As we come to wrap up another Black History Month---the first one after the immense, yet delayed magnification of the Black Lives Matter movement and more blatant display of systemic biases in 2020---many have proclaimed a well deserved change. The change is declaring that Black History is not confined to one month. Sticking to one month is a constant minimization of the joy, celebration, and healing that Black people need. One month doesn't put a dent in the exploration of ancestral experiences and generational blessings and traumas. Yet, we each have a responsibility to create this change and consistently honor the black history that we, as black people, are creating today, that our ancestors created in the past, and that the next generations will create in the future.
My way of consistently honoring my Black culture is to stop denying, minimizing, ignoring, and neglecting my own desires. Some call it a form of self-care. Specialization or niche are terms consistently used in the therapy world to clearly define the problem, for which one passionately desires to address and provide solutions. It's sort of a 'pick your sport' type of decision. After one picks their sport or niche, it's then time to make a decision regarding the population, with which one is passionate about addressing the problem. This is sort of a "choose your team" type of decision. To make both of those decisions is to communicate clarification of what has your time, your energy, your focus, and your investment. My sport or niche is trauma recovery to lead to the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships and the empowerment of breaking generational and systemic cycles. My team or population is Current, Former, and Future Black Collegiate and Professional Athletes and Coaches.
I was recently asked "Why Black Athletes?," and it indicated to me the education that is still not out there about Athletic Mental Health and Black Mental Health, as well as the value of choosing your specialty (or sport) to produce greater results. Of course, I answered this question, initially with poise, but my assertive and unapologetic side was about to awaken.
Why not Black Athletes?
The heaviness of our history has, for lack of better words, messed us up mentally. For the longest, we have watched our history be denied, manipulated, ignored, and neglected. Because our identity is birthed from our history, we are taught to do the same with our identity. Specializing in serving black athletes is personally my way of not contributing to that part of the system that tells me I have to continue to deny the obvious. To acknowledge the totality of the identity of the Black Athlete is to honor the complexities in stressors, challenges, triumphs, and accomplishments.
So you really only work with Black Athletes?
My private practice is inclusive, but my focus, my speciality is exclusive. I invest time and energy on learning more and more ways in which power and peace can rise from trauma in a way that reflects resiliency and healing in relationships and generational cycles, and in wellness for Black Athletes.
What's your Why?
Serving Black Athletes is honoring the legacy of the men and women in my life who have God-given, athletic talent that transformed the trajectory of my life. Serving Black Athletes is honoring the little girl in me whose athletic career was undesirably short lived. Serving the Black Athlete is creating space not just for the oppressed parts of Black History, but the parts that reflect Leadership, Freedom, and Royalty. Serving Black Athletes is honoring the voices that have been muted by boosters, team owners, coaches, and other sports professionals that couldn’t care less about the Black skin underneath the jersey. Serving Black Athletes is to shine a light on the dark spaces that inhabit the mind and heart of Black Athletes, who are dealing with internal battles and are unsure if and how to confront them.
Serving Black Athletes is to model what operating within your passion and purpose looks like. Serving Black Athletes means exposing and challenging the narrative that we as Black people are limited to athleticism and manual labor to entertain the masses and build tables so that the more privileged can eat. Serving Black Athletes means reinforcing and acknowledging the ways to win in all areas and overcome the hurdles and opponents that we have been taught to surrender to. Serving Black Athletes means changing the system for Black, Athletic, and Therapeutic Cultures. Within all of those cultures, collectively and individually, accessing and delivering mental wellness services in a way that works best for client and clinician has been stigmatized, labeled, and criticized.
Many have questioned why serving athletes is a need, yet we all have mental health, and Athletes have to put their minds to work just as much, if not more, than their physical bodies. Black Athletes need a level of authenticity in a world where exploitation and manipulation exists. Serving Black Athletes means to marry my gifts and skills. Serving Black Athletes means to directly and unapologetically confront internal and external challenges to empower Black Athletes to be the leaders within their families, communities, chosen sport(s), and teams and organizations to graduate to a level of healing to model for all..This is what a League of Healed Black Athletes looks like! Let's write a different narrative.
What's Your Why?