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"Seeing ourselves in a whole new light": a vision plan for healing

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"Wear sky blue" on October 15th, 16th and 17th--Community Healing Days!

The era of slavery that once pinned Black Americans to physical bondage and dim hopes for better lives is over, yet, today Black Americans are still limited by the emotional and psychological scars that remain. These wounds are kept fresh by an onslaught of media messages that evoke contempt toward Black culture, Black physical features and the very presence of Black people in this nation. From generation to generation, the constant battle to deflect these messages takes its toll on our community’s mental and physical well-being. The most destructive consequence is that many Black Americans have absorbed these negative attitudes, and subsequently view each other through other people's distorted lens.

The sum of these circumstances adds up to one conclusion: it’s time for healing in the Black community.

In fact, today, Saturday and Sunday are Community Healing Days, three special days set aside for Black people to lift off the distorted lens of inferiority and to reflect on positives images and new possibilities for ourselves in the future.

“Our vision for Community Healing Days is to put healing on the Black agenda,” says Enola Aird, who is founder of the Community Healing Network, the organization which sponsors October 15 through 17 as Community Healing Days (CH Days). She said that healing from enslavement is “crucial unfinished business” that we must deal with if we as a people are to reach our full potential. There is so much to learn and understand about the experience God brought us through, but He did not bring us through for nothing,” Aird said last week, in anticipation of the annual observance.  She said, “Community Healing Days is about “seeing ourselves in a whole new light.”Enola Aird of CHN at Riverside Church, Harlem 2009

To promote this vision, CH Days launched the “Wear Sky Blue” campaign, which asks supporters to wear a blue ribbon, bearing the theme “From Pain to Possibility,” or to wear a piece of light blue clothing symbolizing that better possibilities for Black people are as limitless as the sky.

The blue ribbons have been distributed by BlackPrint Bookstore in New Haven to to 20 bookstores around the country; the theme, “From Pain to Possibility,” acknowledges the emotional and psychological wounds of slavery but point optimistically to the “boundless possibilities” Black Americans must aim for as a community.

Community Healing Days is a time for families and friends to be intentional about gathering in small groups, around the kitchen table at home, or at church, or anywhere we find ourselves in an effort to change our view of our circumstances.

To see Black people conceive new possibilities for ourselves and walk confidently in those new identities is part of the healing work that CH Days wants to accomplish nationally, and on a global scale. The movement had its inception in 2006, in Connecticut, through a healing ministry at Aird’s church. However, participation does not require affiliation with a particular religious faith, Aird said. The main requirement appears to be a commitment to work with the organization to dismantle the myths of Black inferiority that are a legacy of enslavement.angelou_chn0366

The movement has gained a high profile in part due to its advisory board chairperson, Dr. Maya Angelou, who issued a call to action last month, inviting everyone to take a stand for emotional emancipation and to wear sky  blue this weekend. Other notable supporters advocating CH Days are Tom Joyner Morning Show commentator Stephanie Robinson, rapper Common, and Tom Joyner himself.Common2_CHN_11_07_2010

Aird said CH Days draws on various academic sources, including psychologist Na’im AkBar, writer bell hooks, sociologist Joy DeGruy and advertising pioneer Tom Burrell, to name a few. The Community Healing Network has established a partnership with Burrell and his work with Resolution Project, a non-profit Burrell founded to reverse the proliferation of negative stereotypes broadcast by the media. Aird featured an online discussion of Tom Burrell's new book, Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority earlier this year. "He says that his work is the air work and our work is the ground work," Aird said. The simple discussion groups she asks people to participate in for CH Days were inspired by the small group processing model presented in bell hooks’ book, Rock My Soul. “We want to create safe spaces where Black people can come together to talk about healing,” she said.

And the healing work needs to be done urgently. The myths of Black inferiority permeate our lives. “It’s part of the cultural air we breathe, so much so that we don’t see it,” Aird said. Sadly, the violence among our youth is evidence of the depth of self-hatred destroying us from within. The annihilation of self-esteem occurs very early in our children. That was demonstrated in a recent CNN report that focused on a five year old African American girl who said she thinks her brown skin is “nasty.” “That is extremely painful to watch in 2010,” Aird said.

While the need for change is urgent, tackling the problem requires a timeline sympathetic to the realities of healing, a process occurring over time. CH Days in October is part of the overall work that Aird is building on every year to extend the message of emotional emancipation. She also hosts an online radio program, features a book reading group, and has fostered partnerships with key professional organizations, such as Black psychologists and sociologists, in her effort to expand the movement through authentic resources. Community Healing Network plans additional activities next year and looks toward establishing an institute at Tuskegee University, where people can be trained to bring the organization’s initiatives back to their own communities.

“We want to bring a critical mass of Black people into the movement by 2019,” Aird. That year is a significant target because it will represent the four hundredth anniversary of the earliest recorded date that Black people arrived on a slave vessel in Jamestown, Virginia, Aird said. Then, she said, “by 2020, our vision will be better.”

Wear sky blue today, October 15th, and Saturday and Sunday. Visit the Community Healing Network website at or follow it on Facebook at Community Healing Network, Inc.