[[e|kdhouse, KeAisha House]], Undersecretary of Mental Wellness within Diverse Communities
It is important to recognize and validate your feelings and emotions, as social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, can only be sustainable if we have the drive and energy to continue creating change. You are not alone and you matter in this world.
A message to student leaders from the KeAisha House, Student Assembly Undersecretary of Mental Wellness within Diverse Community
We have been actively working on initiatives related to the Black Lives Matter movement and are coming to you, a student leader, to spread an important message for anyone, especially Black students, engaging in social activism during this time. This message is pertinent to both positional leaders AND the members you support within your organization. Please refer to the bottom of this message for resources specific to the W&M community.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is continually advocating to put an end to systems that promote white supremacy and create disparities between races - issues that have plagued America since 1619. We must not forget that although times have changed, conditions have not. Our community understands that committing to the fight for social justice is vital; we must stand in solidarity with our Black brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings and continue moving forward. Nonetheless, do not let your well-being and the wellbeing of your members fall to the wayside as you fight for the cause. This fight to overcome racial injustice is far from over and in order to sustain momentum, we must consider preserving our mental health as a serious type of activism.
It takes an immense amount of thought, time, and energy to sustain and create change through social justice movements. The gravity of this movement is immense. You and your members may be asking, “how can I stay healthy when I am experiencing something that goes against my personal values?” Values violations are so deeply upsetting because we are experiencing something fundamentally wrong that does not align with our value system. Our instinct is to focus on that violation and react in our own way.
While this is normal, healthy, and understandable, it’s also unsustainable over a long period of time. At some point, we have to come back to the values that were violated and focus on engaging in them at a personal level, whether it be in our immediate relationships or our local community. It is essentially pivoting to focus on what you stand FOR. It is also important to take a step back to reflect on what is the best course of action for YOU and your well-being. It gives us time to do an equally important form of activism: personal acknowledgment and improvement of your values--their strengths and their weaknesses. Processing these things allows us to create a sustainable and healthy way of expressing our activism and solidarity. Despite the inequities and “isms” that impact and limit us, we can always find a way to act on what matters to us.
So during this difficult time, follow the steps we have learned from seasoned social justice advocates: (1) Honor your reactions to what is happening around you; (2) tune into those reactions and ask yourself “How does my reaction inform me of what is important to me?”; (3) from that reminder of what matters to you, look for ways to act on what is important to you each day; and (4) bring healthy self-care and compassion to the forefront of each day.
As activists, we fight for social justice movements that we feel a strong connection to. Through this difficult work, we often find overwhelming and painful feelings resurface. It is important to recognize and validate these emotions, as social justice movements such as BLM, can only be sustainable if we have the drive and energy to continue creating change. You are not alone and you matter in this world. Please take a step back, if needed, to take care of yourself. Pay attention to your members and make sure you are encouraging them to do the same.
There is no one way to support a movement. You do not have to physically be at the front lines to create a meaningful impact. Other ways you can affect change include donating, signing petitions, supporting black-owned businesses, starting conversations online and in-person, and streaming videos for ad revenue that goes toward relevant organizations.
There can be feelings of shame and guilt surrounding anti-racist work and social justice activism. Sometimes we mess up, and we learn to do better, and we continue to move forward. Beating ourselves up into paralysis over every mistake is ultimately is a disservice to the movement in the long term.
As student leaders in your organizations, we wanted to reach out to you and give you resources about introducing mental wellness into the conversation during the BLM movement, so you can check in on yourself and your loved ones, whether that be within your organization members or immediate friend group, and encourage others to do the same. We have also provided links to resources to learn more about the intersection of mental wellness and social justice.
Please let us know if you have any questions, comments, or if there is any way we can further support you.
Take care and stay safe,
Undersecretary of Mental Wellness within Diverse Communities
William & Mary Class of 2023
Who to contact at W&M with questions:
Dean of Students Office
o Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
o Phone: (757)-221-2510
o Resources: https://www.wm.edu/offices/deanofstudents/
Center for Student Diversity:
o Email: email@example.com
o Phone: (757)-221-2300
o Resources: https://www.wm.edu/offices/studentdiversity/resources/index.php
The Lemon Project
o Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
o Phone: (757)-221-1724
o Resources: https://www.wm.edu/sites/lemonproject/index.php
Student Leader Development
o Email: email@example.com
o Phone: (757)-221-3300
o Resources: https://www.wm.edu/offices/studentleadershipdevelopment/leadership/initiatives/pursue-perspective/anti-racism-resouces/index.php
o Phone: (757)-221-3620
§ General: https://www.wm.edu/offices/wellness/counselingcenter/students/index.php
§ Racial Trauma & Coping/Healing https://www.wm.edu/offices/wellness/_photosets/wellness-rec/racial-trauma-coping-brochure
§ Anti-racism Resources https://www.wm.edu/offices/wellness/counselingcenter/antiracistresources/index.php
o Diversity Peer Educators: https://www.wm.edu/offices/studentdiversity/resources/support-advocacy/index.php
o Peer Health Educators:
§ HOPE (Health Outreach Peer Educators) - firstname.lastname@example.org
BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health): https://www.beam.community
TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms): https://twloha.com/blog/black-lives-matter-black-mental-health-matters-too/
Allyship: The Path Less Taken https://libraries.wm.edu/blog/post/allyship-path-less-taken
Ways you can help: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co