Tag Archives: ASK JANICE

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

A FEW CAVEATS

I have a few caveats before we dive into this important topic. First of all, I recognize the problem with the term “minority” in 2021. Same with BIPOC or any other alphabet label out there. But debates over labels shouldn’t take away from the importance of raising awareness and advocating for mental wellness specifically for people who’ve often been left out of these conversations. Here in the United States, that usually means anyone who isn’t white, cis-gendered, non-disabled, and hetero.

Secondly, I also understand that we’ve gone a little overboard with all these awareness months. Prior to social media, was there even such a thing as an awareness month? I honestly can’t remember. But these days, there’s an awareness month for every cause imaginable. Which kind of makes you wonder if they’re even effective anymore.

My final caveat is that my advocacy focuses on mental health and wellness for Black people, and not all so-called minorities. My reason for this is simple: I’m not a minority mental health expert. I’m just a Black woman who has battled mental illness for almost four decades. I only know what I know based on my lived experiences and non-scholarly research.

WHY OUR OWN AWARENESS MONTH

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), July is actually the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Campbell authored several best-selling books and used her platform to advocate for mental health. A Black woman who sadly died from brain cancer in 2006, she was also a member of NAMI who battled mental illness.

You can go to NAMI’s website and learn that the awareness month was established in 2008 to start changing the fact that “background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult.” As NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison says on their website,

“The effect of racism and racial trauma on mental health is real and cannot be ignored.”

Read that again.

When it comes to mental health and damn near everything else in this country, white people and Black people have very different experiences. Like the title of my favorite Bebe Moore Campbell book says, “Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine”. 

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the vast disparities between Blacks and whites when it comes to health care, in general. With mental health, those disparities are exponentially worse.

So, yes. We do need our “own” mental health awareness month.

REALITY CHECK

Because the reality is that a lot of us are not ok. The so-called “racial reckoning” in our country, coupled with the rise in racist attacks and incidents affects us all, whether we acknowledge it or not. You can’t be a Black American and not feel the weight of the past few years. Unless you’re a member of the “coon class”, as I call it. (Y’all know exactly who I’m talking about here.) Add to that all the historical baggage we carry, and you have to recognize that white supremacy and racism has messed us all up pretty bad.

Then we had the pandemic, which ravaged our families, and kept us isolated and scared for more than a year. Statistics show increased substance abuse, domestic and intimate partner violence, and suicide attempts as a direct result of COVID-19. Not to mention the devastating economic impact the pandemic had on Black people, in particular.

With all that’s been happening, it’s no wonder so many of us suffer mentally. As the young folks say, it’s been a lot.

ERASE THE STIGMA

It doesn’t help that despite the valiant efforts of mental health advocates, there’s still such stigma surrounding mental health and illness in the Black community. And stigma keeps people from getting the help they need.

Bebe Moore Campbell herself once said, “People of color, particularly African Americans, feel the stigma more keenly. In a race-conscious society, some don’t want to be perceived as having yet another deficit.”

Fam, this stigma stuff has got to go! Black folks have to stop sweeping mental illness under the proverbial rug and start TALKING ABOUT IT! Stigma keeps too many sick people from getting the help they need. Shame keeps too many sick people from taking life-saving medications because “I don’t want to have to take happy pills for the rest of my life”.

Folks are out here walking around sick, hurt, and untreated because they don’t want to be seen as “crazy”. And untreated mental illness leads to (or is caused by) so many other societal problems like rape, substance abuse, domestic abuse, etc. So that it all becomes one, big cycle of dysfunction where everyone suffers.

(And besides, y’all are out here worried about being seen as crazy are already seen as crazy, so there’s that.)

IT CAN GET BETTER

Listen. 1 in 5 people experience a mental health condition. Actually, that number is probably much higher among Black people, because so few us actually admit to having a problem. But even 1 in 5 is a lot of people. So you are not alone if you struggle. Help is available.

Now having said that, let me also acknowledge the many barriers keeping Black people from getting the help they need. For example, finding culturally competent therapists can be very challenging. Last I checked, only 2% of American psychiatrists are Black. And that matters, not just because Black people make up 13% of the population. I can’t tell you how many ineffective therapy sessions I’ve had with completely clueless non-Black mental health professionals.

Many Black people lack adequate health insurance to see to their mental health needs. And even with insurance, quality mental health care can be cost-prohibitive.

Still. If Black folks know anything, it’s how to make a way out of no way. Even with these very real barriers, we can still get help. For example, many mental health care providers offer virtual services, which can reduce costs and eliminate transportation concerns. Many providers also offer sliding scale fees, payment plans, and even pro bono services, as well.

