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Three-Day Summit In Richmond Strives To Spread Black Culture

*This story was reported by VPM intern Malcolm Key

Today is the last day of the 2019 Valuing Black Lives Summit, held to help commemorate the first arrival of enslaved Africans in Virginia 400 years ago. The summit is being put on by the Community Healing Network (CHN), an organization dedicated to the empowerment and the fulfillment of black culture.

CHN President and founder Enola Aird said the summit is also being used as a healing process for African Americans to separate themselves from the “lie of white superiority,” and to accept black pride and beauty within themselves.

“Our hopes and our dreams have been dashed by a structural -- a global, structural, anti-black racism that has deemed white people to be at the very top of the hierarchy of humanity, and black people at the very, very bottom of the hierarchy of humanity,” said Aird. “...and sometimes even outside of the circle of humanity.”

Aird started CHN in 2006 and is currently on a “Global Truth Campaign and Tour,” which launched last October. She said the tour is being used to spread the organization’s mission to resist inferior perceptions of black people in America. 

The first day of the summit featured keynote speakers, including Aird. They focused on the current state of black culture and how it has been downplayed by historical racism. “We have built families, we have launched businesses, we have gained political power, and we have made unparallel contributions to the culture of this world,” Aird said. “We’ve risen to the highest seats of government, and to the executive suites of major corporations. Yet, the lie persists.”

Dr. Cheryll Grills, past President of the Association of Black Psychologists, also spoke. Grills dug into the core consequences of “racial stress and racial trauma” which she said has many “psychological distress consequences.” Some of the effects she mentioned were depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

“We know people have been able to make a causal link between frequency of exposure to racism, and subsequent psychological distress,” said Grills. “The unfortunate reality is society is blind to the level of exposure of racism that black folks must confront on a moment to moment basis.”

Grills also mentioned what she labeled as “multi-generational stress” that can be transferred from a number of past relatives.

“If your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother had to worry about whether her child would live, whether her child would still be with her...whether her child would be beaten or raped, that mother’s gonna have a certain stress response.” Grills explained. “That mother and that child are gonna carry that stress with them throughout the course of their life and...pass that on to the next generation.”

Some of the other events at the summit include an open mic night to honor African American pioneers of restorative justice, and conversations on topics like spirituality, African culture, and Afro-Futurism.