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Fact or Fiction: Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome?

As the community manager at Healthcake, I’m always inspired by the personal and cultural stories of our members. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, we kicked off a New Selma Party to spur a new dialog about slavery, civil rights and health disparities among black immigrant populations in America.

It’s a low point in American history how a nation that claims to believe in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all men” help lead an act as dehumanizing as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which lasted for nearly four centuries. Some argue (including myself) that America is largely founded upon 300+ years of free labor that it received from its former black slaves. Sadly, young children were separated from their mothers, wives were separated from their husbands, and ultimately entire black family structures were dismantled. Ever since the Emancipation Proclamation which was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, blacks (or the more PC term African Americans) in America have been struggling to overcome the long-lasting effects of slavery.

As we look at today’s mainstream media — reality shows, modern rap music, entertainment websites and urban films — it is evident that many blacks are still suffering from what Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary calls “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” I think there is something to this. If African slavery was only physical, it’s imaginable that black people would have been able to skip the plethora of social-economic issues plaguing African people within one generation. Surely slavery, and other institutionalized forms of targeted race-based oppression have contributed to long-term mental health issues, which then are self-reinforced in each generation. It’s as if some people are on autopilot. Until the mental health issues that are now deeply embedded within our collective consciousness are brought to the surface and addressed, progress will be hard to come by.

Together, we must work diligently to reverse the effects of slavery and set up robust platform for coming generations to excel. It’s the moral responsibility of politicians, clergy, educators, and professionals to make the issue of full recovery from the horrific experience of slavery a top priority.

That’s why we need a New Selma. Join the party.