It's the weekend after the news out of Louisville, Kentucky drove the knife deeper in the hearts of Black and Brown communities across America. All six police officers involved in the Breonna Taylor murder would not be charged for their crimes.
The anger. The sadness. The helplessness. All the emotions I saw across my timeline and in my message box. It's hard to remain optimistic in the face of such blatant disrespect for the lives of those who look like you...and the anxiety that you feel wondering if you and a loved one could be the next hashtag. I'm not here to tell you it's going to be ok. I'm here to suggest some ways to find some light in your own life as we continue to navigate through this darkness.
Get Up, Get Out and Do Something
Put your anger to good use and find a way to get involved with local or national organizations actively fighting against the various systems that aid in the destruction of Black and Brown communities. You can donate, volunteer and sign petitions to use your voice for those who have been disempowered. Here are some organizations to become involved with:
Color of Change: An online racial justice organization fighting nationally for communities of color. Join the fight here or donate here. Dealing with an issue in your own community that needs more voices? You can even start your own campaign or sign a petition for other matters that effect our communities.
The Black Youth Project: Housed out of the University of Chicago, this project focuses on research that highlights the voices of Black youth and helps them get involved in community activism through the BYP100 program. They have a national membership for 18-35 year olds and you can also donate to their program here.
Advancement Project: Works to get innocent people out of jail. Donate to their organization here or sign their petition to #JusticeforBreonna and end no-knock warrants in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dream Defenders: Get your child involved in activism with this organization of Black and Brown youth established after the murder of Trayvon Martin. They can volunteer time to work on campaigns for the Florida state attorneys election to fight against their "tough on crime" stances, sign their "Free the Block" petition to end pre-trial detainment and cash bail systems in Miami-Dade County, Florida, or donate to their organization here.
The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation: Find your local affiliate here and learn how you can get more involved in your community.
Disconnect From Media to Preserve Your Mental Health
Yes it's good to be informed but the constant connection with media and social media can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Consider taking a social media and/or television break if the constant news is too much for you. Silence friends and family on social media who's comments trigger you. And when you're ready, you can rejoin at a pace that's best for your emotional health.
Connect With Others to Boost Your Mental Health
The pandemic, in all it's ugliness, has opened up spaces for people of color to connect virtually in the name of mental health. Here are some classes you can attend to connect with others having the same experiences and feelings as you.
Dive in Well for donation-based wellness classes.
Online Sister Support Groups offered through Sista Afya
Black Men Heal and their King's Corner is a virtual meet-up for men of color every Sunday.
Buy a membership ($16.95/month) for Ethel's Club's safe place to talk about matters that affect you without the judgement and explanation of your feelings.
Find a therapist of color through one of these platforms:
Inclusive Therapists offers reduced session fees for those in need.
Therapy for Black Girls is a directory for you to find a licensed mental health professional of color in your state (I personally found mine on here!) and they have one for men too, Therapy for Black Men.
Decolonized therapeutic coaching with Dr. Jennifer Mullan
The Boris Lawerence Henson Foundation is offering free telehealth sessions during the pandemic
Loveland Foundation helps with funding for therapy for women and girls of color.
No matter how you feel, you will feel better once you get up and moving around. Take a walk around the block. Stretch for 10 minutes when you wake up. These are great coping skills to manage those feelings of anger, frustration and confusion.
Black Mental Wellness provides resources on coping skills that are helpful for people of color.
Join a virtual Zumba class or yoga class.
Grab the kids and play outside. Bring back some old school games like double dutch, hopscotch and Red Light, Green Light. You're never too old to play like a kid!
Consider a Career Change
In order to change the system, we must integrate into the systems that oppress us and our children.
1. At this moment, Black officers only make up 14% of police officers nationally. We need people like us policing us and that starts with getting more people of color into law enforcement.
2. In schools across the nation, Black youth are being funneled into the prison system in what is termed the "School-to-Prison Pipeline". At the same time, Black teachers are only 14% of the population nationally as well. Black educators are needed to advocate for the mental health needs of our kids and keep them in school and out of the juvenile justice system.
3. Become a mental health professional, as a counselor, therapist, psychologist or a psychiatrist. Currently, Black mental health professionals only make up 4% of the mental health field. FOUR PERCENT! And as the stigma of mental health in the Black community continues to fade away, we need more clinicians of color who can validate the experiences of Black and Brown individuals.
4. Pursue a career as an attorney, as Black attorneys only make up 5% of the lawyers in this country. Don't let the cost of the education needed for this profession scare you. Scholarships, grants and federal work-study is a good way to help get your school expenses covered.
5. We can look at Congress and easily see how underrepresented people of color are in our government. Consider a career in politics, starting with local positions in your district, county and state. "Be the change you wish to see in the world"- Ghandi
Create a Sensory Plan
Constantly experiencing systemic injustice is tiring and you need to recharge. But sometimes you really don't have the energy to do so. I like to do what I call "lazy" coping skills...things you can do in your environment to help manage your anxiety. Engaging the senses (especially more than one at a time) can help with regulation and calming your nerves. It can look something like this:
Hearing: Listen to something that's calming for you. It can be an app with nature songs or a playlist of your favorite songs that make you feel better when you're feeling down.
Touch: Try a weighted blanket or something you can squeeze your anger out with like a stress ball
Smell: Light a lavender-scented candle, put on some scented lotion or put some peppermint oil in a diffuser
Taste: Eat a favorite snack, chew some gum or suck on a piece of hard candy
Movement: Sit in a rocking chair or swing in a hammock
"Turn Your Wounds Into Wisdom"- Oprah Winfrey
Don't let the current events leave you helpless and disempowered. You can still do things for yourself and your community to make your voice heard while still managing your mental health. Like Sir Kendrick said, "We gon' be alright!"