By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO
“Our children are dying,” Dr. Harriette E. Wimms told the AFRO. “It’s so powerful and so frightening.”
Saturday, April 13, the AFRO attended act two of the Black Mental Health Alliance’s (BMHA), “Trilogy of Trauma.”
“I hope this event will teach us to survive,” Wimms said.
Act one centered Black women, the epilogue will center Black men. Act two centered Black children in a program entitled “Why Wakanda Matters.”
“That space, that universe, that ecosystem was really about making sure that the needs of the people in that community were taken care of,” Jan Desper Peters, BMHA’s executive director told the AFRO about taking inspiration from the unconquered African kingdom. “Now there was a paradigm shift toward the end where it came to their consciousness that ‘we can’t have all this power and knowledge and not share it to help people outside of our community.’”
The needs are stark and the stakes are high. The program began with performances from The Positive Social Change Theater Troupe, its cast of middle and high school age Black children expressing their thoughts of suicide, fears of violence and altogether desperate situations through poetry, spoken word and song.
“Folks know what the problem is, what needs to be done, and I believe what’s starting here today, is giving people the language to communicate what needs to be done and how to resolve it,” Koli Tengella told the AFRO.
Tengella joined a panel of Drs. Wimms and Bruce Purnell, founder and director of Higher Hopes, Inc., a DC non-profit with the stated mission of building community resilience “that lead to positive motivation and transformative outcomes.”
“One of the reasons that we partnered with people like these presenters, is that one of our key objectives at the Black Mental Health Alliance is to be a resource, to provide resources and referral, Peters said. “And if you heard Dr. Harriette Wimms, she said that she wanted to make sure that those children were connected to her. And we want to make sure that they have connection to mental health therapy, that’s the thing they need. And so, our end goal would be that Dr. Wimms would connect with those people, who may not have access to mental healthcare and then be able to provide that.”
The day’s conversation was not one way.
“I’m always amazed when I’m in a situation where I wanna share, and I learn something,” Tengella said. His experience was such that he has plans to participate in the epilogue, even if he won’t be a panelist.
“The biggest thing is the hope,” Purnell told the AFRO. “Healing and hope, the affirmations of love and how do we do that? We’re starting to have some real relationships, some real conversations, real feelings and I find that real people want the best. They want the best. They want healing, they want to be happy.”
While the conversations were fraught and uncomfortable, every effort seem to have been made to make a safe space. Questions to the panel were submitted anonymously through Slido. And nothing was broached or received with judgment.
“That’s the energy that was the most dominant,” Purnell said. “A lot of this is gonna be love. Love is the panacea. A culture of love, it changes.”