Today being World Mental Health Day, the wildly popular “To be a negro in this country” quote by James Baldwin, immediately came to mind. In the summer of 1961 a journal article entitled, The Negro in American Culture, was published in CrossCurrents and featured commentary by Baldwin and his contemporaries (Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry on the Negro’s place in this society, especially as an artist.
Upon a deeper dive into the full article, we found that the full quote is even more necessary and urgent than the initial blurb:
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you. Part of the rage is this: it isn’t only what is happening to you, but it’s what’s happening all around all of the time, in the face of the most extraordinary and criminal indifference, the indifference and ignorance of most white people in this country.
Now, since this is so, it’s a great temptation to simplify the issues under the illusion that if you simplify them enough, people will recognize them; and this illusion is very dangerous because that isn’t the way it works.
You have to decide that you can’t spend the rest of your life cursing out everybody that gets in your way. As a writer, you have to decide that what is really important is not that the people you write about are Negroes, but that they are people, and that the suffering of any person is really universal. If you can ever reach this level, if you can create a person and make other people feel what this person feels, then it seems to be me that you’ve gone much further, not only artistically, but socially, than in the ordinary, old-fashioned protest way.”
When Baldwin shares that suffering is an omnipresent experience that requires empathy, compassion, and consideration, we couldn’t help but think of Dr. Jessica Clemons, MD (known to us as Dr. Jess). As a psychiatrist and a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats mental illness, Dr. Jess is using her platform on a daily basis to heal our communities of the things that enrage us and threaten to overthrow our mental health.
We’ve have the honor of being the official media partner to her #BeWell- A Conversation live event series. The first two events have featured powerhouses such as Hijabi rapper Neelam and Grammy-awarding artist, Rapsody. As a salute to her work, we’re sharing a few highlights from the event series below. (All photos byStephen Crookson)
“I may not ever have a Billboard hit or a billion sales. For me, it was the difference between understanding fame and success. Define what success is for you, I know what success is for me.” – Rapsody
[Tweet “”Define what success is for you, I know what success is for me.” – @Rapsody via @askdrjess”]
“The circle that I chose to surround myself with, the people who fed me and help me celebrate the small wins. I can’t measure myself through somebody else’s. And not getting caught up in what society thinks is successful.” –@rapsody on staying focused.#askdrjess#bewell
“The best we can all do is normalize it. Don’t be afraid to keep it real. I try to encourage Black men that I meet to really unpack what they’re going through.” –@AskDrJess on how we can include Black men in conversations around mental health.
[Tweet ““The best we can all do is normalize it.” – @askdrjess on mental health #blkcreatives”]
— #blkcreatives netwrk (@blkcreatives) August 25, 2018
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