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‘Historically, African Americans have not had the luxury of self-care’

Black History forum focuses on mental health

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE  ̶   In celebration of Black History Month, the African American Intercultural Congregational Support Ministries will host the first of three forums to give participants an opportunity to go into an in-depth conversation around the topics of resistance, rest, recovery and reparations, which are the supporting pillars of the theme of the 2022 celebration, “Resiliency to Recovery.”

The forum will be held at 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, Feb. 10, and can be watched on the PC(USA) Facebook page. Click here to join the forum.

The forum speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery, the pastor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. She is particularly passionate about healing the wounds of religion and dismantling racism and is a strong advocate for social justice.

Avery will focus the conversation on the question, “A badge of service, sacrifice, or self-care?”

The Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery

“Historically, African Americans have not had the luxury of self-care,” Avery said. “The harsh demands of slavery and systemic racism taught us well how to survive, rise above our current circumstances with strength, and always, always, always look out for one another. What a marvelous legacy, one that has served us well, but is it time to reframe some of these lessons? What can we learn from the resilience of our ancestors about service, sacrifice, and self-care in 2022?”

She will discuss how taking care of ourselves mentally, emotionally and spiritually is the best way to honor the lessons, service and sacrifices of our ancestors.

“It’s time we take a serious look at the badge(s) we choose to wear. Perhaps it’s time to change it and move from survival skills to coping skills and, ultimately, to thriving skills,” she said.

The Rev. Michael Moore, associate for African American Intercultural Congregational Support, says that health and health care disparities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) that have been exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic make mental health and wellness a priority.

“While these forums are being held during Black History Month, we’re highlighting these issues because Black history is so much more and goes far beyond the month of February and the typical one-day worship service held each year at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) headquarters,” Moore said. “It’s critical that in addition to the members’ spiritual health, the church address the physical and mental well-being and wellness of its members. We have to look at the whole person.”

Although African Americans make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population, they account for one in three people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and are 3.7 times more likely to succumb to COVID-related deaths than white people are. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that African Americans are dying at about twice the rate of other races.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, African Americans are experiencing trauma and mental health issues for many different reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reasons include:

  • Anxiety from not being able to follow stay-at-home recommendations to protect themselves from COVID-19 due to their job situation.
  • Separation from friends and family, especially those who are sick or in the hospital.
  • Grief over the loss of friends and family members.
  • Emotional stress of close living situations and finding care for children out of school.
  • Financial stress of health care costs, job loss and more.

“We pray that the pride we feel during Black History Month will encourage BIOPC to pay attention to those practices that are embedded in cultures that are passed down through generations that naturally provide resiliency and healing,” said Moore.


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