Education As Substance Abuse Prevention and a Recovery Tool for African Americans

Children Reading.jpg

In the 1960's activist, religious and civil rights leader Malcolm X stated, “When you live in a poor neighborhood, you are living in an area where you have poor schools. When you have poor schools you have poor teachers. When you have poor teachers, you get a poor education, you can only work in a poor- paying job. And that poor-paying job enables you to again live in a poor neighborhood. It’s a very vicious cycle."

Malcolm echoed the sentiment of African American Elders who made the migration from the Southern States to the Northern states In search of occupational opportunities and to escape Jim Crow Laws and lynchings in the south. It is estimated that between 1916 to 1970, 6 million African Americans migrated north and secured work in the steel mills, railroads, meat packing and auto industries. The message that these elders/pioneers delivered to young African American children and adolescents who were born in the North is that education is the key to freedom. Many of these elders had parents and grandparents who during slavery were not allowed to attend school or learn to read. A slave owner’s wife was teaching Frederick Douglass to read when Douglass was enslaved. The slave owner told his wife, “If you teach him to read, it will be impossible to keep him a slave.” It was common for Black parents of the Great Migration to tell their children, “No matter how sick you are, you have to go to school.”

At the time of this writing most of the jobs African Americans secured during the Great Migration have either disappeared or have been shipped abroad. Studies indicate that African Americans have twice the unemployment rate as Whites and are still lagging behind on standardized test scores, which can determine the quality of your education. Many are also miseducated in elementary schools increasing the risks of dropping out of high school, drug use, drug selling (for income) drug related arrests felony arrests which makes it even more difficult to qualify for financial Aid for college and secure employment. Thus for many, a feeling of hopelessness can set in leading to a return to drug use  and in some instances drug selling (for income) and a return to prison. To quote Malcolm X, “A very vicious cycle.” Education is also important for African Americans seeking addictions recovery. According to Dr. William Cloud, as educational recovery capital increases, recovery rates also increase.

There is good news. Urban Prep High School, located on the South Side of Chicago has a 100% African American Male Graduation rate and 100% of these young men have gone on to college, over the course of the past decade. Nearly 90% of African Americans who attend North Lawndale Prep High school on the West Side of Chicago go on to College. The average income in the communities where these two schools are located are beneath the poverty line. These schools prove that when a school has a great mission, (Urban Prep expects every student to go to college and the students recite a daily pledge that they plan to go to college) and dedicated faculty who are able to motivate students, all things are possible!

During the Great Migration the manufacturing industry was the largest employer of African Americans. Today, the future of employment in America is STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). These jobs require a good education. The elders were right. Education is a key to success. In spite of the struggles described in this blog post, the great majority of African Americans are high school graduates. Many have also graduated from the finest colleges in the nation and the majority are middle class economically.

 

Dance and Movement as Stress and Trauma Relief and Substance Abuse Prevention Tools for African Americans

Tag Words: Dance, Blacks/African Americans, Substance abuse protective factors, Substance use disorders

In the last two blog posts, we discussed humor and music as substance abuse protective factors for African Americans. In this post, we highlight dance and movement as protective factors. In the book, The Body Keeps The Score, renowned trauma specialist Bessel Van der Kolk states that trauma is lodged in the body and that the body has a longer memory than the brain. A person may forget the specifics of the traumatic events they experienced; the body has a way of remembering. This is one reason why the body of some people tighten when they are touched or hugged. The body keeps the score. According to Van der Kolk, when September 11th trauma survivors in New York City were asked what helped them most in coping with the terror of September 11, their response was acupuncture, yoga, and movement. All physical stuff! The body keeps the score.

