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Session 272: Navigating Academia As A Black Woman

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.

Over the years, there have been many public conversations around academic institutions failing to adequately support Black women, leaving many brilliant sisters feeling burned out, discouraged, and undervalued. At the same time, the desire for Black women to pursue higher education and secure tenure roles at Universities still exists, and rightfully so. Black women deserve a seat in higher education just like everyone else. The question is, for those who want to pursue higher education, what should they know beforehand?

Joining me this week to discuss Black women navigating the academic arena are Professor Helen A. Neville, an Educational Psychology and African American Studies professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dr. Della V. Mosley, co-founder of Academics for Black Survival and Wellness. In our conversation, we break down the difficulties Black women face while pursuing  tenure track positions in academia, what Black women should consider in their assessment of whether to get into academia, and what other pathways exist to pursue higher education.


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Session 272: Navigating Academia As A Black Woman

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 272 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Over the years, there have been many public conversations around academic institutions failing to adequately support black women, leaving many brilliant sisters feeling burned out discouraged, and undervalued. At the same time, the desire for black women to pursue higher education and secure tenure roles at universities still exists, and rightfully so. Black women deserve a seat in higher education just like everyone else. The question is, for those who want to pursue higher education, what should they know beforehand? Joining me today to discuss black women navigating the academic arena are Professor Helen A. Neville and Dr. Della V. Mosley.

Professor Neville is an educational psychology and African American studies professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Mosley is the co-founder of Academics for Black Survival and Wellness. In our conversation, we break down the difficulties black women face while pursuing tenure track positions in academia, what black women should consider in their assessment of whether to get into academia and what other pathways exist to pursue higher education. 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 Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: I am just so thrilled to be with you both today and very excited to chat with you and to just really have you be able to share your expertise and so much of your knowledge related to black women in academia. I’d love for us to get started by just talking about what we mean when we talk about black women in academia. Like what does that cover and who does that cover?

Dr. Neville: I want to first thank you so much for the invitation. To be in community and be on this podcast, it means so much to me. When we think about what are we talking about black women in the academy, we're thinking about people on tenure track, people that are specialty faculty and clinical faculty. And I realize that might not mean anything to our listeners, so just real quick: tenure track is for faculty that are part of teaching institutions or research institutions. That essentially means if they work for six years, seven years, and they do what they should be doing in terms of their research, teaching, and service, they can go up for tenure. And you go up for tenure, and in your seventh year, if you're granted tenure, it means you have job stability and permanency. So you have a job for life if you decide to stay in that position.

There are also what they call clinical faculty and clinical faculty can teach about clinical issues or teach undergraduate courses, but it's not tenure track. And that essentially means that after the six or seven-year probationary period, they might not get this job for life. So that's essentially what I mean in terms of academia. Nowadays, we also have a whole range of other kinds of configurations where you can have people teaching part-time, you have what they call adjunct faculty that are part of the academy, but it doesn't have this tenure track status, which is important in terms of giving you academic freedom, allowing you to research the kinds of questions you're interested in, allowing you to teach the type of materials you're interested in.

Dr. Joy: Got it. I really appreciate you explaining that, Dr. Neville, because I think that is confusing. I know for a very long time, I was confused about what that meant, to be tenure track and how you get that. I still think that there's a lot of... not controversy, but it feels like specifically for people of color, black women specifically, this whole journey to tenure track can be very fragile. And like there's a lot of bumps and bruises I think along the way and so Dr. Mosley, I’d love for you to share because you recently made the decision to leave a tenure track position. I'd love to hear a little bit about what made you decide to pursue that opportunity in the first place and then what impacted your decision to leave.

Dr. Mosley: Yeah, thank you, Dr. Joy. I'm also really happy to be here in conversation with you all and to be talking to the Therapy for Black Girls audience. I didn't start out in academia or start my grad program thinking I wanted to be a professor. It was through having really great mentors like Dr. Helen Neville and Dr. Candice Hargons, who made the professor role look attractive. I was someone who came into grad school and later to my doc program thinking that I wanted to do community work and serve the queer and trans youth of color, maybe have a center and things like that. But seeing the reach that these academics had and the way that they could bring more of their selves to the job that I didn't see some of the majority white faculty members who I have previously been engaging with have, it made it be like, oh, I can see myself here.

