Happy Black History Month!
I am a firm believer that Black History Month can be celebrated by everyone, regardless of race or culture. To celebrate the history of a culture that has greatly influenced many aspects of our everyday experience is a gift! This article is dedicated to black people and culture and to a future that celebrates their beauty, as well as their resilience.
When Motivo asked me to write a piece about Black History Month, my mind raced with the possibilities. Today’s social climate seems grim and, while I recognize the importance of engaging in conversations about the hard times, I look forward to the times where I can focus on the great times. Black History Month does that for me; it’s a reminder to celebrate that which has brought us forward.
So, I’ve settled on writing about the resilience that breeds hope amongst black people. If I were to imagine resilience in the form of bodies, I would be imagining the likes of Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, President Barack Obama, just to name a very small few. There are millions (upon millions) of other named and nameless people who embody resilience. Resilience, in my mind, is the ability to withstand difficulties and to do so with strength. To think of the conditions black people of many cultures have survived (and continue to survive) causes me to wonder about the things that contributed to their strength.
In my work and research with black individuals, couples, and families, there is a resounding theme that resilience in the face of adversity comes from, among other things, family and a connection to a higher power. Through the years these significant aspects of black culture have instilled hope, provided support, and/or validation when the rest of the world refuses. This is why it is imperative that family therapists, and other clinicians who are trained to work with families, learn how to provide treatment tailor-made for their black families. *Note: I firmly believe that clinicians should be culturally responsive to the specific culture of all their families, therefore providing treatment that incorporates the unique needs of their clients.*
Though celebration of the resilience and strength of black families is important, I think it is equally important to focus attention on their other attributes. Things like meaningful closeness, strong love bonds, loyalty, determination, a strong work ethic, importance of romantic relationships, and a focus on raising the next generation, while doing so in the face of adversity out of their control, make black families unique. These merits describe black culture past and present. Frankly, they get me excited for what was, is, and will be!
My goal for writing this piece about the complexities of resilience for black people is to help redefine our automatic image. I cannot deny the fact that, due to racism, discrimination, prejudice, and bias, black people are not always portrayed or viewed in a positive light. As a black woman, I am constantly mindful of my personal mission to change that. While I know I may not be able to change how people experience black culture, I can most definitely highlight the most beautiful versions of it. It is my hope that black history and culture can be celebrated for the magnificence it is, without fear or hatred present, every month of the year. This month, though, I look forward to saluting everyday black “sheroes” and heroes, past and present, whose resilience will continue to breed pride and hope for generations to come.
Happy Black History Month, in February and throughout the year!
Dr. Carla Smith, president and owner of Brownstone Consulting, LLC and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Mercer University School of Medicine, is a leader in educating and training students, professionals, and the public about diversity and inclusion. She is a licensed clinical social worker and licensed marriage and family therapist with 11 years of experience as a clinician and consultant working with individuals, couples, families, communities, and organizations. Dr. Carla works to encourage and empower people, communities, and organizations to build quality relationships by developing cultural humility and fostering authentic dialogue.
Follow me on social media @DrCarlaSmith and/or @BrownstoneConsulting
For questions or inquiries, email CarlaSmithPhD@gmail.com