The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives announced that July would be known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This resolution would honor her work as an advocate for mental health awareness, particularly in the Black community. The goal for the month is to enhance public awareness of mental illness among minorities.
In keeping with this sentiment and Mrs. Moore’s legacy, Therapy for Black Girls takes the opportunity to dig deeper into broadening the conversation around mental health and mental illness each year in July. To kick us off for our month-long commemoration and raise awareness, we’ve created an oral history detailing the creation of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
In this week’s episode, I’m joined by Dr. Linda Wharton-Boyd, the convener of the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Awareness Task Force, and Albert R. Wynn, a former U.S. House of Representatives member. Dr. Boyd and Congressman Wynn were instrumental in creating Minority Mental Health Awareness Month after Bebe Moore Campbell’s passing in 2006. Our conversation explores the process of bringing Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to life, the impact Minority Mental Health Awareness Month has had over the years, and Bebe Moore Campbell’s continued legacy.
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Executive Producers: Dennison Bradford & Maya Cole Howard
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Session 265: An Oral History of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 265 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.
Dr. Joy: In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives announced that July would be known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This resolution would honor her work as an advocate for mental health awareness, particularly in the black community. The goal for the month is to enhance public awareness of mental illness among minorities. In keeping with this sentiment and Mrs. Moore's legacy, Therapy for Black Girls takes this opportunity to dig deeper into broadening the conversation around mental health and mental illness each year in July. To kick us off for our month-long commemoration and raise awareness, we've created an oral history detailing the creation of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
In this week's episode, I speak with Dr. Linda Wharton-Boyd, the convener of the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Taskforce, and Albert R. Wynn, a former U.S. House of Representatives member. Dr. Boyd and Congressman Wynn were instrumental in creating Minority Mental Health Awareness month after Bebe Moore Campbell's passing in 2006. Our conversation explores the process of bringing the month to life, the impact Minority Mental Health Awareness Month has had over the years and Bebe Moore Campbell's continued legacy. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or join us over in the Sister Circle to talk more in-depth about the episode. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirsl.com. Here's our conversation.
Dr. Boyd: We actually met at the University of Pittsburgh. I came in as a freshman student, she was an upperclassman, and we just met on a campus one day and we instantly clicked.
Dr. Joy: This is the voice of Dr. Linda Wharton-Boyd, the convener of the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Task Force and longtime friend of Bebe Moore Campbell. Linda and Bebe met on campus in the early 1970s.
Dr. Boyd: She was such an advocate for black folks, she was such an advocate for women and even a bigger advocate for black men. She and I just started talking and we became just very, very close friends and remained that way until her death more than 10 years ago. I miss her, miss her dearly.
Dr. Joy: In addition to being amazing friends, years later, the duo would go on to become powerfully motivated to shift the existing stigmas around mental health that were prevalent at that time in the black community.
Dr. Boyd: You know, Bebe and I, whenever she would come to the East Coast, she would stay with me, we would always be together. And we were sitting in bed late one night, you know how girls do girl talk late at night. You haven’t seen your girlfriend in a long time, you sit up, you talk and drink a little wine just talking. And she says I just wish people knew more about mental illness in our community. We have to do more than make it a way. What else can we do? I said we can create a month and just do it. So we talked about it. She said how do you declare a day? I said a day—why not a month?
We started out with a day, we started in the District of Columbia. We worked with the mayor's administration and had a press conference with the Department of Behavioral Health. And we talked about the need for us to really get into mental health and bring it to the forefront of our issues because so many of us suffer in silence. So we talked about that, we named a day and we just wrote on a piece of paper. And then, of course, when she became a strong advocate, she just started a movement to look at mental health in our communities. We’ll always say your physical health, but you should also add that component called mental health all the time. You do your annual physical—do an annual mental health check.
