The Black Men’s Research Institute (BMRI) at Morehouse College hosted its first Spring Symposium addressing health issues for African American men.
Taken place at the Atlanta University Center’s Woodruff’s Library, the “Changing the Paradigm” symposium began its two-day conference with a discussion on mental health.
Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, Interim Executive Director for BMRI, wants the symposium to dive deeply into mental health and how it affects Black men and their communities.
Funded by a $1.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the BMRI amplifies collaborative thought leadership, and social justice and strives to counter conflicting narratives, distrust and ambiguity with a clear, authoritative voice on the experiences of Black men.
Morehouse College has several professors exploring this subject and encouraging deeper conversations about understanding manhood and masculinity.
“This is the only all-men’s HBCU in the country that is digging into something that we do,” Kimbrough said, “and we are offering grant opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to do some of this work.”
“There is no place on the planet with the moral authority to speak to the issues of our times that address Black men’s well-being in our society,” said Dr. David Thomas, President of Morehouse. “We are an institution that, for 156 years, has defied the racial gravity of this nation as regards Black men because, on most indices of well-being, Black men are at the bottom.”
Dr. Arthur Evans, Jr, CEO and Executive Vice President of the American Psychological Association, gave the keynote address for the opening session. He spoke to an audience of AUC students, administrators, and fellow physicians about what society can do differently in mental health.
“Mental health issues are ubiquitous, and they have a tremendous impact on our community,” Evans said. “The paradigm that we have for dealing with mental health issues isn’t adequate to the complexity of mental health issues. It is problematic for the adjustment that means for Black men.”
He emphasized the disproportionate impact mental health has on the lives of Black men, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.
“If we could live in a context that was supportive of our optimal mental health and where we received the help and support that we needed in every community, that should be the goal,” Evans said.
He also addressed utilizing evidence-based issues like homelessness and systemic barriers for people without access to mental health physicalities, recognizing trauma as a public health issue, and reframing the language in mental health through early detection screenings and in-person community screening events.
“The mental health challenge is salient throughout communities, and some researchers may suggest that there is a social and environmental split transfer to generations in ways that are important,” said Dr. James L. More III, Assistant Director for STEM Education for the National Science Foundation and Professor of Urban Education and Executive Director, Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male at The Ohio State University who gave the response for the address.
Morehouse Finance major Anthony Hunter, President of Counseling Humans in Life Lessons (AUC CHILL), gave his perspective on this subject regarding students in the AUC.
“The purpose of creating our organization 11 years ago was to be a bridge between students and administrators- students and the campus counseling center,” Hunter said. “The beautiful thing that we have here is putting students on the ground to engage at the pre-counseling stage to have this community have these conversations about different defense mechanisms and to post events where rallies advocate for policies that help better student life and student engagement in classes.”
Lectures for the symposium’s second day will include Dr. Daphne Watkins, Founding Director of the Young Black Men Project and Director of the Vivian A. and James L. Curtis Center for Health Equity, Research, and Training at the University of Michigan and Dr. Howard Stevenson, Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education and African Studies and Director of Racial Empowerment Collaborative at the University of Pennsylvania.