By Tanya Dennis
Last week, the Oakland City Council approved $250,000 to assist the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists (EBABP) and Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) open two emergency mental health centers, one at True Vine Ministries and BOSS in East Oakland.
Oakland Frontline Healers, a collaborative of Black-led non-profits and medical doctors that joined together in April of 2020, to combat COVID-19 in the African American community by providing free PPE, testing, vaccines and support services.
Last October the collaborative, after assessing their successful frontline status in serving the African American community determined they must address other critical issues. They decided to address Black mental health.
Reaching out to the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists, Oakland Frontline Healers discovered that providing mental health services specifically to Black folks would be more detailed then simply securing a space and providing services.
Dr. Wade Nobles, a co-founder of the Black Psychologists Association, revealed that the European model had done a disservice to the African American community. In October 2021, the American Psychologists Association offered a public apology to the African American community with a commitment to “shed racist and colonial roots to embody the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion to become an actively antiracist discipline.”
With that knowledge, both EBABP and OFH committed to creating an African-centered mental wellness model.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has glaringly illuminated the disparities in America that compromises Black health daily,” Nobles said. “Unfortunately, incarceration or worse is presented as the only recourse as resources addressing Black trauma is extremely limited and for many non-existent.
The economic, physical, and spiritual damage, coupled with the pandemic crisis, must be met with healing and love, he continued. “Black people must save ourselves, for no one is coming to our rescue. Therefore, we are working towards constructing an African American Healing Hub that embraces African-centric mental wellness modalities utilizing a holistic approach.”
Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan agreed after attending the group’s town halls and submitted a proposal to award $250,000 to the project for culturally congruent training for behavioral specialists and frontline providers.
“The City Council’s vote of confidence and support is amazing! Their vote aligns with the African-centric tenet that it takes an entire community to ensure the wellness of the village,” said OFH facilitator Tanya Dennis.
The Association of Black Psychologists and Oakland Frontline Healers are currently working with Alameda County on the healing hubs and a healing center that has been in planning since 2015.
Dr. Lawford Goddard, an EBABP representative says, “We are committed to wellness, and treating the whole person and the whole community. Our project with the County, once complete, will also serve as a representative of our culture.”
They envision a space for meetings, conferences and banquets, a place where self-care like yoga, Reiki, urban gardening, massage, dance, drumming, healing circles and fun activities that promote wellness are offered.
“Unfortunately, our project with the County is three years or more in the future and we cannot wait,” Goddard said. “We must help our people now, by working with Oakland Frontline Healers and their emergency healing hubs enabling us to provide services within months.”
The County has committed $19 million toward the purchase of a site to establish a larger complex that will embody African American wellness as envisioned by EBASP.
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