We talked about that a lot. I've traveled with her book, 72 Hour Hold, in which she talked about mental illness. A child's book that she wrote, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry. Beautiful, beautiful, written words to help us to understand that mental illness is not anything we should be ashamed of. I would travel with her on some of her book tours to talk with people, and it was just amazing how people would come up and say, you're talking about me. I have a loved one in my family who's going through the same thing. I mean, people would come up almost in tears after she would read sections of the book and answer questions.
What we realized is that people are suffering in silence because of the shame that's associated or the stigma that's associated with mental health. And so one of her major, major objectives was to say we need to erase this stigma so people can get the help that they need. Just like we get help with high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, we can get help with our mental state of being and live productive lives. And so that became a part of who she was, it became a part of her desire in life. To make sure that people got the help that they needed and that research was being conducted as it related to people of color.
Dr. Joy: With this revelation in mind, Bebe and Linda set off on a path that we are honored to be walking in till this day. What we now know as a month-long commemoration began humbly as a one-day event birthed by two passionate black women who rightfully believed they could change how people discussed and understood mental health in the black community.
Dr. Boyd: It was July 10 we had for that date. And I was so happy the mayor of Washington, DC at that time (I think Anthony Williams) allowed us to have a press conference. And we kicked it off, that was the first city. And then it was kicked off in Maryland and it went to Philadelphia and I think it went to Ohio. And people started picking it up.
In the midst of all of this, when we were doing this, she became ill with her own health and I went out to California to be with her during this time. I’ll never forget her calling me and telling me about this diagnosis that the doctors gave her. And I used to tell her sleep with your head on the Bible. That's what my grandmother used to say. We would think about what to do, but we would talk all the time. We would always just talk about different things and she just wanted her loved ones to be well, she wanted those that she knew to be well. And she formed a group in California. One of the many things she did while she was alive, she started what was called NAMI Urban Los Angeles. And that is a very viable organization today that is designed to help people who are impacted by mental illness. Her advocacy was just relentless. As she would with any issue that she took on, she would be relentless with it.
Dr. Joy: Bebe Moore Campbell’s ferocity for change never dwindled. Despite the fact that the candle of her life slowly began to dim. Bebe Moore Campbell transitioned from the physical realm to the spiritual realm in 2006 at the powerful age of 56. At this time, Linda picked up Bebe’s fire and carried the torch to see Bebe’s vision shown in its brightest light. Linda, however, wasn't working alone, as there were many helping hands that wanted to join in to bring Bebe’s dreams of a month-long recognition to fruition.
Dr. Boyd: When I called Albert on the phone, I said I need your help. And he said, okay Linda, what is it now?
Albert: One of our close friends brought to my attention that one of her dying wishes was to raise awareness of minority mental health. Our friend, Dr. Linda Wharton Boyd, came to me and said, Albert, I'd like you to do this and see if you could get a resolution passed.
Dr. Joy: This is the voice of former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Albert R. Wynn, and longtime friend of Bebe Moore Campbell.
Albert: I actually went to college with Bebe Moore Campbell and was a big admirer of hers. I think she was a year ahead of me, but she was one of those people on campus that everybody listened to, what they call “old soul,” mature for her age. However you want to describe it, she was that type of person and so I was always an admirer from a distance. That's how I came to get much more intimately involved in the issue. And so it was an honor for me to do something in memory of Bebe Moore Campbell because she'd made a great contribution in terms of moving us from that old way of thinking to a more enlightened and accepting approach that was actually helpful to people.
Dr. Boyd: I said, we need to get this passed as a national month to be observed and we need to bring attention to this problem in our community, and I need your help in doing that. I said, what do you do? Do y’all do resolutions? What do you do? Well, we want to claim this month as July. And so I remember during his last month in August, he devoted a lot of time and effort to help us to get a bipartisan passage of this resolution. Which was unheard of at that time, because, you know, different factions in the Congress. Diane Watson and all joined his effort to name that month of July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Dr. Joy: Despite Dr. Boyd singing representative Albert Wynn's praises, he shares that it was Dr. Boyd that really brought this month to life.
