On Tuesday, February 28, 2023, over 125 Yale Child Study Center (YCSC) community members joined together by Zoom to recognize Black History Month and highlight Black voices during a special Grand Rounds session titled, “The Struggle is (Still) Real: Reflections on Modern Day Black Resistance.”
A double celebration of sorts, aligned with Black Women’s History Week and leading into Women’s History Month, the session was organized and led by Tara Davila, LCSW, the department’s vice chair for diversity, equity, and inclusion. As with the two years prior, YCSC community members were invited to share their personal stories related to the theme of the month during this special session.
Davila opened the session by saying, “We are presenting this with the goal to expand the definition of Black resistance and shine the light on some modern-day leaders and forums…Black resistance tends to evoke thoughts of activist engagement, protests, civil rights leaders, and groups such as the Black Panthers, but that's really just a narrow view.” She went on to briefly share some examples of various types of resistance, such as art, sports, publishing, and scholarship as activism, highlighting some leaders in these areas including YCSC Clinical Fellow Amanda Calhoun, MD, MPH.
She then introduced four community members who stepped forward to volunteer and share their stores, inviting participants to listen and “think about the ways that you help or hinder. Think about the ways you contribute to making safe spaces or to hostile spaces. And think about the call to everyone inside and outside the Academy to study the history of Black American responses, to establish safe spaces where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected. And may we continue to work toward a world in which we do not have to use all of our energy to resist.”
Brianna Brower, PhD then addressed Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs) as a first-generation college graduate who attended two HBCUs. She began by sharing, “I imagine that this theme of black resistance can evoke a range of associations depending upon the person who is kind of thinking about that phrase in the moment…thoughts of rebellions or revolutions or movements, but what was stirred up for me were representations of resilience and strength.” She shared some of the history of HBCUs along with her personal story and concluded by saying, “I am a product of an HBCU, and I am Black Resistance.”
Belinda E. Oliver, MFT spoke next, talking about the Black church and her experiences there. She started by commenting, “there’s so many different layers when we talk about the Black Church, and we would be here for days, but I wanted to be a little succinct today.” She continued to address some of the history of Black churches and referenced a Netflix docuseries, African Queens: Njinga. She ended by commenting, “We have traveled a long way but still have a long way to go.”
Taryn Anderson, LCSW followed, talking about growing up in New Haven and attending Yale, as well as her experiences as a member of one of the Divine Nine. She began by sharing, “I am one week shy of 16 years in Alpha Kappa Alpha” and continued to provide a great deal of information and rich history of the first intercollegiate historically African American sorority. “I know that I am blessed and I have benefited from many of the safe spaces that have been created through Black Resistance,” she said, “I want to see the next generation have a better lived experience and more opportunities than I had.”
Following some brief discussion, the session concluded with another tradition, a reading of original poetry by Christine Emmons, PhD, though this year involved a chorus with which Emmons requested audience participation in the tradition of the African call and response that migrated across the Atlantic to the Americas and Caribbean. The poem, titled “Resisting to Rise, a Tribute to African American Children” was “culled from news articles over the past five years, except for the first haiku. I want to showcase just a few of the extraordinary things that Black kids are doing,” explained Emmons. “This…is a resistance to the adulterization and negative stereotypes of Black kids. Each haiku is a snapshot of an extraordinary child.”
Last year, the YCSC community celebrated Black History Month in a similar way, around the theme of “Perseverance Tells a Story” – and in 2021, the community came together via Zoom with an open forum focused on “Hope, Healing, and Resilience.” Both were remarkable events with shared stories, books, poems, and journeys for many within the YCSC community.