“Black people are getting killed for no reason. Can we go outside, check our mail [or] go back in the house without getting killed? Can we, or can we not? Cause if not, then we’re not [going to] get our mail or go outside period. I’m scared I’m going to get killed for going outside or … get pushed to the ground for something I did not do. So that’s why I drew Black Lives Matter—because they still matter. They still matter…””
– Tyla G., Guidance Center Client
Throughout the month of February, The Guidance Center has celebrated Black History Month in order to learn more about Black historical figures, cultures, traditions and experiences.
National Geographic Kids shares that Black History Month started in 1915, “in response to the lack of information on the accomplishments of Black people available to the public.” At that time, historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Then, in 1926, this association decided to acknowledge the second week of February as “Negro History Week” to highlight African American history in the U.S. “This week was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist (someone who wanted to end the practice of enslaving people), and former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.”
It wasn’t until 1976 when this week-long celebration became what we know today as Black History Month. National Geographic Kids says, “U.S. president Gerald Ford extended the recognition to ‘honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.'”
As you may be able to feel in the quote above from Guidance Center Client Tyla G., Black Americans are hurting and often don’t feel as though others believe their lives matter, which is why Woodson, “believed it was essential for young African Americans to understand and be proud of their heritage” (USA Today). Throughout this month, we incorporated activities with our staff to do just that.
One activity included learning about Capoeira, a Martial Art or dance “developed in Brazil, derived from traditions brought across the Atlantic Ocean by enslaved Africans and fueled by the burning desire for freedom. It soon became widely practiced on the plantations as a means of breaking the bonds of slavery, both physically and mentally” (Smithsonian Magazine). We were joined over Zoom by teachers Odie and Zola who have practiced Capoeira for many, many years. They shared with us the history, the music and movements of Capoeira.
Angelina Palma-Williams, LCSW, is the Program Manager of our Outpatient program, she and her son both enjoyed watching the presentation. “My son, Josiah, is learning jujitsu currently, [so] it was a fun experience to watch him learn about Capoeira because he loves music and Martial Arts,” said Angelina. “I wanted him to share this time learning about the history of Capoeira with me to build on his exposure to the rich culture we are connected to.”
Another activity we did was learn how to make a traditional Black cultural dish. Over Zoom, Jaleesa Adams, Psy.D, a Registered Psychologist for our Outpatient program and her mom walked staff, step-by-step, through how to make a delicious dish of Jambalaya. You can view the recipe here if you want to try and make this delicious meal yourself!
“I loved cooking with my co-workers. I felt I was able to bring them into my world by showing them the traditions passed down to me that I definitely don’t get the opportunity to show at work,” said Jaleesa. “In black culture, cooking is a huge way to show your love and appreciation for others.”
Lastly, a group joined together for a Netflix Watch party to view the docuseries, “Oprah Presents When They See Us Now,” where Oprah Winfrey talks with the exonerated men once known as the Central Park Five, plus the cast and producers who tell their story in the Netflix series “When They See Us.”
“Watching the Oprah documentary, ‘When They See Us Now’ with my co-workers was an insightful experience,” said Francesca Campos, AMFT, Clinical Therapist at our Compton Clinic. “I felt that this shared experience brought me closer to my co-workers as we were able to express our thoughts and feelings related to institutionalized racism in a safe space. I am grateful for this opportunity and hope to have an event similar to this again in the future.”
Although Black History Month ends in a couple of days, that doesn’t mean the celebrating, learning and sharing has to stop. We encourage you to continue educating yourself, your families, your colleagues and your community on the history of Black Americans and all cultures represented in the United States.
“And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect, we are striving to forge a union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another, we seek harm to none and harmony for all.”
– Amanda Gorman, Poet