And then, yeah, being able to have what Dr. Neville was saying about the freedom to study and pursue the questions that you most want to pursue and have that safety to do that. And to bring in the students to a doc program to train with you for several years to get into that work really deeply, that was exciting to me and alluring to me and why I pursued a tenure track job. So my entire doc journey, I was doing the work so that I could have different options of whether I wanted to do clinical work or do advocacy work or have that center, but also so that I would be competitive on a tenure track job search, and ultimately chose that path. But yeah, lots of bumps and bruises came along the way and I only ended up staying at the university on the tenure track path for three years. Not that long career that I had hoped for and there's lots of feels about that.

Dr. Joy: Do you want to share any of those feels or what made you decide to come off of that path and pursue something else?

Dr. Mosley: When I started my master's program in school counseling, I knew from day one. Kind of like I knew what my assignment was. I was coming off of some really awesome work at a job corps center in DC and I knew that my work was to create more spaces of safety and wellness and healing for queer and trans people of color and black people, like period. And so following that path, it made sense to do that through school counseling, it then made sense to pursue the doctorate and then to start this research lab and continue to do my work in the university setting that way. But in summer of 2020, when the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others were taking center stage, it was calling non-black folks to desire some education, which it's the type of education that I had been doing as a counseling psychologist. It was also calling for black folks to need spaces of healing, which is what I had been doing as a counseling psychologist.

So in that summer, one of my doc students, Pearis Bellamy (now Dr. Pearis Bellamy), and I co-created Academics for Black Survival and Wellness. That was an initiative that lasted over the summer and we got to work with great folks like Dr. Neville and so many others and we reached 16,000 people that first summer, offering these trainings and providing a free healing space for black folks. And so I had this shift where I was able to see impact and to have that impact while doing work with folks who I really enjoyed doing the work with, in a space where I could be well while I did the work. That was a major shift for me. And then I go back to the university that fall and it's anti-blackness as usual, it's back to the business of a university that is not working with folks who care about my safety and wellness as much and not appreciating the power and impact of what our work and this work could do, and not feeling like I could make the same sort of impact that I was able to make in just a summer. And so I really started to grapple with where I should be and how I can best complete my assignment.

I'm writing a paper about this right now and I was just looking back at the goodbye note I sent to the department faculty and I talked about it as like leaving an abusive relationship and that's really what it felt like. One that you had to do so much fighting to make it work here. You know, how do I make it work? I went so far as to create this international initiative, I’m trying to see how we can make academia safe for black folks and to reach its potential for black folks. And so I'm doing all this fighting and I don't want to leave because the kids are still going to be there still exposed to some of it, and the kids being these mentees and students who I love so much But really in that note, I was saying I'm choosing to model something else, that we don't have to be abused and that there are other spaces and places for us. And so some sadness around that, but also feeling the relief and the wellness that came from protecting myself, my spirit, and finding other ways to serve the communities that I care about.

Dr. Joy: And such impactful work and I really appreciate what you said about seeing people like Dr. Neville, Dr. Hargons, Dr. Phelps who was my immediate professor, do all of these really cool things in academia. And so then you feel like there is a space for me. Look at these sisters, they're doing all these things. And unfortunately, I think there is often a reality check. Like, oh, yes, they are doing amazing work but I don't know if this is my lane. And so Dr. Neville, I'd love to hear from you because you are someone I think, especially in our field of counseling psychology, you have been one of the people who have ushered so many specifically black women into the field. And so I’d love to hear from you, what has really aided in your longevity, and what kinds of things would you share with someone who maybe wants to follow in your footsteps but doesn't necessarily see academia as a place that really can allow them to thrive?

