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Psychology in Practice: Anti-Racism, Mental Health, and Racial Trauma

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

By: Amira Mensah, Development and Communications Associate

On Tuesday, October 20, Hilary Bothma, HCN Development and Communications Director spoke on a panel at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Dr. Stephanie Block, a professor in the UMass Lowell Psychology Department, hosted a virtual panel discussion, Psychology in Practice: Anti-Racism, Mental Health and Racial Trauma.

Hilary was joined by Kenya Jones, Director of Diversity and Inclusion of a private high school and Sophia Nazzaro, LMFT. They discussed how to deal with, confront and combat racism. The three panelists offered unique perspectives as they shared their personal and professional encounters with racism.

“There is anti-racist, active, dynamic work and then there's everything else. The silence goes into the category of everything else,” explained Hilary. After screening HCN’s film, Voices of the Uprising Part II: White Silence, Hilary spoke about the importance of speaking out against racism, self-education on topics regarding racism and antiracist work, as well as recognizing opportunities for listening when people of color speak about their lived experiences. Following the panel, students reported that Hilary’s words had inspired them to action by using their privilege to dismantle white supremacy and effect change.

Sophia spoke about her intersecting identities as a biracial woman with a career in psychology. To make the therapy room an anti-racist place, Sophia encourages mental health professionals to empathize with clients and provide them with concrete evidence on how racism exists in society. When recalling an experience with a client who made a racist comment, Sophia shared, that, “I need to continue to make this a safe space for ‘Marsha’ to explore her questions and beliefs, but I also need to remember that there's a difference between allowing a space for a person to explore their inner monologue and curiosities versus colluding with her, proliferating or creating a space for someone's harmful thoughts; and when I say harmful, I mean harmful to the communities that she's a part of and harmful toward her children if they grew up thinking this way.”

“I've had very, very many interactions with cops, most of them being positive, but there are some things that stand out more than others that were negative,” shared Kenya as he relayed some of his personal experiences. Even with the experiences Kenya has had with police, he expressed that he is not fearful of them. Kenya’s words help inspire other Black people to choose not to live in fear despite negative encounters with police.

This panel discussion comes at a crucial time for this country’s youth. Many of the students in attendance later said they felt better equipped with the tools to put the theories they’re learning into practice.

HCN is proud to be a leader in mental health and racial justice movements. We are grateful to Hilary Bothma for her activism in using her voice and expertise to promote change on a national level.

Panelist: Hilary Bothma, Sophia Nazzaro and Kenya Jones


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