There is a general consensus that the year 2020 has taken its toll on many people, not only in the United States but around the world. Of those people, black Americans have felt the weight of the year and continue to feel it as we move forward into a new year. With all these struggles to face, we can ask ourselves: how is everyone doing?
One way to answer this question is through a support group. Ghynecee Temple, a clinician specializing in black, African-American and African diasporas at the university’s Student Development and Counseling Center, and Jennifer Major, a postdoctoral fellow in social justice at the counseling center, launched a support group aimed at to black students.
For the record, you don’t have to be uniquely African-American to participate. “Whether you’re an international student, immigrated, black mixed race, if that’s how you identify yourself, then the group is for you,” Temple says.
The group, which started in September 2020, is here to create a space for black students on campus to talk and share. The group meets every week on Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“I was thinking about everything that has happened this year with COVID, the continued murders of blacks and browns and knowing that all of those things would have a particular impact on black students,” Temple said. Temple wanted “to create a space where black students could come and talk about their experiences, be supported by people who are part of the community, who can relate to themselves. [to] and honor those experiences.
Besides creating a space for conversation, another goal of the group is community building and accessibility.
“We know that there can be a lot of barriers and maybe uncertainties around the idea of entering the counseling center, so having a support group makes it more accessible for students to connect. and talk about things that relate to black experiences, the major said.
This need to create more space stems from the fact that the university is a predominantly white institution and therefore has few spaces for people of color to seek help with their mental health. Temple and Major’s own life experiences were also influences.
Major cites her “experiences, personal and professional, of being in predominantly white spaces and being the only or one of the few people identified as black in that space.” Just connecting with people who can, while there may be differences and there are differences in our experiences, there are also similarities, ”Major says.
The group structure is not as formal or structured as other support groups might be. The semi-topical support group discussed themes such as the cultivation of black joy and self-care while leaving room for people who also want to bring up their own topics and needs.
“Our support group doesn’t have this requirement to go through the paperwork, to commit to being part of the group. For people, if they’re comfortable and have the time, come as often as possible, ”Major says.
With the group having started during a global pandemic, there have been some difficulties, including with participation, most likely due to the fact that not all students are on campus.
“It was very difficult to get the students to get involved in the group. We’ve had less than a handful of students reaching out and / or coming to the group, so it’s disappointing, ”Temple says. “I think part of it is because we’re not on campus. Even at the advice center, our service numbers are dropping. So I think as more and more students come to campus, we’ll probably see more of them. ”
The main objective of the group is to provide a space for students to connect and take ownership of the space. Building a sense of community and connection is very important to both women. Those interested are welcome to contact Temple or Major and are strongly encouraged to contact us as their doors are always open.
“So much traumatic has happened to the black community this year, and I think it’s so important to have spaces where empathy, care and community exist,” Temple said.