08:14 AM

Black stress, racial tensions topic of Black History Month panel discussion

Exploring racial inequities can lead to discussions about disparities in job, health and education opportunities in the Black community — and more recently, the disproportionate use of police force. But central to these discussions is the psychological damage all this inflicts on African Americans.

In recognition of Black History Month, University of Houston-Clear Lake's Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in conjunction with Counseling Services is unpacking this topic at a virtual event titled, "Black Stress," taking place Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 5:15 p.m.

Shavonne Fuller, a staff psychologist with UH-Clear Lake's Counseling Services, said there is a plethora of ways to define and experience Black stress.

"Black stress stems from racial trauma and can be any contextual, societal, political or social construct that creates injury or perceived injury to Black people," she said. "These experiences encompass systemic racism, institutionalized racism, the policing of our voices and our experiences as Black people, and social constructs that implicitly and explicitly cause harm or marginalization. These messages are internalized and impact how we perceive safety in our world and experiences as Black people."

Director of Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Aliya Beavers said that a panel of current UHCL students and staff, as well as counselors, would be there to provide perspective in a town hall format. "Our panelists are there to share insights, but we want this to be an open dialogue," she said. "We are hoping to get a variety of people — those who want to share experiences, and those who just want to hear about it and be with us in this space. Anyone can share their own experiences."

She added that the event is catered specifically to the Black community on campus.

Fuller said there will be opportunities for engagement via Zoom chat and also polling. "We will be operationally defining Black stress, discussing how our intersecting identities impact our experiences of Black stress, and we're also discussing Black resiliency and coping strategies," she said. "We'll also be providing virtual handouts and access to files so people can continue processing the information we've shared."

She explained that the goal of the event is to ensure students know they have a voice that matters. "That's why we are having student panelists — to give a face to these voices, to encourage to speak out on injustice, and to discuss Black stress meaningfully," she said. "This is a brave and safe space to discuss this. You can show up as yourself and be validated."

Beavers said she hopes the event will build community. "We want everyone in this space to know that there are people you can go to that are having similar experiences," she said. "And even though talking about Black stress might seem negative, we are addressing it because it is killing our communities. But it's important to note that we're also talking about uplifting ourselves, empowering ourselves, and being resilient."

To register for this event, and to see other Black History Month events presented by SDEI, go online.