As the coronavirus continues to batter the black community more than any other group in the nation, we must start planning for how to deal with another set of problems cities like Detroit are going to face. Stress disorder, anger and perpetual fear in urban communities witnessing high death counts could presage things to come long after the pandemic is history.
The need to formulate a response for how blacks are going to cope with the stress and other damaging effects from such historic trauma could not be greater. That need should be met not only by the government, but also by those from within the black community.
Gregory Guice, senior pastor of Detroit Unity Temple, who holds a masters in clinical psychology, takes the challenge seriously and says it’s time that Detroit begins to map out how it will confront the residues of the pandemic.
“We definitely need a post-COVID-19 traumatic response,” Guice tells me. “We cannot wait after the virus is gone to start talking about how we create a solution to fight the traumatic effects.
“How do we handle the ripple effects of what is taking place now? What are our social workers going to do to help kids who have lost their parents to this virus to not have constant fear as part of their consciousness moving forward?”
Guice himself had to deal with a trauma when his 21-year-old daughter Morgan was killed in March of 2007 by a drunk driver in Panama City during spring break. She was two months away from graduating from Purdue University with a communications degree. His child’s death was a blow he says “awakened [him],” but also led him to write “The Courage to Conquer Fear,” to help young people navigate the world of fear as a tribute to his daughter.
Guice says the coronavirus presents a psychological test for blacks:
“We need a damage control assessment,” he says. “We will have to bring together a team of educators and mental health professionals to help us go through the aftermath of this experience. Some people’s fear becomes so overwhelming that they want to shut the door and close everything off. This is the time for us to help people who are going through grief because of this virus.”
Dr. Theopia Jackson, president of the Association of Black Psychologists, which is planning its 52nd national convention in Detroit July 22-26, says the pandemic is yet another challenge in the black experience:
“Black communities have been contending with seen and unseen pandemics for centuries, nationally and internationally. Therefore, we have been contending with the residuals, as well as persistent threats. What is at risk is further exacerbation of unresolved cultural trauma and persistent healthcare disparities while living in the midst of ongoing racism and oppression,” Jackson says.
Though it seems overwhelming, African Americans should not give up during this time, says Jackson:
“This pandemic is a reminder for us to reclaim and resurrect our centeredness in the goodness of blackness.”
She adds, “There should be a demand to really understand the full impact in our communities and implement strategies and programs that are informed by the communities; nothing for us without us. It is imperative that recovery plans are centered based on the community wisdom of what the needs are and not what others think they are.”
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