Trauma significantly impacts a person’s emotional and physical health. When I think back on the history of the United States, traumatic events are ingrained in our history. While I, or many of you, may have not directly experienced certain traumatic events, those very traumas possess the ability to harm entire generations of people. Among the Black population, generational trauma is seen in many families and communities. The origin of trauma dates back decades — and, in some cases,centuries. In the United States, this is the consequence of hundreds of years of slavery, followed by segregation, racism, and the creation of systems that still, in 2021, oppress Black communities and other communities of color.
Despite the horrific acts that happened centuries ago and the acts that continue to happen, it is vital to our generation, and generations after us, that we heal. I know you may be asking:But how? How do we heal in the midst of a pandemic and racial divide? How do we heal in a society where suicide rates have increased tremendously over the last year? Trust me, I have asked myself these very questions. I have pondered where do I start, where do we start, for many years. The one thing that has remained at the forefront of my brain is that we begin to heal through uncomfortable conversations and, yes, you guessed it, the arts. Radical, right?
Again, when looking at the history of my people, Black people, art has always played a huge role in helping to escape the cruel realties of current situations. No matter what decade we choose to examine, we will find that music, spoken word, writing, visual arts, etc., all played a huge role in helping individualsexpress themselves and release their troubles. Think about it: How many times have you listened to music, danced, drawn, etc., to help you through an emotion? The release of frustrations, insecurities and pain through art is powerful and, in my opinion, necessary.
One of my favorite poets is Maya Angelou. Angelou became mute for five years after her rapist was murdered. She believed that her voice had the power to kill. Despite feeling that her voice was deadly, she turned to reading and writing. She allowed her pain to be released with a pen and paper.
Never underestimate the power of the arts and its direct correlation with mental health and healing. Personally, spoken word has helped me through some of my darkest moments. When I write, I am able to regain control over my thoughts and who I am. If you don’t take anything else from this article, please remember that art comes in various forms, which means there is a place for everyone.