Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xiv

This well-known and revered quote still gives me goose bumps every time I read it. Audre Lorde captures Black women’s long and arduous history of navigating marginalization and invisibility: to do it all, bear it all, often in silence. Black women’s political acts of resisting and rejecting negative stereotypes, sexism, and racism bear a heavy price. Lorde recognizes that our acts of resistance through leadership, mothering, caregiving, nurturing and providing for our families and communities, and ultimately “taking on the world” do...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: Learning to BREATHE: Toward a Balanced Model of Black Women’s Wellness

Stephanie Y. Evans, Kanika Bell, And Nsenga K. Burton

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pp. 1-20

In the late nineteenth century, Dr. Anna Julia Cooper chronicled Black women’s status in American society:

The colored woman of to-day occupies, one may say, a unique position in this country. In a period of itself transitional and unsettled, her status seems one of the least ascertainable and definitive of all the forces which make for our civilization. She is confronted by both a woman question and a race problem, and is as yet an...

Part I: Balancing Vulnerability

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pp. 21-22

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Sisters on Sisters: Inner Peace from the Black Woman Mental Health Professional Perspective

Kanika Bell

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pp. 23-42

When Ntozake Shange wrote for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow was enuf (1975, 2010), she had attempted suicide four times. Tired of the cycle of pain and shame that was shrouding her life in darkness, she chose a creative way to talk about something that was considered dirty laundry in the African American community: Black women’s mental health. Her tales of depression, anxiety, abuse, and shame were heralded as fiction but were a collective autobiographical account of some of the hidden...

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When the Bough Breaks: The StrongBlackWoman and the Embodiment of Stress

Chanequa Walker-Barnes

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pp. 43-56

Since their arrival on the shores of the United States, women of African descent have been assaulted by the intersection of racism and sexism. Socially sanctioned oppression such as slavery and Jim Crow were buttressed by a racial/gender ideology that commonly portrayed Black women as one of three prevailing stereotypes: the Jezebel, the Mammy, or the Sapphire (Collins, 2005). During the racial uplift movement of the late nineteenth century, Black women embarked on a mission to redeem these negative images by...

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Representations of Black Women’s Mental Illness in HTGAWM and Being Mary Jane

Nsenga K. Burton

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pp. 57-74

The representation of Black women in media is complicated. Whether discussing the transatlantic slave trade, social justice issues, or media representation, the policing of the Black female body is very much a part of American tradition. When Black female bodies collide with dominant institutions tied to racist, sexist, classist, and heterosexist ideologies, the representation of Black women in media can be problematic. Despite a history of contestation as it relates to stereotyping of Black women in televisual media, in recent years,...

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Selfies, Subtweets, & Suicide: Social Media as Mediator and Agitator of Mental Health for Black Women

Joy Harden Bradford

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pp. 75-86

The use of social media has connected us to one another in ways that were previously unimaginable. It is especially popular with young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine. Black women are heavy users of both the Facebook and Twitter platforms and Twitter in particular is very popular with those under the age of fifty and college-educated (Duggan et al., 2015). In discussing the role that social media play in the mental health of Black women, we will specifically be examining Facebook and Twitter, as these are the platforms Black women use most. Facebook and Twitter have...

Part II: Balancing Strength

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pp. 87-88

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From Worthless to Wellness: Self-Worth, Power, and Creative Survival in Memoirs of Sexual Assault

Stephanie Y. Evans

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pp. 89-122

In spring 2015, I developed Purple Pens poetry workshops for survivors of sexual violence, in order to share words of encouragement and empowerment. As a survivor of several attacks during my childhood and young adulthood, I eventually found my voice through poetry and by making a career of studying African American women life writers. By learning the healing traditions in Black women’s memoirs and intellectual history, I slowly developed an emotionally, socially, and professionally grounded life. I created poetry empowerment...

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The Travel Diaries: Excursions for Balance, Reflection, Healing, and Empowerment

Kami J. Anderson

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pp. 123-140

The idea of caring for self has historically been a fleeting thought with African American women. Nelson (1997) explains that as archetype for stereotype, some of the characteristics ascribed to African American women are stoic, all-suffering, discreet, and silent. Madlock Gatison (2015) discusses how by placing themselves on the back burner, “African American women have unintentionally placed their own health in danger.” This manifests through debilitating and life-threatening illnesses that often can be left untreated because “we don’t have time for that.” Ormen (2004) introduces the notion...

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My Body Is a Vehicle: Narratives of Black Women Holistic Leaders on Spiritual Development, Mental Healing, and Body Nurturing

Rachel Panton

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pp. 141-160

In recent years, health education scholars and medical researchers sought to understand what Black women need in order to help them become successful at weight loss, recognizing that traditional methods over the years have not worked (Thomas et al., 2009; Grzywacs & Marks, 2001; D’Alonzo & Fischetti, 2008; Bennett et al., 2006). These findings are pivotal and important steps in helping us acknowledge Black women’s resistance against dominant ideas of body image and approaches to physical well-being. Such studies also illustrate the relevancy and urgency of exploring the development of Black women holistic...

