A Global Organization Carries On Garvey’s Legacy through Collective Healing
During what activists call “Black August,” African people in the U.S. and around the world honor Black political prisoners and commemorate the birth of Jamaican-born Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a 20th century Black nationalist who espoused racial pride and self-reliance.
As African people across the world continuously endeavor to reverse the pervasive and lingering effects of colonialism and chattel slavery imposed upon diasporic peoples, one organization has set its sights on debunking what its founder and president, Enola Aird, describes as “the lie of white superiority and Black inferiority.”
For Aird and other affiliates of the Community Healing Network (CHN), accomplishing this feat requires that African people no longer characterize the fight for liberation as a “struggle,” but a journey that will ultimately culminate in the realization of a modern-day African renaissance.
“Africa is the cradle of civilization [and] the lie of white supremacy erased rich African history,” said Aird, a descendent of an early 20th century Garveyite.
“When we peel it off and say we won’t collaborate with it, we have a renewed African narrative that’s grounded in our Africanness. Marcus Garvey tells us we have a beautiful history and we have to build that future. The lie is the barrier to that future.”
While African Americans report mental health issues at nearly the same rate as their white counterparts, their collective, intergenerational experience in the U.S. has been filled with violence and systemic oppression, which has left a traumatic impact across the population.
Additionally, structural inequities and anti-Black institutions limit African Americans’ access to quality healthcare, housing, and other resources. The pandemic further exacerbated such inequities.
Amid the chaos, CHN continues a tradition established in the 1960s with the establishment of Black Psychology. Black psychology, as defined by scholars Kobi Kambon and Na’im Akbar, creates a system through which African reality can be uncovered, articulated, and applied. The field of study also conveys a perspective and understanding of African people that originates from pre-colonial Africa, not merely as a result of the effects of those who colonized African people.
Since its 2006 inception, CHN, based in New Haven, Connecticut, has sponsored community events, in collaboration with the American Association of Black Psychologists, during which several people of African descent take part in healing exercises to address the trauma experienced in the present day, and addressing those experienced throughout previous generations.
In years past, CHN has taken its message on the road with a Global Truth Campaign and Tour that had stops in the District, New Haven, Conn., Richmond, Virginia, Kingston, Jamaica, Pasadena, California, and other cities. Most recently, CHN participated in the Advancing Justice: Reparations and Racial Healing Summit in Accra, Ghana, hosted by the Global Circle for Reparations, a U.S-Africa cohort of reparations advocates.
Before the pandemic, CHN hosted its last iteration of the Valuing Black Lives Global Emotional Emancipation Summit where African leaders from across the world develop plans to WW2challenge narratives steeped in anti-Blackness.
Organizers have since continued the work virtually via Emotional Emancipation Circles (EECs) and Rapid Response Ubuntu Healing Circles. On the third weekend of October, CHN will also host its Community Healing Days, during which Black people celebrate community healers and wear sky blue as a symbol of their limitless possibilities.
More than 1,000 leaders have been trained to facilitate EECs and other events throughout the U.S. and around the world. These offerings aim to anchor participants in their African culture and foster an appreciation for their ancestors and family.
The ultimate goal, as certified EEC trainer Lester Bentley explained it, is to create cultural practices to remind African people of their connection to one another.
Bentley, a mental health counselor based In New Haven, said that colonization, chattel slavery and other ills committed against Black people have torn at the fabric of what many had known as their culture. That’s why he stressed that people of African descent must take every opportunity to practice the West African concept of Sankofa where one looks back to the past in order to move forward.
“CHN’s programming to destroy the lie of white supremacy will look somewhat different [from place to place], but very much the same globally,” Bentley said.
“We do a good job of recognizing the multifaceted aspects of colonialism and oppressions so we have to employ different tools to support people’s emancipation, however they define it. That part is revolutionary.”
For more information about Community Healing Network, visit https://communityhealingnet.org/.