I am considered “real” and able to “connect the dots”. I am also seen as consistent and persistent. Clients often refer others to me when all other avenues have been explored for my “outside the box” thinking and approach to solutions. With former clients ands students I've worked with, I also often hear from the well after graduation or our formal relationship has ended, for mentoring and networking opportunities because they know my commitment to them is long-lasting.
We need Black counselors and therapists not just for the validation that someone who looks like us can achieve that role, but more so that a person can communicate, relate and co-create with a mentor that also has to continue to take risks, be vulnerable when confronted with new challenges and show up with care and love. In a counseling and therapeutic role we must prioritize building trust and showing up authentically.
I have always been deeply and intimately dedicated to grasping my historical context of life as a resident of Harlem and a member of the Black and Puerto Rican community. As such I had to seek out, through unconventional methods, the mentorship of those who looked like me and my community, mostly members of the “streets” like me. Within the academic world I sought out Dr. John Hope Franklin specifically, because he held a lived historical context like me. He helped me understanding colonialism and colonial mindsets and their framing so to apply them in classrooms, social environments, debates, resistance and organizing movements. My proximity to critical minds also brought me close to organizing, and understanding that only through both scholarship, mentorship and street smarts could justice be prioritized and claimed. I came to understand that my freedom could only be achieved if all Others were free as well. So, an individual, micro-analysis and action was just as needed as the macro-analysis and collective action.
My youth was filled with seeking knowledge outside classrooms, learning from “the streets” and the artistry, musicality, discourse and resistance both within my home and through Harlem. I learned that organizing had many tactics and that I had to know how to take risks and how much I was willing to risk for social change. This developed not only my self-reflection and confidence but also my skillset as a strategist.
My approach is to listen carefully and facilitate deconstructing the things we hold in self-blame. And that in that process we focus more on what is possible, how autonomy can be reclaimed despite oppressive systems and structures. I embrace the Paulo Freire concept of “process of becoming” as a journey that requires self-awareness and an understanding of how we all connect to others.