Healing is never complete until we have been truly heard.  May the universe send you someone who will sincerely care to listen.  Anthon St. Maarten

Dr. Bravada Garrett-Akinsanya, President and CEO of Brakins Consulting and Psychological Services and founder of the African American Child Wellness Institute (AACWI), a mental health agency, focuses her research and work around the promotion of the psychological and spiritual liberation of children of African descent and their families. Our newly elected President and Vice President, with unprecedented layers of critical mayhem creeping out-of-control in a divided nation, know with utmost certainty that if decent, kind, compassionate, faithful, and hopeful citizens don’t step forward to support our children while taking ‘self’ out of the equation, we will lose yet one more generation. 

Several weeks ago, a distinguished group of individuals in the civil rights, media, law, consulting, clinical psychology, and mental health arenas (The Urban League’s ‘Real Talk’ and “Conversations with Al McFarlane” co-hosted with AACWI) came together to shed light on realities and truths they believe must change.  Convener, Urban League president, Steve Belton, began by inquiring of the guests as to their feelings and those of Black community leaders and residents regarding the upcoming trial where unbiased jurors have been hard to come by.  When the 27-million-dollar award to the family was announced, the response of some was if they have paid that amount of money in a wrongful death civil suit before the criminal case has even been heard, then that must mean the white police officer is guilty.  Yet, the history of the law in black and white tells a different tale.

Attorney A.L. Brown detailed what he believed would be the basic premises of the defendant’s attorney who will continue to maintain that the venue and the city’s prejudicial and fearful mindset not wanting to experience another uprising will never lend itself to a fair trial.  “The attorney will say police officers have a tough job; that the area is tough and dangerous.  He will contend all the things some segments of society believe about Black people are true.  This man is a hero who just got caught up in a horrible space.  He doesn’t feel great about this.  It’s tragic for everyone.  We’ve all been ripped apart. And remember, Mr. Floyd had a record and the toxicology report revealed he had drugs in his system.  No one really wins.”   

Whatever we can give of our talents and resources, parents, educators, and the disenfranchised must be a starting point to begin the healing process, no matter what.  And with the devastating and negatively impactful past year which appears to be repeating itself in the new year, a key component of that process is holding ourselves accountable for our wellness - our physical, emotional, and mental health so we can be strong enough to be teachers of the lessons we hear our ancestors reminding us from whence we have come and from Whom we have come from; of our resilience and gratitude in surviving a deadly pandemic, having shameful truths of inequities in almost every aspect of life unearthed, fearless in raising our voices for change and a level playing field.  ‘It’s gonna get rough.  It’s gonna be tough.  But we’ve had enough!’ No longer willing to stand on the sidelines watching how the ‘other half’ has and continues to live.    

Al McFarlane, host of “Conversations with Al McFarlane” believes there are two general themes of sentiment permeating the Black communities regarding the trial.  “There is a sense of hope that justice will prevail; that Minneapolis can and will deliver fairness, honesty, and a result that reflects true justice has taken place.  Then there’s this suspicion; an undercurrent of fear that it would be business as usual where there might be a general unwillingness to prosecute aggressively and effectively to get a guilty verdict in the case.  “Don’t be upset if you don’t get the verdict you want because we are in Minnesota,” a few of my associates warned.”

“I’m going to believe Attorney General Keith Ellison is going to deliver the best   case possible as will the representation of the defendant. Genuine jurisprudence inclusive of an ethical responsibility and quality examples of how the legal system can and should work will prevail.  I’m going to continue to talk about; to write about; and to present other writers and artistic creators who envision, as I do, narratives about our healed world where everybody wins,” McFarlane said.   

Steve Belton said there are two messages that cannot be ignored.  In the light of the case of the shooting by Black police officer, Mohamed Noor of 40 year-old Australian-American, Justine Damond in 2017, just weeks after a high-profile manslaughter trial acquittal in the 2016 police shooting of Philando Castile, the Black man, whether officer of the law, or apprehended suspect, would be held accountable, as is the same with George Floyd, and be demonized.  The second message is just as clear.  The state of Minnesota has never successfully prosecuted a white police for killing an unarmed Black man.  The stakes are high with so many explosive implications and possible outcomes while still amid a pandemic that has yet to loosen its grip entirely, he said.

Brandi Powell is an anchor/reporter at KSTP-TV (ABC affiliate) known for her breaking and often difficult news reporting and feature stories. “When journalists must craft stories in tough times like these, we have to be able to hear from people we don’t normally hear from.  With this profound feeling of strength, hope, and inspiration, I want to show Black people in a light that depicts the beauty of the Black experience, that which is presented in our wisdom, our resilience, our power, and all inherent in our being.  White families will admit they haven’t talked to their children about current issues that have changed their world.  I believe all voices must be heard.  What did we learn in the first unrest?  What are the people’s expectations?”