At a recent seminar, a adolescent Native American girls dance troupe performed a sacred hoop dance. The leader of the dance troop told me, "I am a recovering alcoholic. I returned to cultural dances when I was 36 years old. I got sober at 37. Dance got me sober. I am now using dance to help these girls heal trauma and as substance abuse prevention." Like Native Americans, African American have experienced hundreds of years of historical trauma. The link between historical trauma and addictions is well chronicled. African Americans have used dance for centuries to cope with stress and trauma, two precursors for the development of substance use disorders.

Dances created by African Americans are emulated throughout the world and go by many names: The Lindy Hop; The Worm; The Bus Stop; The stroll; The Twist; The Robot; The Electric Slide; Moon Walking; Break Dance; the Cabbage Patch; Hammer Time; Running Man; the Harlem Shake; the Dougie and the Dab. While other communities enjoy these dances for African Americans, they have provided stress relief or a form of medicine for trauma for decades.

During The Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th Century, African Americans would frequent dance clubs such as the Cotton Club and the Savoy and dance until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. It is written that a common food dish today, chicken and waffles was created because blacks leaving those clubs were hungry and because of the hour (3 am), they could not decide if they wanted breakfast or dinner. When the clubs were closed during the recession of the 1980's, they would turn an outdoor sidewalk into a club and break dance. The church is perhaps the place where three protective factors converge for African Americans. Spirituality, music, and dance. On any given Sunday it is common to see and hear singing, shouting, prayer and dance.

Music as a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Protective Factor for African Americans

TAG WORDS: Music as a substance abuse protective factor for blacks/African Americans

Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson

At seminars, I ask participants, “When you are thinking about hurting someone, what type of music calms you down?” Audience members, smile, laugh, then shout out; gospel, love songs, classical, jazz etc.

In the last blog post we discussed, humor as a substance abuse protective factor for African Americans. This post focuses on music as a protective factor. Poet Langston Hughes tells the story of how blacks in slavery invented blues music. Per Hughes, the signature of every blues song is repeating the first line of the song twice. He went on to state, “The slaves were picking cotton in the field, and one of them said, it sure is hot out here. Another said, what did you say? Then the first repeated the lyric, it sure is hot out here.” And that, per Langston Hughes, was the birth of the blues. For years, African Americans used blues music to deal with their pain followed by jazz music which had a calming effect. We can't forget gospel music, the anti-drug. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr traveled from city to city, he often feared for his life. One of his most important companions of the journey was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who would often sing him gospel songs when he was either afraid or tired. He would frequently call her from the road and ask her to sing gospel songs over the phone.

While there are many critics of rap music today, many youths find rap to be therapeutic, feeling the rapper is telling their story. The vast majority of young men I counsel are raised without their fathers present in their life. This produces rage in many, which is often medicated with alcohol and other drugs. Then they listen to rappers who were also raised without their fathers and know they are not alone, including Jay-Z, Tupac Shakur, Notorious Big, etc.

As addiction progresses, people find themselves isolated from loved ones, homeless and rarely having the opportunity to listen to music. Sometimes when I am traveling in my car, and I see older, homeless African American men with substance use disorders, I roll down my window and play music for them. If you were with me at those times you would witness these men come to life, some start dancing others sing. They often say, “Thank you! I needed to hear that.” Below are two of those songs. They instill hope. Enjoy!

Sam Cooke- A Change Is Gonna Come

Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions- Peolpe Get Ready

 

 

Humor as a Substance Abuse Protective Factor for African Americans

TAGS: Humor, Laughter, African Americans and Substance Abuse Prevention

SAMHSA produces an annual report on drug use by race. Consistently African Americans rank third or fourth on the list which is contrary to stereotypes. This may also be shocking given the amount of trauma African Americans have endured ranging from slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow Laws, police brutality, community shootings, and gang violence. Dr. Gabor Mate has demonstrated a clear link between trauma and heavy substance use. To explain substance use prevalence among individuals researchers examine risk and protective factors. One substance abuse protective factor for African Americans is Humor.

