I’ve expanded my understanding of how people use their suffering, particularly in Black mental wellness, to find meaning in their lives. Humanity has creatively used this to effect social change and improve collective wellbeing. At Intentional Simplicity LLC, we encourage exploring different perspectives on social systems, including personal, relational, and institutional, which contribute to harmful realities. By acknowledging and addressing these realities, we can enhance the human experience, creative process, and inclusive communities.
How does black history impact black mental wellness?
A few months ago I explored an article on David Drake, an enslaved ceramic artist/poet gave clairty to the individual experiences of slavery. The author’s inclusion of the antebellum social climate and construct determined the dehumanization of Africans based on social hierarchies and
skills. David’s identity and social standing depended on his natural talents and gifts as an (enslaved) African American man. I noticed that the gender, intellectual, and spiritual beliefs impacted the comparison and identification of ceramic work. The inclusion of African archetypes enhanced the legacy of the artist DAVE and of ceramics. The spiritual beliefs of African ethnic groups determined the communities social hierarchy rather than the oppressors identification labels.
The belief that African women were likely to be beautiful potters was carried through the cultural lineage. Qualities and energies given from earth are in line with the magic of the blacksmiths during this time, thus making a potter and a blacksmith a tremendous creative force.
The belief that blacksmiths and goldsmiths are both gifts to a community is affirmed by the earth’s element, fire.
Exploring encrypted messages in the lyrics of negro spirituals was highly interesting to me. The primary vehicle of communication was music for enslaved African Americans. There were various reasons for this, but the most impactful is the toleration of music by enslavers. This was a
safe way of building community without causing physical harm to the plantation workers. Decoding the encrypted messages is a form of creative problem solving and thinking. The legacy of these spiritual folk or traditional songs is highly biblical. The Underground Railroad was lined with themes of safety and communication from one neighboring community to another. The power of music spread across the south, thus showing the ripple effects of sound and affirmative linguistics as creative intelligence, black mental wellness, and social belonging. Singing was the closest form of expressing what could not be said.
Additionally, the collective belonging and connection built by suffering are psychological forms of shifting paradigms and creating social revolutions. Watkins (2019) is a beautiful example of enhancing communities’ mental and cultural health and individuals struggling to heal
from oppressive systems, tragic events, and trauma-based experiences. The impact that social constructs can have on marginalized communities, Wagener (1989) described the dress reform in Western Europe in the 1830s as physical and mental bonds of women’s clothing. Brands that created women’s clothing focused on healthful garments to support motherhood. Corsets were considered the chief enemy of health. They were criticized continuously by female physicians, sports enthusiasts, and artists who saw the health and
psychological conditioning of the standard body shape to be harmful.
As a person with intellectual disabilities, my needs are not visible to others. Creating spaces that are psychologically safe and considerate of my cultural sphere requires me to vocalize my neurodiversity through creativity and self-affirmation. As a pioneer in my practice, advocating
for human rights puts my lived experiences at the forefront of my purpose.
Five Ways to Intentionally Celebrate Black History as a Black Person
1) Set boundaries around what documentaries and movies about Black history, cultural figures, and events you consume. Our linked fate creates a physiological response to what we are viewing.
2) Attend wellness and compassion-based local events and activities that honor Black people today.
3) Spend time honoring your identity and expression go black culture. Being you is not always easy. How can you show yourself some love and appreciation for being alive?
4) Take part in healthy and progressive conversations about black mental wellness and black history. Your friends, family, and a colleague are not experiencing the same world as you are, so take charge of how you want to show up. You deserve to feel comfortable, grounded, and empowered about your future.
5) Locate, research, and support black-owned businesses and organizations dedicated to preserving and celebrating the truth of black people.
Reminder: Black people are not invisible. By honoring the souls in your community, you create space to see people for who they are and not simply based on their skin color. There are black people in the past and black people in the future. Make room for connection.
David Drake, enslaved ceramic artist and poet.de Groft, Aaron (1998). Eloquent vessels/poetics of power: The heroic stoneware of Dave the Potter.Race and Ethnicity in American Material Life. 33 (4), 249-260.