The Black Men’s Introduction to Group Therapy Course began on the 13th of November and was a Kings and Queen making experience with my co-counsellor Sheila Samuels. I borrow the term from Ron Brown High School and Dope Black Dad’s Podcast’s chief presenter Marvyn Harrison who addressed me recently as King.
The moment stood out, fresh like beads of sweat dotting a brow furrowed in deep concentration. Mentally I did a double take and thought…
Who is he speaking to?
Oh I get it.
Those are large shoes to fill.
I’m ready to put that mantle on.
5 men attended the group and told their stories of why they saw a need for the group. The men held out their independent requests for the room to see feel and identify with. There is a unity to be had in sharing hopes with a room who know what you are saying because they, I, we, have said similar things too.
Groups are always nervous in the beginning. Leaders/Facilitators are too! With a new venue.
New people to get to know.
A new course.
Not knowing met with new, then came upon nuanced and introduced those who attended to what has the potential for being made to exist in the now.
For this group it was a Black safe space. Rare. A space curated, created and secured for men of the African Diaspora to meet and talk and discuss and experience warmth from a forgotten Sun. The aim – to discuss Black Mental Health with other Black Men with 2 highly skilled counsellors.
A good therapy group often operates well with 2 counsellors steering the conversation. Having worked with Sheila at the prison a few years ago I knew she would be a great co-facilitator for this group. Knowledgeable, flexible and able to support the group engage with the sensitive topic of Black Mental Health.
The group of 5 men with differing ages, professions, from a range of different London Boroughs, from a collection of countries of origin all came with a singular focus: To open the sometimes locked box and speak about mental health, as vulnerable, sensitive, engaged, intelligent, responsible, aware, concerned advocates and as Black men.
There was laughter, there was a felt sense of wanting to support and be simply acknowledged as friend, brother, seeker, father, colleague like in the classic Ralph Ellis book Invisible Man being seen and understood is a priceless gift.
I could just about keep my hands from clapping all the time or staying on my seat from sheer giddy exuberance: This Was Actually Happening! Finally!
It did, and there are more to follow, on the 20th 27th November 4th, 11th 18th December.
One attendee asked if there are plans for the group to continue past the 6 weeks… Both me and Sheila looked at each other and answered “Well that all depends…”
Who Knows by Ram Dass
Thank you Anne Willoughby for introducing me to this tale…
*Cover Image from This Book Could Help