Arts Activism, Creativity and Social Responsibility

As creatives do we have a responsibility to address social justice? If so, what does it mean to be an artist and activist? What does this work look like and how does it ? impact  our work, our communities and cultural and educational institutions? These are just some of the questions being asked, pondered and answered by artists. Clearly with our institutions under threat by the new administration we
have much to ponder as we move forward.

 

Creating our art under the new administration will  surely test our resolve and demand commitment to addressing social justice. It will demand artists have the courage to address these attacks on our art. Attacks that threaten  and attempt to silence opposing viewpoints. Social justice art demands that we continue and not
cower in our support for the marginalized and disenfranchised. Understanding that we are in this together. There is the real possibility of being targeted, bullied, ostracized and boycotted. This is not a new concept , artists have encountered these since the beginning of time.

I’ll tell you what this movement does not need, that is stage activists. Activists on
stage, yet silent when off stage.  Needed are artists activists on the ground in our communities doing the work, when the cameras are not flashing.  Artists must
continue to be the light burning bright, encouraging and inspiring.  Author and human rights activists James Baldwin said it best. “Artists are here to disturb the peace.”  An illusionary peace rooted in injustice and privilege for the few.

 

© Copyright Lorraine Currelley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Self Care Is Not An Option!

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Are you taking the needed time to self care? Do you feel as though you’re on an unending escalator unable to get off? Are you experiencing  burnout, exhaustion, trauma or depression? Articles and discussions center on burnout, exhaustion, depression and stress. Depression and anxiety resulting from  the state of this country’s affairs has become a norm.  Many speak of skipping or forgetting to eat.  Still others speak of having difficulty sleeping. It’s never okay to skip meals and not to sleep! Individuals traumatized by assaults on our humanity  and well being by this administration. While, being vigilant we must take care to not allow these unrelenting poisonous assaults to inhabit our spirit and affect our well being. Whether  living our daily lives or addressing social justice issues, we must  take care to protect ourselves. Self care is not a sign of weakness. Healthy bodies cannot survive without care. We must do everything possible to protect our health. Self care demands that we step away from our activities to rest, re-energize, relax and return renewed. We cannot be of service to anyone, if we are not well ourselves. Self care is not an option!

Ways to Keep Healthy:

Get sleep.

Do not isolate yourself.
Remember, there is still beauty and love in the world. Embrace it!
Do those things that bring you joy.
Surround yourself with those you love, like and respect.
Laugh.
Dance.
Listen to music and sing along.
Pray and meditate. Keep your spirit and heart fed.
Take a break from social media and online debates.
Check in on each other.
Share a meal. Organize a potluck.
If physically able, take a walk and enjoy nature. Sit by the water.
Be still. Clear your mind. Repeat a mantra of your choosing.
In a crisis? Speak with a professional and/or someone you trust.
Are you an artist? Create.
Take a well deserved break. Have a me day.
Eat properly. Your body deserves good nutrition.

©Lorraine Currelley  01/30 /2017. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Phyliss Harrison Ross Dies at

28ross-obit-superjumboDr. Phyllis Harrison-Ross, a pioneering black pediatrician, psychiatrist, prison monitor and mental health administrator, died on Jan. 16 in Manhattan. She was 80.

The cause was lung cancer, Elinor Tatum, her goddaughter and the publisher of The New York Amsterdam News, said.

Dr. Harrison-Ross was a ubiquitous presence in the mental health field in New York and nationally for more than 35 years. She was an early leader in designing rehabilitation and therapy for children with a combination of severe developmental, emotional and physical disabilities.

She was also at the forefront of promoting teleconferencing to bridge gaps between doctors and patients, and what is known as televisiting, to link inmates in prisons in rural parts of upstate New York to their families in New York City and other urban areas.

From 1973 to 1999, Dr. Harrison-Ross directed the Community Mental Health Center at Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem and was the hospital’s chief of psychiatry.

She helped form the New York City Federation of Mental Health,Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services in 1975; was president of the Black Psychiatrists of America from 1976 to 1978; and was chairwoman of the New York City Directors of Psychiatry in Municipal Hospitals in the late 1980s. In 2000, she founded the Black Psychiatrists of Greater New York & Associates.

Dr. Harrison-Ross served on President Richard M. Nixon’s National Advisory Council for Drug Abuse Prevention and the New York State Commission of Correction and was chairwoman of the commission’s Medical Review Board. She recently said that since 1976, she had reviewed the deaths of thousands of people in state and local custody.

After the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she mustered her colleagues to provide interfaith disaster services and became the volunteer president of All Healers Mental Health Alliance, which seeks to organize long-term responses to mental health needs that arise from natural and man-made disasters.

Dr. Harrison-Ross was also an emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral health services at the New York Medical College. She wrote numerous articles and two books: “Getting It Together,” a textbook for junior and senior high school students, and, with Barbara Wyden, “The Black Child: A Parents’ Guide.” Of “The Black Child,” The New York Times Book Review said, “Everyone can learn something from this book.”

