Our Black History Month blog series continues with a deeply personal piece from Yvette Davis, Program Manager for one of Central City Concern's culturally specific services. She reflects on what brought her to establish the Cultural Healing through Recovery program and be of service to the African American community.
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People ask, “Why culturally specific services?”
And I answer, “Why not?!”
There are many services within the community that all types of people can access in order to heal from addiction, trauma, unhealthy lifestyles, relationships, and more. My belief is that services, of any type, cannot use a “one size fits all” approach. There are many evidence-based practices that work for various types of people. My question is: what about practice-based evidence?
I am an African American woman in recovery and celebrated 16 years clean and serene January 20, 2015. I did not have the opportunity to find healing when I accessed treatment in January 1999. I had just lost my mother due to a fatal car accident. This was my bottom and then – and only then – was I willing to surrender.
I accessed services in order to learn how not to use alcohol and drugs, but I now realize that back then there was much more healing that needed to take place besides addressing my alcohol and drug issues. I was a lost little girl and needed to grieve, heal, address past trauma, and learn how to form loving relationships with my kids, family, and within my culture.
I appeared intimidating, angry, and had many other clients walking on egg shells (per their report). The stereotypes and stigmas that were put on me during treatment did not allow me the freedom to heal and find relief in treatment on an equal basis as others. I needed a place where I could process my cultural pain and someone who could identify that it was pain and not anger. I was kicked out of treatment and was told that I needed to take anger management classes. Nevertheless, I stayed clean.
I believe my higher power has chosen me to be of service and provide the African American community with an environment where healing, laughter, joy, and freedom can take place without the stereotypes and stigmas that stem from misinterpreted behaviors during one’s healing process. This is what the Cultural Healing through Recovery Program provides.
This work is important to me, because I was not provided the same safety and opportunities during my episode of treatment. It’s important for individuals of my culture to know they do not have to deny, rationalize, minimize, or justify who they are or who they want to become in order to attain success.
Acknowledging cultural differences and having the ability to serve clients through a cultural lens gives me the ability not to minimize their pain or their healing process. African Americans have the right to have their own unique expression; my job is to have the ability to hear them and not fear them. It’s one of the ways I can best support their cultural needs.
Even as I serve and support, I still receive so much.
"Since accessing the CHtR program I’ve been able to dig deeper into my alcohol and drug issues by internalizing what I’ve learned here in treatment. I am now able to communicate my feelings, thoughts, and fears. I could not do this before I joined this program. Today I am able to relate to other black women fighting for their recovery.”
“You keep it real, you told no lies, I trusted your words, and you said it was ok to cry. You’ve been my strength, the rock on which I stand. I’ve gained so much wisdom, guided by your gentle hand. The kindness you have shown in every word and deed has been a blessing in my life in so many times of need”.
These words from clients reflect the value and the gift I’ve received since providing culturally specific services to the African American community. From my perspective, this is why I do the work I do! It’s a gift beyond what words can express when clients learn to trust, love, heal, feel, and grow. Treatment is not “one size fits all!"
And I want to acknowledge Central City Concern for recognizing that diversity is more than just having diverse employees because we have diverse clientele. Diversity is practiced through also being willing to provide a culturally specific service with a cultural lens, which allows us as an agency to meet the needs of the African American community and for that, I’m grateful!
Yvette Davis, MSW, CADC I, is the Program Manager for CCC’s Cultural Healing through Recovery Program.