Uplifting the Narratives of Black Women: Treating This Disease Called “Strength” – A Mental Health Call to Action

Thursday, April 15th 2021

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

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Throughout their history on American soil, African American women have showcased impressive physical and mental strength. Immersed in a Christian ethic, they soothed daughters raped during slavery, comforted husbands whose masculinity was stripped from them, and kept on keeping on when they themselves were violated, humiliated, or otherwise denied basic human consideration. Strength became such a defining characteristic for black women that they and their communities willfully embraced the trait to the extent that any show of weakness was deemed inappropriate or out of character. Drawing upon historical patterns, literary creations continued these portraitures with domineering, controlling, and physically strong black women. However, in life and in literature, strength for black women has been emphasized so much that it in fact has become a disease. This disease called strength can be traced from Mama Lena Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), into the later twentieth century in 1993 with Ernest J. Gaines’s Tante Lou in A Lesson Before Dying, Pearl Cleage’s Sophie Washington in Flyin’ West, and Octavia E. Butler’s Laura Olamina in Parable of the Sower, and into the twentieth-first century with characters such as Rosie Quinn in Delores Phillips’s The Darkest Child (2004). If these depictions are indeed where we are, then how do we prevent such a disease from destroying black lives and homespaces?

  • Discuss the implication racial trauma has on health outcomes for Black women.
  • Explicitly name the adverse determinants of health impacting Black women.
  • Discuss what resources are available for Black women seeking supportive and competent mental healthcare.


Trudier Harris

Dr. Trudier Harris

Trudier Harris is University Distinguished Research Professor, Department of English, the University of Alabama and formerly J. Carlyle Sitterson Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her twenty-four book publications include Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison(1991), The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South (2009), and Martin Luther King Jr., Heroism, and African American Literature (2014). In 2018, she received the Richard Beale Davis Award for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literary Studies and was awarded a Resident Fellowship to the National Humanities Center. Harris was named the 2018 recipient of the Clarence E. Cason Award for Nonfiction Writing, for which her memoir, Summer Snow: Reflections from a Black Daughter of the South (2003), was a deciding factor. Her current book project is a study of depictions of home in African American literature.


Dr. Dominique Vedrine Chuku

Dr. Dominique Vedrine Chuku

Dr. Dominique Vedrine earned her Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy from the University of San Diego and her Doctorate degree in Couple & Family Therapy from Drexel University. She was an adjunct instructor at USC Upstate in the psychology department & at Greenville Technical College in the Human Services department. Dr. Vedrine also taught in the Marriage & Family Therapy Graduate program at Converse College. She is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with over 15 years of experience, providing therapy to individuals and families. She is a former forensic evaluator, behavioral health clinician, parent educator, and crisis interventionist. Dr. Vedrine provides home-based therapy to young mothers through Birth Matters, a community doula. She serves as a transformative facilitator and lead trainer with Speaking Down Barriers and previously served as the Interim Board Chair. Her research interests include promoting resilience in individuals and family systems, confronting, and healing the wounds of systematic oppression in our society and understanding the concept of intersectionality. Dr. Vedrine also served with USC Upstate’s Child Protection Training Center as their DSS Project Coordinator. Currently Dr. Vedrine is the founder and director of Vedrine’s Healing Services.


Davelyn Hill

Davelyn Hill

Davelyn Hill has a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Converse College and a BA in Psychology from Clemson University. She has experience as a therapist working with survivors of interpersonal violence and their families. Davelyn is the Program Director and a facilitator with Speaking Down Barriers. Through this role and as a therapist she has led support groups, presented research, and conducted presentations around racial trauma and oppression. One of her specialties is grief. She has been working with funeral personal to create and facilitate a public grief series. She is also a painter and poet who uses her creativity as a medium for activism and organizing.



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