The bottom line is that everyone has access to Google, and with just a few clicks, can find extensive information on getting mental health care. If you’re having trouble getting started, visit www.nami.org for guidance, and go from there.

We all need to do better and feel better. And that starts and ends with our health, both physical and mental. So, use this Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month as an excuse to prioritize your mental health. Do it for your loved ones, because they want and need you to be ok.

But mainly, do it for yourself, because you deserve to be ok.

#mentalhealth #MinorityMentalHealthAwarenessMonth #MinorityMentalHealthMonth #BlackMentalHealthMatters

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Naomi Osaka Centers Her Mental Health Ahead of The French Open, And We Love It!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! I can’t think of a better way to close out the month than by celebrating tennis star, Naomi Osaka. The #2 ranked tennis player and our favorite little sister decided to put her mental health first and skip the post-match press conferences at this year’s French Open. Japan’s legend-in-the making announced her decision via Twitter and Instagram this past Wednesday May 26th. And tongues immediately got to wagging.

Citing the toll news conferences take on players’ emotional well-being, Osaka said, in part, “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one”. Post-game or post-match pressers in any sport can be brutal, especially when the athlete loses. Even I, who doesn’t watch a whole lot of sports programming, have seen athletes reduced to tears by the relentless members of the press.

Osaka, who’s Japanese and Haitian, has certainly done her fair share of press conferences. She’s also no stranger to taking public stands on important issues, including racial equality. Remember at last year’s U. S. Open how she wore 7 different masks, each with the name of a victim of racial violence? She’s not new to this. Lil sis knows how to make a statement and raise awareness.

This current stance will cost her, though. Players can be fined $20,000 for skipping post-match press briefings at Grand Slams, unless they’re injured or physically unable to attend. Naomi earned more than $55 million last year, a record for a female athlete. So that $20,000 fine won’t hurt her as much as it would hurt you or me. Still, she obviously believes her mental well-being is worth it. Good for her.

Osaka’s courageous decision to put her mental health first in such a public way doesn’t just help her, it helps everyone. Because she has such a huge, international platform, her candor about her own mental health care gets people talking, especially Black women. We see ourselves in her. And if she can center her emotional well-being, then so can we.

Sadly, affordable, quality mental health care is out of reach for so many. And that needs to change. Still we must, within our own budgetary limitations, make a real effort to prioritize our mental health. After all, you can’t really put a price on mental wellness, can you?

As for that $20K fine, at the end of Osaka’s social media post on Wednesday, she made this cheeky dig at the tennis establishment, “Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity.” That puts the ball squarely in the French Tennis Federation’s court. (See what I did there?) Hopefully her stance here will prompt the governing bodies of all sports to reexamine the ways in which they support (or don’t) the mental wellness of their athletes.

In the meantime, big ups to Naomi Osaka, not only for her prowess on the court, but for the way she lives her life. She constantly brings awareness to issues which affect Black people and people of color, especially women. Thank you, Naomi. And go get ’em, Sis!

As for you, how do you plan to better prioritize your mental health going forward? Let us know in the comments, and remember, mental health care is health care. So take good care of yours.

#mentalhealthawarenessmonth #mentalhealth #naomiosaka #fenchopen #tennis #blackwomen #blackwomen

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Not Your Usual Mother’s Day Post

Happy Mother’s Day!

I know this is a tough weekend for many, especially those of us whose mothers have passed on. It’s my sixth Mother’s Day without my mom, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m struggling. On the other hand, it’s also my first Mothers Day as a grandmother, and I am elated! Because yes, I can be both things at once: deeply saddened because I miss my mom, and joyful that I get to spend my first Mother’s Day as a grandmother with my grandson.

I think Mother’s Day brings up conflicted and complicated emotions for a lot of people. We just only talk openly about grieving our dead mothers or celebrating our amazing living ones. But you know who gets left out of the Mothers Day conversation? Those people who have or had difficult, violent, or estranged relationships with their mothers. I mean, we all know there are awful mothers out there, even if we don’t like to talk about it.

So this weekend, I’m holding space in my heart and prayers for anyone whose relationship with their mother is, or was, a bad one. I can only imagine how painful this particular holiday can be. It’s telling that people kind of just assume everyone has a good relationship with their mother. Although what exactly it tells, I don’t really know. But it just doesn’t seem right.

There’s a meme that goes around at this time of year. I’m paraphrasing, but it says something like, “If you’re blessed enough to still have your mother with you, show her some love. Because you only have one mother, and one day you’ll miss her when she’s gone.” The actual meme is shorter than that, but that’s the message.

First of all, not everyone has only one mother. Yes, everyone only traveled down ONE person’s birth canal. But passing another human down your birth canal isn’t a requirement for motherhood. But also, not everyone misses their mother when she dies. That’s just a fact. Because not all mothers are good mothers.

