Executive Director’s Blog: Black History Month

I recently attended an event celebrating Black History Month, and one of the organizers concluded with the admonishment: “Every month is black history month.”

It got me thinking. Thinking often leads me to internet research, where I explored the history of “Black History Month” a bit further.

As I continued chasing new thoughts and insights, I noticed a theme each year during these February celebrations. Here’s the theme for 2024:

Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.

The Black History Month 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” explores the key influence African Americans have had in the fields of “visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression.”

Which brings me back to the event I attended at the Varsity Cinema. An artistic celebration of a documentary film directed by Craig Farley, Jr.: Through the Lens: Black Visionaries on Mental Wellness. The project was born of a cohort of the African American Leadership Academy, sponsored by The Directors Council. If you don’t know their work, it’s worth a visit.

The Directors Council, in their own words:

As a coalition of leaders, The Directors Council seeks to improve the conditions of the individuals in the neighborhoods we serve. We pool our collective expertise to develop programs and launch unique initiatives that meet unaddressed needs. 

How does all this relate to our work at the Center? Some of the visionaries highlighted in this project include Kayla Bell-Consolver and Breanne Ward. Kayla led us in some training around the effects of racism and generational trauma a couple of years back. It gave our therapists numerous insights about how to address such issues for clients therapeutically. Breanne has served on our board and continues to inspire us on how we might best serve our community, particularly if we want to be a welcoming place for communities of color.

The documentary struck me in many ways. What does mental wellness mean, given the diversity of definitions based on our communities of origin? How does stigma affect diverse communities? What are the resources for mental wellness beyond professional therapy? What is the role each of us offers when it comes to the well-being of others?

Lots to ponder—and the documentary was only 38 minutes!

One of our strategic objectives at the Center is that the demographics of the people we serve match the demographics of Central Iowa. We stand with The Directors Council, looking to explore and develop programs that meet unaddressed needs. To do this, we need to focus on hospitality and being present to our community to be a trusted resource for the many communities represented in our neighborhoods

It’s nice to have a reminder in February of the many contributions made by the African American community to improve mental health and wellness. As a wise person told me recently, such acknowledgment isn’t just for one month, but every month.

Be well,