Dealing with the everyday hustle and bustle that life throws at them. African-American women continue to rise above and stand out while doing so. They have been labeled as different, from their parenting style down to their style of dress. These women have also been ridiculed, labeled in a negative manner, and even mistreated. For example, they have earned lower wages than African-American males and whites. On the other hand, they have also been viewed as strong willed individuals. For examples, they have headed more than forty percent of their families while managing careers, and raising children. African-American females are heterogeneous in terms of identity, educational level, and social class. They are a diverse population attempting to rise above the different stereotypes daily.
Advocacy for African American females will lead, develop, and educate them in areas to help them become more aware of their strengths. One advocacy organization is The Coalition of African American Women (CAAW, 2014). The CAAW is a regional coalition of African American women with a goal of enhancing communities of Color in the Deep South. This organization shares information on the state of the African American community; informs and strategizes on how to access resources to support community development and restoration. They also focus on the empowerment, restoration, and development of black women as civic and community leaders.
This organization works to develop the positive aspects of the African American woman. CAAW comes together to connect and empower African American women in the Deep South. The National Council of Negro Women leads, develops, and advocates for women of African descent as they support their families and communities. They advocate, conduct research, and provide national and community-based health, education, and economic empowerment services and programs to assist these women (NCNW, 2014).
Public policies that have affected care provided to African American females would be the Civil Rights Movement, Hate Crimes, Voting Rights, and Racism. These concerns affected the race as a whole and causing oppression, depression, and many additional negative concerns. From this, also came strength and perseverance. The race as a whole has been able to rise above and move forward in a positive direction.
STRATEGIES FOR WORKING WITH AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN
In counseling African American women, issues involving racial identity and conflict should be explored. Counselors can help African American females counteract negative images associated with being Black and being female; enhancing internal strength by developing pride and dignity in Black womanhood can serve as a buffer to racism and sexism and can prevent the incorporation of negative images into their own belief systems (Sue & Sue, 2013, p. 374). Counselors should be aware of the culture and familiar with the struggles and life events that have taken place for African American females in order to relate, build rapport, and be helpful to them. Family strategies for working with African American females include exploring the possibility of extended or nontraditional family arrangements.
Therefore, questions should be directed toward clarifying who is living in the home and who helps out. Therapists/Counselors should work to strengthen and increase functionality of the original family structure rather than attempt to change it. One of the strengths of the African American family is that men, women, and children are allowed to adopt multiple roles within the family (Sue & Sue, 2013, p. 369). Community strategies for working with African American females include spiritual beliefs. Spiritual beliefs are important to many African Americans and serve as a protective factor in response to stressors. If a client is heavily involved in church activities or has strong religious beliefs, the counselor might consider enlisting church leaders to help the client (or family) deal with social and economic stressors or conflicts involving the family, school, or community. Church personnel often have enhanced understanding of the family dynamics and living conditions of parishioners (Sue & Sue, 2013, p. 370).
There are several community resources currently available for African American women to assist them with everyday living and concerns that may be taking place in their life. One community resource is Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA). BMHA is a private non-profit 501(C) 3 organization which provides training, consultation, support groups, resource referral, public information, and educational resources regarding mental health and mental illness issues. Additional information can be located at http://www.blackmentalhealth.com/. The National Leadership Council (NLC) is comprised of individuals who share an interest in promoting the strengths & health of African American children, families, and communities. The group represents an array of perspectives including consumers & family members, education, human resource development, nursing, psychiatry & psychology, research, and social work. The NLC seeks to provide leadership in building and supporting behavioral health systems that reduce disparities and contribute to optimal health in our communities. Additional information can be located at http://nlcouncil.com/about.html.
A final available resource is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI offers a Multicultural Action Center with African American Resources. This resource provides personal stories and quotes as well as important information on mental illness and how it affects the family in a real-world tone. This colorful resource carries the messages to the African Americans that they are not alone, recovery is possible, and identifies where to find more information and where to seek help. Additional information can be located at http://www.nami.org. History denotes policies that impacted the delivery and accessibility of services to African Americans.
However, in 1964, the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination. Discrimination was banned, but individuals continue to be discriminated against and oppressed because of the color of their skin, how they dress, where they live, and with whom they associate with. Working with diverse population can be very rewarding. Meeting different people and learning from their backgrounds can be very informative. This interaction can also be complex in the fact of gathering research and learning different practice issues. Therefore, counselors should be culturally competent and develop a broad awakening related to one’s knowledge of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors different from theirs.
Black Mental Health Alliance. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.blackmentalhealth.com/. Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy. (2014). Coalition of African American Women. Retrieved from http://www.gcclp.org. National Alliance on Mental Illness (2014). Multicultural Action Center. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Find_Support/Multicultural_Support/Resources/African_American_Resources.htm. National Council of Negro Women. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.ncnw.org/. National Leadership Council. (n.d.). African American Behavioral Health. Retrieved from http://nlcouncil.com/about.html. Sue, D., & Sue, D. (2013). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.