Albert: Please give her all the credit because a lot of people have good ideas, but if there's not a driving force behind that good idea, it doesn't happen. And let me tell you, Dr. Wharton-Boyd was an incredible driving force. It was shortly before I was going to leave Congress and so I had a lot of things on my plate. But her persistence on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis to make this happen, was instrumental. She worked not just with me, but with my staff. My staff would say Dr. Boyd called and she said you’ve got to get this done. What do we need to do? Who do we need to talk to? Etc, etc, so she deserves a tremendous amount of credit for her leadership in this effort.
Dr. Joy: It's safe to say that Dr. Boyd and Representative Wynn were champions of this effort in their own rights. While Dr. Boyd provided the guided leadership and initial setup, Albert Wynn and his team came in with the follow-through to pass Minority Mental Health Awareness Month as a resolution through the U.S. Congress in 2008.
Albert: There are a lot of resolutions, noncontroversial resolutions, advocating everything, from national days to recognize crabcakes, to recognize women's sports. Recognitions are an important part of our culture. It is actually a way of raising awareness. If you have a Congressional resolution, it says that Congress has heard about this issue, has been presented with the information, and has voted to make this designation. We designate everything from post offices, as I said, to National Hot Dog Day. That’s how it happens, people interested in raising awareness. The resolution, we started with the Congressional resolution, then that was a precedent for a resolution by the DC City Council and it's my understanding that other cities and then counties have also taken up this cause. So it has that effect of creating some awareness, momentum, and that helps keep the ball moving.
I was very fortunate. My staff did all the work and they researched the issue, and it was not a terribly controversial issue from the standpoint that people were denying it or saying it was not a worthwhile endeavor. The question was, did we have the time to get the language drawn up in the proper way to get it through committee? And then you’ve got to get it to the floor and then you’ve got to pass it on the floor. And we were able to do all of that. From a research standpoint, there were a lot of people who provided input and letters of support and endorsement and that sort of thing. But this was an issue whose time had come, quite frankly. And it was ironic because I didn't know it at the time, but in subsequent years, I came to find out the significance of this issue through my own family (as I had a family member who was and is currently suffering from mental illness) and I began to really appreciate the challenges. And also how much information people didn't have.
Well, who do you talk to if you want to help somebody? If you want to stop just putting them in the back room, how do you get them help? Under what circumstances can people get help? Voluntary help is always easy in terms of the person's willingness to engage with medical professions, but what about a person who's unwilling? Who has not accepted that they have a problem, is unwilling to get treatment, how do you get help for them? How do you get appropriate help? Sometimes, sadly, a lot of these people end up in the criminal justice system. They've been involved in minor skirmishes, incidents, things like that, that don't really merit a criminal justice response, but that's the only institution we really have to address these issues. And so I learned a great deal. But that was the biggest thing about how people were not aware of what was available or how to deal with it. And also how to deal with people before they get into the criminal justice system.
Dr. Joy: Because the Minority Mental Health Awareness Month resolution passed in Congress after Bebe Moore Campbell's death, there was much to be celebrated in her honor. And more importantly, more work to be done to keep her legacy alive.
Albert: There was a lot of jumping up and down and screaming and what have you. And then within a few days, she was calling me and saying, you know, DC is getting ready to pass this (the DC City Council), can you come down and talk about that? So yeah, it was a big celebration. We felt that we had *[inaudible 0:15:52] something for the minority community, and the issue that wasn't a criminal justice issue or it wasn't a social services issue, in terms of housing or education, things like that. This is a new area where we had a significant problem in the community and we now had a vehicle to promote awareness of the problem.