Dr. Neville: Thank you for that question. I really like this question and as you were asking it, I was reflecting on my own kind of career. I have been in academia for about 30 years now, so it's a long time. And when I think about the question, I reflect on why did I even go into academia? What is my purpose here? And there's a couple of things. One is when I was on internship at the University of Southern California, in their counseling center doing therapy, I was like, I got to go to plan B. This is not gonna work for me, okay, so we got to figure something out. I loved seeing clients but I also knew that was not where my passion was. And so I figured I would go into academia because I also enjoy doing research, it was at a different time.

And what I did was I gave myself the seven years. I said, okay, I'm going to go to the University of Missouri, Columbia, I'm going to see, can I make it being my authentic self? Because I too was unwilling to compromise my youth for a job. It's just not worth it. And what I found in academia was that I was able to really find what my meaning and purpose and passion was. I'm in higher education so that I can help and cultivate young minds, so that I can serve as an advocate for African Americans and other students of color, so that I can show them that there's a different way I can be a source of support. I really feel as if that is what I am called to do. And so when we have all of this other information and all this other toxicity, I kind of remain that students really need somebody there to advocate for them. And this is something that brings me meaning and purpose. I'm also interested in working with white students in developing a sense of critical awareness about racism and other forms of oppression. And so to be able to do that work is really important.

The second thing that really draws me in and keeps me in the academy is I love to do research, I love it. I love to think about ideas, I love to do research that I think will help improve our communities. And I can't think of any other job for me (there's other jobs out there, but for me,) that would allow me to do the work that I feel passionate about. And then when I think about what's kept me here, all of that has kept me there. But I remember Dr. Joseph White and others. For those people who don't know Dr. Joseph White, he's considered the godfather of black psychology and he had somewhat of what I would call a Dr. White mantra or a proverb from Dr. White, and that is: You don't look to those of the oppressors to validate you.

And having that message early on gave me permission to look to other people like me, who had similar values, to get feedback. That feedback could be critical feedback. We don't want to say, oh, yes, you're great. We want critical feedback so we can improve. So when white folks didn't like what I was doing or didn't approve of me, all the kinds of stuff that we know happens, I was able to reflect on that and I think that's really important. The other thing that I think really saves me is in my academic positions, I've had joint appointments in Black Studies and so that then says the work that I do (centering black voices) matters, no matter what anybody else says.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for that, Dr. Neville. I think that that's incredibly helpful. I got goosebumps as you were sharing Dr. White's words because I think that those are so important. And I really appreciate what you said about it being your calling. Because as Dr. Mosley and I talked a little earlier about her feeling like that wasn't her calling, and it's okay for us to have different ones. And so it's okay to pursue something and then figure out my talents and skills would be better served somewhere else. It sounds like a lot of that is what you've done, Dr. Mosley, in creating Academics for Black Lives and all of the work that you're doing there.

Dr. Mosley: I appreciate that. I appreciate everything you just shared, Dr. Neville. There's a lot of talk lately of black women particularly leaving academia, but just folks leaving academia. And I had mentioned Pearis just defending her beautiful dissertation two weeks ago and how amazing that was. But what you're sharing, Dr. Neville, it’s like that joy around the research and having access to the academy as a space where the thinking and idea-making and like where all the resources for that happens, it's just so real and so powerful. And it was so joyful, it was like a big part of why I chose that pathway. And so right after her defense and this beautiful celebration, the tears of joy of her crossing that hurdle and what we did together were there. But then when I was alone, it was the tears of grief that I wasn't able to have my own safety and wellness in that setting and that I'll maybe only have two to three other students who I see through to a dissertation. I think I'm feeling that again in this moment as you share about how you were able to persist and how special that is. I'm feeling a lot of gratitude for you being there for 30 years to see so many PhDs through because it's a special process that many of us can't make it through. So thank you.

Dr. Neville: I just wanted to say, Dr. Mosley, I think I am so inspired by you and the work that you're doing and by younger folks charting out their path. When I was going through, it was like either you do academia or you do counseling and applied work. Now you all are creating centers and podcasts and revolutionizing how we think about wellness. Both of you all are doing that and I find that incredibly inspiring. And how you are dreaming big dreams, dreams that really weren't available, at least not to a working-class person like me going through schools, public schools, etc. So I'm loving how you all are redefining what you can do with a PhD and I am in gratitude to you both.

