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For the second year in a row, Ujima, Inc. hosted its Domestic Violence Awareness Month Op-ed Writer’s Workshop. On Saturday, October 5, 2019, in partnership with the Georgetown University Law Fellowship program, Ujima, Inc. continued its work around domestic violence by hosting a workshop that would engage the community and provide best practices on how to write an op-ed for a newspaper, magazine or blog.

Facilitated by Ujima’s very own LisaLyn Jacobs, the workshop explored the importance of op-eds, how to successfully write one and how to pitch your op-ed to editors.

A brand new event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Ujima, Inc. hosted its first Coffee & Conversation: Black Maternal Health at Busboys and Poets in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC on Monday, October 14, 2019. Moderated by Megan Simmons, Senior Policy Attorney for Ujima, Inc., the panel discussion provided insight into the intersection of violence and Black maternal health. The conversation centered on violence, bias, and preventable deaths experienced by Black women throughout the duration of their pregnancies.

Panelists for the event included:

  • Jamila Perritt, MD, MPH, FACOG
  • Jessica Pinckney, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Vice President of Government Affairs

Dr. Perritt shared practical experiences and how her medical care is guided by trauma informed skills. Ms. Pinkney offered her knowledge on policy implications on Black women’s maternal health, as well as policy recommendations to improve outcomes going forward. Dr. Perritt and Ms. Pinkney, both activists and advocates, often work together to educate others on reproductive justice.

Both women shared their personal experiences on how they arrived at incorporating reproductive justice into their professional lives.

If you missed the event, click here to view the entire discussion on our Facebook page.

Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community was thrilled to present two Issue Forums at the 2019 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference. On Thursday, September 12, 2019, we held our first panel, What We Need Is Love: Preventing Sexual and Dating Violence on HBCU Campuses. Moderated by award winning actress Tanya Wright, the panel explored issues around sexual and dating violence on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Panelists included:

  • Tricia Bent-Goodley, Director of the Howard University Interpersonal Violence Prevention Program and Chair/Director of the University’s Women’s Leadership Initiative
  • Candy Young, Title IX Coordinator, Delaware State University
  • Darlene Johnson, Associate Director, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Megan Simmons, Sr. Policy Attorney, Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community

On Friday, September 13, 2019, we held our second panel, The Untold Story: Trafficking in the Black Community. Also moderated by award winning actress Tanya Wright, the panel took an in-depth look at human trafficking and why Black women and girls are trafficked at a higher rate. Panelist included:

  • Austen Williams, Human Trafficking Advocate and President, The Culture Catalyst
  • Tanisha Murden, Human Trafficking Survivor
  • Gretta Gardner, Deputy Director, Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community
  • Dr. Monique Howard, Executive Director, WOAR-Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence

In addition to events hosted by Ujima, Inc., our Executive Director, Karma Cottman served as a panelist at the “You Matter to Me: Domestic Violence and Strategic Community Alliances” discussion. The panel was a part of the “S.M.E. (Show Me Everything) Speaker Series,” hosted by Reverend Janelle Johnson of Reid Temple AME Church in Glendale, Maryland.

As we prepare for the holiday season, Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, is dedicating the month of November to discussing Black Mental Health. In many traditions, the coming days and weeks entail joyous, festive, and celebratory rituals that center gratitude, charity, and community. However, this time of year presents new challenges, pressures, and expectations that can make the holiday season overwhelming and stressful. In our commitment to uplifting our community, we want to prioritize and discuss mental wellness as we immerse ourselves in daylight savings time and the colder winter months.

Although African Americans make up roughly 12% of the U.S. population, they comprise approximately 18.7% of those affected by mental illness. African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general U.S. population. Some scholars have identified racism-specific stress and coping responses to include, but not limited to anger, paranoia, anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, frustration, resentment, and fear for African Americans. Moreover, symptoms of depression and anxiety show up differently within and across racial/ethnic groups that speak directly to historical trauma from diverse lived experiences. For example, research has shown that Black women in America experience chronic anxiety and more intense symptoms than other races. A new groundbreaking study reveals that the pressure of holding everything down as a “strong Black woman” places immense stress and pressure that can increase the risk of depression among Black woman. This pressure can reach even higher levels during the holiday season.

The American Psychological Association notes that “holiday-related stress and the ‘holiday blues’—feelings of disappointment, sadness, fatigue or frustration—are not unusual” during this time of year. The Holiday Blues are often temporary, but for those suffering from mental illnesses, the holidays can be immensely stressful and emotionally taxing. Whether you are worried about purchasing gifts for family and friends or bracing to celebrate the season without a loved one who recently passed, this time of year can trigger a range of negative and positive emotions. The psychological toll of the holidays can result in adverse health outcomes that impact one’s overall wellness beyond the season.