Dr. Boyd: At the time that it passed, people were just happy. We got emails from all over the country, people were just... oh, wow, this is great, this is great. So we just kept it moving. We just said we’ve got to keep this moving. It's almost like she's in my ear. It's just one way of not only honoring her memory but honoring the work and the movement that she started. There are those who would like to rename this month BIPOC month and I started a campaign with those of us on the task force called “Erase the stigma, not her name,” and so we're going to keep that campaign going. Because this is a black woman who started a movement, that movement has helped thousands and thousands of people, and why should we take her name? No more than we would remove “color” from the NAACP, would not remove “minority” from National Minority Mental Health Month.
We are working with those who may not understand and may not know that this movement was representative of a woman who dedicated her life, to the day she died, to help those who may be impacted by mental illness, and so we work today in her honor. We've been working with different congresspersons who were approached by some mental health groups who feel that the title minority is outdated, feel that it’s no longer appropriate. But I can tell you that once we talk to various groups about the history... That's why it's so important to understand our history so we don't repeat this. Once we talk with them about the history of this movement and the fact that a black woman gave her all in all to her last dying days to make sure that people understood what was available to them so they did not continue to suffer in silence. If you remember the movie Soul Food. You remember that movie Soul Food?
Dr. Joy: I do.
Dr. Boyd: I love that movie. It was a family movie, everybody went to the mother's house on Sunday but Uncle Pete stayed in the back room and people would push him to the back, you know, whenever company came to visit. And at the end, he came out with the television and dropped the television, all this money came out. He wasn't as crazy as they thought he was, was he? He knew how to save his money. The point is that we would hide him as opposed to giving him the treatment and help that he needed. I always use that as a starting point for me. That movie just brought out to me how we in our community have to address mental illness. Not hide it, not put it under the carpet, not close the door and let nobody know that so and so has got some mental problems. No, let's get the help that they need so they can live full lives again and do what's necessary.
There are a lot of people who are suffering with mental illness. Whether it's paranoid, bipolar, schizophrenic, dual diagnosed, whatever the diagnosis is. But there is help, there are resources and we must seek that help and resources so people can be made whole. This July, we will be hosting our second annual Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month Symposium on Thursday, July 7. The title this time is called “We wear the mask—the alarming rate of suicide in communities of color.” If you remember, Langston Hughes wrote that poem, We Wear The Mask. And we do wear the mask. We know how to take it on, we know how to take it off. But we need to remove the mask of mental illness, remove the stigma, and get the help that we need so we can live productive and meaningful lives, for our families and for ourselves.
Dr. Joy: More from our conversation after the break.
Dr. Joy: Building on Dr. Boyd's point, in order to aid folks in their mental illness needs, we not only need to bring awareness to these issues. We also need the financial support to get people what they need.
Albert: What we need is money appropriations. Because you’ve got agencies, both public agencies and private agencies and then nonprofit agencies that want to help—most of them are underfunded. Most of them don't have the necessary employees. There is not an abundance of psychological counselors or workers. I'm not qualified to say whether it’s an acute shortage, but I can definitely say from just my experiences in the community, we need more. We need a lot more. So that's the thing that I would emphasize at this point.
The other thing that I would mention in that regard, though, is efforts now to look at this issue and intervene in the criminal justice system more appropriately. In other words, instead of just relying on law enforcement officers who have to break up a fight or intervene in a trespass situation, and are required to charge, now people are saying, well, maybe we need to bring in a social worker, a mental health counselor, someone of this nature, to look at the situation. And not immediately send this situation into the criminal justice system if it can be avoided. I mean, if there's an assault, there's an assault and you have to deal with that. But if it can be avoided and the person directed to necessary resources and assistance, that's a better way to go. And as a part of the police reform movement that's taking place in this country, a lot of people are focusing on that and saying, look, people are getting shot because they have mental illness. If someone's walking down the street naked, that's a mental illness issue, not an issue where you’ve got to rush in a whole bunch of police officers to respond.
So the thinking has changed and I think that's absolutely critical, I think at the state and local level. Let me emphasize that—at the state and local level, changes are being made, people are at least talking about changes, and that's where I think we need a lot of emphasis. As opposed to just saying, well, we need another federal law. First of all, federal laws are very difficult. This was a resolution, not a statutory law. I think the awareness is necessary but at the end, you’ve got to put necessary resources and assistance. That's a better way to go.
