- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Black Therapist Takes On Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome

New America Media, News report, Khalil Abdullah Posted: Sep 06, 2008

Editors Note: On September 6, the Marguerite Casey Foundation's Equal Voice for America's Families Campaign will culminate with as many as 16,000 family delegates attending conventions in three cities to talk about issues they want to put on the national radar as the country prepares for the presidential election. In the last of a five-part series, NAM editor Khalil Abdullah who has reported on the campaign from local town halls across the country -- profiles these delegates, parents-turned-grassroots activists. Jamerlyn Swan is a family therapist in California, where only one out of 2000 family therapists is black. NAM's coverage of this issue is underwritten by the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

The city of broad shoulders swept Jamerlyn Swan off her feet this summer. My first time in Chicago; I loved it! she exclaimed. It was so beautiful. It wasnt only the iridescence of Lake Michigan at night or the citys physical charms that romanced her heart. She also confessed she fell in love with Chicago, because I liked the feel of it.The town seemed so lively, said Swan, a lifelong Los Angeles resident.

As a delegate from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, a consortium of 50 African-American churches that coalesced after the 1992 riots to provide faith-based community organizing in that city, Swan had been attending a special session of the Equal Voice for Americas Families campaign. With a select group from around the country, she participated in a robust debate on issues and recommendations that had been generated by town hall meetings across America. The result was a platform representing the aspirations of low-income Americans. On September 6, that platform will be unveiled simultaneously in three cities, Birmingham, Chicago, and Los Angeles; hosts to a projected combined attendance of 13,000 men, women and children, according to the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Equal Voice campaign underwriter.

Swan had attended her first Equal Voice town hall in Los Angeles near the beginning of 2008, but she found the atmosphere in Chicago quite different. In L.A., she had especially noted that there was a very big disconnect between the Mexicans and the blacks. At the Chicago town hall, too, there were people of different nationalities, but the atmosphere was more harmonious. There were Indian tribes, true Africans, and others talking about immigration, for example, and not to be a venting thing, Swan explained, but with the conviction that we can change [public] policy.
In addition, Swan said the openness and honesty of the delegates in Chicago made her realize a poignant truth about America. I said, Wow, there are a lot of other races and people who feel the kind of pain and struggle that African Americans have felt. And Swan is intimately familiar with the anger that flows from that pain.

In her day job, she works with a homeless outreach program for women and their children. Years ago, when she first started as a volunteer with homeless women, all I knew was how to listen. If they prayed, I prayed; if they cried, I cried. She decided to change her undergrad study from business to human services, finally admitting to herself that Im a people person, Ive always been a people person. After varying roles in development, grants writing, and administration, she said the most important thing was, what can I do to further myself to be of service?

Swan chose to pursue a unique, three-year masters degree in marriage and family therapy, an all African-American family studies program that was being launched in 2005 by Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena. She was in the first graduating class.

To Swan, for African Americans to be under the thumb of therapists who know so little about AfricanAmerican culture is disastrous. Let me give you the ratio, she said. For every 2,000 licensed therapists in California, one is black, Swan explained, adding that licensed therapists get to diagnose and make decisions about other peoples lives. Additionally, not every therapist who is black is culturally competent.

Swan spoke eloquently about the evolution of African-American social and cultural norms in the face of post traumatic stress syndrome and even the less publically accepted post-traumatic slavery syndrome. She argued that African Americans have for generations had somebody who doesnt look like us to tell us to whats wrong with us. Sometimes, there is a rational simplicity in a mental health setting, when someone says, I need to talk to somebody who looks like me, Swan maintained. What is being sought is cultural empathy.

Swan is fulfilling a requirement of her masters as a counselor in a fatherhood initiative program of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches. She works under the guidance of Dr. LaGrande Mason, a licensed family therapist. He deals with the men, I deal with the women and then we come together and co-facilitate, Swan said. Some men in the initiative are returning to civic life from prison terms. That anger management issues surface with that cohort is unsurprising, but Swan sees anger among men and women coping with more mundane circumstances as well.

There is a myth that anger is inherited. Anger is a learned behavior, Swan argued. It is learned in the house. Swan said she understands the need to be assertive at times in order to make it in todays society, but there is a misconception, she contended, that you need to be aggressive to get your point across. Aggression and being assertive are two different things.

Swans training has helped her navigate her relationship with her 18-year-old son. In actuality, its made me a little more patient Im not going off, saying mean things, she said, noting that at times, in her professional practice, she has been appalled at the way some of these mothers treat their sons.
The stress of counseling can take a toll. Swan was grateful for the delegates in Chicago who refreshed her optimism. They were willing to come out and talk about whats important to them. Though Chicagos allure still beckons, Swan plans to attend the Los Angeles meeting on September 6. Im hoping to get that same feeling back, and to see the final results, on paper, of our work. Ultimately, Swan said, she wants to see how the Equal Voice campaign decides to broaden its reach.

Related Articles:

From Somalia to Seattle - Immigrant Mom Stands By Community, Faith and Tradition

An Addiction to Advocacy Overcame Homelessness

Living Paycheck To Paycheck While Patrolling Mississippi Schools

Equal Voice Campaign

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civic Initiatives