(And no mother is a good mother all of the time. But y’all aren’t ready for that conversation.)

Some mothers do real harm to their children: mental, emotional, sexual, and/or physical. And their children, especially if they’re on a journey towards healing from that harm, might feel some kind of way about celebrating Mother’s Day. And we need to do a better job of making that okay.

That’s why I send love and light to anyone who has or had a bad mother. As a society, we too often make these people feel guilty for their ambivalence towards such a sacred thing as motherhood. We tell them “at least she gave you life – you should celebrate her for that”. Or, “celebrate the women who ‘mothered’ you in your mother’s place”.

Who are we to police their feelings or actions? Why is it so hard for us to accept that not everyone has a reason to celebrate Mother’s Day? We should extend grace and understanding to anyone struggling this Mother’s Day, even the ones who have their reasons for not celebrating.

Whatever kind of relationship you had with your mother, I hope you find a reason to enjoy this day and every day.

#mothersday #happymothersday #askjanice #suzyknew

 

 

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: We Have A Black-Asian VEEP, And She’s A Woman!

Vice President Kamala D. Harris. Writing and saying those words will never get old.

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the United States of America swore in former Senator Kamala Harris as the 49th Vice President. For the first time in its 245 year history, the nation known as the world’s greatest democracy has its first woman seated just a heartbeat away from the presidency. And not just any woman: a Black and Asian woman!

This. Is. HUGE!

First of all, Vice President Harris had to resign her position as U.S. Senator to step into her new role. Remember, she’s only the 2nd Black woman in history to be elected to the Senate. With her ascension to the vice presidency, there are now ZERO Black women serving in the United States Senate.

But here’s the thing: as Vice President, she’s now the president of the Senate. That’s right. She will now PRESIDE over that body’s daily proceedings. And all the Senators now have to call her “Madam President” while she does! Even that cruel seditionist Mitch McConnell has to address her as such. In other words, Sis got a double promotion: 2nd in command of the country and president over her former Senate colleagues. #BossMove

Of course that Vice President Kamala Harris is the first WOMAN to hold so high an elected office is also a VERY BIG DEAL. It’s been over 100 years since the 19th Amendment gave (some) women the right to vote in this country.  Over 100 years and we FINALLY have a female Vice President. It’s kind of wild to consider that, in the Great American Melting Pot that is the United States of America, every single one of the previous 48 VEEPs were white men. That’s because the framers of our republic never envisioned an America where women would have a say in our government, much less hold public office. Back then, women couldn’t vote, own property, or do much of anything without the consent of men.

Nor did the framers imagine an America where Black people would have equal rights under the law. After all, these were the men who, after much argument, decided that Black people weren’t even whole humans! Back then we were only considered 3/5 of a person for the census. Not to mention most of us were enslaved.

So when we fast forward from our nation’s founding to January 2021, the fact that our Vice President is a Black and Asian woman is a VERY BIG DEAL, indeed. Because not only is our VEEP a Black and Asian woman, she’s also an HBCU graduate (Howard University), a Divine Nine member (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.), a former president of UC Hastings’ Black Law Students Association, and an honorary member of The Links, Inc. In other words, she’s Black af.

She’s our sister.

She’s us.

And she’s Asian, too. Specifically, her late mother was born in Tamil Nadu in India, though she came to the US when she was 19 years old. In fact, both of Vice President Harris’ parents emigrated to the United States, her father having come from Jamaica. Completing the near-perfect picture, America’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice (Justice Sotomayor) just swore this Black and Asian daughter of immigrants into the Vice Presidency, y’all! Talk about breaking barriers! Talk about HERstory!

Listen. No matter how you felt about then-Candidate Harris before the General Election, you’d have to be dead inside not to feel the immense gravity of her inauguration as Vice President. I’ll admit I voted for another candidate during the primaries. In fact, I didn’t vote for Biden, either back then.

But today, watching my sister place her hand on Thurgood Marshall’s Bible to take the oath of office, my heart filled and my tears flowed freely. No, really. I ugly cried. And I called out for my late mother, who never could have imagined that someone who looked like her could ascend to such heights in this country.

I thought about my Delta Sigma Theta soror, the late, great Shirley Chisolm, the first Black woman elected to Congress. Shirley Chisolm was the first Black woman to run for President in 1972. Her courageous run paved the way for a Kamala Harris Vice Presidency nearly half a century later. I know Soror Chisolm and all our mothers and grandmothers who fought for fairness and dignity are smiling after today.

Most significantly, I thought about my precocious four year old grand Goddaughter and what this all means for her. For one thing, it means that despite living in a country where nearly half of her neighbors consider her “less than” simply because of her race and gender, she can still aspire to and attain the loftiest of goals. Because there are more people in this country who understand that experience, knowledge, facts, decency, fairness, and honesty aren’t corny characteristics to be mocked, but are the basic tenets upon which any democracy must rest.

