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We can’t practice mental wellness and peace if all we get is racism, voter suppression and trauma

The “We Won’t Break” conversation on “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” brought specific attention to voter suppression and prioritizing mental health.

Black mental health Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

Inspired by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ successful “State Of Emergency: The State of Black America & Coronavirus” town hall, “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” is a platform that is designed to report news from the perspective of black people for black people.

Thursday night’s (June 11) “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” “We Won’t Break” discussion touched on voter suppression taking place in Georgia, the role of social media, and the impact of racism on the mental and physical of those in Black and brown communities. Hosted by Eboni K. Williams, conversation participants and key speakers ranged from Dr. Jessica Clemons, Councilman Antonio Brown, Dr. Ian Smith, Jeanette Jenkins, ItsBizKit, Shar Bates, and Ryan Wilson.

Williams opens up the conversation with Dr. Jess about the importance of maintaining the connection between your mind, body and spirit during these times. In times of anger, despair, and hopelessness; Dr. Jess recommends recognizing everything that you’re feeling, taking time to rest, and using your community to talk about how you feel. “Don’t keep those feelings bottled up — even if you can’t identify them,” she shares. The doctor continues to speak on the power of breath and the importance of having a meditative practice.

“It’s so important and what I love about it is that it’s something that you can do that doesn’t require some extra person to come around and give you a tool. This is a tool you have access to,” Dr. Jess says.

“I don’t spend enough time in my emotions,” Williams admits. “Sometimes I just work right through it, but then it catches up to me and then I’m not productive.”

The conversation continues with Dr. Jess stressing the importance of maintaining mental health by explaining CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), and encouraging viewers to go back to in-office therapy once the world gets back to normalcy. Before letting her go and on the topic of Charlamagne Tha God’s book “Shook Ones,” Williams asks Dr. Jess to speak from a practical, professional and personal lens about the relationship between being Black in America, racial trauma, and mental health.

The medical professional continues the conversation by explaining Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, as identified by Dr. Joy DeGruy; and how centuries of bondage, excessive force, brutality and the mistreatment of Black people have been trickled down from one generation to another to create this multi-generational traumatic cycle. “We need to know that we’re not making it up and we’re not creating some random s**t. This is real, this has been studied, this is valid and this is legitimate,” Williams adds.

ItsBizKit pops up next for a short selfie-style PSA and gives words of encouragement to let us know that we are loved and someone out there wants to see each of us win — even amidst protests, riots and COVID-19. “At this very moment, you’re receiving this because someone wants to see you win in life. Somebody respects you, somebody appreciates you, I appreciate you,” he says.

Williams comes back to share the roaring headlines for this episode; which included 12 cities across the country and Paris, France formally banning the chokehold by police and Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s older brother, testifying on behalf of his late brother about his leadership. Additionally, the shows “Cops” and “Live PD” have officially been pulled from the air. Many argued the show glamorized law enforcement.

All that programs like ‘Cops’ and ‘Live PD’ have done for so long is amplify that combative nature and really depict a culture where cops are at war with their communities. I can’t imagine anything more destructive,” our host says.

As she continued to share other stories of General Charles Q. Brown, Jr.’s appointment as the military’s first Black service chief, and LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s “More Than a Vote,” Williams turned her attention to voter suppression in Georgia, where voters spoke out about waiting for hours to vote and malfunctioning machines. She recalls a time in her career when she called out current governor Brian Kemp directly about it.

“My advice to the residents of Georgia: Stay committed and keep your foot on the gas. Absolutely, entities will try to make it difficult for our voices to be heard. In fact, they will try to silence us, but we will not be silenced,” Williams adds.

On the topic of voter suppression in Atlanta, next up are The Gathering Spot owner Ryan Wilson, TV personality and journalist Shar Bates, and Councilman Antonio Brown. Bates begins the conversation by saying that what happened at the polls in Atlanta is something that isn’t new.