Groups with histories of oppression often produce lots of stand up comics. The comedians use humor to help the group cope with oppression and trauma and as an alternative to drug use. One example is the Jewish Community which has produced scores of stand-up comics ranging from Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld and Sara Silverman.

Comedian Dick Gregory

Comedian Dick Gregory

Comedians have been a part of the African American Community for Centuries. During slavery, they were used to entertain slave owners and their guests. They soon began to entertain themselves, sometimes making fun on those who enslaved them (when they were not watching of course). During the Vaudeville Era (1880's to 1930's) African American Stand-up comics were common. In 1960;'s, 70's and 80's stand-up comics such as Dick Gregory and Richard Pryor used comedy successfully to take away some of the strings of oppression. Comedy becomes even more prevalent inAfrican American Communities during times of economic recessions and crisis. In the midst of the recession and cocaine epidemic which impacted the African American Community in the Mid 1980' and 90's, a group emerged called The Original Kings of Comedy (Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley). They performed all over the country to sold out audiences (mostly African Americans). They were the highest-grossing comedy tour in US History.

Comedian Whoopi Goldberg

Comedian Whoopi Goldberg

In the book, The Anatomy of an Illness, author Norman Cousins describes the therapeutic benefits of humor. Cousin points out that laughter decreases physical and emotional pain, helps our immune system, reduces stress and helps reduce depression. For Cancer patients, laughter kills cancerous cells in the body. When my God Mother was in the 4th stage of cancer her number one request was to watch Tyler Perry Comedy films.

When people use drugs dopamine is released. This is a neurotransmitter in the brain which when released allows the user to experience the pleasure of the drug. Like cocaine, Laughter also releases dopamine. African Americans Have used laughter for centuries, to survive and thrive. I end this blog post with a joke told by Dick Gregory. Born in 1932 he is perhaps the oldest living stand up comic. Gregory marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the height of the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960's.

Comedian Richard Pryor

Comedian Richard Pryor

Dick Gregory: (entering a segregated restaurant in Mississippi where Blacks were not allowed) " Give me a hamburger "

Restaurant Owner: " We don't serve Coloreds! "

Dick Gregory: " I don't eat them! Give me a whole fried Chicken! "

When the Chicken arrived, the Klu Klux Klan walked into the restaurant and said to Dick Gregory, "     Whatever you do to that chicken we're gonna do to you." Dick Gregory picked the chicken up, and he kissed it.

 

ATTC/NIAT Blog Post: African American History Month and Addictions Recovery

Originally Post by: ATTC/NIAT on February 1, 2017
Link: http://attcniatx.blogspot.com/2017/01/african-american-history-month-and.html

African American History Month and Addictions Recovery: Featuring the Online Museum of African American Addictions, Treatment, and Recovery

Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC
Gabriela Perez, BA

Carter G. Woodson (December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950)

Carter G. Woodson (December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950)

In seminars, I ask audiences, “What is the reason that African American History Month is in February?” There is always a pause, followed by the same answer, “Because it’s the shortest month of the year,” which brings about laughter. The answer, though, to why African American History Month is in February is to honor the birthdays of AbrahamLincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). Douglas was the first prominent American recovering alcoholic (White, Sanders, Sanders, 2006). Douglass was also the leader of the Black Temperance movement. This history has been shared with audiences of addictions counselors and inmates in prisons (disproportionately African Americans with substance use disorders). Most are unaware of this history, and many are inspired by it.

The Online Museum of African American Addictions, Treatment and Recovery

African American History Month was originally Black History Week, created in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodsen. It was celebrated the second week of February and was enthusiastically received. In 1970 it expanded to African American history month. Woodsen noted that the contributions of African Americans to American society were scarce in the literature. His original intent was the encouragement of the teaching of African American History in public schools (Scott, 2011). Writings on the treatment of addictions and recovery are also scarce in the literature, and thus we developed the Online Museum of African American Addictions Recovery.

