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Black Men and Mental Health Symposium

A symposium on Black men and mental health convened at Harvard University Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. 

May 14, 2024—Cambridge, Mass.— The Office of Black Male Advancement in partnership with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research and University College London’s Black Britain and Beyond hosted an all-day symposium exposing the crisis in Black male mental health and identifying solutions. The symposium took place on Monday, May 13, 2024, with over 150 attendees at Harvard's Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center.

“The Hutchins Center is honored to convene this historic gathering at Harvard," said Henry Louis Gates, Jr.the Center's founding director. "This is a vital public health issue facing Black America at a crucial time in our nation and world." 

“For many Black men, recognizing they need mental health support is the first step on a long journey to wellness,” said symposium visionary Professor Keith Magee of University College London’s Black Britain and Beyond think tank. “I'm grateful that Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has rallied with me and led the way to create a gathering place for Black men and those who care about our mental health. His team of colleagues, along with the City of Boston’s Office of Black Male Advancement, have made it possible for us to come together to offer support, encourage debate, and increase awareness.” 

The symposium addressed the current parlous state of Black male mental health in the US and UK. Black men and boys are uniquely vulnerable to mental health challenges due to a complex combination of factors, including systemic racism and related trauma, high poverty rates, and implicit bias on the part of medical providers. When, despite the deep stigma in their own community, Black males do decide to seek help with problems such as anxiety and depression, they face limited access to culturally competent mental health services.  

“Black men and boys must have access to high quality mental health care. That means having conversations that help us overcome stigma,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “That means having more providers who have lived experiences similar to those of the communities they serve and understand the unique challenges that Black men and boys face. That means building a network of support. That’s why I’m so grateful for our Office of Black Male Advancement here in Boston. They’re working every day to ensure that our Black men and boys have access to the services they can count on.”  

The day was filled with panel sessions that explored the impact of generational trauma and the stigmatization of psychotherapy among Black men and boys and how these barriers to mental wellbeing can be overcome. The event also featured a lunchtime discussion, fireside chat, and closing reception, providing brave spaces for Black men to voice their experiences, access resources, and come together in fellowship and empathy. 

An array of inspirational expert speakers and panelists took part: actor and Harvard alum Courtney Vance, with Dr. Robin Smith, discussed their latest book “The Invisible Ache: Black Men Identifying Their Pain and Reclaiming Their Power;” Emmy Award-winning actor Ameer Baraka; award-winning author, corporate executive, and philanthropist Steve PembertonBryan Bonaparte, senior lecturer in psychology of University of Westminster (UK); Michael Curry, Esq., President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers; Kendrick Meek, former U.S. Representative for Florida’s 17th congressional district; and Tito Jackson, Chair of the City of Boston’s Black Men and Boys Commission. 

“The Black Men and Mental Health symposium represents a powerful collective effort by the Harvard University Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Black Britain and Beyond, and our Office of Black Male Advancement to address the mental health crisis faced by Black men and boys,” said Frank Farrow, Executive Director, Mayor’s Office of Black Male Advancement. “We are committed to ensuring that mental health and wellness becomes a priority for our Black males. As an Office, we will continue to provide a platform for open dialogue, resource access, and partnerships, fostering a community-driven approach to addressing this critical issue." 

In addition to the collaborative efforts between the Office of Black Male Advancement, Harvard's Hutchins Center, and Black Britain Beyond, a Mental Health Resource Guide is now available, tailored specifically to address the unique needs of Black men and boys in Boston.

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About Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research 

The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research supports research on the history and culture of people of African descent the world over and provides a forum for collaboration and the ongoing exchange of ideas. It seeks to stimulate scholarly engagement in African and African American studies both at Harvard and beyond, and to increase public awareness and understanding of this vital field of study.  

About Black Britain and Beyond 

Housed at University College London (UCL) Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP),Black Britain and Beyond is a think tank and social platform which brings together Black Britons (and their allies) to critically assess the significance of their cultures, economies, heritages, and identities, and thereby devise plans to facilitate future development.  

About the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Advancement 

The Office of Black Male Advancement works to empower Black men and boys, and ensure that they have equitable access to opportunities in the City. As part of their work, the Office of BMA focuses on policies, programs, resources, and local and national partnerships. The goal is to ensure Black men and boys have support to thrive and share in the City’s prosperity.

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