Student Editor’s Column

Published by Division 45 on

shola shodiya-zeumault

As a Black American of Nigerian heritage, I was raised to always think of others before myself. In my family, to do the “right” thing was synonymous with making a choice that served my community and honored my family, before all other choices. A large part of my decision to become a psychologist is related to this idea. I believe that through a career in mental health, I am presented with many opportunities to serve my community with offerings of radical healing and love. As I write this column however, nine months into a global pandemic, the reality is that I find myself in need of my own healing, and often unsure of how much I can give and how my service could make any difference in the suffering around us. 

This year has been filled with immense tragedy that has devastated Black and Brown communities. The murders of Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others. More than 220,000 lives taken by COVID-19 and countless others affected physically, emotionally, and financially by its ruin. Devastatingly destructive wildfires throughout the West Coast linked with settler colonialism and environmental injustice. The passing of several leaders who served at the forefront of justice. Voter suppression and what feels like a slow turn toward fascism. For me and many others I know, the tragedies of this year have also altered our sense of time. Just as I have caught my breath and awakened to the other side of reeling despair, the news reveals another way in which systemic oppression, exacerbated by COVID and racial unrest, has undone another life or a dream. 

As a graduate student, there have been many days this semester when I felt crushed under the weight of all that is happening around us. I have really struggled to make sense of what it means to be pursuing a doctoral degree during this heavy season. I have wondered whether my choice to stay in my program is the right thing to do- if it truly serves my community and brings honor to my family. Over the past month, a lot of journaling and reflection and a renewed contemplative practice (alongside the company of Morrison, Freire, and Baldwin), have shown me that I am right where I need to be. As Dr. Blume discusses in his column, our ancestors also have a way of reminding us that despite the formidable oppression that surrounds us, we can count on the arc of the universe to bend toward justice. Against every fabric of systemic injustice is a team of those who will resist. It is this truth that I cling to now, as I watch folx pursue radical healing and take action against injustice. Resistance has truly taken many forms this year, from protests against police brutality to BIPoC psychologists developing frameworks for healing, critical consciousness, and racial trauma. I know that the coming months are likely to bring more hardship but in gratitude for my ancestors and for our collective consciousness, I can remind myself that the “right” thing to do for me, at this time, is to persist. And I can persist knowing that I am among a community of folx who are choosing resistance and action to bring healing to our communities. 

Focus Fall 2020