Dr. Joy: Dr. Boyd weighed in on the issue as well with what else is needed in the fight for mental health awareness and what other sectors of the black community can be a positive influence.
Dr. Boyd: I think we need more stakeholders to talk about this issue. I think the faith community can play a pivotal role in this. Because, many times for us to come out of slavery or whatever, it was our God that we went to when we had problems. We go to our pastor and we go to the deaconess of the health ministry in the church. We need to get more training for them so that they can recognize the illness. We need to be able to point our people in the right direction. I would like to see some very hands-on simple tools. Just like we have the home test for COVID, the antigen test, I would love for us to have a home test for our mental illness. So that any sign, you can say oh, oh, I might need some help. I need to talk to somebody. There is no shame in talking to somebody. Some of our greatest people in the world talk to psychologists and people that they need to get help. And so again, we’ve got to erase the stigma. That is a starting point for me. It's okay that you're feeling that way today. Let's talk about this.
I have a friend whose son has been suffering from mental illness. He did not find out until his son was in college and his son was walking around the campus with his pajamas on. And he was like, what in the world? What in the world? And he realized that his son was suffering with bipolar disorder but he didn't have a clue. His son would be agitated, wasn’t the same son that he sent to school, well, what happened? So there are some things that happened during that time that triggered that response and so he has been there for his son from day one, helping him. They need to know that someone is there for them and that's what we really need to work on. Making sure that we listen and making sure that we can refer and help people along the way.
I worked with a group a couple of years ago in San Francisco in Oakland. It was a church group and they had a health ministry. We actually went out on the street for three days in a row, in the market area where people were telling them one on one about getting mental health services, what's available to them, and had them take a simple written test on a piece of paper. And just telling them if something is wrong or if you score such and such, get some help. That was just a very simple way that this group of women in the AME Zion Church was pulling together to help those who may be suffering in mental illness and don't want to talk about it. And so that's one of the things that they have done. We're seeing more organizations like the Divine Nine taking on this issue. We need to get as many organizations and stakeholders and partners and collaboratives as we can to talk about this issue so that people will feel free and not feel stigmatized if they need help.
Dr. Joy: In light of the recent pandemic and the many other trials and tribulations of simply existing in today's world, the need for mental health resources is compounding. More and more, people are living with mental health struggles that can often be undetectable. Unlike physical illnesses, there isn't a clear-cut sign of how someone will look if they need mental health assistance.
Dr. Boyd: What I see now is that you have more and more people in organizations that are now talking about mental illness. I've seen it more since the COVID pandemic, that public health emergency exists, so that people are feeling a little more comfortable about talking about it. But most people want to know where to get help, that seems to be the number one issue. How can I get help for my loved one? How can I learn more about this? What can I do to help them? People are more in the posture of talking about mental illness and not feeling so embarrassed by it, but able to share information and to seek help. I see that happening. It’s gradually. I think more and more, as we look around and more cases are being pronounced in news media...
The young lady who was Miss America who took her life in New York City. Her parents, I read the recent interview that she had, talking about her daughter and how these people look normal. We say, well, I never would have thought that. She doesn't look like she's upset to me, she doesn't look disturbed to me. Well, if mental illness had a certain look, we would probably be better far down the road. But it doesn't have a particular look. It can happen to anyone at any time. And so we have to be very conscious and aware of this situation and what it means to people and how we can recognize the signs. When people are telling you they're having a problem, listen. People say this day is done, I ain't trying to live this life anymore—listen and get them the help that they need. Because there is help and there is life after the silence.
Dr. Joy: In the case of Bebe Moore Campbell, it was her transparency with her life-threatening physical illness that allowed for her friends and family to show up and support her—a testament to the value in not suffering in silence. Linda recalls the task force of friends that assembled to take care of Bebe in her final days.