Dr. Joy: Thank you, Dr. Neville, I appreciate that. More from my conversation with Dr. Neville and Dr. Mosley after the break.


Dr. Joy: Dr. Mosley, I wanted to expand some of your thoughts about the safety and wellness that you feel is really critical to protect black women in academia. Can you say a little bit more about that, and like what that might look like?

Dr. Mosley: What it would look like to have the safety and wellness while going through the program I think it's like what got me through my PhD and what I hope I was able to provide to my students while I was there. But it was having mentors, educators, advisors who allowed you to be a learner. I think that so often black women in academia go into a space where we’re one of the only black people there or black women there. And especially if you're in mental health or counseling realms, then you're being asked to be an educator more than you're allowed to be a learner. And so the safety to like not know and to not be the spokesperson, to be able to bring in what you do know that might not fit for your people as you're learning new theories or techniques. And to be able to have someone actually give you something useful that you can use and bring back to your practice. I think that's what safety and wellness looks like. It's being able to get your needs met in the academic space and that's really rare for black women, I think even today. And so when we have those educators who can answer those questions or who allow us to push whether or not they know the answers, and who push back on the other students or other faculty members who might be pulling for us to take on other roles versus being that student in a training program. That's I think a way of safety being provided.

For black women navigating academia, I think it's important to have someone outside of your university as your mentor, someone who you can go to to help you figure out what you're getting through and how to get through it, but doesn't have some of that power over you in the system that is going to be granting you your degree. Or doesn't have to worry about the relationships, or less likely to have to worry about relationships with other faculty members as you bring those problems. And Dr. Neville was there for me and so I think that's one pathway towards safety and wellness in the academy. And safety and wellness also comes from (not) having to be the only one. So when I was recruiting students, I often tried to bring them into our doc program in pairs, or after I knew that there was someone else who was studying something similar to them or was going to be on a similar timeline as them so that they wouldn't have to be the only one.

I think just being intentional about how we are with black women when we're bringing them, especially into primarily white, historically white institutions, is a way of providing safety and wellness. Thinking about who they're coming in with, what the rest of that cohort might look like, and then being the kind of mentor that sees them as a whole person and is about them succeeding professionally in their mental health career or career as a psychologist. But also who are they as a person? How can they have as much wellness as possible in a holistic way as they move through the program? Not that we have to be the ones to provide that, but to be in conversation with them about that. To allow them to know that they are more than just their academic selves, that it's a gift for them to bring more than just their academic self to the space.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that. Dr. Neville, you mentioned it feels like the world is so much bigger for PhDs now, right? I agree with you, historically, it has been either you had a faculty job or you had a clinical job, at least in psychology or the mental health fields. Can you say a little bit about what makes it attractive for someone to pursue a PhD right now? What kinds of career opportunities opened up with a PhD?

Dr. Neville: A lot of opportunities open up with a PhD. I think it allows you to have a sense of credibility in your particular area that can open up a lot of different avenues for you to establish whatever dream it is that you want to do. Of course, people are dream-making and achieving those dreams without a PhD, but it gives you that sense of credibility. I also think that there's other things that are particularly important for black women and black women who are first-generation college students or who don't have access to some of the social capital that many of our white colleagues do. It gives you greater financial security and it can help you and your family and your community because of that financial security. It allows you to engage in meaningful work with your degree because it opens up a whole range of doors and opportunities for you.

I think higher education can be so rewarding if you are privileged enough to be able to pursue higher education. That you grow as a human being and as a person and by your growth, your family grows and your community grows. There's so much that you're able to do with higher education so don't let folks tell you that a PhD doesn't get you anything. It gets you a lot and it provides a lot for your families. And so I think those are really important. What people don't know is that if you do get a PhD, most programs worth their salt will pay you to get your PhD. In the sense that you do not have to pay for the actual college credits, etc., and that you will be able to get a teaching assistant position or research assistant position. Now, whether or not you're able to really live off of those wages, that's a whole different story. But while you are going to college, you hopefully won't leave with as much debt as you might have accrued as an undergraduate or in a master's program.

