Homeless Children Network held its annual Black History Month celebration on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, with the theme "Radical Black Wellness."
Radical Black Wellness is a holistic approach to well-being emphasizing the liberation of Black people from systemic oppression and dismantling all forms of social, economic, and political injustices. It acknowledges the interconnectedness of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and recognizes that these aspects of wellness are inseparable from the struggle for Black liberation. Radical Black Wellness requires us to reject the dominant culture's narrow definitions of health and wellness, and instead prioritize practices that empower and nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits. It calls for the creation of communities that are safe, supportive, and affirming, where Black people can heal from generational and ongoing trauma, build resilience, and cultivate joy. Black Radical Wellness is not just about individual self-care, but also about collective care, mutual aid, and building solidarity across movements. It is a transformative vision for a world where Black people can thrive, not just survive.
The event opened with a moving tribute to our ancestors, including a traditional pouring of libations. The ancestor tribute was followed by moving poetry by our case manager, Ty Bonds, and our Ma'at Therapist, Iesha Brooks. They recited Amanda Gorman's Fury & Faith and Useni Eugene's Hey Black Child.
HCN’s Ma'at Therapist, Iesha Brooks, reciting poetry.
Keeping with the theme of the day's events, our amazing Ma'at therapist, Jeffrey, gave us a presentation on food and wellness. He highlighted the documentary "High On The Hog," which chronicles the history of African American communities and dishes that reflect the cultural traditions and culinary practices of African slaves and their descendants in the United States. Jeffrey uses the documentary to highlight that soul food is a celebration of African heritage and a testament to the resilience and creativity of people who were forced to adapt to new circumstances while retaining their cultural identity.
Jeffery Allen is our staff clinician working with the Brighter Futures program.
Jeffrey pointed out that African American cuisine has been subject to numerous misconceptions over the years. Despite its rich history and cultural significance, people have dismissed African American food as unhealthy, unrefined, or unsophisticated. These misconceptions stem from a lack of understanding of the historical and cultural context of African American cuisine. Historically, African Americans have used the scraps and leftovers to create nourishing meals. Over time, these dishes have evolved to become a celebration of African heritage and a symbol of resilience and creativity in the face of adversity.
Jeffrey concluded that African American food has the power to bring people together and inspire creativity. Whether it's through sharing a meal with family and friends or exploring the history and traditions of soul food, this cuisine offers a unique opportunity to connect with others and celebrate the richness and diversity of African American culture.
Drew, the Director of Development, presented a video on intersectionality featuring HCN staff describing what Blackness means to them and what they see as radical mental health.
HCN’S Development Director Drew Glover
Dawn, a massage therapist who grew up in West Oakland spoke about her own struggles with mental health and the ways she has sought help through therapy. She stressed the importance of human physical contact and how energy transfers from person to person through touch. She then led a series of movements designed to help release stress and tension held within the body. Her enlightening presentation was followed by the treat of 15-minute massages for anyone who requested it.
Attendees were able to show off their best moves during a step class with KIA, followed by a session of Zumba led by Tiana Lee from Ujam. Staff members’, Ester & D’Janea’s, families graciously provided delicious meals, which included vegan and standard versions of familiar dishes. Shout out to Mama Towanna's Vegan Delights and lilalijo catering.
The event concluded with socializing, networking, and good conversation before everyone headed home happy and full. Even though February is designated as Black History Month, we will continue to celebrate every day.
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HCN’S Staff with step & Zumba class Instructors