by Abaki Beck
Sunday Suggestions & Connections is a weekly feature pairing recent news stories with related social justice readings or resources and ideas to take action.
This week we look at the suicide of activist MarShawn McCarrell (and mental health in communities of color), reactions to Beyonce’s song Formation (and the Black Panther Party), and some important racial justice news stories you may have missed this week.
On Monday, MarShawn McCarrel, a young black activist, committed suicide on the Ohio Statehouse steps. McCarrel, 23, was an activist involved with the Black Lives Matter organization in Ohio. He also founded Pursuing Our Dreams, a youth mentorship program. His mother believes his activist and charity work was too mentally and physically exhausting for him.
Tragically, suicide is higher in most communities of color than in white communities. This is due to a variety of reasons, including lack of access to mental health care or substance abuse treatment, cultural disconnect with health care providers, and the psychological impacts of living in a society that refuses and rejects your brilliance. Below, please find articles and ideas about mental health and communities of color. But first, read this poem written by MarShawn McCarrel.
Racism and health more generally:
Why Racism is a Public Health Issue by Tara Culp-Ressler
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to Present by Harriet A. Washington (pdf of full book, scroll down page slightly)
Specifically about suicide and mental health in communities of color:
Cultural Considerations in Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Psychosocial Treatment by David B. Goldston, Sherry Davis Molock, Leslie B. Whitbeck, Jessica L. Murakami, Luis H. Zayas, and Gordon C. Nagayama Hall
On Sunday, Beyonce performed perhaps her most politically radical song at the Super Bowl halftime show. The song, “Formation” is an unapologetic affirmation of blackness, doesn’t pander to white audiences (or non-black audiences in general), and featured back up dancers dressed as members of the Black Panther Party. While many people of color across the country responded with celebration and praise, some ignorant white people responded negatively - as ignorant white people often do when people of color do something they don’t understand and thus feel uncomfortable with. Some have called the performance a threat to police officers, including former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, others have simply been confused by its meaning. And people of color collectively responded: “Not everything is for you.”
Like Beyonce’s song, music video, and halftime performance, the Black Panther Party has been misrepresented in U.S. history and social thought. Often portrayed in contrast to Civil Rights Movement heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr., Black Panthers are seen as violent, anti-white, and threatening. The use of Black Panther-like uniforms in the performance is significant not only because of the symbols of black liberation it evokes, but also because the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, California, very near to where the Super Bowl was held. Below, please find links to learn more about the Black Panther party, many of which were written by former Black Panther party leaders. We must insure that these histories are not white washed or forgotten. Because of them, we are here.
The Black Panthers Ten Point Program (when reading this I drew strong connections with contemporary struggles for liberation and demands of activists of color)
New documentary about the Black Panthers is debuting on PBS on February 16th (learn more here)
The Black Panther Party: Service to the People Programs edited by David Hilliard (former Black Panther Party Chief of Staff)
Revisiting the Black Panther Party’s Sites of Class Struggle by Kiran Garcha
Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon by Jane Rhodes. The New Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2007)
If you missed them, here are some links to other important news stories related to racial justice to check out this week! Stay informed, stay involved!
And finally, for those in the United States - tomorrow is President’s Day, or as some Native Americans have reclaimed it, All Chiefs Day. Celebrate by learning about a tribal chief in your home state. Thank you for reading, and have an empowered and relaxing weekend!