The road from our nation’s founding to today was a long and arduous one. Our republic has withstood foreign invasion, civil war, civil unrest, and presidential assassinations. We’ve survived Reconstruction, Jim Crow, two World Wars, and a long Cold War. Together, we’ve faced down foreign and domestic terrorism, endless wars, and recessions. Somehow we even managed to survive the most corrupt and dangerous president in our nation’s history. Actually, 400,000 of our fellow Americans didn’t survive, thanks to our former president’s gross mishandling of the global pandemic that still threatens us.

Even after everything that could and should have broken us, our republic still stands. Thanks to the boundless efforts of so many, Americans have shown the world that our democracy still works. The American people have spoken, and a new era has begun. Vice President Kamala D. Harris is a Black and Asian woman who now sits a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the world.

And that is a VERY BIG DEAL, y’all.

#BidenHarris #VicePresidentKamalaHaris #KamalaHarris #VEEP

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Ready For A Better 2021? Set Intentions, Not Resolutions!

Happy Holidays, SuzyKnew! Readers!

2020 has been BRUTAL, hasn’t it? COVID-19 proved to be a real game changer, and not in a good way. Here in the US, we also had to endure an especially gangrenous election season, a failing government and economy, and a whole heap of civil unrest as we Americans continue to grapple with our white supremacist origins.

In other words, 2020 sucked. Big time.

I know it’s tempting to hope that the new year will make all the bad stuff disappear, as though all our Fairy Godmothers will wave their magic wands at midnight on January 1st and make everything better. But, we all know that ain’t happenin’. Come 12:01 A.M. January 1st, we’ll still be in a pandemic, our economy will still be a mess, and the United States will still be a racist-ass country. At least we’ll have a new President on the 20th, though. Finally. Thank God.

Many folks, eager to put this awful year behind them, will rush to make New Year’s resolutions, setting lofty goals to ensure that 2021 is just … better. Sadly, “better” is a pretty low bar after this shitstorm of a year.

But what if things could be better than just “better”? What if, rather than making a bunch of resolutions that will be long forgotten by Valentine’s Day,  we all purposefully set intentions that more truly align with our core values? Wouldn’t it be great if, rather than set ourselves up for failure by trying to reach rigid and unrealistic goals, we actually took the time to figure out what truly brings us joy and contentment, and aimed for that, instead?

Well, let’s do it, then! Let’s ditch the stale, old resolution game and get about the business of truly manifesting our hearts’ desires. Let’s set intentions instead of making resolutions!

Setting intentions makes sense if you really think about it. Resolutions are goals which, by their very nature, put a lot of pressure on us and don’t allow for errors or mistakes. But intentions align us with our true purpose. And unlike goals, intentions allow for missteps, pivots, and errors. Resolutions are often borne of lack or need. For example, your resolution may be to “lose 50 pounds by summer” because you want to look good for the beach. Which isn’t a bad goal to have, necessarily. Except that wanting to “look good for the beach” implies you don’t look good now.

On the other hand, intentions are more powerful because they come from a place of introspection and peace, where the objective is to live a more fulfilling life that matches your core values. Intentions are about being being in tune with the desires of your soul, and seeking contentment and wholeness. That’s way more appealing than simply setting goals, isn’t it?

We here at SuzyKnew! want you to have an AMAZING 2021! So, here are our Seven Steps for Setting Intentions for the New Year:

  1. Begin with Gratitude: This may seem like an obvious place to start, but we all need reminders to be grateful for all that is good in our lives. It’s also equally important to appreciate the bad times because that’s where the growth happens. Bad times forge our character and clarify our purpose. And hey, if you’re reading this, then you’ve survived every bad thing that’s ever happened to you. And after a year like 2020, that’s really saying something.
  2. Honestly Evaluate Your Failures: It’s important to take stock of where you fell short so that you can figure out why you fell short. As much as we hate to admit it, everything bad in our lives in 2020 wasn’t due to COVID. You need to own your part in what went wrong, so that you don’t go into the New Year with those habits and behaviors.
  3. Do Some Soul-Searching: Here’s where you need to dig deep, Sis. Only YOU can determine what it will mean for you to Live Your Best Life in 2021. You need to figure out what you need to be truly content. What inspires you and fills your soul with purpose? More importantly, what do you value? If our intentions are to help us align with our true purpose, we need to determine what that purpose is.
  4. Create the Vision: This is the fun part! Some people make vision boards, others make lists. Whatever you choose, create a physical representation of your intentions, something you can come back to, amend, and adjust as your needs change and your vision expands. Get creative, but keep referring back to step 3 to ensure the vision you create is truly aligned with where your soul wants you to go.
  5. Write it down: Write a brief paragraph about what you want to change in your day-to-day routine to make your life more fulfilling. You may even want to send your paragraph to a trusted friend who will gently hold you accountable. Either way, keep your paragraph handy so that you can refer back to it throughout the year.
  6. Create a Mantra: Carefully and intentionally select a word or phrase that sums up your intentions. Meditate on your mantra throughout each day, repeating it until it becomes a habit. Write it on sticky notes to place on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or any other place you’re likely to see it throughout the day. You can even take a picture of one of your sticky notes, and set that picture as the lock screen on your phone.
  7. Trust Yourself, God, and the Process: It may take more meditation and prayer, but you really need to get to a place where you trust yourself and your Higher Power to fulfill your intentions. Relax into it. Don’t get consumed with success vs. failure. Remember, these intentions come from your heart and soul, and are aligned with your core values. So let go and let God. Trust the process. Believe that you have the power to manifest your vision in 2021.

