Written by Greg Barber
Since we first landed in “The New World”, there has never been a period of time in which African-Americans have been able to truly heal from the oppression experienced. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which was the movement of enslaved Africans who were tasked with building THIS country, was only the first component of our insidious history in this country. Followed by Black Codes and Exclusionary Acts, chain gangs, sharecropping, lynching, the Jim Crow era, the prison industrial complex, and more recently, the unjust execution of black men and women by the police, for centuries, blacks have endured death at every corner in the country WE built. But like the fiery bird from mythology, we rise time and time again.
Most of our strength has come in the form of being affiliated with some religious institution – Stay Strong, God got you, you have to keep pushing – but are we machines? Sometimes, I feel like it; constantly churning out this product of school-work, maintaining a social life, planning for the future, and being my ancestors’ wildest dream, but often times, as others can sympathize, I become drained. During my sophomore year, I was on the brink of running dry, I went to see someone other than God – was I wrong for doing this? At first, I felt so. The mediation expert told me that “I must drink as I pour” – meaning, while I pour myself into other people, work, extracurricular, service and other things I love, I must replenish myself simultaneously to continue to be a giver.
I then contemplated seeing a psychologist – would my loved ones stigmatize me? Would people think I’m crazy? Why have black people internalized these stigmas about mental health professionals? I mean our history of course, but I think more of it is about breaking down our carefully constructed outer shell of heartache, pain, and anger. Why don’t we want to be vulnerable? Maybe it would hurt too much. Maybe we will see something in ourselves that we have been hiding so long. Maybe we can finally liberate ourselves. Maybe it could be all of these things! So when I went to speak to my psychologist, I was able to be vulnerable, transparent and authentically me and with everything going on in this world, it is important to do so. So as I reflect back with my experiences with my mental health professional, who were both black, I was able to talk about some real-life things with people who are at an understanding of my specific experiences. My transparency even inspired me to pursue a career in psychology. It is the duties of new black psychologists, to one emphasize the importance of black mental health and merge that gap between religiosity, spirituality and worldly assistance with life’s trouble while two, be pioneers in healing our broken people.
So, yes, I continue to talk to God as though s/he was right in front of me, because in reality, God is in front of me – in the face of both my spiritual advisor and psychologist.