Photo by Vlada Karpovich IG @vlada_vlada
“Where can we be free?”
“Where can we be safe?”
“Where can we be Black?”
These are questions Black Americans have been asking themselves for far too long. And for many Black people in America, daily, seemingly mundane, errands and outings can turn into experiences of aggression, violence, arrest and death.
Imagine going to a bank for a simple transaction and being accused of fraud and then having the cops called, read the story here. Imagine police using facial recognition technology and then falsely arresting you, read the story here. These are just a few examples of the daily injustices of simply being Black.
As art therapists it’s important to understand the interconnectedness of racism and mental health. Systemic racism and anti-Blackness directly impact Black mental health and well-being. As we all continue to educate ourselves on these topics, here’s a great video to help start the conversation about race with kids. CNN/Sesame Street Racism Town Hall Video. Hopefully, when today’s youth become the bank clerks, baristas, sales associates, teachers, law enforcement, and mental health professionals, they will not continue these same practices of discrimination, racism, power and privilegde. Let’s activate the change and make America a place where Black people feel free and safe to be Black.
Here are additional resources for anti-racism and equity education for kids.
There's a heaviness collectively being felt by many Black people living in America. At the root is systemic racism. For some this heaviness is subtle. For some, the heaviness fuels motivation. For others, it manifests as depression and dysfunction. And still, for others, this heaviness is buried deep within and may forever remain buried. Through this pandemic, another layer of collective trauma is being formed upon the many calloused layers of trauma many of us carry each day. How does one heal when others can place a price on your voice, your safety, your body, and your life? As art therapists, maybe the goal is not to help heal, but to provide a space where Black bodies can take up space without a cost, without further harm, and can be seen, heard, and valued in all their many forms.
The infographic tree not only lists the issues but shows the roots of systematic racism that have been in the ground for to many years. On an NAACP group phone session, I learned that people of color are disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus due to many having jobs deemed necessary. Plus, many more people of color have compromised immune systems since they haven’t been given equal treatment by our health care system. Here is an example reported by one of the Governors on the call: The Governor of Michigan said 14% of their population is African American yet 19% of all Coronavirus deaths were African American.
Uncertainty of when children will go back to school, job loss- is it temporary or permanent? Teacher expectations, a child with special needs, class structure - these are my thoughts that I reflect from the parents/students that I work with in the school system. What does this mean to the community of minorities, specifically Black families. During this time of the unknown there is so much misunderstanding, confusion, and lack of conversations occurring. Based on my experience providing mental health services to children and their families from diverse cultures these questions were already a concern. Now with COVID-19 a part of our lives, these concerns have exacerbated. As an art therapist, how do we provide a space to express the student’s/parent’s true thoughts.
Alicia Ballestas, ATR-BC
I joined the committee to bring forth awareness of the significance of culture sensitivity. I hope to initiate questions on how we practice cultural sensitivity with our clients. Having such conversations can allow us as art therapists to explore our thoughts, face the difficult topics that need to be discussed to understand our biases.
My passion is to ignite the creative healing abilities that allow people to discover a world of expression and deeper understanding of self. Prior to becoming an art therapist, I served in the Peace Corps. Jordan, I recall memories in my village making art at the local girl school and special education center, how excited the children would become to share their thoughts, bringing their art to life.
My career began in New York City providing art therapy to immigrants adapting to the United states and children in foster care along with their families. Currently, I am an art therapist with Miami-Dade Public Schools, where I provide children and adolescents services with development and emotional disorders. In addition, after the Parkland shooting on February 14, 2018, I joined with Shine MSD to provide creative art therapies programs throughout the school year to the community.
Deanna Barton, MA, ATR-BC
I joined the committee as an agent of change and to shake things up a bit! lol. I hope to initiate dialogues that invite us to confront our biases and privileges so that we can all truly make an informed impact in the work we do as art therapists.
I am the founder of Artspiration LLC, an art therapy practice and creative wellness space primarily for young women of color. Just like we are diverse in appearance, thought, beliefs, and behavior, we all heal differently too. Over the past years, Artspiration has become a place for healing “differently” - a space where personal narratives lead to collective healing. Here, art and creativity nurture the self, the soul, and the community. Learn more about Artspiration at getartspired.com
Susan Berkowitz-Schwarts, MPS, ATR-BC
I joined the Multicultural Committee at this time because the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people of color more than anyone else and I want to encourage other art therapists to keep that in mind when working with their clients.
I'm the founder of the 501c3 nonprofit, All People's Day, about connecting people from many different cultures and issues through the arts. Due to the virus I canceled our FREE March 11th annual All People's Day Diversity Festival in Delray Beach. We were ready to have 15 diverse performers, free food donated from restaurants and 50 plus interactive and selling arts booths with 800 participants. I usually run free monthly arts meetings leading to our festival where people who are different in some way personally get to know each other better. This is one way we can fight prejudice that thrives on fears of the unknown. I'm trying to convert some of these tried and true programs to a Zoom format and hope to lead some for art therapists to use with their clients also.
I was also the Multicultural Chair in the NJ Art Therapy Association for many years before we moved to Florida and wrote articles in the newsletters. I can share and update some of these articles with Florida art therapists. Unfortunately, after looking at the articles I realized most of the issues are the same today. So we must get the word out and help create a better world.
Check out our short video of the 2019 festival at www.allpeoplesday.org
Paula Hammond, ATR-BC
I joined the Multicultural Committee to do my part to effect positive change for marginalized people of color in the State of Florida and particularly within the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. It is also my goal to increase cultural participation and diversity within the association, encouraging more minority art therapists throughout the State to join and partake in the mission of FATA – “Providing education, professional development, training, and political action for its members.”
I have been a practicing art therapist for 27 years in Maryland, the District of Columbia, as well as Florida. Currently, I am a Clinical Art Therapist with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, working with students identified as having emotional and behavioral disabilities. I also am the creator of “Healing Art for the Soul” faith-based, inner healing workshops that give a voice to the soul through the experience of art-making.
Welcome to the FATA Multicultural Committee Blog.