There you have it, Sis. Follow these steps and reach for a more fulfilled life in 2021. We may not be able to control the pandemic (except we can all stay home as much as possible and wear a damn mask), the economy, or the racists. But we can be more intentional about seeking peace and contentment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to live my best life in 2021. I know that starts with me and my vision of what my best life looks like. So join me in ditching the resolutions for intentions. Let’s make 2021 our best year, yet!

Stay safe, wear a mask, and have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

#NewYear2021 #NewYear #IntentionsNotResolutions

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: Ready for a Black Woman VEEP?

Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States of America! That’s right, the Toddler-In-Chief currently occupying the White House, will be a one term president. The headline may be that Biden flipped five states to win 290 electoral college votes. And the subheading may be that he toppled the worst presidency in the history of the Republic with 51% of the popular vote (winning by nearly 6 million votes). But the real story, the juiciest part, is that he did it not only with unprecedented support from Black people, but with a Black woman ON THE TICKET!

Y’all, our next Vice President is a SISTA! Come January 20, 2021, the person a mere heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world will be a BLACK WOMAN! The majority of Americans elected Senator Kamala Harris to be the new Vice President! She will be the first woman, the first Black person, and the first person of southeast Asian descent to EVER hold that office.

Wow. Just typing Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris feels sublime.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see the Biden/Harris ticket coming. Neither Biden nor Harris were my first choice at the start of the election season. In fact, after the first debate, I even posted (only kind of jokingly) “I’m gonna pissed if y’all make me vote for Biden in November”. Back then, I honestly couldn’t see Biden as the right choice to topple the Orange Menace.

Harris at least made my top three, but only barely. A deeper dive into her career in California politics did quell some of my initial reservations about her. But, I still liked other candidates better based on their platforms. You see, I’m what I call a “Primary Purist”, who ultimately “falls in line” when it comes to the General Election. In other words, I believe that you should vote for who you WANT to win during the Primary. But when it comes to the General, you vote for your party’s nominee. I never “throw away” my precious vote when my preferred candidate isn’t on the ballot.

But don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a Joe Biden enthusiast since his opposition to Robert Bork’s SCOTUS nomination in the 1980s. In hindsight, I hated his lack of support for Anita Hill during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings after she accused Thomas of sexual harassment. But honestly? At the time, I don’t think Biden’s failure to vigorously defend her really resonated with me. This was 1991, before the internet and 24-hour news cycles. So the nuances of what went on behind the scenes went over my head. Besides, he also co-sponsored and passed the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994.

Later, I loved him as former President Barack Obama’s Vice President. Although admittedly, I enjoyed him as VEEP as much for the optics of an older, white man playing “2nd fiddle” to the younger Black man as anything else. Remember all the funny “Uncle Joe” memes and jokes?

My point is, I wasn’t so much “anti-Biden” as I was just for other candidates. For me, his advanced age and firm position within the Democratic “establishment” meant he wasn’t progressive enough for me. But by the time he won the nomination, I enthusiastically supported him. Because even Biden’s old, white man centrism would be a huge improvement over the deadly debacle of 45’s administration. I would’ve voted for a dustpan to replace that dude!

Then Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. He selected a Black woman with an Asian background, who’d graduated from an HBCU (Howard University), and who is a member of the oldest Black sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., founded in 1908). He chose a BLACK WOMAN! And despite my reservations about both candidates, I got very excited.

