Jayland Walker’s death has traumatized black people in Akron, Ohio. Community leaders find ways to help.

“We’re definitely desperate,” he said. “The biggest worry is, ‘why can’t they be humane when you stop us?'”

Walker’s fatal shooting is very triggering for Turner, who is also a former military police officer. In the spring of 1994, Turner said, he was racially profiled by two white officers — one a training officer and the other a novice — noting that the incident could have escalated had he not been wearing his military uniform.

“It was really a kind of racial profiling that they followed me in,” he recalled. “I did three laps. They did three laps. I said, ‘Okay, these guys are getting ready to set me on fire.’”

Police officers explained they couldn’t see the entire license plate number on Turner’s number plate, he recalled – leading him to believe they had no valid reason to stop him.

Myron Lewis, 59, a retired chemical addiction counselor in Akron, said he, too, was triggered by Walker’s death. Lewis, who previously worked in youth substance abuse prevention, said he met Walker after he gave a motivational speech at his high school. He said he grew up with a handful of Walker’s relatives — he even played football with one of his cousins. After Walker’s death, Lewis also marched in a peaceful protest in downtown Akron and admits it was difficult.

“In that last month, if I had wanted to, I could have attended six funerals,” Lewis said, referring to those in his community who had died from gun violence and natural causes. “It was just a tough time.” He said he also sought therapy to help cope with the emotional trauma he experienced from gun violence in his community.

With Walker’s death affecting many in Akron, it appears there will be a bigger push following psychological counseling. However, Lewis says that finding therapy to help cope with trauma is still a very taboo topic in the black community. “A lot of people will say, ‘Well, you know, if the police just stopped shooting, we wouldn’t even need psychological counseling,'” he said.

John Queener, Professor of Psychology at the University of Akron and Executive Director of the Minority Behavioral Health Group, said that one of the reasons black people don’t seek therapy regularly is the belief that “whatever happens in the family stays in the family” or that it’s best to keep personal matters private. He said there was an overwhelming racial divide in the mental health community due to a lack of culturally competent mental health providers.

For example, in Summit County, which includes the city of Akron, many black boys in the local juvenile detention center who have behavior problems are diagnosed with conduct disorder or oppositional defiance disorder. That diagnosis is made by internal counselors based on an assessment not designed for them, Queener explained, which often results in many black boys being placed in the criminal justice system. “While their white counterparts might get [diagnosed with] a mood disorder, and they’re more likely to get a distraction program,” he added.

Demonstrators gather outside Akron City Hall to protest the police killing
Demonstrators gather outside Akron City Hall on July 3 to protest the police killing of Jayland Walker. Matthew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images file

The cultural stigma of therapy, along with the need for more qualified therapists who can better assess the Black community, are what mental health professionals need to address, Queener said. He believes that if therapists develop a system that meets the needs of the black community, more members will participate and get help.

Aside from providing psychological counseling, community leaders find unique ways to cope with the trauma of Walker’s death. As managing director of liberty blocka nonprofit group formed to uplift and empower the black community, Rev. Raymond Greene is stepping up to offer activities that promote mental health and well-being.

The group’s program offers residents activities like free manicures, massages, and yoga. There are also opportunities for residents to speak to mental health counselors and attend a bereavement support group free of charge.

Since the initial launch on July 12, Greene said, more than 60 people have taken part in activities. The program is scheduled to continue each week through Thanksgiving and may even extend into the Christmas holidays for those suffering from seasonal depression.

In addition to his local efforts, he volunteers Black organization for leadership and dignitya national social justice organization to find ways to address the national mental health crisis, particularly within the black community.

“We know that much of the younger community wants to attend these protests and have their voices heard — but that they’re hurt,” Greene said. “They are traumatized. Not only because of this situation, but because of the current living conditions of poverty. We had to do something to help people heal.”

Queener agrees that many are hurt, adding that part of the healing process for his black patients suffering from racial trauma is them acknowledging their feelings and realizing that they have power, even when they feel hopeless .

“A best way to understand Jayland Walker’s situation is to say there’s nothing wrong with black people,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with black men.” Black people are often viewed negatively in society, he added, and the best way to deal with this challenge is to build the black community.

Queener, who has three sons, said he had had conversations with them about racism and blackness in America since they were 8 years old.

While health and wellness activities coupled with some much-needed therapies have been helpful for many, Greene said those treatments are not enough to help Akron’s tight-knit community heal fully. That’s why his organization is also working on electoral initiatives to change politics. This includes developing leaders to create potential candidates in the community to run for office and adopting policies that better serve the needs of the community.

“We need a policy to ensure something like this never happens again,” he said of Walker’s death.

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https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/jayland-walkers-death-traumatized-black-people-akron-ohio-community-le-rcna40359 Jayland Walker’s death has traumatized black people in Akron, Ohio. Community leaders find ways to help.

Fry Electronics Team

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