A groundbreaking collaboration is behind the upcoming “Community Healing: Standing up for the Children” conference June 23 and 24. Two other initiatives, the Community Empowerment through Black Men Healing Conference and the African American Babies Coalition Conference, will collaborate to focus on family wellbeing with children’s health and safety as a priority.
For more than a quarter century, Samuel Simmons Consulting has been addressing culturally sensitive trauma to facilitate individuals and organizations and help effect a practical difference. His uniquely innovative approach to the African American community provides therapeutic acumen that empowers people in their day to day lives.
Simmons, who generally goes by Sam, is something of a Dick Gregory figure among Twin Cities mental health clinicians. He’s charismatic with a laid back, directly down-to-earth manner and, occasionally, a bit of homespun humor. Simmons is engaging, insightful, and his seminars consistently resonate with professionals and lay people alike.
It’s hardly surprising that persons of considerable note — including the likes of Mahmoud El-Kati and Lissa Jones, whose keynote addresses at the conference, twice each, are familiar fare — customarily converge at Healing Black Men Conference workshops, particularly those given by Simmons. He created the highly successful conference which, since 2009, isn’t about men alone but examines their healing from historical trauma as a means to empower the community itself.
Hence, this collaboration. “Basically the conversation has been around getting folks to understand how historical trauma has affected the community,” says Simmons. “It was time to figure out how we frame a way to heal the community and actually have people hear you.
“Focusing on children’s well-being should [accomplish that] and start the healing,” continues Simmons. “Especially when you care enough about children to make changes and make life better.
“The African American Babies Coalition works around adverse childhood experiences and how those experiences affect childhood development, child education outcomes, working with communities to teach parents to be better parents [and] not allow their own trauma to [impact] their children.
“[It’s] a logical collaboration. We were never talking about just Black men. It was always about the community. I’m excited about where we’re going to go with the conference and hope that we really care enough about our children to make the necessary changes.”
Simmons shared notes from this year’s address at the conference, “And How Are the Children,” underscoring that the legendary Maasai of Southeast Africa, among the world’s most feared warriors, lived civilized lives when they weren’t waging war and went about their day greeting one another with “And how are the children?” This is considerable food for serious thought.
“Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, ‘All the children are well,’” says Simmons. “It is still the traditional greeting of the Maasai, acknowledging the high value the Maasai placed on the children’s wellbeing.”
The African American Babies Coalition (AABC) draws on the collective expertise of concerned African Americans to promote healthy child development in the Twin Cities. This includes educators, nonprofit and civic leaders, researchers, childcare providers and public health professionals as well as parents and grandparents.
AABC Director Sameerah Bilal-Roby said of the collaboration, “The [significance] is that we tie families — specifically African American males — with children and the importance of their making sure we’re encompassing the whole family.”
She’s confident of getting across to participants the concept that healing men is a means to heal not only males but moms and youngsters in the process. “This time we’re using different tools, different training tools, different messages, and connecting them, connecting the dots in a way that is really comprehensive and relevant to our community and where it’s at today.”
Just where is that? “Our young folks are at a point where they’re looking for new answers. More, now than ever, indulging in a lot of trauma and violence that comes from trauma. We’re now not only able to give them an answer that is relevant but scientific. Me, Sam, our [peers], we’re all in this together. We have to go down this road together.”
Also presenting at the conference will be Tobeka G. Green, president-CEO, National Black Child Development and African American youth expert Dr. Shawn Ginwright with a panel of luminaries including Dr. Artika R. Tyner, Minnesota Department of Education’s Melvin W. Carter III, and Minnesota State Representative Rena Moran.
The 8th annual Community Empowerment through Black Men Healing Conference — this year the Community Healing: Standing up for the Children Conference, will be held at Metropolitan State University, 700 E. 7th St. in St. Paul, on Thursday, June 23, 9 am – 4:30 pm and Friday, June 24, 9 am – 12:30 pm. For more information go to www.brothershealing.com.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.