October 15-17 are Community Healing Days
We’re coming up on an annual celebration that not everyone is familiar with, but is tremendously important to the Black community.
It’s called Community Healing Days, a three day period on the third weekend of every October designed to focus Black people on eliminating the tired, but powerful, myth of black inferiority. The celebration is sponsored by the Community Healing Network and championed by Dr. Maya Angelou.
This year, on October 15, 16 and 17, Dr. Angelou is asking folks to wear something sky blue during Community Healing Days to show “our collective determination to turn the pain of the blues into the sky blue of unlimited possibilities.” That’s right, Sky-Blue, like the beautiful, limitless sky above, a reflection of the positive way we need to view ourselves.
But unfortunately –for many African Americans– how we view ourselves is a byproduct of how others view us. Case in point. In the compelling new book entitled Whistling Vivaldi by psychologist Claude Steele, he references a scenario involving an African American journalist and former grad student at the University of Chicago.
As a student walking down the street in his Hyde Park neighborhood each evening, he would see white folk either clutch their belongings or each other, stare straight ahead, or switch to the other side of the street. Noting that white people were “frightened to death of him,” the young man internalized this treatment and began taking side streets to avoid making his white neighbors fearful or uncomfortable.
Eventually he stopped doing this after he noticed that whenever he whistled as he walked–especially tunes by classical composers like Vivaldi—his white neighbors would treat him differently. Some would even smile at him.
Psychologists reason that whites figured that if this guy knows Vivaldi, he must be okay. The point here is that we sometimes begin to behave in a way that responds to stereotypes.
It speaks both to the sickness in our society and, more importantly, in this case, to the sickness in us. When we start pretending – acting in ways that play into what others think or expect of us, then the sickness is no longer their’s… it becomes ours.
Think about the stereotypes that suggest young black males are criminals, or can’t do well in math… how young black girls are merely video vixens, or can’t do well in science.
You see, when media and society peddle stereotypes –especially those inaccurately characterizing our impressionable youth and children—the damage is both serious and real not just because of the sick folks promoting them, but because of those growing sicker every day by receiving, emulating and perpetuating them.
That’s the thing about stereotypes. They start out as mostly false statements but gain steam if not challenged immediately, and ultimately gain credibility when perpetuated by its victims. The fact is that media and society have been peddling stereotypes about us for centuries.
In Whistling Vivaldi, Steele shows how stereotypes affect our perceptions of ourselves and influence how we act in certain situations, be they professional, academic or personal. As a people, we need to be intentional about overcoming the negative stereotypes about who we are and what we can do. Especially for our children — we need to positively affirm our self-worth, our accomplishments and our beauty to combat those stereotypes and ensure we are defining and viewing ourselves positively.
This is what Community Healing Days is all about. And that ain’t just Whistlin’ Vivaldi.
So let’s be sure to celebrate Community Healing Days – in our sky blue – on October 15th through 17th. You can get more info on this at communityhealingnet.org
Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Visit her online at www.StephanieRobinsonSpeaks.com