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Dr. Keisha Ross, a licensed psychologist, spoke about the impact of slavery, past and present, at the First Annual Juneteenth Caribbean Heritage Walkathon hosted by Art 2063 on June 19, 2021 on the Cricket Field in Forest Park Forever in St. Louis.

Dr. Keisha Ross…

Good morning everyone, Happy Juneteenth and Caribbean Heritage Month. A very special good morning to our Mayor Ms. Tishaura Jones. Thank you for the Art 2063 organizational President Dr. James Tucker, Vice President Mrs. Beverly Tucker, staff members for the vision, organization, planning and manifestation of this First Juneteenth and Caribbean Heritage Event. And hopefully this will be a continued tradition and will have even more turnout as we move forward. 

Dr. Keisha Ross speaks at Juneteenth Celebration in St. Louis about the impact of slavery both past and present.

So today I will talk about recognizing the impact of slavery both past and present. Some may ask, why are black people talking about slavery? To which there is a simple response. There is an enduring legacy of historical trauma as well as continued unresolved racial trauma. Historical trauma is emotional, psychological wounding over one’s lifetime and generation to generation, following loss of lives, land and vital aspects of culture. 

Black people stolen from the African continent endured torture, physical and sexual abuse and separation from their culture. The primary feature of historical trauma is that trauma is transferred to subsequent generations, through biological means, phycological, environmental and social means resulting in a cross-generational cycle of trauma. 

So what this means is there is no escape. Whether it’s through the stories we hear, whether it’s through physiology being on the levels of stress. Epigenetics in which genes and DNA is impacted and changed from being under oppression, there is a long term effect.  

Although there was an Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery, it did not reverse the effects of slavery.

From slavery to share cropping, lynching to police brutality, segregation to redlining and gentrification, systemic biases and structural racism are the current manifestations of slavery. So it’s not an old notion. Right? It may not be in the colonial sense of physical change but has a system and structure that maintains racism. 

Although there was an Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery, it did not reverse the effects of slavery. Therefore racial trauma continues. Racial trauma is the result of ongoing exposure to racial stressors, such as racism, racial bias, discrimination, violence against people of color and racist abuse in the media that creates in environment in which a person of color, black people, feel unsafe, simply because the color of thier skin. So this is the enduring legacy.

In the words of Marcus Darby, ‘A people without the knowledge of their history, origin or culture is like a tree without roots. So as people who lost their cultural makeup or spiritual belief, language, rites of passage, food and views of the world, this loss impacts identity and psychological functioning and well being. So if you don’t have a connection or understanding who we are it contributes to depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder or post traumatic slave syndrome.

Also the chronic exposure of oppression contributes to the Wily Linx Syndrome which refers to the process implemented for slaves through the vision amongst themselves: the old vs the young, the light vs the dark, the straight hair vs the kinky hair. So within our community we have a lot of stuff going on. Right? We have color in them. We have a lot of isms. 

Black people stolen from the African continent endured torture, physical and sexual abuse and separation from their culture.

We see this continued division in our community which is a manifestation of internalized oppression in which levels of self hate projected by oppressors or masters onto slaves was internalized by slaves and that hate for oneself is acted out. Dr. Joy DeGruy’s post traumatic slave syndrome, PTSS theory explains the origin of many of the adaptive survival behaviors in the African American communities throughout the United States. 

This condition indicates that multi-generational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of child slavery. Child slavery is predicated on the idea that Africans were inherently, genetically inferior to whites. So many people say slavery isn’t new; slavery’s been happening since olden-times. But indentured servitude was different. Right. There was an opportunity for a person to work and gain their freedom. Through channel slavery that meant your future generations were born into slavery and had no knowledge of themselves, who they are or their culture. 

So now this centuries of oppression through channel slavery, followed by institutional racism continues to perpetuate injury. So we continue to suffer from racial trauma. Therefore we must work on healing from racial trauma. 

And we acknowledge and celebrate Juneteenth and we know that until everyone in our community is free in mind, body and spirit, none of us is free. 

Many of you may ask, who do we do this? Well what we know is healing is multifaceted. Right? There’s no  one way. It can be activated and achieve various avenues such as a higher level of cultural awareness and self knowledge, psychotherapy, emotional emancipation circles, through the association of black psychologists, healing safe spaces by community healers, study groups, advocacy and empowerment economic planning as well as discipline within ourselves and our ancient spiritual sciences. 

So Art 2063 is one of those non-profit organizations that help bridge that gap. This WalkaThon highlights and celebrates the cultural connection of Juneteenth making the emancipation of remaining slaves in America with connections to black people in the diaspora of the Caribbean.

This cultural bridge made by ART 2063 let’s us know that we are all connected. We are each other’s brothers and sisters. And we acknowledge and celebrate Juneteenth and we know that until everyone in our community is free in mind, body and spirit, none of us is free. 

Dr. Keisha Ross

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