In the summer of 1915, Carter G. Woodson traveled from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation. Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson decided to form what is now known as the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) to to promote the scientific study of Black life and history. To spread awareness about Black history, Woodson and ASALH established “Negro History Week,” which was first celebrated the second week of February 1926—encompassing the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976 as African American History Month, 50 years after the first celebration. Since then, every U.S. president has issued African American History Month proclamations. The ASALH continues to promote the study of Black history all year round, and this year, it announced that the 2022 theme for Black History Month is Black Health and Wellness.

If you are seeking resources for a more complete and accurate understanding of Black history, visit this blog post. From the transatlantic slave trade and Civil War to Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, we’ve compiled a collection of resources to help fill in the gaps that exist in our history textbooks and encourage you to reflect on the truth of Black history.

The Impact of Racism on Black Health

The research is clear that health disparities have existed and continue to exist between Black and white Americans across the board, including maternal mortality, infant mortality, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities has further revealed these health disparities. More than that, it has exposed the inextricable link between Black health and centuries of structural racism that produced the inequities in access to health care, housing, employment, wealth and income.

As a result, the Black community collectively holds generations of racial trauma within both their bodies and minds. The mental and emotional impact of racial trauma can manifest itself in symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), disassociation and intense anxiety and depression. The term “weathering,” coined by Dr. Arline Geronimus, describes the chronic health effects of exposure to racial discrimination and trauma, leading to premature aging and worse health outcomes. This, according to public health sociologist David R. Williams, “is driven by the cumulative impact of repeated exposures to psychological, social, physical, and chemical stressors in [Black people’s] residential, occupational, and other environments, and coping with these stressors.” 

Self-Care for Black People in a World That Centers Whiteness

As we explore the theme of Black health and wellness this Black History Month, we acknowledge the health disparities and their direct connection to racial inequities across every system. We lament the impact of racial trauma on both the mental and physical health of the Black community. 

Though Be the Bridge remains committed to educating and equipping bridge-builders to better understand racial history and injustice, we are just as committed to being a space where BIPOC are centered, celebrated and cared for. Our focus this month is to promote Black self-care and well-being, and to celebrate the ways in which the Black community has thrived throughout American history—and how it continues to cultivate joy today. 

We invite you to follow along with us on social media this month as we share self-care resources and tips from Latasha and our team, host honest conversations about wellness, and honor and celebrate Black health, Black joy and Black lives. 

Be the Bridge Resources

Our discussion guide, We Need to Talk: A BIPOC Guide to Healing Ourselves, was created by people of color, for people of color to center their voices and provide a safe space to engage in transformative and healing conversations. With six sessions total, “We Need to Talk” covers everything from internalized racism and colorism to classism and interracial prejudice. The last session focuses specifically on the importance of self-care, including practical tips for caring for your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health as it relates to the work of bridge-building.

“If we find ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually, or morally compromised, the work we do for the Lord to advance His kingdom and to help our fellow man suffers, or ceases altogether. God does not need us in order to accomplish His purposes, but He does choose to work through us. To this end, we should do all within our power to offer Him the best possible working version of ourselves. Self-care gives way to community care—reimagining the way we care for ourselves allows us to be more creative in how we care for one another.”

–We Need to Talk: A BIPOC Guide to Healing Ourselves, p. 42

For those in the Black community who are seeking a safe and brave space, our BIPOC Care Group exists for you to come as you are, connect and heal alongside other BIPOC, or join an upcoming discussion group for the “We Need to Talk” guide. 

Looking for more BTB content on health, wellness and self-care? Revisit these episodes of the Be the Bridge Podcast that cover the topics of navigating grief and loss from COVID-19 with Dr. Debbie Stevens, the complicated yet beautiful relationship between Black Americans and food with Stephen Satterfield, and former NFL player Sam Acho’s Nigerian roots and his journey with therapy.

Additional Resources

Below are additional resources dedicated to Black mental and physical health wellness. 

Mental Health Support

Black Virtual Wellness Directory – Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective

Therapy for Black GirlsDr. Joy Harden Bradford is a licensed psychologist, speaker and the host of the popular mental health podcast Therapy for Black Girls. Her work focuses on making mental health topics more relevant and accessible for Black women.

Therapy for Black Men – With a rapidly growing directory of 251 therapists and 40 coaches throughout the fifty states thus far, Therapy for Black Men provides judgment-free, multiculturally-competent care to Black men.

Black Mental Wellness – Founded by a team of Black psychologists, this organization offers mental health insight about everything from destigmatizing therapy to talking about Black men’s mental health to practicing gratitude to coping with anxiety.

Physical Health

Food Heaven – Food Heaven is a multimedia platform founded by two Black registered dietitians and best friends who help people transform the way they eat and find joy in food through the practice of intuitive eating and body respect.

Yoga by Biola – Non-performative yoga education led by Nigerian-American yoga teacher and wellness entrepreneur Abiola Akanni.

Race, Racism and Black Men’s Health – A series by Men’s Health magazine highlighting some of the world’s leading Black authors, activists, athletes, doctors, trainers, storytellers, artists and entrepreneurs and how race and racism have shaped their physical and mental health throughout their lives.

Black Girls Breathing – A safe space for Black women to actively manage their mental health through breathwork and community.

National Birth Equity Collaborative – National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC) is one of the nation’s leading experts and an advocate for change in the Black maternal health and infant mortality crises. NBEC creates transnational solutions and shifts systems and culture through training, research, technical assistance, policy, advocacy, and community-centered collaboration.

BLKHLTH – A non-profit that engages the public and health professionals on the impact of racism on Black health—then equips them to do something about it through content, workshops, and events

General Self-Care

Liberate – Meditation app designed for the Black experience
Why Self-Care Is a Critical Component to Racial Justice For Black People
Reimagining Self-Care for Black Folks – Mental Health America
The Four Bodies: A Holistic Toolkit for Coping with Racial Trauma
The Homecoming Podcast with Dr. Thema 

ASAHL Resources on Black Health & Wellness

Podcasts & Documentaries
Historical Materials & Guides

Our mission at Be the Bridge is to empower people and culture toward racial healing, racial equity and racial reconciliation. One way we do this is by celebrating various ethnic and cultural heritage months! But even in our best attempts, the scope of what we can cover nationally and globally is limited. We are committed to centering initiatives that align with our core values, while recognizing key seasons that intersect with our work when we can. We welcome all bridge-builders to address these layers and intricacies in their respective communities.

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