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Black Women’s Sexuality and Relationships: Embracing Self-Love through BREATHE-ing

Qiana M. Cutts

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pp. 161-182

Black women’s sexuality is negatively stereotyped and rooted in historical and sociocultural systems of oppression (Bunch-Lyons & Few, 2007). Enslaved women had no recourse against white slave masters and any other men who desired their bodies, as the raping of Black women was established as an institutional pattern (West & Johnson, 2013). Black women were vulnerable and susceptible to sexual violence and exploitation because their bodies were not respected as their own. The lack of respect for Black women’s bodies...

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African American Mothers’ Parenting in the Midst of Violence and Fear: Finding Meaning and Transcendence

Ruby Mendenhall, Loren Henderson, And Barbara M. Scott

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pp. 183-198

When studying the lives of low-income Black women, scholars must recognize how their particular social location creates lived experiences and social processes that can be hidden, ignored, or even denied because the trauma, injustice, and pain of it can be overwhelming. Standpoint theory is a critical conceptual framework that seeks to uncover the pivotal role of knowledge in reproducing and dismantling social inequality. A standpoint is group knowledge based on shared common experiences such as oppression. Standpoint theory...

Part III: Strategies for Balance

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pp. 199-200

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Black Feminist Therapy as a Wellness Tool

Lani V. Jones and Beverly Guy-Sheftall

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pp. 201-214

It is impossible for Black women to survive without the ability to BREATHE, restore and heal. The BREATHE model provides a foundational context for understanding the multiplicative impact of Black women’s oppression on their psychological well-being. Specifically, through its focus on healing, as a cyclical and continued process. This model, patterned with the Black feminist perspective in mental health treatment, cultivates a mode of empowerment that Black women may utilize to enhance their positive mental health outcomes (Jones, 2008; S. A. Thomas & Gonzalez-Prendes, 2009)....

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Looking Through the Window: Black Women’s Perspectives on Mental Health and Self-Care

Maudry-Beverley Lashley, Vanessa Marshall, And Tywanda Mclaurin-Jones

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pp. 215-230

From a collective perspective, Black women have been provided with a “blueprint” for embracing the cultural image of the strong Black woman (SBW), demonstrating the cognitive and behavioral characteristics of the Black woman’s self-image (Watson & Hunter, 2015). The SBW is a woman who: self-identifies as part of the African Diaspora, is perceived as naturally resilient, is able to meet any challenge, handles stress with ease, displays independence and self-control, is emotionally contained, and never complains (Donovan & West, 2015; Watson & Hunter, 2015). The image of the SBW is distorted and...

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Don’t Go Back to Sleep: Increasing Well-Being through Contemplative Practice

Veta Goler

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pp. 231-244

It is painfully obvious that there are serious issues facing humanity—problems that seem insurmountable—and that Black women are among the people these issues affect most negatively. Scholars’ contributions in this important volume outline the challenges Black women face due to the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, and the toll these forms of oppression take on Black women’s mental and physical health....

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Love Lessons: Black Women Teaching Black Girls to Love

Alero Afejuku, Sheila Flemming-Hunter, And Ayo Gathing

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pp. 245-264

This chapter was written by a mother and her two daughters who love each other. We believe that love denotes action and it is dynamic, necessary, and so many other things. Most of all, we believe love can be taught. Teaching love can begin at awareness of conception, so after birth, and as they grow, children can make progress in their love journey. We start by knowing that love is definable, though many suggest that it exceeds all words and definitions. Parents, grandparents, and all adults are called to be the bearers and...

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Transformative Mental Health for African American Women: Health Policy Considerations

Daniel E. Dawes and Keisha Braithwaite Holden

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pp. 265-286

Each year approximately 83,000 African Americans die as a result of poor health outcomes primarily related to health disparities; and as a nation we are spending an estimated $300 billion because of these disparities—$82.2 billion due to direct health care expenditures and loss of productivity (Satcher et al., 2005; Suthers, 2008; LaVeist, Gaskin, and Richard, 2011; Dawes, 2014). These statistics provide only a sketch of a monumental problem that is multifaceted and arcane, especially when the social1 and physical determinants of...

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Afterword

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pp. 287-288

In Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability, the authors have done a remarkable job in moving ahead the body of literature on Black women’s mental health. In this edited volume, the authors extend our understanding of the social and cultural context of Black women’s lives around which their mental health vulnerabilities and strengths arise. In particular, this contextual characterization of Black women’s lives should be required reading for clinicians and mental health practitioners to enrich their understanding and...

Contributors

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pp. 289-298

Index

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pp. 299-309