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Jun 20, 2022

The importance of Juneteenth and what it means to me

Rachel McCrickard, LMFT

CEO and Co-Founder

Dr. Carla here. For those I haven’t met just yet, I’m Motivo’s new Chief Clinical Officer. I help strengthen our clinical voice and systems throughout the company. I’m also creating the framework for our continuing education platform, launching this Fall. Rachel is back in The States, but I decided to jump in for an opportunity to write about a celebration that is both near and dear to my heart – Juneteenth.

Also known as Emancipation Day or Black Independence Day, Juneteenth originates in Galveston, TX in 1865 when all Black Americans who were previously enslaved were told of their freedom. Though the Emancipation Proclamation – January 1, 1863 – had been signed for over two years, slavery was still legal and practiced in many Southern states and some American Indian Territories. Juneteenth started in a small community, spread across the country in many Black households, and is now (as of 2021) a Federal holiday. The importance of this holiday is in the ways we all collectively work towards Black liberation. Mental health equity is one of those ways.

Last year, while President Biden was signing the executive order to declare Juneteenth (June 19th) a federal holiday, the United States was in the middle of a political battle about acknowledging this country’s deeply-rooted history of racism in schools. There we were, on the brink of setting aside a whole day to celebrate the true beginning of the journey to liberation for all Black folks, and legislation was being introduced (and passed) to stop people from acknowledging the need for that liberation. It was disheartening and confusing.

Over the last year, many Black people have grappled with this tension in significant ways. Personally, I have struggled with ways to communicate my strong opinion on this and many other issues of injustice. I didn’t want to play the middle, especially with issues that impact me so deeply. For this reason, I was drawn to the book, You Are Your Best Thing, by Tarana Burke & Brene Brown.

Here is a video of both being interviewed by Trevor Noah:

Tarana Burke & Brené Brown - Vulnerability Through the Lens of the Black Experience | The Daily Show

Reading this book – listening on Audible is still “reading” – has empowered me to show up authentically, state my opinion, and learn to make space for my own humanity rather than play the middle. As a parent, therapist, and executive, this empowerment is an act of radical self love and care to nurture my voice and acknowledge I have strong opinions about Black liberation. This collection of essays helped me see my own humanity in pursuit of belonging, vulnerability and authenticity everywhere. This is how I choose to celebrate Black Independence Day. This is how I choose to cultivate my own mental health and contribute to mental health equity.

These last 2.5 years have been relentless for all of us. And, the layers of pain and trauma added for Black people is a heavy load to bear. There is a movement called the Soft Life Era making the rounds on social media. It was created to give Black women permission to deconstruct the “strong Black woman” persona. While this movement focuses on women, I’d like to extend the Soft Life to all Black people. This movement is about making space for vulnerability and prioritizing self care, without waiting for permission, instead of accepting suffering as a badge of honor. This is the radical self care Audre Lorde spoke of when she said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

I’m addition to the 5 Ways You Can Start Stepping Into Your Soft Era, here are two more:

  • Therapy! Black therapists are struggling under the weight of holding space for clients and managing their own needs. My own therapist has made every difference in my wellness these last few years.
  • Use meditation and yoga to connect to your inner self. Assess your needs while you rest. Breathe into your vulnerability and softness. Create a welcoming space to define the Soft Life for yourself.

I can see no better way to celebrate Juneteenth than to reflect on ways I can boldly show up authentically, in all my vulnerabilities, with my opinions and belief systems, especially those about Black historical, cultural, and social experiences that impact our mental health on the road to full liberation.

Today, I’ll be focused on doing just that – and I invite you to do the same.

What thoughts or insight come to mind as you reflect on Juneteenth? If you have anything you’d like to share – I’d love to hear from you. Simply respond to this email and it’ll come right to my inbox.

Dr. Carla

Rachel McCrickard, LMFT
CEO/Co-Founder, Motivo

Each Monday, I’ll share my perspective on topics that mean a lot to me: growth, resilience, relationships, and leadership.

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