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Q and A: Terrie M. Williams

Editor’s Note: Terrie M. Williams will keynote a special forum today at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture. The forum begins at 5: 30 p.m. This interview is by Ann-Marie Adams.

1. Why should people pay attention to “black pain”–their pain?

Because we’re dying. Some people, like Susan Taylor, never publicly disclosed their depression. It’s a part of the healing when we get up and share our story, especially if I share my story and encourage other people sharing. There’s a great comfort and relief in doing so because we find out we’re not alone. In the upcoming March issue of Essence, they are going to be doing a story profiling three women who suffer from depression. One of them is a young lady I mentor–Jourdan Atkinson. She was always angry. Then she spoke about the numerous rape. She stood up and said something out loud. That’s the power of sharing our story. One young man stabbed someone seven times. He didn’t kill him. But it was what he said afterward that pierced my spirit. The person he stabbed wasn’t even the person he was mad at. That’s why we need to smile at people. We need to make people feel like they matter–not that they are less than. That’s why I think everyone should care about this issue. Life happens to us. The question isn’t what’s wrong with her or him. It’s what happened to her or him.

African Americans Negotiate Mental Illness, Black Pain

2. You talked about the notion of anger and how the black community deal with that anger. Some people would say black people have a reason to be angry.

I’m glad you mention that. But there’s a danger in that anger when we start to hurt other people. I mentioned the young man who was angry and stabbed someone seven times even though he wasn’t mad that that person.

3. What have you learned since your book was published four years ago?

If I had more time I would have added two things. I would have written about seniors, gays, lesbians and the transgendered population. So many people suffer from depression because they feel they can’t be who they are. I would address the challenges, the pain and the depression that comes from being different.

4. Is there hope?

We can’t fall off the floor. There’s no way to go but up. The book came out in 2008. But it’s almost as if it just came out. People are still writing me, telling me their stories. I received a letter from a person’s son in prison. Someone sent him the book believing “he’ll read this book now, and he’ll understand why he’s there.” He read the book, identified with so many of the issues and he now understands why he’s there. Another woman got sick and tired of the dysfunction in her family. She bought the books, sent them to her family and got them to go to therapy. She realized the dysfunction and pain. And got fed up and told them they needed to come together. The book is making a difference in people’s lives. It lets people know it’s not healthy to keep these things to yourself. I still go to thearapy twice a month. I still take medication. There’s no shame here.

5. Any other thoughts you’d like to share as you get ready to visit Hartford, CT?

I feel honored and blessed to come there. Because it’s what our people need. Without your mental and emotional health for well being, you will become undone. We see all these personalities unraveling in front of us. The only means that if you have money, you just have more money to self-medicate.

Terrie M. Williams, author of “Black Pian: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting” will keynote a special forum today at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture, 500 Main Street, Hartford, CT, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, please call 860-404-2104.

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