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Breaking Free: Men of Color Healing Circles [Report]

Photo Credit: Lucas Ballard 

Written by Imani Wj Wright

There are plenty of hidden gems, and mysteries that surround us every day. But there are some things which aren’t secret at all. One of the aforementioned are some of the sins the United States of America have committed against humanity- especially Black men. Aside from the obvious aatrocities of slavery, and Jim Crow laws, and lynchings, black men have suffered on abnormally high levels from several angles. Mass incarceration, lack of great education, and inordinate amounts of negative police altercations, create a dark side of America for black men.

There may be several issues plaguing black men, but with that, people such as W. Henry Gregory Jr., Ph.D., have developed ways to not only address these issues, but equip men with the tools to increase their mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Dr. Gregory holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology and master’s degrees in both Community Mental Health and Psychology. Gregory is the founder of the Men of Color Healing Circles, which is hosted in Annapolis, Maryland. These sessions are hosted and include movement exercises, meditation, and facilitated conversations. Before we can ask those who may be oppressed to face and conquer their issues, we must first ensure they are in the condition to face them at full, or close to full strength.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend this month’s Healing Circle, and sat down with Dr. Gregory for an intimate conversation. As I walked in, the space was immediately warm and  inviting. Males ranging from the ages of 11 to 71 were in attendance. After introductions, the conversations that ensued were full of vulnerability and transparency.

“We don’t talk politics. We talk about what’s happening with us,” Gregory said while touching his chest with his hand.” I followed Dr. Gregory’s statement asking him the importance of organization’s such as the circle. Everyone may have been individually catered to, and one may feel they were the core focus of this event. And, in that assessment, they’d be correct– partially. Dr. Gregory is in fact dissecting an issue that is systemic within America. The manner in which he is doing it however is what some may consider grassroots.

“This gives brothers a safe place to be brothers, to process our stuff, to heal, and to grow in a supportive atmosphere… We’re living in a time of great change. For a matter of fact, some of us believe it’s not even transitional, it’s transformational. The system as it exists, it’s going to hit the wall. In the process, a lot of things are coming to light. A lot of things that have been happening to black men for generations are becoming more commonplace because of people with cameras. In that process, we all have a choice. We can get stronger, or we can be overwhelmed. It’s as if the fence is gone… Self care becomes a priority. You can’t give somebody something you don’t have” Gregory explained, as other members in the circle shook their heads in enlightenment and agreement. Although these sessions come with much relief, they are also directly putting day to day problems in the black community in perspective. Federal court cases like the historic  George Floyd case have shed a huge light on social issues in America, but there is still the need to convey this message of struggle and social unrest to the world consistently until permanent change can be seen.

As the circle continued, men began to discuss some of their experiences and lessons learned as being black men, and understanding/overcoming certain stresses and misfortunes in their lives. When needed, Gregory interjected with words of studied and experienced wisdom, but otherwise, he was a listener- almost like a brilliant therapist.

Dr. Gregory’s lead Healing Circles are what many men need, and on a broader scale. An entity such as this needs an assertive push to enhance its presence and visibility to Blak men. Far too often gems like these are right in the grasp of many, but aren’t seen by nearly enough men to create an impact on the level needed to make a dent in the systemic issues within America. Perhaps the backing of local governments and politicians focused on societal change/enhancement should fund the Healing Circles. With such a substantial concept and proper leadership, extra resources will take its impact to the next level.

The numbers surrounding the injustices towards black people are well documented and researched in the States. As a journalist, I can attest to data being a key component in understanding not only how we need to address problems, but first and foremost what are the problems along with their severity level. I’ll enumerate a few which are some of the catalysts for The Healing Circles. Black people, who account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 27 percent of those fatally shot and killed by police in 2021, according to Mapping Police Violence, a nonprofit group that tracks police shootings. Among homicide victims in 2019 where the race was known, 54.7% were black or African-American, 42.3% were white, and 3.1% were of other races. A KFF poll finds that the vast majority, 71%, of Black Americans say they’ve experienced some form of racial discrimination or mistreatment during their lifetimes – including nearly half, 48%, who say at one point that they felt their life was in danger because of their race. With the freedom of press in the United States, it is the duty of journalists such as myself to document the hardships, along with the steps towards eradicating them for the sake of public understanding, and also archives for future citizens to observe and propel. As more Black men become knowledgeable of their outlets and means, it will strive with them being on one accord and in alliance with the duties ahead. This will not only stand to improve their lives, but the lives of many more to come after. Strength in numbers could not be more true here.

The Healing Circle is held once a month at Michael E. Busch’s Library in Annapolis, Maryland.

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