Phyllis Anne Harrison was born on Aug. 14, 1936, in Detroit to Harold Jerome Harrison, a teacher who became deputy superintendent of the Detroit public school system, and the former Edna Smith, a social worker and professor at Wayne State University.

She was accepted to Albion College in Michigan when she was 15 and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1956. Three years later, she was the only black woman in the graduating class of Wayne State University’s College of Medicine.

Her husband, Edgar Lee Ross, died in 1996. No immediate family members survive.

Last July, she was featured in an article in The Times about issues facing older people when they move to smaller living quarters. She had lived in the same large apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for 48 years.

Dr. Harrison-Ross trained as a pediatrician and as a psychiatrist, interning at Bronx Municipal Hospital and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. There she helped develop therapeutic programs for multiply handicapped preschool children at what is now known as the Rose F. Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. New York officials replicated the programs statewide.

In 2004, she received the American Psychiatric Association’s Solomon Carter Fuller Award for African-American Pioneers.

Mental Health and The Black Community

903439_525008154243922_562500589_o (1) (1) (1)The use of professional mental health resources is growing in the Black community. Traditionally this was considered a sign of weakness and the inability to handle your business. It was also frowned upon and looked at as a family betrayal, a disclosing of family secrets and information. You were digging up dirt, dirt that was better left buried. Besides, It wasn’t anyone’s business what went on in your home behind closed doors. It was family business and definitely not to be shared with outsiders. Dealing and coping with family dysfunction was a family matter and mental health professionals eyed with suspicion. If someone decided to seek treatment, they grilled the clinician. Here are some of the questions potential clients asked clinicians. Why are you asking me all of these questions? Who put you up to this? What is my information being used for? Will you share my information with my family or others? Sometimes they were asked outright, what business is it of yours?

There is historical justification for suspicion. Medical Institutions and social services agencies have a reputation for being other than professional and trustworthy when it comes to Blacks, people of color and the poor. Blacks have a history of being treated as intellectual inferiors, children incapable of understanding and without respect. Blacks were literally told to sign documents without benefit of reading and threatened or documented as difficult. Some Blacks did not question these so-called authority figures. Some believed these persons “knew better” or could possibly threaten their livelihoods or freedom. Records and malpractices are documented in such books as Medical Apartheid, The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present By Harriet A. Washington and Bad Blood The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment -A Tragedy Of Race and Medicine By James H. Jones.

The old mythology, stigma, suspicion and shame have changed along with attitudes. Blacks are proactive in their healthcare and informed. The Black community is now recognizing the value and need of this much needed service. In addition, the face of mental health is changing as more Blacks and students of color enter this field. Blacks and people of color are also seeking out clinicians of color. Persons  who they feel can relate, identify with them and their experiences.

We do ourselves a service to have support teams in place. Individuals we respect and trust. Persons we share our thoughts and concerns with, in a safe and supportive environment.These individuals can be but are not exclusive to mental professionals. For example, a close friend, clergy, support group or nationally certified or accredited hotline. Remember, to choose wisely! Some issues and behaviors require a mental health trained professional. If you believe this is the case ask your family physician for a referral.

Every individual seeking treatment or mandated to seek treatment should be prepared with questions for the clinician. It is the patients right and responsibility as a service to themselves, to actively participate in their care. The job of the therapist is not to dictate, deliver monologues nor make decisions for clients.The job of the clinician is to assist clients in achieving his or her goals. You have a right and responsibility to seek out the best care. If you are uncomfortable with your clinician, you have a right to seek out a new clinician. Your wellness depends on the client and clinician communication and partnership. Please read Mental Health Conditions below.

© copyright 2011/2015  Lorraine Currelley. All Rights Reserved.

Lorraine Currelley, MS, MHC, CT

National Alliance for Mental Illness

What is a mental health condition? A mental illness is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood may affect and his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.

Recovery, including meaningful roles in social life, school and work, is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.

A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, interlinking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle combine to influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits as well as basic brain structure may play a role too.

Recovery and Wellness
What are some of the statistics and facts for mental health conditions? 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. 1 in 20 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to the person directly experiencing by a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected. 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may mimic or mask symptoms of a mental health condition. Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.  – See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions#sthash.lOtJouaM.KmSpwd7C.dpuf

– See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions#sthash.lOtJouaM.dpuf

The Difficulty in Recognizing PTSD in Black Women

“Black women, in particular, are generally perceived to be stronger than most other groups. It’s a kind of stereotype that so many of us have bought into. “Never let them see you cry or sweat,” used to be my mantra. Nevermind that I needed to cry, that my heart was about as soft as they come, that my sensitivity was part of who I was authentically and was meant to be gift not the curse I’d made it out to be; that I’d allowed people to tell me it was. Janie, in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Are Watching God” explained it like this: “Black women are the mules of the world.” Mules carry everything on their backs. As much as folks can pile on, a mule will hold it all steady and push that weight along the path. So many of us all too often carry not just our own weights but the weights of others. But because we do so wearing the flyest white coat a la Olivia Pope or huge, albeit fake, smiles, no one believes that we are hurting.”