Now some folks out there like to think of themselves as the “Gatekeepers of Blackness”. You know the ones. They always sit in judgement of who is or isn’t “Black enough” in appearance, thought, and deed. I mean, I get it. Even I have some hard and fast Blackness boundaries (i.e. Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King are NOT Black, dammit). And while I admittedly hold some pretty strong opinions about Black Card revocation when someone actually works against Black people (like Breonna Taylor prosecutor, and coon extraordinaire, Daniel Cameron), I don’t usually challenge a person’s claimed Blackness.

So some folks say Kamala isn’t really a Black woman because of her Indian mother or her white husband. I say “haters gon’ hate”. Yes, I’m sure she’s benefitted, both personally and professionally, from her light skin. But Kamala Harris is, undeniably, a Black woman.

Given today’s climate, she’ll definitely be treated like a Black woman by the nearly 73 million Amerikkkans who voted for the racist rapist responsible for more than 245,000 COVID deaths.  I shudder to think about the hate and vitriol she’ll encounter from our racist countryfolk. But this is Amerikkka, so it’s not surprising.

But for now, rather than focus on all the ways this nation has failed to adequately address it’s white supremacy problem, I choose to focus on the fact that a Black woman has shattered another glass ceiling. Even though I’m bracing for the inevitable racist backlash Harris’ election portends, I choose to celebrate that a sista will soon ascend to the highest levels of our government.

Twelve years after electing our first Black President, the citizens of the United States have elected our first Black Vice President, and she’s a woman. The politically nerdy little girl inside me celebrates this moment with unbridled joy and unfettered hope. The idealist in me sees this triumph as a win for progress.  And the 35-year Delta girl (of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the 2nd oldest Black sorority) in me sees my sister-Greek’s win as a win for us all. As our deeply divided nation slowly and painfully inches towards that “more perfect union” the Framers set out to form, I know that Kamala Harris’ ascension to the 2nd highest seat in the land means that we are, indeed, ready for a Black woman to lead.

Go get ’em, sis. We got your back!

ASK JANICE PODCAST SPECIAL: Can We Talk About Mental Health?

July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, formerly known as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month! For those of us a little late to the party, BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, & People of Color.

As you know, here at SuzyKnew! we’re all about TOTAL health and wellness for Black women and women of color all over the world. Obviously, that includes mental health and wellness. A few weeks ago, I joined my dear friend, Monique Guest, on her awesome podcast, Be My Guest, to talk about it. To hear “A Conversation on Battling Mental Illness”, click on this link:

http://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-um5f3-dee3a1#.XyHNP_L5HlM.email

Go easy on me, y’all. It was my first time doing a podcast.

Black people and POC need to talk more openly about mental illness, especially these days with so much going on in the world. I don’t know about you, but between the pandemic, 45’s messy mishandling of the pandemic, as well as his minions’ refusal to follow the CDC’s basic guidelines to slow the spread of the virus, my meds have had to work overtime!

And I know I’m not alone. Months of isolation, fear, and uncertainty would adversely affect even the healthiest of people. But even without COVID-19 being a factor, far too many people suffer in silence because of the stigma associated with mental illness. We all know someone sick who refuses to get professional help or take medicine that could help them lead happier and more fulfilled lives.

Untreated or under-treated mental health issues account for so much of what is wrong in our communities, and result in so many unnecessary deaths. That’s why it’s so important to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. And that starts with having conversations … openly, freely, and without fear of shame. BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is as good a time as any to get those conversations started.

By the way, Monique and I go waaaay back (maybe one day I’ll tell y’all about a trip to Europe we took as teenagers) and I think she’s awesome. You should check out her other podcasts, which you can find on her website at  https://www.bemyguestllc.org/.

Photo Source: Pixabay

 

 

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Are You Celebrating JUNETEENTH 2020?

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!!

Juneteenth, celebrated on the 19th of June, commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas FINALLY learned they were free. Presumably, they were the last ones to learn of their freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War, a full three years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrated by African Americans for 155 years, the holiday is finally getting the “mainstream” attention and respect it so richly deserves in the wake of worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Major companies now offer paid time off to their employees to celebrate. Virtual and socially distant parties have been planned all over the country. And there’s even a call for an international celebration where NO ONE spends a single dime.

Full disclosure: I was a full-grown adult when I learned about Juneteenth. I never learned about it at the PWI schools I attended; and my family, which is largely in Michigan where I was raised, didn’t celebrate it. Even after I learned about it, I never really “celebrated” it. My friends didn’t plan cookouts or parties around the holiday. I never bought or received a Juneteenth card. Other than a few social media posts, I never personally celebrated the holiday.

But, for me, all that changes this year. Why? Because as “down” and “woke” as I profess to be, I finally get it. Juneteenth starkly reminds us of a simple truth: none of us are free until ALL of us are free. Chattel slavery in the United States did not really end until the enslaved souls in Galveston, Texas were finally freed.

I get it now.

