By BERT GAMBINI
Published January 10, 2024
Two UB researchers are taking part in a panel discussion this week focused on mental wellness in Buffalo’s Black community.
Rebecca Ashare, associate professor of psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, and Deborah Erwin, professor emeritus, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-founder of the National Witness Project, will co-lead the conversation, “Hope & Healing,” taking place from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 13 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.
Ashare says Buffalo’s Black community is hurting, with the cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the racist shooting at a Tops grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood on May 14, 2022, and the Christmas blizzard last year adding over the past few years to the community’s burden.
“In some of the community-based work we are doing with Dee Johnson and the Witness Project, we keep hearing that the community wants and needs support for mental wellness,” says Ashare. “We are hoping this event will highlight pathways for hope and healing, and provide an educational opportunity for the community that offers strategies for addressing healing and mental wellness in the Black community.”
Each of the expert panelists brings unique perspectives and expertise about mental wellness, according to Ashare.
“I’m hoping that simply by having these types of conversations and providing a forum where we can listen to and learn from the community, we will raise awareness and improve understanding of the mental wellness needs of the Black community,” she says.
Christina King, clinical assistant professor of literacy education in UB’s Graduate School of Education, will be among the panelists, who also include:
King brings to the conversation a deep background in curriculum and instruction, with extensive experience teaching courses on critical literacy. The work of critical literacy focuses on social issues, including inequities of race, class, gender or disability, and how language and other semiotic resources shape our understanding of these issues. Her research examines how diverse literature for children and young adults is taught and learned within a critical literacy framework.
“We have to acknowledge the lived experiences of young people, especially young people of color, regarding race and racism before we can teach them about these issues,” says King. “It would be misguided for us as teachers to expect these children to leave their experiences at the door rather than providing them with the opportunity to discuss how these issues affect their lives.”
Carol Boston Weatherford, Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson are among the award-winning African American authors of children’s picture books that provide for the kinds of exploration and self-discovery that King describes.
But King, who recently moved to Buffalo, says the panel is also a learning opportunity for her.
“I’m hoping to hear from the panelists and community members about their areas of concern and how, as an educator, I can support them,” says King. “I’m excited to share my work, but I’m also looking forward to learning how I can tailor that work to meet the needs of our community.”
The Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers is hosting the panel in collaboration with Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The panel is free and open to the public, but guests should register beforehand by emailing Anne Bradbury at email@example.com or calling her at 716-852-5065 (ext. 183).