Dr. Joy: And Dr. Neville, I wonder if you could also share... Because you talked earlier about the tenure track piece. But I also have heard from colleagues in academia about some of the difficulties. You know, sometimes the research that black women want to do in the academy isn't always approved of or thought as highly of. Also, to your earlier point Dr. Mosley, you talked about being this listening ear for students. So we know that there are a lot of like tasks that black women typically take on in academia that do not count towards the tenure portfolio. I'm wondering if you can kind of speak to some of that.

Dr. Neville: Yeah, there are a lot of tasks. Some people say that some of the work that we do, we should be paid hazard pay for some of the things that we do. Not that the work that we do with other black students, but the work that we have to do with white colleagues and white students, to sit and bear witness to their racism and take that in. So I guess the things that I struggle with is the balance between what I get from it and what I have to put up with. And there are things that black women have to deal with in the academy, in terms of having the opportunity and privilege to work with students with the demands of having to do research. You have to set some boundaries there.

The other thing is having to deal with gendered racism or what like Jioni Lewis talks about gendered microaggressions, where things are targeted specifically toward us as black women. Like I had a white male colleague who felt the need to disagree with me in every single public setting. Anytime that I made a statement, whether it was in front of students or whether it was in front of faculty. And so at those times, you just have to dig in deep and understand who you are and the strength, and tap into my larger purpose. There are many ways that we are dismissed. But again, reflecting back on Dr. White's words, I do not look to white people and their systems to judge or validate me. So I've always decided that I will publish the work that I want to publish in the journals that I think are most appropriate. And if that is not good enough, then I need to find another way. So I have been really privileged that way. There are other people who've done the same, and I would encourage people never ever make yourself smaller or do work that you do not think is important, or silence yourself. Because what I have seen is that when women particularly silence themselves so that they can get tenure, when they get tenure, they do not speak up after that point. And that many times they don't achieve what they want to do. So live your truth loudly every day and boldly, and you will find a place if that is not your place.

The other thing that I think people don't realize is that there are different kinds of academic institutions. There are research-intensive institutions (which Dr. Mosley and I have worked in) that have a different set of expectations. And there are teaching institutions where you teach more and you have an opportunity to work more closely with students, that don't have the same research demand. So people really need to kind of think about what might be the best fit for their goals. I also hear in your question, like why the heck would anybody want to go into academia and stay in there? And I guess I feel a little bit guarded because I'm like “come, come, come.” But to your earlier question that I realize I did not respond to, that people should go in with their eyes wide open. And I feel incredibly privileged now to be in the field of counseling psychology versus other areas of psychology because it allows me to do things that are important. Things related to liberation psychology where I can talk about antiracism and I realize that is not available in other fields. So if people that are listening are thinking about and contemplating what program to go into or what field to go into, do your research to think about, will you be able to be cultivated and nurtured as the learner you are in the areas that are of interest for you as a total person?

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that, Dr. Neville. Yeah, you definitely heard that in my question. I didn't necessarily want to ask that outright. But I do think it is so difficult because, like Dr. Mosley said, you are hearing so many sisters right now talking about leaving academia. And I think there's something particular. I think it was always tough but I think there's something about the pandemic, of course, that has accelerated this for people. Especially I've also heard colleagues talk about their research, like the bans on CRT and all of this stuff. And so now like the presentations and the work that they were doing for people who maybe are like state-funded schools is even being further scrutinized. And so I think there's something about it right now that feels really difficult and so I appreciate you putting that into context. That just go in with your eyes wide open and kind of know what you're getting into.