Dr. Boyd: This is funny how we got this name, how the DC Divas just came up. When Bebe was diagnosed what her illness, I did not want her to have to go into a nursing home or assisted facility or anything like that. I just wanted her to be around her friends. I just believed that if she just could feel the love that we all had for her. We set up times, I set up a little schedule where I would go out for a week, come back, another friend would go out for a week and come back. We did that. Every four weeks, I would be going to California to spend a week or two with her. But each of us had a certain responsibility and I would give everybody their responsibility. You're responsible for making sure the house is clean, blah, blah. You’re responsible for making sure she's got her last will and testament. You’re responsible... We did that over and over again from February to her death in November because we wanted to be there to help her husband and her mother with the care for her as a caregiver. I said we’re divas, we’re divas, we can do this thing, so that's how we got this thing called the DC Divas.
It's not a real club or anything. We just labeled ourselves DC Divas but it was all about the friendship and love. Because we had so much in common but the main thing we had in common was our relationship with Bebe Moore Campbell. Whenever she came to Washington, we would all get together and stay up all night long just talking, giving people solutions to problems. “That's not a problem, you ain't got a problem, girl, you know you got to do this. Oh, girl, that ain't nothing.” It was just a kind of fellowship and friendship that women have that she highlighted and made sure that it was a part about inspirational living. And so we looked forward to her coming every year to Washington to Baltimore or to Richmond. Wherever she was on the East Coast, we were there to support her and to be with her.
Her transition was very hard for us. I only remember grieving her death about eight or nine years after she was gone. Because it was so busy just trying to make sure that her legacy remained and that people knew that the work that she started would continue. I was looking at some of the letters and things that she had written while she was here. I have a whole box of stuff, of Bebe Moore Campbell stuff. But she was such a true spirit, she just really was. She was serious about people and helping people, she would start an organization in a minute. On campus, we must have started about three or four different organizations—they all are thriving today. So her legacy lives on. I will do all I can while I'm here to push out her legacy and make it a part of the lifestyle that we live in understanding what mental illness is, how it impacts the family, but know there is hope. There is cure, there is help, and so we just have to make sure that our community is well aware of what's available to them.
Dr. Joy: More from our conversation after the break.
Dr. Joy: Despite the tremendous pain of losing a beloved friend, Dr. Boyd reassures us all that those living will still maintain the cherished memories that were shared.
Dr. Boyd: We used to go to Martha's Vineyard, she had a place in Martha's Vineyard. We used to go up there every summer and spend a week together as women (in one house) and just talk about everything. I would say that was probably a source of a lot of her writings. We would just come together and talk about our own personal problems. We’d talk about our problems with our own family and our children, outside, our careers. What we wanted to do, how we wanted to leave a legacy in life. How we were going to sit on the porch and rocking chair when we got old. Bebe was always very pretty and it wasn't about being old with her–it was like we're gonna be young forever. So we would talk about issues and I think that helped to shape a lot of her writing. But most importantly, she always wanted to uplift women, always uplifting women. That’s what I can remember about her all the time. And she always wanted us to know who we are, she wanted us to be who we were, she wanted us to get the best of a fulfillment in life. That is just the type of person she was. That’s just who she was. She was true to herself and wanted everybody else to be true to themselves. She was just a great, great woman that did a lot for a lot of people.
Dr. Joy: In addition to being a prolific writer, a cherished friend, a college graduate, a mother, a wife, and a trailblazer, Bebe Moore Campbell was an individual who wholeheartedly believed in the gift in us all. For this, Bebe Moore Campbell is the gift that has kept on giving.
Albert: I’d like people to remember her as one of the first voices in the wilderness. She's a pioneer of a different sort. Because we really were in bad shape at the time she was writing about it. She was a lonely voice, talking about it at a time when our community had, by and large, stigmatized it. Well-meaning people. Not just people who didn't care, but people who cared. “But man, you don't talk about that,” or they spoke in whispers about it. We have a lot of pioneers in the African American community (who) people are just becoming aware of. I want people to identify Bebe Moore Campbell as Minority Mental Health. I certainly want people to recognize her as a pioneer in advancing minority mental health.