Here in the United States of America, that self-proclaimed bastion of liberty, justice, and equality, we’re in the midst of a reckoning with our white supremacist beginnings that’s been centuries in the making. As I write these words, cities, towns and communities clamor to remove the racist symbols and statues that dot our landscape. After three straight weeks of protests, people demand greater accountability from not only the police, but from institutions and individuals (see all the “Karens” and “Chads” loosing their jobs over racist behavior). On the surface, we have much to celebrate.

However, Black folks partying on June 19th doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten all that still needs to be done to dismantle the structures and institutions that uphold patriarchal white supremacy in this country. In what’s likely the most important election of our lifetimes, voter suppression efforts threaten our ability to exercise our hard-won right to vote. Anti-Black violence and hate crimes run as rampant as ever. Black unemployment continues to rise, while Black wealth continues to drop. And COVID-19 still threatens us all.

But we’re going to celebrate Juneteenth anyway, because we’re still here, and we’re still fighting. We’ve reached a critical moment in our history, as a nation and as a people. Whether we’re marching, donating, teaching, or organizing, we’re working hard to ensure that America lives up to it’s promises to all of her citizens. And for that reason alone, we deserve to celebrate.

I may be late to the party, but I plan to celebrate Juneteenth 2020 with bells on. Well, maybe not bells. More like with a mask on and from the safety of my socially distant home. But I will celebrate.

Because NONE of us are free until ALL of us are free.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone! Stay safe and healthy.

#Juneteenth2020 #BlackLivesMatter #AskJanice

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Ya Doin’, Sis?

How ya doin’, Sis?

It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? It’s as though we’ve entered a weird, combination of 1918 (global pandemic), 1929 (economic crash), and 1968 (civil unrest) all at the same time. We opened with the untimely and tragic death of NBA star Kobe Bryant; saw the Republican-led Senate vote to acquit the current occupant of the White House on two counts of impeachment; became completely obsessed with the antics of Joe Exotic and his arch-nemesis, Carole Baskin (Netflix’s The Tiger King); and the ENTIRE world caught a deadly virus which shut down EVERYTHING.

As a result of the COVID-19 virus, the economy tanked, causing millions to lose their livelihoods; states issued “stay-at-home” orders to stem the spread of the deadly virus, forcing us all indoors; then, armed civilian militias stormed state capitols to protest the stay-at-home orders; murder hornets are headed to the U.S. and a giant asteroid is headed towards earth; and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of racists and George Floyd at the hands of (under the knee of) racist police officers sparked massive protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality WORLDWIDE.

And it’s only June! I mean, really, 2020 has been a wild ride!

So, I ask you again: how ya doin’, Sis?

Because we all know that Black women, in particular often bear the brunt of all the craziness going on in the world. For example, the racial disparities in health care alone make us more vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. We all know Black women who either couldn’t get tested or were denied quality care during this pandemic. And don’t even get me started on the covert and overt racism we experience on a daily basis. From the irritating microaggressions we grin and bear from our white colleagues to the “Karens” who want to call the manager/police/anyone-in-charge on us for simply existing in our Black skin, we catch Hell even during the good times. And these are not good times, are they, Sis?

So how are you? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you drinking enough water? Are you exercising and eating healthy? How are YOU?

I ask because I know you, Sis. I know how hard you work for your family and your people. I see you out there at these protests making sure people have enough water and masks, keeping track of everyone’s kids, putting yourself between the police and your husband, brother, son. I see YOU!

I see you driving around making sure your elderly relatives and friends have enough food, water, and toilet paper when they can’t go to the stores because of the virus. I know you’re helping the kids keep up with their schoolwork so that they don’t fall behind during the pandemic. I see you using what little spare time you have left to sew masks for your friends and to donate.  I see you out there taking care of everybody.

But, Sisters! If ever there was a time to make your own well-being a priority, it’s NOW! Because this is a marathon, not a sprint. We Black women already know that without us, this entire society that’s really a house of cards built on a shaky foundation would crumble. Or get burned to the ground. So we have to stay strong and be ready for the long haul.

That means you MUST take care of yourself. Drink more water. Exercise. Meditate and pray. Eat right. Laugh with friends. Make love. And take time out of every single day to center yourself and YOUR needs.

You can’t pour from an empty vessel, Sister. You’ll be no good to the people you love if you don’t take good care of yourself. So, if that means you have to skip the next march, then so be it. Let others march in your place. If you need to unplug from cable news and social media for a while, then do it. I promise, it’ll all be there when you get back. If you have to turn off your phone for a few hours every evening, then do so. Give yourself permission to stop, be still, and find some peace.

