Healing Spaces For Racial Trauma After Police Involved Shootings

Jul 15, 2016
Originally published on July 15, 2016 6:52 am

This month two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana.

The trauma of those events can be seen and  felt in black communities around the country.

Soul Sisters leadership collective is a Miami nonprofit helping to address the mental health consequences after police–involved shootings.

Tanisha Douglas is co-founder of the collective and a social worker and she helped create spaces in South Florida, for people, specifically black people, to work out how they were feeling after these killings.

Douglas was in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, leading healing sessions and she spoke to WLRN's Nadege Green. Below is a condensed version of their conversation on why these spaces are necessary.

After these shootings happened ,what were you seeing in South Florida  that made you want to put together a community space for healing?

One of the members of our Soul Sisters youth board saw the need. When I looked around, I saw the youth leader was right. A lot of people were sad, feeling triggered around this community trauma that we were all witnessing live and direct. And folks were feeling lost...It was important for us to create a space where folks can get with their pain. 

I was actually there for a similar version of this in Miami, something you called “a healing circle.” You said that had to be a safe space for people to feel free to open up, so media was not able to record. So can you describe what was happening there?

People screamed and raged. People cried. People expressed feeling nothing, feeling numb. And others felt paralyzed, afraid that them or someone they knew would have an encounter with an officer that would end up in death. 

At that Miami healing circle, everyone was in one room. And then, before the talks happened people were separated by race. Black people were in one room. White people were in an another room. And non black people of color were in their own space.

There was some pushback about that separation on social media. What’s your response to that? And why did you choose to not have the healing circle as one big mix of just everyone? 

I think the best way to think about black folks having our own space to grieve is to think about what happens after they experience a loss.  When a family experience a loss, they get together as a family first and then they invite their friends and allies to join them in the grief. 

What are some options for making sure people are taking care of themselves when graphic videos are streaming all over social media and on the news, pictures are being shared, arguments and counter-arguments are all over the place . What happens when you’ve reached your emotional limit? How does one cope? 

What comes to mind immediately is the need to rest. Mental rest, which sometime means a media detox, not engaging with social media and just spending time with one's self, with family and taking time to ourselves and what matters to us. 

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