February is Black History Month and a time for honoring individuals who are descendants of the African diaspora. The Annual Black History Month Celebration, hosted by Alameda County Behavioral Healthcare Services (ACBHCS) and POCC’s African American Steering Committee, was among the East Bay’s commemorative events.

The cultural affair took place at Oakland’s historic Scottish Rite Temple on Friday, February 24th. The main objectives included stigma reduction, increasing ethnic sensitivity, and improving the mental health and well-being of Black people throughout Alameda County.

Speakers and presenters included Bre Williams (PEERS WRAP Program Coordinator II), Javarre Wilson (ACBHCS Ethnic Services Manager), Rashad Eady (ACBHCS) Office of Ethnic Services), Pastor Horatio Jones (President of African American Steering Committee), and Bobby Mickerson (Recovery Connections). Dr. Joseph White, also known as the Godfather of Black Psychology, delivered the keynote address.

After a catered soul food lunch, participants chose to attend a cultural drumming session or a nutrition workshop, both used as tools to promote wellness. Guests also sat in on a panel where Elaine Brown (Former chairwoman of the Black Panther Party), Tony Jackson (clinical psychologist), Cat Brooks (Co-Founder of Anti-Police Terror Project), Babalwa Kwanele (Berkeley Mental Health clinical supervisor), and Ndidi Okwelogu (social justice organizer) addressed the state of the Black community in Alameda County.

Given the current socioeconomic climate for Black Americans, the event rendered several positive takeaways, as well as fresh inspiration, for mental health consumers, advocates, and community organizers.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the BHCS Annual Black History Month Event, from the presenters, to the drummers, to the breakout sessions,” Bre Williams said. “Being able to share the stage with dynamic change agents in the community, and holding the title of consumer was the real honor. I look forward to continuing to work with the POCC’s African American Empowerment Committee and bring consumer voice to community involvement. “