WE’RE DYING AND WE’RE HURTING
Written by Terrie M. Williams
The senseless murder of another unarmed Black man has once again ripped open the wounds of a nation. Treated as if we are simultaneously invisible while highly conspicuous, ignored when we are in need and profiled when we are simply proceeding. The attack on the lives of Black men like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, Sean Bell, Abner Louima and Oscar Grant serves as a reminder that Black lives in America are not valued. These not so uncommon instances of police extremism often shatter the trust between law enforcement and the people they are meant to protect. It is Black Pain that is simmering under the surface of this allegedly color blind and post-racist country, it is Black Pain that inspires protests for justice, and it is Black Pain that police in Ferguson are attempting to detain and mask. Treating our fellow Americans as anything less than human, undermines the principles we fought for as a nation during the civil rights era.
We’ve seen this over and over again, where police brutality, directed primarily toward Black men, often renders the community, collectively and individually, into an extreme state of shock…it effects our men, our women and our children. According to Dr. Dawn M. Porter, a Board Certified Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, the trauma that can result from these repeated experiences can lend itself to the development of a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which all too often goes unnamed and untreated. An inability to deal with the stress of witnessing blatant injustice of this magnitude, can cause people to act out of unresolved trauma and erupt in rage and anger often in response to a complete sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Whether you witnessed the murder of Michael Brown, saw the sketches of his bullet riddled body or listened to the circumstances surrounding his death (his body was left in the streets for 4 hours and then shuttled away in an SUV-an ambulance was never called), we have all been deeply scarred by the unnecessary death of this young man and others like him.
The extraordinary events taken place in the past week have re-opened many wounds and has raised a lot of questions. Are we valued in our own communities? What do we do and where do we go with the pain we are experiencing? How do we begin to heal as a people, as a community, and finally as a nation from such trauma?
The reality is, it is impossible to experience a trauma of this nature and go about our daily lives as if we didn’t just witness and experience the pain of watching the death of another unarmed brother go thus far unpunished. As you begin to deal with your reaction to this tragedy, use the strategies I provided two years ago in EBONY.com when Trayvon Martin was killed.
Seek Help: Consider reaching out to a professional counselor or therapist to help you process what you feel. There is no shame in getting help. I find that therapy is the gift that keeps on giving. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and process heartbreaking situations like this. Counseling can be a necessary lifeline. We cannot be or breathe properly if we don’t release the unresolved pain, wounds, scars and trauma of our childhoods. We cannot be all that God has called us to be. The trauma of racism is accompanied by post-traumatic stress disorder for many and a great, hidden sense of pain for most.
Redefine “Strength”: We often confuse being “strong” with being silent. True strength lies in knowing when to ask for help, when to let the tears flow, when you are overwhelmed. The death of Michael Brown is one that has taken a great toll on our collective psyches… no time for silence. Be strong enough to be proactive in healing your heart as you work to seek justice.
Shake a Hand, Make a Friend: Make eye contact with someone passing by, smile and say “hello”… you may be the first person who made such a gesture towards them today. Many of us are walking around in need of love, support and communion with our fellow man and tragedies make that even more critical.
Fight the Power: Channel your rage and anguish over the verdict effectively and get involved with local/national efforts to fight for justice for Michael Brown. Participating in rallies/protests will allow you to connect with others who are feeling the same way as you, but don’t stop there. If you aren’t already, get politically engaged! Hold politicians accountable and help your friends/family do the same.
Say “I Love You”: Tomorrow is never promised and there are grieving family members who will never have the chance to put arms around their beloved son again. In the midst of our anguish over the loss of a young man most of us never met, we must remember to show love to the people in our lives right now, while we can.
I encourage everyone to read my book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, to fully understand ourselves as a community.
EDC Creations has reprinted this article with the written permission of Terrie M. Williams. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher, The Terrie Williams Agency.
Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting
Terrie Williams knows that Black people are hurting. She knows because she’s one of them.
Terrie had made it: she had launched her own public relations company with such clients as Eddie Murphy and Johnnie Cochran. Yet she was in constant pain, waking up in terror, overeating in search of relief. For thirty years she kept on her game face of success, exhausting herself daily to satisfy her clients’ needs while neglecting her own.
Terrie finally collapsed, staying in bed for days. She had no clue what was wrong or if there was a way out. She had hit rock bottom and she needed and got help.
She learned her problem had a name — depression — and that many suffered from it, limping through their days, hiding their hurt. As she healed, her mission became clear: break the silence of this crippling taboo and help those who suffer.
Black Pain identifies emotional pain — which uniquely and profoundly affects the Black experience — as the root of lashing out through desperate acts of crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, workaholism, and addiction to shopping, gambling, and sex. Few realize these destructive acts are symptoms of our inner sorrow.
Black people are dying. Everywhere we turn, in the faces we see and the headlines we read, we feel in our gut that something is wrong, but we don’t know what it is. It’s time to recognize it and work through our trauma.
In Black Pain, Terrie has inspired the famous and the ordinary to speak out and mental health professionals to offer solutions. The book is a mirror turned on you. Do you see yourself and your loved ones here? Do the descriptions of how the pain looks, feels, and sounds seem far too familiar? Now you can do something about it.
Stop suffering. The help the community needs is here: a clear explanation of our troubles and a guide to finding relief through faith, therapy, diet, and exercise, as well as through building a supportive network (and eliminating toxic people).
Black Pain encourages us to face the truth about the issue that plunges our spirits into darkness, so that we can step into the healing light.
Black Pain Book Reviews
“Black Pain is just the conversation starter that we need to begin tackling the taboo topic of depression. Out of the discussion comes the healing.”
– Tavis Smiley, Author, Television Personality and Radio Host
“Black Pain is an immensely readable and down-to-earth book. It will motivate black people who suffer with depression in silence to seek help. This book shines a bright light on the darkness of despair”
– Alvin F. Poussaint, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
“Black Pain shines a spotlight on the issue, getting the message out that we must identify, understand, and seek the help we need to heal.”
– Danny Glover, Actor/Activist
“It boldly confronts the reality of our pain head on, flowing like hot lyrics over the perfect beat.”
– Sean “Diddy” Combs
“Black Pain shows us that it is time that we all talk about our depression and fight with the same vigor that we fight to achieve racial justice.”
– Charles Ogletree
“Black Pain shows us how to recognize that depression that may be hidden away and deal with it. It pushes us to give a voice to the pain without passing it on to others.”
– Patti LaBelle
“Terrie dares to bring out what so many have not had the courage to confront, having learned that you can never heal until you expose what hurts you. Black Pain is an opportunity to reach your breakthrough moment.”
– Rev. Al Sharpton
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terrie M. Williams is a communications strategist, mental health activist, the author of “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting” and co-founder of The New Legacy Leaders Project. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @terriewilliams
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