In June 2022, President Biden signed legislation to make Juneteenth the nation’s newest federal holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the day on June 19, 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in Texas.
In this episode of Into the Fold, we explore Juneteenth in a new way. We discuss Juneteenth as a celebration of African American mental health and resilience. Mental health advocate and life coach Tracy Yvette Green joins us for that conversation.
Tracy Yvette Green
Tracy Yvette Green’s personal journey with mental health began almost 30 years ago. She was diagnosed with mental illness. “It was devastating,” Tracy says. “And there wasn’t a lot of support or many resources available to me.”
But as she learned to navigate the mental health care system, she gained valuable insight and skills. Today, as a passionate advocate for mental health, she shares that hard-won knowledge with others in need.
“I want to help others avoid the feeling of isolation that I had,” says Tracy.
She recently wrote about her mental health journey in an essay submitted to the Hogg Foundation’s New Voices Showcase (Showcase), a project with the goal of highlighting talented writers and creatives living with or in recovery from mental health challenges. Her submission, Triggered by Lights: Red, White, and Blue, was selected as one of nine prize-winning essays.
Triggered by Lights: Red, White, and Blue
She begins her essay by describing her association of red and blue lights with a traumatic experience from her childhood:
“What I remember most were the blinding red and blue lights! At four years old, I was very frightened as a police officer took me from my home.”
She continues by recounting the equally traumatic experience that followed as she was examined under bright white hospital lights:
“Another bright light, but white this time. I could not see the doctors’ faces clearly, but still none of them looked like me. The bright light was warm but not soothing.”
And yet, despite the significance of her trauma, resilience is also central to Tracy’s experience. She writes:
“I am no longer the frightened four-year-old child that I once was. The lessons that I have learned and now readily share have created profound change in me. The most important being that life is a journey not a destination… Steel-like determination, unwavering focus, and never-ending hope are the practices that made me resilient.”
Mental Health and Historical Memory
After participating in the Showcase, Tracy joined the Hogg Foundation’s Contributors Circle. This group of about 30 individuals with lived mental health experience lend their creative skills to the foundation’s communications work.
She recently suggested that Into the Fold explore Juneteenth as an opportunity to celebrate African American mental health and resilience in a larger, historical sense.
“For me, Juneteenth is bittersweet,” says Tracy. “It acknowledges that we didn’t learn about the emancipation of slaves until two years after it had been established. But the sweet side of it is that it is an opportunity for us to celebrate.”
Indeed, she feels empowered by celebrating the achievements of the African Americans following emancipation and finds a connection between historical memory and mental well-being.
“I absolutely draw from the historical contributions of African Americans, especially from Francis Cecil Sumner, known as the ‘father of Black psychology,’ and Joseph White, known as the ‘godfather of Black psychology,’” says Tracy. “The contributions of these great men have allowed Black people to heal in safe and therapeutic relationships.”
Advocacy and Self-Care
Tracy’s advocacy work is gaining momentum as July, Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, approaches. She’s looking forward to spearheading events for the North Texas African American community to encourage greater awareness and celebration of mental health.
But she also acknowledges the need to prioritize her personal well-being.
“I like to have a quiet place. I enjoy meditating on the word of God, reading books, and being out in nature,” says Tracy. “That ministers to me, because I do give of myself a lot as a mental health advocate. That is my time when I can look inwardly and be healed.”
Other organizations and resources she both supports and draws strength from include the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) North Texas, NAMI Texas: Sharing Hope, the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference, The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Dr. Rheeda Walker, the Mental Wellness Interfaith Alliance of North Texas, and the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
“It’s true that untreated mental health challenges negatively impact society. Thus, when one of us heals, we all heal,” says Tracy. “I’ve found it very powerful and encouraging and inspiring to me as a mental health advocate to frame Black people’s mental health in that way.”
- Triggered By Lights: Red, White, and Blue
- New Voices Showcase: A Compilation
- 3 Things to Know: Resilience
- 3 Things to Know: Trauma-Informed Care
- Racial Trauma and Resilience in African American Adults
- Young Minds Matter: Historical and Cultural Trauma
- The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Declaration of Racism as a Mental Health Crisis
- Into the Fold Episode 61: Creating Hope for Healing After Trauma
- Into the Fold Episode 65: The Past Does Matter – A Look at Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome
- Into the Fold Episode 93: Healthy Minds – 20 Years of the African American Family Support Conference
- Into the Fold Episode 109: Declaring Racism a Mental Health Crisis
- Into the Fold Episode 139: What Happened to You, Part II