Dr. Mosley, I would love to hear a little bit more about Academics for Black Survival and Wellness. I'd love for you to talk a little bit more. You talked about it being started summer of 2020 when I think it was very, very greatly needed but it has since continued. And so can you talk to me a little bit about the growth of the program and the theme for this year because it is continuing? Tell me a little bit about what's happening.

Dr. Mosley: Yes, thank you so much for that question. Pearis and I, along with Sunshine Adam, who has been another one of the primary organizers of Academics for Black Survival and Wellness, we came up with the theme this year of Pathways to Liberated Black Futures, and have decided that it's going to be our last run of academics for black lives. Because we came in trying to do this intervention within academia to see what academics who were finally “so woke” in this moment around the anti-black violence that's happening everywhere and they were really alerted to the ways that it was happening through police violence, and we wanted to bring the attention to the way that it happens within the academy. And I shared a lot during that first year about how my own pathway to academia was led by or sort of fueled by a close friend of mine who didn't make it through grad school due to anti-black racism, and the depression and pain and suffering that she faced afterwards.

And so it was like, no, this has to stop. And y'all want to be so woke, y’all are in these streets, y'all are putting up the Black Lives Matter signs everywhere, but y’all still acting the fool in these classrooms. Y’all are still acting a fool in these training sites. You're being anti-black whilst claiming black lives matter and so let me show you how it manifests in these academic spaces in hopes that we can redirect something. And it did. I think we did accomplish that, there was change that was made. I heard from black students afterwards saying, my professor went through your course twice and now my experience with them is different. I like going to lab now and I can talk more about things that matter to me and I can do the work that matters to me without having to create a pre-presentation to get to the work that I want to do. And so there was some change that happened.

This year, as Academics for Black Lives, we're really gonna be reflecting on how was black survival and wellness facilitated through this intervention—or not. Who was bolstered through it? I was invited to serve as an expert in a grant-funded study that some white scholars who were part of Academics for Black Lives decided to do as a result of their learning about anti-blackness through this project. And I'm like, great, you all have went through with this project, looks awesome, I'm happy to serve as the expert committee for this. And I joined it. Other white scholars who are on the grant who didn't go through the program are benefiting their careers in these major ways while gaining these grant funds and CV lines and connections within their professional networks, while not actually doing anything to better black folks’ lives, black students’ lives, and particularly what this grant was written up for. And so we're pulling off of that and making a statement around it.

I haven't done any studies on it and so these are all just anecdotal things, but as I'm looking back between Summer 2020 and now, I feel like there's a lot of non-black folks who have used anti-racism and this learning around anti-blackness or whatever to benefit their own careers, and the experience of black students in their spaces are still the same or worse. And so we're going to be grappling with that question and trying to talk about and really explicate, what are the pathways to liberated black futures? What do we know has worked? The ones that are inside the system, what are the labs? What are the universities, what are the nooks and crannies within the system that will help us to be well and to do the work that we want to do and get the letters behind our name that we're aspiring to? Or to get the tenure that we're aspiring to, like where does that actually exist? And then also, what are the pathways outside of academia? And how can you find them? And how can you assess whether they'll be good or not for you, especially since a lot of it is new terrain?

Like the WELLS Healing Center which I took my lab from the university, turned it into a nonprofit center, and I'm going to be doing some of the same mentoring and training and teaching that I was doing at the university through this pathway. And there's a number of others like that who are starting to create other initiatives, projects, centers to get to it. But then how do you find the one that's the right fit for you? How do you assess it, and especially in the absence of accreditation and things like that? And so hopefully, we'll be able to share knowledge and maybe even start to build a new blueprint for how we can find those pathways and how we determine what is the right pathway for us while also identifying some of the ones that we know have worked.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that. More from my conversation with Dr. Neville and Dr. Mosley after the break.


Dr. Joy: You brought up the Radical Healing Collective and I'd love to hear from you, Dr. Neville, as one of the members of the Radical Healing Collective, what that is about. It’s so timely. I mean, you all I think created this several years ago, but it definitely feels like that radical healing is needed very much now. Can you tell us more about the Radical Healing Collective?

