by Amina Ibrahim
For years, Sharon Abdul has had a quiet voice in her head urging her to do more for her community. She wanted to find a community for Black women, but everything she found focused on certain topics, such as “Black women in tech,” or “Black women in STEM.” Abdul wanted a space that would center the whole woman and focus on all aspects of Black women and their lives. This is how the Black Women’s Hour was born.
“I wanted to create something specific to Black women because it is such an underserved segment of our community,” says Abdul.
Black Women’s Hour is a monthly online webinar that focuses on a new topic each month. The first webinar will take place on August 29 and will focus on mental wellness. Abdul feels that mental wellness is a timely topic.
“You got a lot of different things happening at the same time: one, you got the prolonged COVID. And then the perpetual racial injustice and the fallout that comes out of that — which is people talking to you and asking you ‘will you tell me about your Black experience,’” Abdul says. “[You also have] parents needing to do more homeschooling than they would otherwise.”
Abdul felt that during this hectic time, focusing on mental wellness would be important since mental health is still a stigmatized topic within the Black community.
“We wanna be able to break down the stigma of mental wellness as well as promoting the idea of ‘it’s okay to not do everything yourself, it’s okay to not be strong, it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to say ‘hey, I’m not doing well here,’” says Abdul.
To help drive home the point, Abdul’s guest for the debut event is Dr. Mabel Bongmba, a board-certified psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.
Dr. Bongmba said that there are many health disparities and a lack of access to mental health services within the Black community. She explained that in a study done in California, researchers found that only 7% of Black women in need of mental health services actually sought out those services.
Bongmba’s hope is to further destigmatize mental health services through the webinar.
“Even just thinking about wellness and talking about it, we just want that to be kind of this everyday thing, like going to Starbucks before COVID … ” Bongmba notes. “Mental health is just as important as physical health, and so many of our communities aren’t comfortable acknowledging that. We want to erase any stigma.”
In the hour-long webinar, Abdul will facilitate a three-part conversation with Dr. Bongmba. The first portion will be explaining terminology regarding mental health as well as discussing the current state of Black women’s mental health. The second portion will discuss possible situations people might be experiencing at this moment and offer suggestions for how to alleviate some of that mental strain.
“As Black women, we tend to suffer in silence or have this quiet resilience about us … I think it’s super important to elevate some of these situations and examples of situations so women and people just feel like they aren’t alone,” explained Abdul.
The third section will be a Q and A.
In the future, Abdul wants to tackle a range of other topics such as how to advocate for yourself at the doctor’s offices, how to advocate for your children in schools, physical wellness, politics, and more.
Abdul hopes that Black Women’s Hour amplifies and elevates the experiences of Black women, while also giving them resources to help themselves and alleviate the impact of the systemic challenges.
Amina Ibrahim is a journalist and activist with a passion for reporting about underrepresented communities and her South Seattle neighborhood. She has previously done audio work that has aired on KUOW.
Featured image is attributed to Miki Jourdan under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.