As we near the end of Mental Health Month, we must put the Black community’s mental health situation in perspective:
Nearly six decades ago, famed psychiatrist Frantz Fanon talked about the lasting effects of oppression on the psyche of oppressed people. His words were relevant for native Africans in Algeria under French rule in 1961 and they are stingingly true in our communities today. Some 20 years ago, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing clearly emphasized in her essay “The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation and Racism” that racial oppression has spawned poor housing, poor education and resultant unemployment that has directly frustrated Black men, causing misplaced aggression and destruction of themselves and each other. She points out that mutual respect and sensitivity is needed and that hate is not the answer.
Amos Wilson, professor of psychology at City University in New York, writes in his book “Black on Black Violence The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination” that traditionally the male is seen as essential to a community’s viability, adaptability, self-defense and liberation from oppression and exploitation, He notes that when their character, credibility and authority is neutralized, it allows the oppressor to override that community’s institutional and organizational integrity, allowing a community to become dysfunctional. There are those who suffer from these unfair oppressive conditions, known as post-traumatic racial oppression disorder. The effects of prolonged exposure to such conditions eviscerate and emasculate males and inadvertently force some to become instruments unwittingly of oppression by preying upon their own community.
Currently, COVID-19 is causing a rise in post-traumatic stress disorder rates. Many adults are not dealing well with the invisible deadly opponent, so just think of our already-challenged children who are unable to understand and feel helpless. This could lead to incidences of suicidal ideation, substance abuse and domestic abuse. We can win because this, too, shall pass as we will ourselves to victory over this opponent. The 100 Fathers will be there to right the ship when help is needed.
The 100 Fathers submits that the need for empowerment of the Black male relies upon funding that enables a cadre of trained and dedicated men and women to engage with the therapeutic community, connection with role models and involvement and exposure to fatherhood leaders and family-focused services that can redirect behavior with treatment counseling and improve self-esteem. If we will ever thrive, we must first wash off the stain that slavery, oppression, and injustice has left on our psyches. The first step in that process is to acknowledge that the stain exists, and then choose to do the work to remove it. Let us begin that work now.
To that end, The 100 Fathers Inc. will sponsor a Zoom event for Mental Health Month on May 28 at 7 p.m. (Find us on www.100fathers.org.)
Black Men Stepping Up Boldly to Address Mental Health: Understanding Our Past, Evaluating the Present and Improving Upon our Future
Keynote: Dr. Wayne Beckles
Moderator: David Smith, vice president of The 100 Fathers Inc.
Panel members: Herb Gray, CEO of Life Enhancement Services; Jeirell Jordan of Jacob’s Ladder youth program; Franklyn M. Malone, CEO The 100 Fathers Inc.
Malone is CEO of The 100 Fathers Inc. and founding member of the D.C. Commission for Fathers, Men and Boys.