The purpose of the museum is to serve as a single site where individuals interested in the history of addictions, treatment, and recovery among African Americans can be found. The museum includes 22 exhibits. You will find everything from scholarly articles that focus on engagement strategies with African American clients seeking recovery and effective approaches to cross-cultural counseling; non-traditional approaches to recovery for African Americans, and writings on innovative approaches to the prevention and treatment of fetal alcohol syndrome in African American communities. Historians may be interested in the exhibits that tells the story of substance use, treatment and recovery in African American communities from multiple perspectives, including literature, popular culture, biographies of historical pioneers, motion pictures, and music. Click on the music links and hear songs by Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Prince, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Jimmy Hendricks and numerous hip hop artists. For counselors who want to be more effective in their work with African American clients, the museum also lists various educational workbooks, available for free download, DVDs, and videos.

As you enter the museum, the first thing you notice is a picture of the famous blues singer Billie Holiday. Her story is living proof that advocacy, culture- and gender-specific services have been a need for a long time. As a youth, Billie Holiday lived in a brothel and at the age of ten was sexually assaulted. To numb the pain, she developed an addiction to alcohol and heroin. Music along with drugs was her primary medicine for trauma. In the 1930's war on drugs, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics singled out Billie Holiday as a primary target of the war. She was spied on by the Bureau; informants were used to testifying against her, and she was frequently arrested. Billy Holiday went in front of a judge and pleaded for treatment. She went on to state, “Imagine if the government chased sick people with diabetes. Then sent them to jail and they could only get insulin illegally. If we did that everyone would know we were crazy, yet we practically do the same thing every day to sick people hooked on drugs,” (Hari, 2015). Peter Bell was quoted as having said addiction is best treated when the cultural context in which it develops is taken into consideration (Sanders, 2015). The museum offers the historical and current context of treatment and recovery for African Americans seeking recovery. We hope you enjoy the museum.
 

References

Hari, J. (2015). Chasing the scream: the first and last days of the war on drugs. Bloomsbury Publishing USA

Sanders, M (Ed.). (2016). Substance Use Disorders in African American Communities: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery. Routledge.

Scott, D.M. (2014).  The Origins of Black History Month. Association for the Study of African American Life and History: https://asalh100.org/origins-of-black-history-month/

About the Authors

Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC, is the curator of the Online Museum of African American Addictions Recovery. Mark is an international speaker on Addictions Recovery and author of five books on addictions recovery. Mark has had two stories published in the New York Times best selling book series, Chicken Soup for The Soul.

Gabriela Perez, BA, is the developer of The Online Museum of African American Addictions Recovery. Gabriela has worked in everything from teaching English as a second language to working in Chicago as a case manager with youth ages 17 to 21. Currently, Gabriela is a pursuing her Masters in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a concentration in community development.

Multiple Styles of Recovery for African Americans

By pinguino k CC BY 2.0

By pinguino k CC BY 2.0

Key Words: Blacks/African Americans, Men, Addictions, Substance use disorders, Addict

A popular television commercial advertising addictions treatment ends with the phrase, "You can't beat addiction on your own. No one can!" The commercial then displays an 800 number for you to call if you need help. The idea that everyone needs to go to a treatment center to begin recovery is untrue. Solo recovery is the most common pathway of recovery, particularly for individuals who are in the early stages of addiction and individuals who have a great deal of recovery capital. That is internal and external assets that they can bring to bear on their recovery. Examples include success before addiction; a good education; highly employable; positive family support; and they live in a community that supports recovery, etc.

The idea that there is only one way to recover was very popular in the 1980's when clients were called "addicts" and the one solution to address the addiction was a 28 day stay in a hospital. Much has changed! We now know that persons seeking recovery have multiple ways of initiating recovery. In an article entitled multiple styles of recovery for African American Men, the authors highlight multiple styles of recovery including treatment-assisted recovery; medication-assisted recovery; 12 step recovery; harm reduction; temporary drug substitution; religious pathways; cultural pathways and quantum change, sudden overnight transformation. This was the pathway of recovery for actor Samuel L. Jackson.

