I subscribe to the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa newsletter and want to start off my thoughts by sharing a lengthy example of their recent content around Black History Month:
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans. It is a time to recognize the central role of the Black community in our shared history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” created by historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Every U.S. president since 1976 has recognized the month of February as Black History Month.
Faith leaders who participate in Faithful Voices for Racial Justice, a project of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, encourage faith communities across Iowa to explore and highlight achievements of Black Americans and Black communities. Faith communities can highlight specific examples of the successes and contributions in Iowa, our nation, faith traditions, and denominations. Ways to do that include stories in newsletters, social media, and other publications as well as sermon illustrations and readings during worship or gatherings. Also consider study options with small groups, including youth groups.
Black History Month Resources:
Though the Center is not affiliated with any particular community of faith, I think we can participate in the Interfaith Alliance’s directive to include stories in our newsletter. I would like to celebrate a mental health colleague, Resmaa Menakem, LICSW, who authored the book, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies (2017).
I and other colleagues here at the Center have committed to working our way through this book as one of our anti-racist Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. It’s hard work as Menakem challenges the reader to go beyond theory and literally explore how racialized trauma has impacted us all. I have learned from my colleagues that trauma work often/always involves body work as the effects of trauma reside not only in our memory, but literally in our bones. It is hard work to face the pain in order to move along the path to healing. Menakem and other African American therapists and theoreticians have done groundbreaking work as they have helped others in the healing field to explore the impact of generational trauma.
Sometimes the pain of our lives is simply and scarily an inheritance.
That doesn’t mean healing is impossible, just that we need to explore the trauma of ancestors along with current behavior in order to start the hard work of healing.
I am grateful to colleagues who have taken on leadership roles in our inclusion efforts. Billie Wade volunteers her time to facilitate a book club. Dr. Kelli Hill, our clinical director, has been generous with her time as she has chaired our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Colleagues in that working group have helped us to organize workshops on how we can improve as an organization and in the provision of our services. A subcommittee in that group is exploring how to make our physical environment more hospitable through art and accessibility. We have become much more intentional about inviting diverse perspectives in our board recruiting and in the hiring our staff.
Our hope in these initiatives is that we will be known as a welcoming place for all people seeking high quality mental health services, especially in communities of color which have been traumatized by violence and injustice. We have much work to do.
As we commemorate Black History Month, I am grateful for the many contributions of that community who have reminded us that through hard work, hope and healing are possible.