Blog: Black lives have always mattered – resources for resilience

Published: 5 Jan 2021

Author: Erica McInnis
Blog: Black lives have always mattered – resources for resilience

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by law enforcement agencies employed to protect lives – and countless other deaths both before and after that – we all want to respond to the call to action that Black Lives Matter. But do we know how? 

"The devastating rate at which Covid-19 is affecting communities of African heritage, in particular, means that there is an emotional impact which, if left unaddressed, will contribute to a loss of decades of significant gains in the face of oppression." - Erica McInnis

We do not want to inadvertently uphold a system of white dominance while trying to dismantle it. But knowing something should be done to limit the traumatic impact of such harsh treatment to those similar to you, and thinking you may be next, are not the same as knowing how to go forward.

This was the space in which I applied to WCMT’s Covid-19 Action Fund, for a grant to provide tools for the empowerment of people of African heritage who are living through the twin pandemics of Covid-19 and the ongoing system of white dominance.

What are the twin pandemics, I hear you ask? In April 2020, Dr Wade Nobles suggested that if a definition of a pandemic is a disease prevalent over a whole country or the world, then racism (such as a system of white supremacy) fits the bill. According to a report by The Health Foundation published in May 2020: “Experts in the field … demonstrated that racial discrimination affects people’s life chances through, for example, restricting access to education and employment opportunities. Black and minority ethnic groups tend to have poorer socioeconomic circumstances which lead to poorer health outcomes. In addition, the stress associated with being discriminated against based on race/ethnicity directly affects mental and physical health through physiological pathways. Studies of Covid-19 so far have suggested that people from black and minority ethnic communities are more likely to be exposed to the virus because they tend to live in more densely populated urban areas where the virus has spread fastest, and are more likely to be key workers.”

So in short, the tyranny of a system of white dominance leaves immune systems and psychological coping resources frayed before Covid-19 hits. Furthermore, even where there are pockets of recovery and affluence in communities of African heritage, proximity to those still in the struggle means protection from the impact of the Covid-19 virus can be limited.  For example, you may still need to travel to the 'hood' (local Black area) to get certain groceries, visit family, worship or work.

The devastating rate at which Covid-19 is affecting communities of African heritage, in particular, means that there is an emotional impact which, if left unaddressed, will contribute to a loss of decades of significant gains in the face of oppression.

Here are my recommendations for moving forward:

1. Learning from the best: strategies for healing, surviving, and thriving in these twin pandemics. High numbers of UK health and social care professionals are key workers and need strategies to sustain both themselves and those they inspire. This leaves them ripe to benefit from the best of traditional African wisdom, culture and practices, tailored to the unique experiences of people of African heritage. This is to arm them with wellness skills for this and future challenges. My Churchill Fellowship in 2016 introduced me to distinguished psychologists in the field who I can call on to support us in this mission. Using my Covid-19 Action Fund, I will be delivering a series of online workshops addressing professional issues for those of African heritage such as:

  • Cultural competency training,
  • Identifying and intervening for depressive symptoms,
  • Emotional wellness strategies,
  • Meeting needs in clinical supervision and
  • African-centred assessment measures of wellness

2. Accessible resources for people to journal and record their experiences through Covid-19. The African-Centred Journal for Wellness is currently under development. It will provide mindful and visioning activities and culturally inspired words of wisdom to get you through the day, weeks and months. Many psychologists I met on my Fellowship provided inspirational quotes to help others on their journey. This self-help resource is planned to hit the shelves in early 2021. My Covid-19 Action Fund grant will support time to develop, perfect and produce this novel resource in the UK.

3. Emotionally and spiritually uplifting activities to plan your future in the age of Covid-19. I am producing a pilot workbook to explore applying traditional African concepts for wellness to our everyday lives such as the 7 Principles of Ma'at, African centred values and contemplative practices such as mindfulness. This initiative will be supported by my Covid-19 Action Fund, by giving me time to market beyond my exiting contacts to increase availability. The workbook, ‘Post Pandemic Planning: Being, Belonging and Becoming’, can be purchased on Etsy, AmazoneBay and Nubia Wellness and Healing.

The result of all three projects of mine will be a range of accessible emotional strategies for healing, surviving, and thriving for communities of African heritage. I look forward to sharing the developments on my journey.

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