I enjoyed myself last night at the holiday party for a mental health organization.The party was held in the hotel also owned by the organization. This is a for profit business owned by a man who immigrated from Malawi, a landlocked country in southern Africa. The company has successful mental health and drug rehabilitation operations. But the most remarkable part of the company is the Days Inn located near 6th and Walnut. The hotel replaced a run down facility for people with developmental disabilities. The very modern website boasts of their conveniences and location near downtown. The building was filled with horny young white men last night. The staff is diverse, the beds are firm and the appetizers are fresh. Although I brought a dish not to be shared, the staff had prepared a feast with spicy Hispanic food.
I am thinking it might be a good place to have some of these mental health meetings instead of using Serb Hall, where I nearly froze my cojones in the restroom. The rooms were very reasonably priced and I witnessed a young woman from Illinois checking in with a friend and asking about where to get breakfast. When you go someplace other than where you might normally venture, you learn something new about Milwaukee. We are a city where many of those who are most in need to services can’t find people who look like us when we are most vulnerable.
I say, let’s look around and see what the barriers are to a culturally intentional mental health workforce. But we aren’t going to get there with meetings in which I am the only African-American male. Let’s include the black man who attended social work school with me at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and now works for the Center for Veterans Issues. Is there another black male peer support specialist? If so let’s find him and groom him to take over my role someday. And let’s not forget other peoples of color who have been missing from the discussion.
We need advocates who look and sound like the people for whom they are advocating. It’s not enough and nor is it appropriate to have all white staffs who look as though they were cut from the same mold. Spend a day and spend money with others and hear their stories. There is more. Come find us.