Dr. Boyd: She already has a legacy. Her legacy has been her work with women. If you read her books, there's a lot that she's written about women and the role of women in the lives of their families. But her legacy, in addition to her writing on women... And her writing was just so profound, she could get into the inner stuff of somebody. “She must be talking about me.” I mean, she was such a great prolific writer. But her legacy as it stands today is her work with women, her writing with women and black families, and how she could get those characters to be so real, so you had to understand. And I guess we should understand about her anyway because she would always have these little group meetings. We could be anywhere on campus and stop and have a little group meeting, three or four of us, talking about issues. And she would take those issues and the next thing we’d know is she's written an expose about it. Not to call out our names, but she got into the human spirit. She got into the human side of people and presented a mirror for you to see yourself.
Amiri Baraka once said, “If the beautiful see themselves they will know themselves.” So I always like to think that Bebe was the type of person who allowed people to see themselves in her writing and they began to know themselves and then they could begin to move to action. And so her legacy was one of just mirroring who you are so that you can understand who you are and what you need to do to improve yourself if self-improvement is necessary. If not, what you need to do to help others. Her work was always about other people. Helping other people and helping other people to have fulfilled lives. And she was always about that. I guess she got that from her mother, we call her mother Gigi. Gigi was the same way. A couple of years ago, we were at their home in LA and we took out some of Bebe’s old writings (she would write letters) and we would pull out those letters and read those letters again. It was just amazing. She had a gift. God had given her a gift to tap into the human spirit, to tap into the heart of a person, the soul of a person, and let you see yourself and write about it. It's a gift. She was a gift.
Dr. Joy: Since 2008, Congressman Wynn and Dr. Boyd have stayed connected to this important work and remained passionate about the memory of Bebe Moore Campbell.
Albert: I am a lobbyist and I do some consulting and I work for a variety of firms. But I do have some clients who have an interest in this area, in the social service area. So I do some work and follow it from that standpoint. Particularly the social service area, people who deal with Medicaid-managed care companies (which is one of my clients) who are very concerned about this. They're concerned about this in the context of social determinants of health. Because when you drill down and do an in-depth health analysis and you say, okay, I've got a diabetic here but are they in an environment where they can keep their insulin cold or refrigerated—that's an issue. We have people who have mental health needs and that's why they don't make their doctor's appointments. That’s significant because we have to deal with their mental health issues if we want them to be able to take advantage of the free programs that are available to them, keep their appointments or find the necessary transportation.
So it's tough enough if you don't have a mental illness. If you have a mental illness, you're trying to access social services, Medicare, Medicaid, those types of things, it becomes very, very challenging and it is easy to fall through the cracks. “Well, he didn't make the appointment.” Well, someone's got to go behind and see, why didn't they make that appointment? Was it a transportation issue? Was it a lack of follow-up? Whatever the case may be. So yeah, I think we've got those challenges out there that we need to deal with.
Dr. Boyd: I currently serve as the chief communication officer and director of external affairs for Obamacare. I've worked with community groups in most of my career. I've always liked working with people. My degrees are in communication and I always say, you cannot not communicate. And people would say, what do you mean? I said, you cannot “not” communicate, so I'm always gonna have a job. I'm always gonna have something to do because we cannot not communicate. And so we would spend time looking at that.
A lot of the work that I've done has been work for three different mayors here in the nation's capital. It put me in touch with a lot of community groups, faith-based organizations, professional organizations, and I try to infuse some of this work in that outreach. So that whatever I do, whether it's with the faith-based community (which I have been very deeply involved in mental health awareness) and others, I bring that to the table at all times. I bring it to the table because it's just a part of life. It's a part of who we are and we must address it. Every chance I get to talk about it. I told you my campaign: Erase the stigma, not her name. Let's keep the big picture in front of us and let's help our people get the help that they need.
