them every single day, I’m able to let go of not needing to please everyone…..what’s right is more important than people liking me. The already-wide-open door to my children’s heritage is illuminated so brilliantly, realising it’s not for me to do what I can to share it with them, it’s my responsibility to immerse them in it, to go the extra mile to make sure their roots aren’t forgotten and buried. So for all the inevitable scariness of change, the growth and learning experiences from this eclipse it.

I’m happy to share that I am still working with InterChange, and that my course materials on Cultural Appropriation and the Babywearing Industry have been met with their approval. I look forward to sharing more information about a CPD webinar later in the year on the subject, direct from InterChange, in the coming weeks.

Thank you to those who have been supporting me through this learning and change, and to those of you who have read this with an open mind and heart.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment or drop me an email. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to carrying on moving in the right direction.

Mel Cyrille
Mel is a babywearing and in-arms carrying trainer and educator. She's also the author of "In-arms Carrying", available in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.
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  • Caroline Thompson
    January 16, 2017 at 10:46 pm Reply

    Mel, this post is absolutely full of courage and conviction and it speaks volumes about the way you operate.

    Well done and thank you for such an open and honest post – I will be following you to your new page.

  • Dorothy Russell
    January 17, 2017 at 1:27 am Reply

    Hello Melissa,

    I read your article with the utmost interest. I’m surprised that you feel the necessity to apologize regarding your professional usage of “Tribal Babies”. To me the connotations are those of grass roots assessment and acceptance of child-rearing and the needs of infants and children. I don’t see the word “tribal” as implying anything other than a group of individuals with similar practices and ideals. It in no way suggests to me anything wrong or racial!

    If the use of the term has seemed different to some people, I’m surprised. I have looked up the definition in my dictionary and it gives the first statement as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of linked families or communities with a COMMON CULTURE AND DIALECT”. This appears to be acceptable to apply to the trends today in child-rearing as in any group who share similar beliefs/ideals/goals, etc. However, I note that there is a highlighted passage underneath under the title of “usage of tribe” which makes a startling comment! The comment is NOT the definition. It is one of the things which annoys me immensely – the adulteration of words and phrases to fit them round something out of context, instead of continuing to use them in line with the root word/original meaning of them !!!

    I completely understand your new stance having read the dictionary rider (which isn’t definitive of the word). I must say, though, that I don’t think you should make any apology. Your works are testament to your wholehearted support of your chosen occupations. You go more than the extra mile and have expended a lot of energy, help and devotion to high principles and the forwarding of the concepts you believe in. You are not wrong – it’s others who are wrong in their connotations. However, to change your professional names is a mark of your high integrity, because it shows that you are amenable to setting aside anything that may offend the sensibilities of others – (going that extra mile) – I’m very proud of you!

  • Karina
    January 17, 2017 at 7:43 am Reply

    Hi Mel

    I really enjoyed your blog and it is great that you now feel in alignment. I love your new name, I hope you get the FB approval soon, I know how stressful that can be.

  • Victoria Proctor
    January 17, 2017 at 8:39 am Reply

    What a wonderfully brave and honest blog post. Mel you are lovely. Personally ‘tribe’ makes me think of tribes of Ancient Britain but that’s probably because that’s my area of interest. I also have no idea whether they identified as a ‘tribe’ or a people or something else. Similarly I do not belong to a tribe or anything that could be considered one and neither do my ancestors so, as you say, it’s not for me to say whether the word is being used correctly or pejorativly.
    Good luck going forward 🙂

  • Zoe Walsh
    January 17, 2017 at 11:54 am Reply

    Mel, you truly have courage and conviction. Thank you for your actions and for sharing your reasoning so honestly.
    I’m with you – see you on your new page 🙂

  • Stacey Bramley
    January 17, 2017 at 11:36 pm Reply

    Mel Cyrille is the perfect business name!! Can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier either 😊

    You’re a smart and honest businesswoman, so you’ll go far!!

  • Susi
    January 18, 2017 at 7:58 am Reply

    Hi Mel,

    Such a brave message and great blog – thank you for sharing.
    As someone else noted already, there shouldn’t be any need for your apology , however it shows your integrity in doing so. It can be a great challenge at times in realising on having pleased others, instead of having had done what felt right.
    Well done for doing what feels right for you.
    It can be challenging on deciding initially as well as thereafter on a name. The important part is, that it feels right for you and as it does, others will feel the same.
    It’s great you seeing it as a learning – so refreshing to read.
    Much Love and good luck in you moving forward .

  • Hannah
    January 19, 2017 at 9:59 am Reply

    Hey Mel – Ok ha ha I decided I might be overstepping the boundaries of what you wanted to invite in comments so I emailed you directly! Very interesting post and ties into a lot of the things I have been researching recently. Love Hannahx

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