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A Hope for Black History Month: Past, Present, and Beyond.

Joelleann Forbes, MSW, RSW

Black Excellence, Afrofuturism, Black Mental Health Awareness, Afrocentric Social Work

It has been beautiful to witness the various messages about Black History Month focused on joy, community, and excellence.

However, it is not lost upon us that oppression, racism, health inequities, and violence continue to have a generational impact within African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) communities across the world. These experiences can negatively shift our view of self, genetics, relationships, potential, and outlook on the future. Also, our perceptions of safety within the workplace, healthcare & educational institutions, and other spaces often feel in flux when daily interactions can make us feel small. We say “Black Excellence”, but why must we already be excellent to receive the care we require? Does excellence mean deserving? How can we envision a future where we can receive care and genuinely heal from racial trauma.

Photo/Image Credit: Canva

Afrofuturism: Imagining a more inclusive mental health care.

Hello, Afrofuturism! Afrofuturism allows us advocate for and imagine the future we want in our lifetime.    It centers the voices of Black communities through telling stories of our past, present, and future, combining the real with the ideal or fantastical in ways that allow us to explore new possibilities (Hill-Jarrett, 2023). Science-fiction, fantasy, scholarship, and various forms of art can all include Afrofuturism as part of their fabric.  Think of Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer album, or the movie Black Panther.  We can use Afrofuturism to uncover narratives that affirm, empower, and provide hope.

How about Afrofuturism and mental health care? When we think of the future of mental health care, Afrofuturism can support us with imagining a world where our various layered identities are embraced, and help us develop trauma-informed programs that meet the kaleidoscope of needs and wants of Black lives, including those that are Trans and Non-Binary. It helps us envision care that empowers Black 2SLGBTQ+ individuals through imagery, commitments, tailored services, and meaningful capacity building opportunities. Private practices have a social responsibility to nurture spaces where ACB folks can feel seen, heard, and cared for, and at Hope Leads Mental Heath Care, Afrofuturism can help us to imagine and work with clients, organizations, collaborators, peers, and community members to build futures where our whole identities are accepted.

Joelleann Forbes, MSW, RSW. Co-founder, Hope Leads Mental Health Care (photo credit: Maria Vega Photography).

More about Joelle's story:

To learn more about Joelle’s social work journey, please see this article published by the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work University of Toronto:

Follow us on Instagram @hopeleadsmentalhealthcare.

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