Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome : Prof. James Smalls and more

Dr.James Smalls On Post Slavery Trauma Syndrome

Professor James Small was born in 1945, on Arcadia plantation, located on the banks of the Waccamaw River. This Lowland rice plantation is located where the Waccamaw, Peedee, and Black Rivers converge to meet the Atlantic Ocean, on the shores of historic Georgetown, South Carolina. Prof. Small was born to a family that traces their descent from enslaved Africans, to the Yoruba, Akan, and Ewe people of West Africa. Prof. Small’s heritage also stems from the Native American ancestors that inhabited these South Carolinian shores. Both his maternal great-grandmother and his paternal great-grandmother were members of the Chicora Nation, and made their home along the mighty Waccamaw River. Prof. Small graduated from the all Black Howard High School in Georgetown, South Carolina in 1964. He then served in the U.S. Navy for two years during the Vietnam era. Upon his release from military service, Prof. Small moved to New York City where he joined the organization of Afro-American Unity founded by the legendary Malcolm X. In 1967, Prof. Small became Imam (minister) of the Muslim Mosque Incorporated, also founded by Malcolm X. In 1975 Prof. Small traveled to the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to make his holy pilgrimage, the Hajjah. For eleven years Prof. Small served as principal bodyguard to the late Ella L. Collins, the sister of Malcolm X, the then President of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (O.A.A.U.) Between the years of 1966 and 1980, Prof. Small held membership in the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (S.N.C.C.), the N.A.A.C.P, Uhuru fighters and O.A.A.U. During this period Prof. Small had the opportunity to interact with such historical giants as Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Kwame Ture, H. Rap Brown of S.N.C.C, Eldridge Cleaver, Zaid Shakur, and Lumumba Shakur of the Black Panther Party (B.P.P.) in which he served as a liaison between the B.P.P. and the O.A.A.U. Prof. Small has been a member of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization (A.S.C.A.C.) for 14 years. He served as President of A.S.C.A.C. Eastern Region for two years, where he worked and studied with Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef A. A. Ben Jochannan, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Dr. Wade Nobles, Dr. Amos Wilson and Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, just to name a few. Prof. Small taught for fifteen years at the City University of New York, including 13 years at the City College of New York’s Black Studies Department and two years at New York City Technical College. Prof. Small has taught courses on Malcolm X, Traditional African Religion (Prof. Small is a priest in the Yoruba religion), Pan Africanism, Crime in the Urban Community, Urban Crisis and Issues, and African Folklore. Prof. Small has also appeared on a number of network talk shows and newsmagazines. These include the Phil Donahue Show, The Rolanda Watts Show, The Geraldo Rivera Show, Matt Lauer Nine Broadcast Plaza Show, The Charlie Rose Show, Tony Brown’s Journal, Like it Is with Gil Noble as well as numerous cable programs and local, national and international television and radio shows. Prof. Small has lectured at some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world. Among the many colleges and universities where Prof. Small has lectured at are the University of Manchester, Manchester England. University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, V.I. University of the West Indies Porte-Spain, Trinidad; University of West Indies; Kingston Jamaica, Princeton University Princeton, N.J., Harvard University Boston, Mass., Yale University, New Haven, Conn., Columbia University and New York University of New York, N.Y. to mention a few. Prof. Small is currently conducting educational and cultural tours throughout Africa and the United States and he is also working on two books, one a collection of his lectures on Malcolm X and the other on the topic of “Post Slavery Trauma Syndrome.”

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome:

America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing

by Joy DeGruy Leary, Ph.D.,

Foreword by Randall Robinson

When African-Americans accept the deprecating accounts and images portrayed by the media, literature, music and the arts as a true mirror of themselves, we are actually allowing ourselves to be socialized by a racist society.

Evidence of racist socialization can be readily seen when African-American children limit their aspirations… It can be seen when we use the accumulation of material things as the measure of self-worth and success.

So, in spite of all our forbears who worked to survive and gain their freedom; in spite of the efforts of all those who fought for civil rights… we are continually being socialized by this society to undervalue ourselves, to undermine our own efforts and, ultimately, to hate ourselves. We are raising our children only to watch America tear them down.

Today, the legacy of slavery remains etched in our souls. Understanding the role our past plays in our present attitudes, outlooks, mindsets and circumstances is important if we are to free ourselves from the spiritual, mental and emotional shackles that bind us today, shackles that limit what we believe we can be, do and have. Understanding the Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome plays in our evolution may be the key that helps to set us on the path to well-being …Excerpted from Chapter 5, Slavery’s Children

Dr. Joy DeGruy-Leary
Dr. Leary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications, a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), a master’s degree in Psychology, and a PhD in Social Work Research. She is an Assistant Professor at Portland State University. With over twenty years of practical experience as a professional in the field of social work, she gives workshop attendees practical insight into various cultural and ethnic groups that form the basis of contemporary American society. Dr. Leary’s workshops also go far beyond the topic of cultural sensitivity; she provides specialized clinical work in areas of mental health and ecological resilience.

Book Review below by Kam WilliamsYou know an experience has been transformational when it repeatedly brings you to the brink of tears, and this is exactly what transpired while poring over the pages of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. For me, reading this sensitive exploration of the African-American psyche was the emotional equivalent of an all-day session on a shrink’s couch, as I felt many pangs of recognition as layer after layer of deep-seated traumas were diagnosed and discussed, not as personal neuroses, but as the plausible, predictable, and shared response of many blacks to the predicament of being raised in a racist society.

The author, Joy DeGruy Leary, Ph.D. is nothing short of brilliant in the way in which she approaches the subject, prodding you to place present-day behaviors in a proper historical context. Plus, Dr. Leary, a Professor of Social Work at Portland State University, draws on her 18 years of practical work in the field dedicated to mental health and cultural resilience. For it is her contention that the subjugation of African-Americans did not end with slavery and that freedom only meant the master’s whip was replaced by the illusion of equality and opportunity.

This was witnessed in the Jim Crow laws, lynchings, de facto segregation, grandfather clauses, poll taxes, restrictive covenants, redlining, gentrification and other assorted measures which arose to maintain the status quo. In reaction to the ongoing oppression, black people developed an identifiable set of survival skills, some of which were self-destructive.

And it is these harmful symptoms which Dr. Leary is interested in eliminating in order to put her people on the road to healing.

So, after initially expressing the notion that the dysfunction found in African-Americans is nothing to be ashamed of, she exhibits all the care and concern of a doting parent in discussing the introspective path to rebuilding one’s self-esteem. Easier said than done, this involves many steps, perhaps the most difficult being a long, hard look in the mirror to know oneself. For only after confronting and exorcising some societal demons, will one be well enough to interrelate with one’s community from a fresh perspective, as a tender person, fully-informed, considerate and uncompromisingly honest.

Required reading, or should I say therapy, for every African-American.

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