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Spotlight Interview

Josh Odam, Founder and Curator or Healing While Black, LLC

How do you promote change and well-being in the Black community?

I ground my work in the idea of ‘radical softness.’ I was introduced to the concept by the author and creator Lora Mathis. In my work, radical softness is about embracing the parts of ourselves that have been rendered as ‘unmanly’ or ‘undesirable.’ It’s about reclaiming parts of our humanity that heteronormativity and patriarchy seek to destroy. I express care for my Black masculine friends by being as honest and open with them as possible – telling them to be gentle with themselves.

A lot of my homeboys ascribe to the idea of suffering in silence – it has catastrophic outcomes for their own mental/emotional health along with those around them. My work is mainly focused on expressions of Black masculinity that do not focus on stoicism and hardness.

I am fortunate to co-facilitate a group called ‘Healing in Masculinity’ for masculine people in Albany County. We hold group at Root3d Healing – it’s an amazing space full of Black, Brown, queer, and femme healers, teachers, and educators.

It’s an impactful thing to see brothers come together, unburden, release trauma, and support each other throughout the healing process.

How do you make time for your own wellness and self-care?

Sundays are my days. Sunday is cooking. Sunday is laundry. Sunday is washing any dishes that are left in the sink. Sunday is organizing my bookshelf. Sunday is Soulquarians and J Dilla. Sundays are for journaling about the week and taking a moment to breathe. I am incorporating yoga on Sundays, too. Sunday is ‘check-in with Josh’ day. Sunday is self-care day.

What are some things that we should know about your area of expertise?

Not many things in life are straight-line prophecy. We travel over peaks and valleys. There’s this misconception that a positive mindset and a few therapy sessions will “cure” us. It’s hard. Healing is hard. It is even harder when we realize the field of psychology and psychiatry has been used to commit violence against Black people throughout history i.e. Samuel Cartwright diagnosing enslaved Black people as insane when they tried to escape bondage.

We need to be honest about that.

I would like folks to know there are Black mental health professionals who understand the toll antiblack racism takes on the psyche and want to treat us. They are committed to being decolonized practitioners – I am training to be one of them.

If I am fortunate enough to build my own practice, I’ll approach my craft and my clients with a commitment to Audre Lorde’s words, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Guest Contributor

Josh Odam is the founder and curator of Healing While Black, an online space devoted to normalizing conversations around mental health for Black and Brown queer, trans*, and gender non-conforming people. Currently, he is a first-year student, pursuing a Master’s of Social Work (MSW). He understands his mental health is inextricably linked to antiblackness and queerantagonism. His goal is to provide comprehensive and anticolonial therapeutic intervention for marginalized communities in New York State. His work has been featured on Essence, The Root, The Nation, America Hates Us, and Buzzfeed, and New Sincerity.

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