CMHA celebrates Black History Month
As an agency, is it important to celebrate the diversity within our greatest asset and the foundation of our organization’s strength – our employees.
Recently, we had asked Trish – a full-time mental health worker, to provide her perspective on what Black History Month means to her. Please see below to read of her experiences. We wish to thank Trish for her willingness to express her thoughts, and allowing us to share on our website:
“I think for me this movement really gained steam after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Sadly, the pandemic is overshadowing everything right now and people are struggling with their own fears and anxieties with relation to the pandemic. For BIPOC people, our anxieties and fears are magnified. Sadly, it is a scary world that we live in right now and although we are crying out for and demanding justice, we still are not being heard as police officers responsible for shooting black people are not being put in jail or being criminally charged. Instead we are seeing graphic videos of what is happening and no justice or end to the madness. The recent riot on Capitol Hill further escalated my fears as the United States is close to home, and now finally the Far Right groups in Canada are being labelled as Terrorist organizations.
I participated in the BLM march that occurred in London on Saturday June 6, 2020 along with some of our CMHA colleagues. I was shocked and amazed at how the city and surrounding areas came together in an outpouring of love and outcries for justice. I was silenced by the overwhelming feelings that took over me that day. I felt pride and fear all at the same time and at times was moved to tears. I was called out by some people who couldn’t understand why I would participate in this march in the middle of a pandemic. My response to them was that I took the necessary precautions and was tired of being silent against the ongoing injustice towards the BIPOC community. People say they are tired of hearing about BLM but we are tired of having to defend ourselves and being discriminated against.
Black History Month to me has always been a month of learning. I was never taught about Black History growing up in school and so I took it upon myself every February to purchase a novel written by a black author so I can learn and understand people’s experiences. I am biracial and the black side of my family does not talk openly about what they have experienced growing up and coming from Jamaica to Canada. They don’t talk about their traumas and sweep everything under the carpet. Anytime I ask my older relatives about their life or past, I am shut down. So I have had to take it upon myself to learn and my generation is starting to speak up and have a voice. I have had painful and difficult conversations with my younger cousins with explaining the rules of how to behave when pulled over by the police. I graduated from a college program where I was the only black female in my class and the comments that surrounded that were of pride but also set me apart because I was black and had accomplished this.
I have lived in London my whole life and have often struggled with my identity. People often ask me if I am Indigenous, Spanish, or Lebanese, and I am none of these. I was raised by a white mother whose father is from Germany and mother is from England. My father is from Jamaica and migrated to Canada as a young boy with 7 sisters. Growing up, I was expected to be a good dancer, a good singer, and to be good at basketball by my peers because I was black. I was good at these things but had to work hard! I did not have any black role models to look up to and often was the only black student in my class. Because of how I was brought up by my mom, I talk differently than the Jamaican side of my family and often struggle to fit in with them or understand them. To the white side of my family, I often have to defend my desires to travel to Africa or my Jamaican culture. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to embrace both my white side and my black side and can easily be a chameleon and change to what I need to be in that moment depending on who I am around. I am cautious and aware of who I can discuss BLM with and who I cannot. It’s hard to understand if you have not walked in someone’s shoes and know what it’s like to view the world from their eyes.”
According to the Black Health Alliance website:
- Black Ontarians of Caribbean descent experience 2 times the delay in accessing evidence-based services than individuals of white European descent
- Black Ontarians experience higher rates of restraint and confinement while under the care of the mental health and addictions system
- People of Caribbean, East and West African origin in Ontario are at a 60 per cent increased risk of psychosis
Currently, there is limited research on how stigma affects mental health within the Black community and affects access to services, especially when living with experiences of racism, sexism, and ageism. The lack of race-based data, as well as the absence of culturally appropriate services and resources that specifically target Black communities within Canada, result in many people struggling alone and in silence.
Interested in learning more for #BlackHistoryMonth? Check out these provincial organizations: http://bit.ly/3cm16Ts