We’re only halfway through 2020, and there’s still so much work to do. Here in the U.S., we have an election coming that will determine what our country will look like for decades to come. We don’t know if our kids will be learning online or returning to the classroom. We have an economy to repair, deaths to properly mourn and funeralize, and a lot of healing to do. We’ve also got to keep the momentum from these protests going and set about making real and lasting policy changes. And that’s just a partial list.

So please take care of yourself, Sis. Put yourself first for a while. Take a break. Take a nap. Take a bath. Take a breath. Take care of you so that you can be battle-ready for the days, weeks, and months ahead.

I know 2020 has been a lot … but we got this. We will win.

Stay healthy and safe.

#BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForBreonna #SayHerName #BlackWomenMatter #BlackGirlMagic

 

ASK JANICE CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL: Black Women Already Understand Racial Bias In Medicine, Why Don’t You?

I just had a brief Facebook exchange with a white woman (a friend of a friend) that perfectly shows why Black women must always fight to keep our voices and experiences from being erased. Our mutual friend had posted yet another article about a Black woman who was denied COVID-19 testing THREE times, and ultimately died from the virus. These stories have been popping up all over the place, especially in the hardest hit areas. And they clearly show the rampant racial bias that has always existed in our health care system.

The conversation that followed the article was mostly about how this current pandemic has truly highlighted the huge disparities between the medical treatment of Black people, and Black women, in particular, and everyone else. We all lamented the fact that too often, Black women’s pain and symptoms are ignored because of the implicit bias of medical professionals; and how this happens to Black women regardless of their education levels or socioeconomic status.

In fact the original poster is one of my best friends, and is a highly educated physician who lives in a wealthy neighborhood. But when her COVID-19 symptoms became life-threatening and she had to call an ambulance, the EMTs tried their hardest to talk her out of going. They repeatedly dismissed her symptoms and kept telling her that the hospital would probably send her home. It took another physician friend who was on speakerphone to convince them to take my friend to the hospital, where she was admitted, after all. Thankfully, she was released after a few days, and is recovering comfortably home. Praise God.

Anyway, I pointed out how frustrating it is for Black women to basically have to submit a resume and bank statement when recounting these experiences. It’s as if, for the benefit of the white sympathy, we have to prove our “worth” as humans to get them to understand that we get discriminated against because we are Black and female, regardless of our backgrounds and income. As if it’s okay to discriminate against poor and uneducated Black women. Which, of course, it isn’t. No one should face discrimination when seeking medical care.

It’s the same thing that happens when a young Black, unarmed person is murdered by the police. We always feel compelled to point out that he was a good student with a promising future. In reality, no one deserves to be gunned down, regardless of how they do in school, or where they live, or how much money they have.

But I digress.

Where my doctor friend’s white friend (whom I’d met years ago when they were in medical school together – she’s very nice, btw) made me grit my teeth was when she said,”I think that women, in general, are often dismissed and being a woman of color magnifies that”.

Y’all.

She just “All Lives Mattered” the very specific discrimination that Black women face in health care! Not only that, but she lumped Black women in with all women of color, which is another HUGE pet peeve of mine (more on that in a second).

Listen. I will be the first to admit that all women face discrimination. Full stop. How-some-ever (as the aunties used to say) … there is absolutely no scenario, situation, or circumstance where white women face the same level of discrimination as Black women. Not here in the good ol’ U. S. of A., and not ANYWHERE else on this planet!! I don’t care how much Becky and Karen have to deal with, it pales (see what I did there?) in comparison to what Black women face EVERY SINGLE DAY.

(In fact, have y’all seen how, all across the internet, white women have been claiming that them being called Karen is the same as a Black person being called the n-word? Whew! The nerve! But that’s worthy of a whole separate post, because there is so much to unpack and discuss. Again, I digress.)

And people really need to stop saying “women of color” when they mean Black women. Because again, Black women face way more discrimination than women from any other racial or ethnic group. And more often than not, those other groups treat Black women like shit, too. All while appropriating our vernacular, our style, our swagger, and everything else that’s glorious about us.

That is why I never refer to myself as a woman of color, anymore. Not when those other colors treat me just as badly as some white folks do. No thank you. I am a Black woman. Period. And when you are referring to any kind of statistics, trends, studies, or whatever that measure how women are treated, you need to make sure you separate the experiences of Black women from every other category. Because our experiences are not that same.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe in solidarity with ALL women on many issues, like equal pay, reproductive freedom, and any number of important things. I’m all for gender solidarity as long as Black women’s voices are heard and heeded. But what I won’t do is allow for the erasure or dilution of Black women’s experiences. Nor will I let ANY comment, turn of phrase, or post that attempts to do so go unchallenged.

I’ll close with a quote from the late Malcolm X: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” He said that in 1962, and it has never been more true than today.

Wash your hands and stay healthy!