Making Black Wellness Black History
Hey beautiful people!. Guess, what? It’s officially Black History Month. I’m an 80’s baby, so the celebration of Black culture and excellence is something that has been imparted on me since I was a child. In a larger context, Black History Month can trace its beginnings as early as the 1940s when some Black communities designated February as Negro History Month; however, the Black History Month that we know and celebrate today did not get recognized nationally until 1976.
So here we are, February 1, 2022. As a Black woman, I like to use this time to center, highlight, and reflect upon the contributions of Black folks across our great diaspora. Undoubtedly, the genius, innovation, and sacrifice that Black folks have contributed nationally and internationally is undeniable. I’m forever grateful for individuals such as Bell Hooks who was unafraid to use her voice for feminist and social activism or Henrietta Lacks who had no clue that her cancer cells, the first immortalized human cell line, would be game changing as it is one of the most important cell lines in medical history. If you don’t know by now, Black folks are dope folks, but even with all this, I struggle to ONLY honor my ancestors, alongside other successful Black folks, for their accomplishments because these celebratory acknowledgements of honor and value have all too often been tied to what they can do. What happens when they have nothing left to give? Perhaps it’s similar to the same question Langston Hughes asked in his famous poem “Harlem.” What happens to a dream deferred, but more importantly, how do we navigate and support our Black folks when this happens?
Let’s keep it honest for a second. It’s no secret that we live in a grind culture; a culture that celebrates you for how much you can produce. For Black folks, this usually is coupled with how much we can endure. While I see that collectively we are on the cusp of beginning to create a new narrative, as a licensed psychologist I see the burnout everyday. At one point, I was the proverbial hamster on the grind culture wheel, but I wanted something different for myself. I want something different for my people and that something different is a balanced narrative that includes mental health and well-being. I want us to be the people who make Black history by being intentionally well!
As I began to write this article, I found myself displaying very mixed emotions. Everyday I’m surrounded by some of the most amazing women this world has ever known and this makes me happy, but I also experienced some very low lows as I reflect upon the two most recent death by suicide of beautiful, successful, and talented Black souls. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, at least 12 million adults have considered suicide. While many factors are attributed to the increase suicide rates (social media, cyberbullying, mental health issues, etc.), the stark reality is that the aftermath of suicide is far reaching. It affects friends, families, and communities.
The untimely deaths of these souls have definitely impacted me mentally and emotionally over the last two weeks, and I thank God for my community to help me move through the impact. A portion of my community is composed of three of my good friends/colleagues in which I went to graduate school with. We have a shared group chat that we affectionately call, Black Girl Magic. What I love about Black Girl Magic is that we use the space to check in, ask for help, and receive emotional support in processing stressors, racism, and hell just life.
Yesterday I texted them and said,
“Hey anybody else having a hard time with these latest two losses to the community by suicide?”
Everyone responded, “yep.”
They proceeded to ask me what support I needed.
I responded, “Just needed a space to name it.”
Sometimes that’s all we need and sometimes we need more than that. Both needs are ok.
While it is of the utmost importance for me to take a page out of the incomparable Maya Angelou’s playbook and “not merely survive but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style,” I realize that my journey is not a solo one. I need the support of my community to remain grounded through the darkest of days and nights. More importantly, I understand that while I am my ancestors' wildest dream, I would be doing them a disservice if I didn’t make an intentional effort to slow down, relax, and put my mental health first and that is what I want for all of us.
So as I close, I want to remind each of you to celebrate Black History Month, our culture, our icons, and our ancestors for their contributions and accomplishments, but let's also create a new narrative that celebrates peace of mind, boundaries, self-love, respect, and compassion for all mankind. Let’s create a narrative that centers a people who went from surviving to thriving. Lets normalize developing the practice of checking in with ourselves, identifying what we are feeling, allowing those feelings to inform us, and then pursuing the help or resources needed to get back to our center.
I want us to be well, and to be well we have to be intentional! So I would like to invite you to get connected this month as we focus on centering Black wellness and tools for Black women to thrive. As I say often, Yes sis, Black Women are Magical, and we are also human. We need each other. Join our mailing list here:https://www.drlawandahill.com