Dr. Neville: Oh, thank you. Thank you for that question. The Psychology Of Radical Healing Collective really grew out of a presidential initiative on promoting wellness through social justice. I don't know, 2017-2018 around there, even before that, I was invited to run for president of APA Division 45, which is the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race. And to help out with that, the presidential initiative, I put together what I call the dream team. Dr. Mosley was on the dream team and she was one of the co-directors along with Dr. Bryana French of these co-chairs of the task force. And Dr. Hector Adames, Dr. Nayeli Chavez, Dr. Jioni Lewis, and Dr. Grace Chen, so people who are powerhouses in their own right. Dr. Mosley was a student at the time and she was co-facilitating this, and really to think through what would this look like? And where the team landed on is the concept of radical healing.

There's people who've written within that tradition, like Shawn Ginwright in education, but we have folks in psychology like our current president-elect of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Tim O'Brien Davis, Dr. Lillian Comas-Diaz, and other people have written within this. Essentially, what we're talking about is how do we as people of color become whole in the face of this incredible amount of racial and other forms of oppression. And what do we do within our communities and how do we fight for justice? Because we know that justice is going to assist us in liberation and freedom, both individual and collective. So the task force turned into a collective of just like-minded scholars who wanted to get the word out about individual and collective healing. And so we have three articles out now that talk about this, another one getting ready to be put under review, that really is a qualitative study on radical hope specifically.

The one article that Dr. French and Jioni Lewis have led that outlines the psychology of radical healing, and I say this just to show you how it's resonating with people, has about 40,000 plus downloads and views. Because people of color are wanting a strength-based approach to understanding who we are, and a healing that both acknowledges structural oppression and taps into and acknowledges our cultural strengths, our wanting to experience joy, our wanting to be authentic and show up authentically in this world. And so we're just a group of scholars committed to trying to foster and develop this through scholarship and workshops and we've got a blog that we have and other kinds of things.

Dr. Joy: Such exciting work and I think that is the kind of work that you talked about earlier, Dr. Mosley. Like when you see that being done in academia, it is really exciting, right? I think it's important to think about that this battle is fought on lots of different areas. Some of it is happening in academia and some of it's happening in the WELLS Center. And so multiple different spaces where we're having these conversations, I think, is really what kind of moves everything forward. So I'm very excited about the work, very excited that it has been downloaded that many times, the radical healing paper. Because I think it's important and I do think, especially for the field, it gives us a different framework for talking about like this moment in particular, but what happens as we move forward as well. I'd love to hear from both of you as we prepare to close up. What words of advice or wisdom would you share for other black women who are considering academia, currently in academia, considering leaving academia? What kinds of things would you want to share with them?

Dr. Neville: I'll go ahead and start. The first is that black woman sisterhood is strong and alive and you can rely on that for your entire journey, wherever your pathway will take you. So to trust that. The second is squad up, create your village, whatever you're going to need. It's going to take a village to nurture and cultivate you and that you can belong to. These are people that are going to be mentors in your village, peer mentors, colleagues, other folks you want to come along with you, I think those things are important. The next one is that you are enough. You are strong, you belong, and you can be vulnerable in that strength and you belong in whatever space you decide to be. I think that is critical. And the last one is that you also have a responsibility to other people to not only be who you are (your success and trust in that), but you have a responsibility to be in community with people to make things better for yourself in the environment, for your community. We have responsibilities to give back because our ancestors have done that for us and we need to do that for the people who come after us.

Dr. Mosley: I’m wanting to share that we can do whatever we want and that after sharing that I left the university, I've been getting a lot of DMs or emails or messages from folks who are congratulating me and looking at me as a model who's made it by making it out of the academy. I have a hard time when I receive that because I want the academy to be able to be for us and I don't have any regrets about getting my degree and all the fights that I did throughout my doc program to get that degree. And I don't have any regrets about pursuing the tenure track and I don't want people to feel like it's not an option for them. I want black women to know that we can have whatever we want and that we deserve to be in these spaces and that we also deserve to have our wellness.

