Guest Contributor: Said Shaiye
Somali Writer & Photographer
What does Black Mental Wellness mean to you?
Black Mental Wellness means finding ways to survive and stay whole in a world designed to take us out of it or make us want to leave it. It means finding pockets of Joy wherever we can. It means searching for hope, always, no matter how dark the road gets. It means holding onto faith however we can, because faith is so critical to our holistic wellbeing.
How do you promote change and well-being in the Black community?
I try to lead by example, because I've never felt good about telling others how to live. I strive to be open and forthcoming about all my struggles -- from recovery & addiction, to undiagnosed disabilities, to overcoming shame and stigma. I share my story of overcoming serious hardships, with the help of family, faith & perseverance, in the hope that it helps others cling onto whatever bits of hope they can find. I write, but I also teach writing -- and am a tireless advocate of using writing as means of healing & self-understanding. Without that internal work, Black Mental Wellness is a nearly impossible goal. It doesn't always have to be writing -- there are a million ways to do that same work; from bodywork (yoga, dance, massage, etc) to culturally specific therapy to prayer and so much more. The important thing is that we need to be real with ourselves and with each other.
What are some upcoming events you are leading, that promote mental health and wellness, that you would like for our Black Mental Wellness audience to know about?
I'm teaching a 6 week writing class. It's focusing on Neurodivergent Approaches to Writing & aims to counter ableist and racist writing philosophies. Things like "you must write every day" don't apply to those of us with minds and bodies that work differently. Writing has been so critical to my overall Wellness that I want to pass that gift onto others. In this class, we will learn ways to make writing a central part of our healing and self understanding journey. It's open to all levels and genres of writing, as long as you are over 18. For more information on classes, https://www.saidshaiye.com/
Tell us about your educational and/or professional training, and current area of expertise related to mental health and wellness?
I received my MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction & Poetry) from the University of Minnesota. I've been writing for years & got my start in spoken word poetry. I haven't studied mental health topics in school, because I have a hard time memorizing things, but I've learned about it on my own over the years. And writing has been a central part of my healing and self understanding journey.
What are some ways that you promote mental health and wellness through your area of expertise?
I use writing to help myself heal and encourage others to use it the same way.
Said Shaiye is an Autistic Somali Writer & Photographer who lives in Minneapolis. He is a 2023 Loft Windows & Mirrors Fellow. His debut book, Are You Borg Now?, was named a 2022 Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Creative Nonfiction & Memoir. He has contributed essays to the anthologies Muslim American Writers at Home and We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World. He has published poetry & prose in Indiana Review, Texas Review, Obsidian, Brittle Paper, Pithead Chapel, 580 Split, Entropy, Diagram, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota, where he was a Graduate Instructor of Creative Writing, as well as a Judd International Research Fellow. He teaches writing at several colleges in the Twin Cities area. He can be reached at www.saidshaiye.com for all inquiries.