Black History Month: An Invitation to Cultural Humility
February 17, 2023
Growing up, I always looked forward to February. Throughout much of my education, Black people were not seen as the holders of knowledge, were not represented in curriculum, and were only recognized a specific time of year—Black History Month. Every February, I could count on my school, church, and community to organize programs and events to commemorate our rich culture and contributions to American history. It was a beautiful time when I felt seen and proud. As I continued to grow and learn, I discovered information about my own culture and identity that had never been shared at school. My eyes were open to just how much more learning I had to do, which helped inform my career in promoting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and current role at SPRC.
As a part of the SPRC’s six-part webinar series to help crisis centers build relationships with tribal communities, next week I will be co-hosting a webinar on cultural humility. While this training will be focused on collaborating with tribal communities, the principles of cultural humility are broadly applicable and critical to our work in suicide prevention, regardless of the population or setting.
There are three important elements of cultural humility. The first is a lifelong commitment to learning. Cultural humility involves a continual process of examining your own values and beliefs and learning about others’. This does not mean achieving a certain level of skill or knowledge about a particular person or group but allowing your insights and perspectives to evolve over time. Remember, this is lifelong learning, and we are all in different places on that journey. Be patient with yourself and others.
The second aspect of cultural humility is addressing power imbalances. An easy place to start that is to see everyone as a holder of knowledge and create space for those with different experiences, history, and information. In the past, the knowledge and voices of intentionally marginalized communities have often been minimized and silenced. To help address those imbalances, incorporate diverse sources of knowledge in your work. For example, collaborate with the groups you’re trying to reach to ensure your suicide prevention efforts are based on their needs, values, and beliefs. Look for culturally resonant community-based programs with great outcomes and consider how they could be adapted for your setting. Recognize the unique knowledge we all hold and learn from each other. There is a place in suicide prevention for everyone, regardless of their position, identity, or experience.
Finally, cultural humility is about connecting and building. The work to create positive change is work we must do together. Starting with the systems and organizations we are a part of, we must strive to establish justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. In our prevention efforts, we should incorporate strategies to address the conditions that put some groups more at risk of suicide than others. These are large tasks, and they might seem overwhelming, but that is where collaboration comes in. Working toward change requires deep community relationships, strong coalitions, and strategic partnerships with those who are also working to dismantle systemic barriers.
When I think about my own journey, it pairs with cultural humility. I now view February, not as the one time of year that Black knowledge is recognized, but a reminder and recommitment to continual learning, both about myself and others. Black History Month is an invitation to not only celebrate but also to learn, build, organize, and address the challenges disproportionately faced by Black communities. I invite you to join me in fostering cultural humility, within ourselves and across our field.
Brittany Carradine, MEd
SPRC Director of Belonging Initiatives