When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History week in 1926, he understood the importance of providing a theme. The intention has always been to direct the public’s attention to important developments of the Black experience. Dictating or limiting the exploration of this experience was never the goal.
This year, Black History Month embraces the theme of Black health and wellness, including mental and spiritual health. It not only acknowledges the legacy of Black scholars and practitioners in Western medicine, but also doulas, birthworkers, midwives, herbalists, and naturopaths throughout the African diaspora.
Black Health And Wellness
Throughout history, Black people set out to build hospitals, medical and nursing schools, and community clinics, all through self-determination and social support initiatives. Over time, the African Union Society, National Association of Colored Women, and Black Panther Party aided grassroots establishment of clinics and spaces. The intention was to provide Black people, who faced economic and health disparities from mainstream institutions, access to ample care and programs. Initiatives to decrease disparities resulted in more diverse practitioners and representation in medical and health programs.
The sad reality is that today, almost 60 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the United States lags behind many other nations, in regards to providing affordable medical care. This has left Black Americans and other minorities vulnerable, in regards to insufficient access to health resources. That being said, the understanding of Black health and wellness is more nuanced now than ever before. Social media, podcasts, and other sources have normalized the open conversation of going to therapy and mental health. Therapy for Black Girls is one such initiative that helps to lift up, center, and give more understanding to mental health and the connection to spiritual health.
Black Joy Is The Center Black Identity
Black joy is at the center of Black art, Black ideology, Black community, and Black identity. It’s the pulse of survival, perseverance, resilience, and overall health and wellbeing. Some Black historians consider joy to be a superpower in times of injustice. Joy may not be the first thing that people think of in regards to racial justice and police brutality, which have been magnified in the public eye over the last several years. The discussion shifts towards the burdens of being Black and systemic racism. Ultimately, this view doesn’t shine a light on the upside of being a proud member of the African diaspora.
Religious and spiritual practices have been an integral component in Black communities. In spite of racism and discrimination, Black people have fought with secular and religious tools to hold on to human values. Engaging in activism, participating in mental health treatment, and receiving community support also helps people engage and connect with spiritual practices. There’s an affirmation of humanity and love that helps tap into Black joy, which recognizes the ability to overcome impossible feats and face the odds with love.
For this month, many spaces aim to provide a safe haven for dialogue and discussions that identify issues that affect Black communities. There has been a recent awakening about mental and physical health within Black communities, with a new focus on developing healthy lifestyle habits. In addition to maintaining low-cholesterol and low-sodium diets and daily exercise, engaging in therapy and receiving regular medical screenings are also of importance. Opening and continuing the discussion only brings about more awareness and acceptance.
There has never been a better time than now to improve overall health and wellness. With so many resources available, everyone has the opportunity to take control of both their physical and mental health. Continue to strive for excellence and self-improvement and allow education to promote hopefulness.