And so I think my advice or invitation or hope is that we're able to be in a constant assessment process of our wellness and able to really tell the places and spaces that will help us to get closer to it and know that we are resilient. We are so resilient and so if you have to fight and not be as emotionally well or socially well while you navigate an academic space in order to make it through that space so that you can be more spiritually well, financially well, etc. later, do the calculations that you need to do to make that decision about what's right for you. I think it's important to recall, and even going back to the radical hope model and radical healing, it’s really important to think about what we have survived, what we can do, what we have done.

And so I need us to remember that we can get through and then we can go through. We can get the degrees, we can get the tenure if that's what we want. And at the same time, we can be constantly assessing where else we can get social support and where else we can get the training and the tools that we need, if they're not coming from those spaces. Where we can heal the wounds of racial trauma that are happening while we are in these spaces. And who can we strategize with to create something different, whether it's inside or outside of academia? And so yeah, we're worthy of wellness and constantly be assessing where you can get it from and decide when and where you want to make the sacrifices.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that, Dr. Mosley. You know, I just wanted to follow up on another question, because you talked about creating the WELLS Center as like, this is my thing now, this is what I want to do. You and I have had conversations in the past about loving training and wanting to continue to provide trainee options. And at some point, can we have a postdoc through Therapy for Black Girls, through the WELLS Center? I’d just love to hear because I think a part of it is that it feels difficult like you mentioned, the resources that the Academy has, the research, and all of these things. Have you seen other pathways for...not necessarily accreditation, but maybe some kind of accreditation or places where you can go to get resources for these alternative centers that people may be creating, still in the psychology space but not in academia?

Dr. Mosley: I wish I could say yes. Unfortunately, no. I'm in a stage now of I've been bootstrapping and fundraising and really navigating relationships and expanding the networks that have been supporting the projects for black wellness or the projects focused on racial trauma. So trying to identify the folks who are doing that work and giving those funds to the university to see who they might support outside of the university. But it's hard and it's slower and I think we need to draw attention to this and call for more support in this area. For the folks who are creating new pathways outside of academia, I hope that we won't be forced or pushed towards recreating an academic system outside of academia. So having accreditations that are still upheld by white supremacy, anti-blackness, sexism, heterosexism, ableism. And there's no bodies out there that will “do accreditation” that hold that kind of inclusive value and so I think we have to develop it. And there are some folks who we can look at in other fields or disciplines. I think about like what Rachel Cargle has done with The Great Unlearn and the quality of training that gets offered and the way that they vet that.

I don't know the rubric, but I think if there's a bunch of folks who are doing that work or who have done it over the last several years, who have a level of quality and who can sort of show some receipts for the impact of their trainings, of their work, I think we can come up with ways that are outside of that white supremacy but still provide some greater sense of like trustworthiness to the audiences who will be coming to us for training. But we don't have it. We don't have the funding that would support us to really understand more about that nor do we have the systems that will give that vouch yet, and nor do I think we necessarily need those. We're in a baby stage and it's exciting to be here. And I hope this is a spot, with you and others who want to continue to play with the pathways and to create the liberated pathways.

Dr. Joy: Tell us where we can stay connected to you and your work, Dr. Mosley. What's your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share?

Dr. Mosley: Please check out my website or or my new baby black feminist playspace, On social media, I'm on Instagram @DVMosley and I'm on Twitter @DellaVMosley. Thank you so much, Dr. Joy. This has been such a pleasure.

Dr. Joy: Thank you, Dr. Mosley. And Dr. Neville, where can we stay connected with you?

Dr. Neville: I think on Twitter, @HelenNeville12, I think that's the best place. And thank you so much, this has filled my heart to spend some time speaking with you, Dr. Joy, and of course, with you Dr. Mosley.

Dr. Joy: Thank you, Dr. Neville, such a pleasure. Thank you for being here, both of you. I'm so glad Dr. Neville and Dr. Mosley were able to join me this week. To learn more about them and their work, visit the show notes at And don't forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode right now. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, check out our therapist directory at 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 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.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here