When Jackson was in treatment for crack addiction, he received a phone call from movie director Spike Lee, who invited him to play the role of a "crack addict" in the movie Jungle Fever. Jackson dropped out of treatment to play a role that he qualified for in the real world. In one scene in the film, Jackson is shot and killed by his father. He stated, "When I heard the sound of the gun, it killed the active addict in me." Jackson is in long-term recovery. To learn more about multiple styles of recovery for African American Men click here.

Down with Dope, Up with Hope!

Key Words: African Americans with substance use disorders, Substance abuse prevention, and African American communities

As Barack Obama is leaving office as the first African-American President of the United States, the media talks daily about his opposition parties plan to dismantle his "signature or most important legislation," that being Obama Care. Obama Care provides medical care for 20 million Americans who otherwise would be uninsured. Some experts believe that if this legislation is overturned, the Presidents legacy will be destroyed.

There is a part of his legacy that will never be destroyed. The hope he has given to millions of African American youth who now believe they can be anything they desire to be, including President of the United States! The picture included in this blog post is of 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia. As Jacob was leaving the White House, he asked a question to President Obama. Jacob asked, "I want to know if my hair is just like yours? " This picture speaks volumes.

The title of this post, " Down with Dope, Up with Hope " is a frequent quote used by Civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, Sr. Hope is an important ingredient in substance abuse prevention in African American communities. Hope allows youth to believe that success is possible. For African Americans with substance use disorders in need of treatment, hope is also an important motivator. Particularly for those in communities who experience despair due to extreme poverty. A Native American outreach worker said it best. "My clients don't hit bottom; they live on the bottom. If we wait for them to hit bottom, they will die. The obstacle to their engagement in treatment is not an absence of pain; it is an absence of hope."

If We Knew Better, We Would Do Better: Time to Release African Americans with Substance Use Disorders From Prison

Key Words: African Americans with substance use disorders

The title of this blog post, "If we knew better, we would do better," comes from late poet Maya Angelou in a conversation with Oprah Winfrey. This quote could easily be applied to the high imprisonment rates of African Americans with substance use disorders. Following the cocaine related death of All American college basketball player, Len Bias (University of Maryland), the US Congress intensified its war on drugs. This led to millions of Americans being arrested for possession of small amounts of drugs. Disproportionately, African Americans with Substance use disorders (approximately one million). As a part of the war on drugs, congress passed mandatory minimal sentences for possession of small amounts of cocaine. In some instances 20 to 30 years, in other instances, life sentences. These arrests were not based in Science. They were primarily based upon the stigma of cocaine and the betrayal of African Americans as the primary user of this drug. Today we now know that alcohol and tobacco do more damage to society than all illicit drugs combined.

At the time of this writing, the country is in the midst of a heroin epidemic. More Americans are dying from drug overdoses than gun violence. The face of addiction has now shifted from African Americans addicted to crack cocaine to white suburban youth addicted to heroin. Congress has responded to the current crisis by increasing the addictions treatment budget by a billion dollars. Cities and states are drafting more legislation that includes alternatives to incarceration. While our consciousness has awaken to the fact that addiction is an illness that needs to be treated, lets remember the millions incarcerated for non violent drug offenses. At the time of this post I just read an article that indicated that President Barack Obama pardoned 1000 persons in federal prisons for non violent drug offenses. While this is a good start it is not enough. Programs such as the National Alliance For The Empowerment of The Formerly incarcerated will grow in importance. There mission is to mobilize and organize ex-offenders to fight for their citizenship, expungement legislation, reduction of sentences for non violent drug offenses and to help those leaving prison successfully reenter society. According to the Director, Benneth Lee, "Laws created the war on drugs. If ex-offenders united, we could swing any election."

Benneth Lee Website: www.naefi.com