The work that I do, I also consult with a number of different prominent figures across the country with my work that I've done in communications and strategic communications, outreach and engagement. Even when I went to school in Africa, I took some of these things with me as well. So it's just a part of who I am, I guess. Just to share, this is what I believe. Don't take it to the graveyard; share that information with others, share your gifts with others. That's the best thing you can do.
Whatever God has blessed you with, whatever gifts he has blessed you to have, you have to share it with others. It's not for you to keep to yourself but it's for you to give and to help others. I've lived by that philosophy. My mother taught me that growing up, my dad. I have two sisters, we all are very much into helping others in whatever way is possible. My mother, I'm blessed, turned 92 years old last week. She is still living on her own, she's still independent, she still has her memory, she still knows who she is and she still drives, so I am very thankful for that. She has taught us at all times to always give back. When we say pay it forward, she says give it back so that other people can have. Your gifts are not meant for you to keep. Your gifts are for you to share.
Dr. Joy: In many ways, that core philosophy is what tied Bebe, Linda, and Albert together all those years ago at the University of Pittsburgh. A burning desire to speak up, to help others and voice their truth. The question now remains, who in the younger generation will carry this philosophy into the future?
Albert: As I was thinking about our program today, what I wanted to comment on is the role of our young athletes in changing perceptions. People like Simone Biles have had a tremendous impact. And non-minority athletes as well. The fact that the athletic community, which people follow for various reasons, those are high profile individuals and when they speak out or when they say, wait a minute, I'm not perfect. I may be the greatest in my athletic endeavor, but I'm not perfect and I've got some issues—that's a big deal. And the fact that several of them were superstars from the minority community, I think made it even more impactful. Because, wait a minute, Simone Biles? Naomi Osaka? Okay. People say all right, okay. Now it is becoming mainstream, which was like a dream for us in 2008. That now someone at that level says, wait a minute, I have a mental health issue that I want to deal with and you should make sure you're dealing with the mental health issues that you may have. That has a tremendous impact on very young people who are coming up into a very complicated world.
Dr. Joy: In the 14 years since its creation, Minority Mental Health Month has impacted the lives of thousands of people. In addition to this resolution, Bebe Moore Campbell and those that worked beside her have also left countless resources to aid those in need and educate those looking to support others.
Dr. Boyd: I would also encourage people to really visit NAMI Urban Los Angeles site for additional information. We have upcoming seminars that the staff has put together. Some are in person, but most of them are virtual so no matter where you are across the country, you can get some help from them. We encourage you to go to that website, NAMIurbanLA.org, and get information off of that site on what we're doing and how we are seeking to help others. And there's a contact on the site and you contact us through that site, and there we are.
I encourage everyone to join us on July 7 for the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month symposium: We wear the mask—The alarming rate of suicide in communities of color. We have some very fantastic speakers and we also have individuals who have lived the experience of mental health and have been saved. We have some who will give their life stories. One is George Foreman's granddaughter who will be sharing with us her experiences. She lost her mother to suicide. I think that people will be helped by hearing the experiences that others have lived, so that will help them and we encourage you to join us for that. It's a virtual workshop. One o'clock Eastern Standard Time, 11 o'clock Pacific Time. We ask for you to join us and be a part of that discussion. The Bebe Moore Campbell. All you’ve got to do is google Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month symposium, and it all pops up. Register and join us on Thursday, July 7 at one o'clock Eastern Time.
Dr. Joy: I'm so thankful for Dr. Boyd and Congressman Wynn for sharing with us for this episode. We're also sending a special prayer and lots of love to the family of Bebe Moore Campbell. Be sure to check out the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session265 to learn more about them and their work, and to tap into all of the amazing events and conversations we'll be having this month.
If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory. And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis, and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.