Blog Entry Health & Healing

Creating Healthy, Healing Villages for Black Male Achievement

“We all know the saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’  But what about what it takes to foster a healthy village that will raise that child?”

An attendee posed this rhetorical question to the group during the August Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Boys and Young Men of Color convening in Cincinnati, OH. I had the privilege of representing the Campaign for Black Male Achievement during this convening, which brought together some of the brightest minds from across the country to brainstorm strategies and practices to prioritize healing and thriving for America’s boys and young men of color. What struck me about this question was that it put into perspective the urgency with which we must heal ourselves in order to heal our communities.

We would ultimately fail in shepherding our boys into healthy futures if we did not take stock of and address our own health in mind, body and spirit.

It became evident over the course of the two-day gathering that we (meaning any individual, institution or organization claiming to work on behalf of boys and young men of color) would ultimately fail in shepherding our boys into healthy futures if we did not take stock of and address our own health in mind, body and spirit. For too long, leaders in the Black Male Achievement field (and elsewhere), myself included, have neglected pursuing our own health and healing as aggressively as we work to serve our communities. As a result of that relative disregard, we may end up suffering from burnout, internalized oppression, mental health issues, physical health issues, or worse. 

In other words, our dedicated and most sincere intentions in uplifting our boys and young men of color are handicapped if we don’t continuously work through our own traumas and dis-ease. Furthermore, doing this work collectively is as important if not more so than working toward our individualized healing.

The experience also crystallized the long-term potential for CBMA’s BMA Health and Healing Strategies initiative, currently based in Oakland and Sacramento. The initiative, headed by my colleague, Dr. Phyllis Hubbard, in part seeks to equip caregivers, community leaders, mentors and school-based staff in the Oakland and Sacramento City Unified School Districts with trauma-informed and culturally-responsive strategies to empower black boys and young men of color in and out of the classroom. These strategies are meant to not only enhance the external work adults are doing with youth, but also the internal work they can do to reduce their own stress and increase healthy and healing lifestyles.

Initiatives like BMA Health and Healing Strategies guide those working with boys and young of men of color closer to the “healthy village” we desperately need to thrive, locally and nationally. We cannot actualize this, however, if our efforts don’t simultaneously confront interpersonal and systemic sources of trauma (racism, sexism, state-sanctioned violence, poor quality public schools, food deserts, lack of access to quality healthcare, etc.). I understood these concepts on a superficial level before, but having conversations about trauma, healing and thriving alongside community leaders, foundation leaders, academics, and faith-based leaders truly brought everything home.

Lucia Mattox is the Executive Assistant to the CEO at CBMA. You can follow her on Twitter @LIMattox.


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