“There’s no excuse for this,” Wilson chimed in, as he recounted his experience standing in line for two and a half hours in the rain to vote. “Whether that was because people weren’t trained and didn’t know how to work the machines, this to me is about active voter suppression. I don’t buy the argument that anything else was occurring because when you start to blame the lack of training, that lack of training should have existed at every precinct across the entire county, but it didn’t. It existed only where there are Black folks in this city.”

Councilman Brown thinks back to the last time this happened at a larger scale, which was the Georgia governor’s race. Bates admits being one of the people feeling discouraged. “I think that too easily, we give away our vote. Let’s be honest here, guys. The Democrats ain’t do nothing for us, the Republicans ain’t do nothing for us. We have to make them earn our vote. My vote is hip hop,” Bates sounds off. She further encourages her Black and brown people to “call a spade a spade” and realize that they can’t vote like a white person. “You gotta be a warrior to be a Black person to vote,” she closes.

The fire in Councilman Brown’s speech begins to ignite as he reminds the REVOLT audience that conversations like these are bigger than George Floyd and police brutality. “The reality is the communities that I represent, the low-income Black and brown communities in my district, have been poor for four decades — and probably longer than that. I just say four decades because this city has been under Black leadership for over four decades,” he claims.

We can’t have a conversation about mental wellness without speaking about the relationship it has with our bodies. To facilitate that conversation for “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” are physician and fitness enthusiast Dr. Ian Smith, and celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins.

Dr. Smith discloses his passion for fitness in the Black community because he’s always felt that our people were “on the short end of the disparity stick” and he wants to demystify the perception of Black people not wanting to live a healthier lifestyle. For Jenkins, her journey and appreciation for fitness began at the age of 16 when she participated in sports. Though she’s biracial, she experienced racism on the field when peers would yell out, “Cover the Black girl,” but would never say “cover the white girl.” It was in those very moments when she realized that she was different from her team members and competitors.

In response to Jenkins sharing that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the African-American community, as well as precursors like diabetes and obesity, Dr. Smith has no problem holding us accountable. “We have to do better. Yes, they need to be better also, but we have to do a better job at taking care of ourselves,” he says. He clarifies that he is not chastising the Black community, but empowering us.

“What you choose to focus on is exactly what you’re going to live in and that is what you’re going to feel and experience,” Jenkins encourages.

Bringing our focus to nutrition, Dr. Smith pivots to talk about what we’re putting into our bodies. He describes the human body as the “greatest sports car that has ever been built” because it is “fantastic, complicated, resilient, and beautiful.” Keeping the momentum of this analogy moving, he says that like any great sports car, no matter the brand or the make, we have to service it.

“Stress has real physiological impacts,” he says about the disconnect between the mind and the body. From increase in blood pressure and risk of heart disease, Dr. Smith reminds us that our body is our greatest asset, and that taking care of it can be as simple as meditating in the middle of a subway car and having a short period of introspection.

Next up is Stevona Elem-Rogers, the creator of Black Women Are For Grown Ups, who speaks about the importance of self-care. She encourages vulnerability and being vocal, especially Black women, whether it be speaking to a therapist or trusted friend to avoid bottled feelings of fear and guilt. Sonja shares her self-care remedy of setting intentions for the day, while Yasmine Cheyenne amplifies putting herself first and debunking the perception that self-care is selfish.

Talk about timely. During a time when everyone may feel tired and defeated by racial injustice, negative perceptions in the media, unemployment and more, conversations about mental health are essential. Simply opening the door for candid discussions is a step in the right direction for de-stigmatizing mental health and amplifying the level of comfort with one another for mental, emotional and spiritual maintenance. When psychiatrists such as Dr. Jess has live therapy sessions with public figures like Charlamagne Tha God, it wipes the fog from our current perception on mental health and makes it relatable to everyone. Despite everything that the world has thrown at us — from a pandemic to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd — we will not break. We will prevail. Let’s lean on each other for support.

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