‘It took us 400 years to get to this point and it’s going to take a long time for us to make things right’

19 News special report examines unresolved trauma in the black community and a connection to slavery.
Updated: Feb. 6, 2020 at 9:48 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - “When those folks are on the sidelines when black and brown bodies are being killed in our midst, it leaves a community feeling devalued, like they don’t matter," said licensed social worker, Habeebah Rasheed Grimes.

It’s February, Black history month and 19 News has brought you a series of special reports, on-air and online, examining complementary life and the connection to slavery.

We now focus on unresolved trauma in the black community and the relation to the vestiges of slavery.

“The experience of trauma and adversity is not new to the human being, the human race. The world is a fairly hostile environment if you think about the conditions in which we survived,” Rasheed Grimes.

Some would say the news headlines in Cleveland, Ohio are notorious. And there’s no question that they’re disturbing and for many, traumatic.

Experts say many in the black community are suffering from undiagnosed symptoms including PTSD, toxic stress, environmental racism and unresolved trauma.

400 Years: The Vestiges of Slavery
400 Years: The Vestiges of Slavery((Source: WOIO))

“The horror of violence is something that comes to pass and makes a news cycle and then ends and for them it’s part of their day-to-day life. The grief, the rage, the hopelessness," said Rasheed Grimes.

Research shows that adverse childhood experiences are a critical public health issue. Things like abuse, neglect and mental illness can have negative and long-standing effects on the well-being of a child and later in life.

A group of teens from Northeast Ohio talk about some of those issues during meetups with Empowering Youth Exploring Justice, their youth council.

“I was silent about a lot of stuff I was going through," said Diamond Bottoson.

“We don’t think about our young people like dealing with stress and with all the different things that go on," Sergeant Charmin Evans Leon, Cleveland Police Department.

The teens revealed to 19 News that the meetups give them an opportunity to talk about the things on their minds with comfort, including toxic stress, police brutality, social justice, community relations and other things that they’re going through. They said it helps that there are adults that want to listen.

“Seeing a person geared up for battle is intimidating you know? And it’s hard for us to decide, if we’re going through something, are we gonna be perceived as the threat, or are we gonna be perceived as the victim?" asked Levite Pierre.

“I was molested and I didn’t have anyone to talk to," said Diamond Bottoson.

Journalist and activist Bakari Kitwana said many of these inequalities have to be addressed by the national culture.

“When you start to normalize stuff like that, you’ve lost sense of reality," said Kitwana. “Dr. King talked about the book by Gibbons, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and it was a book he referenced a lot and it’s fascinating to think about a society becoming so drunk with it’s own power that it loses sight of taking care of its own people and I feel that’s where we are," he said.

After 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland Police in 2014, Kitwana worked closely with Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, to keep her son’s legacy alive through the Tamir Rice Foundation.

“How do you have a society in which a young boy playing in a park can be killed and there is really no resolution or people think the resolution is to give his family some money," he said. “But yet we still have the conditions that persist that will allow for children to be killed again or people to be killed again and no one to be held accountable," said Kitwana.

Licensed social worker, Rasheed Grimes said we can all be traumatized from seeing so many images of horrible and dangerous conditions, especially for people who look like yourself. She said adults need to set aside technology and media to protect the children.

“We don’t have a larger uproar and sense of responsibility from the broader community when 4 young people are found murdered. That would in a different community raise such a level of engagement from our elected officials and our national media and other entities that suggest how important you are," Rasheed Grimes.

“Pain shared is pain lessened," said Sergeant Charmin Evans Leon.

We’ll pick up that part of the conversation in our next report from Harry Boomer who is focused on policing and the criminal justice system.

WATCH Part 1 of the series here.

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