Despite the clear need for mental health care that addresses the multitude of stressors Black Americans face on a daily basis, racial disparities persist when it comes to access. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health reports that only 8.7% of Non-Hispanic Black adults, compared to 18.6% of Non-Hispanic White adults, received mental health services in 2018. These disparities exist due to several barriers to prevention and intervention such as, social stigma, distrust of the health care system, lack of cultural humility and diversity among providers, and lack of health insurance.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that Black Mental Health is central to our efforts to promote wellness for our community. As the holidays approach, there are several things that we can do to help navigate the highs and lows of this season, including seeking professional help and identifying other community resources that cater to our needs. Dr. Joy Harden-Bradford, a Licensed Psychologist, author, media contributor and host of the “Therapy for Black Girls” podcast, is one of several remarkable Black women encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. She shares the following tips on steadying yourself for the holiday season that we encourage you to consider:

  1. Be realistic about your budget.
    • Don’t feel pressure to overspend on gifts for friends or loved ones this year. Instead, think of gifts that do not have a specific monetary value attached such as babysitting or curating a music playlist.
    • Plan to set aside some money for gifts to avoid financial stress.
  2. Create new traditions and reexamine old ones.
    • If you can’t be with your family this year for Thanksgiving, consider spending time with friends and having a Friendsgiving instead.
  1. Make a game plan for dealing with the loss of a loved one.
    • Reimagine what holiday traditions might look like without your loved one’s physical presence this year.
    • Don’t avoid the holidays after experiencing the loss of a loved one. It may not be as a joyous occasion, but you will be able to tolerate the pain and push through.
    • Plan ahead to avoid panic.
  1. Set and stick to your boundaries.
    • Recognize that you cannot do everything and that it is okay to say “no” sometimes.
  1. Build some downtime into your schedule just for yourself.
    • This could simply entail heading back home a few days earlier before you have to head back to work or school, going on a solo vacation or planning a staycation.
  1. Allow yourself space to feel whatever you feel.
    • Let go of the unrealistic expectation that you have to feel endless happiness and excitement during the holidays. It is okay to feel sad or worried in light of what is happening in your life.

Finally, let’s acknowledge the fact that spending time with family is not so joyous for some people. For those who find family functions difficult to maneuver, just know that you can pick your family. And if spending time with your family is harmful, stressful and traumatic, choose what make you feel safe. If you need help unpacking these feelings, seek assistance.

During the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), The Person Center (TPC) partnered with Ujima, Inc. to engage the member and community partners of DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV) in raising awareness about domestic violence. Collectively, they educated communities on how to promote safety, respect and accountability by changing the way we talk about relationships across the Diaspora.

Ujima, Inc. and TPC, in collaboration with DCCADV, kicked off DVAM on the campus of Howard University at their Paint the Campus Purple event on Tuesday, October 1, 2019, hosted by Howard University’s Violence Prevention Program. The event gave both programs the opportunity to engage the student body in discussion on raising awareness about DVAM and healthy relationships, while also distributing culturally specific literature and resources.

Following the Howard University event, Ujima, Inc. and TPC took part in DCCADV’s signature DVAM event, Paint the Town Purple. This year, organizations from across the District of Columbia joined us at various Metro stations throughout DC where we educated the community about domestic violence by distributing resources and other materials.

Other exciting events that took place throughout the month included:

  • US Attorney’s Office and the East of the River Family – The US Attorney’s Office and the East of the River Family Strengthening Collaborative hosted an Inter-Faith Health Resource Fair in Ward 7. This outreach and tabling event focused primarily on domestic violence and intimate partner violence and included over a dozen organizations and resources available to Washington, DC residents, specifically in Ward 7. Organizations and agencies that were represented included: The University of the District of Columbia, Interfaith Advisory Board to the Mayor, MedStar Health Hospitals, the Metropolitan Police Department, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The Person Center and Ujima, Inc., just to name a few.
  • Spread the Love Trivia Night – An exciting event where locals had the opportunity to show off their smarts while raising awareness about healthy relationships. Trivia Night is an annual charity event that supports the work of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  • Purple Thursday Fest – A day of unity in the community to commemorate the annual Purple Thursday Awareness Community Fair across the DC metropolitan area. The event showcased the strength of the DVAM member organizations and community partners. Located on the steps of The National City Christian Church, the event included awareness activities, performances and a declaration by the Mayor of Washington, DC.

Other DVAM events TPC attended included, Coffee & Conversations, a movie screening of the classic 1940’s film “The Heiress,” and a presentation on the Public Charge ruling around housing in DC and Surviving DC: The Cost of Safety, a discussion about domestic violence and the actual cost of assisting survivors.

The Person Center also had the opportunity to engage with the community, organizations and advocates through various training sessions. In partnership with the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The Person Center conducted three, all-day trauma informed trainings at the Hill Center in Southeast, DC. Shelter organizations from across the city participated in a group discussion about trauma and its impacts, as well as how to address trauma when supporting the clients we serve. The groups also discussed systemic challenges and barriers when responding to trauma and defining trauma informed care that is shared across the spectrum.

CHANGE THEIR WORLD. CHANGE YOURS. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.