McFarlane added, “I am a journalist on a mission - seeking to understand, report, elevate, protect, and project positive outcomes and possibilities for Black people with the belief that intent set in that arena means success for all people.  How do we tell the full story when the one crafted so far is filled with lies and errors and mistruths and intended deceptions in an effort to create a narrative that has permanently disadvantaged people of color in general, Blacks in particular?”

Dr. B, as she is affectionately called, asked, “What are our priorities through and after the Chauvin trial?  Might I suggest claiming our wellness by becoming aware of our bodies and exploring the things we can do to improve and appreciate our person; exercising our minds; and tending to our spirits.  We should do all we can to get all these things in alignment and centered.  Say different and more positive things to yourself.  Create a space and a time of peace.  We must remember the floors scrubbed; the hills climbed; the shoulders we stand on; and the pain that has been passed on from generation to generation.  Let it stop.  In so many ways we are in a better position as a people than we were before.  We now have an opportunity to teach our children and ourselves to fight in a way and love in a way that sends the message ‘I can be pro-Black without being anti-white.  I can love me without hating you.  But we will insist on power, wealth, and opportunity being shared, and there must be an acknowledgement that we are wounded; we are sad; and we are angry, but that doesn’t make us weak.  The traumas of violence, loss, an uncertain future for self and family, and a show of blatant hatred gives us permission to ask for help.  We are in mourning.”   

When Belton opened the joint programming of “Conversations” and “Real Talk”, he reminded us all that 30 years ago right down the street from U.S.C. where my oldest daughter had been blessed with a full athletic scholarship, riots broke out after four white police officers were acquitted for brutally beating Rodney King, an unarmed Black man.  She had just begun to recover from Skinheads confronting her along with a few other Black and Latino students in the hallway of her high school where students had just celebrated a state championship in Track and Field, the first in 10 years.  Instead of a nervous breakdown brought on by the stress of how I was going to get my child out of L.A. and out of danger while Molotov cocktails flew over the university’s outside gates, the swelling of hives in my throat brought me to the brink of almost taking my last breath. I shut down and knew it would be a while before I could write this story.  What happened to me was what Dr. B. refers to as a ‘trauma trigger’; re-traumatizing; anticipatory grief and fear. The trauma continued for my children most of their adolescent and young adult lives, and it lives with many of our youth of color today who have faced an unprecedented jarring in their daily lives in which some cannot talk about; in which many have internalized; and in which parents have no coping skills in order to address the needs of their family.

“Our children have seen times when they witnessed their parents go through the grief just hours after they themselves had been attacked or bullied.  Racial trauma in our community is such an early education for Black kids learned through experience.  They are very aware of our voice tones, our body language, and our moods.  We must instill in ourselves and in our children that we possess the ability to change things for the better.  Part is our truth, and the other part is our challenge; a challenge to strive for wellness as we learn to dig deep into our spirit, our soul, and our lineage remembering our heritage being one of a people who have overcome; who continuously found ways out of no way; and who eventually broke those plexiglass ceilings,” said Dr. B.

Regarding the trial where Minneapolis and the law are on center stage, a top political figure probably said it best but in terms unacceptable by the opposition.  No matter the verdict, the aftermath, the reforms, the dialogue with opened doors, there will still be those who will try and find a way to shut them.  The culture will not change soon and that’s a sad misfortune, especially for our children and grandchildren.  I just don’t get it.  When I watched the video over and over again, I could only think without a doubt that this was murder.  It was deep seated hatred, and no amount of money can ever right that wrong.  Only justice can begin to heal those wounds.

In closing and when asked if he hoped justice would be served, Attorney Brown gave a potent response.  “I am a Black man.  I’m not entitled to hope.  But what I am entitled to is a sense of progression.  Hope for tomorrow.  If hope is informed by experience, then the answer is no. America hasn’t shown us that.  Black America remains under constant manipulation as a means of creating white absolution for the wrongs committed in this country.  What we can do is empower ourselves.  Re-engage and make yourself and your vote count.  Georgia proved what can happen when we ‘show up’.”

McFarlane said, “Today, we are challenging white power and white privilege.  No longer will ‘you’ blame us for the resultsiduals of 400 years of oppression and suppression, and then create careers and huge profits from the disparities, hatred, and fear you have perpetrated.  My mission is to tell that the conditions African Americans find themselves in is not our creation.  And it is not our permanent condition.  We can emerge and become our true selves - productive, resilient, powerful, and demonstrative of what humanity can be.  I will continue to speak to that truth.”

Join Al McFarlane and Dr. B. every Friday on Facebook or You Tube for “The Healing Circle” on “Conversations with Al McFarlane” from 1-2 CST.

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