Black Mental Health Graduate Academy Inaugural Dinner

By Natalie Cort, PhD November 22, 2016

Black Mental Health Graduate Academy Scholars

On October 20th, 2016, William James College took yet another courageous step into the future as we celebrated the inauguration of our pioneering Black Mental Health Graduate Academy and our induction of 16 Academy Scholars. The Academy, developed under the auspices of the Center for Multicultural & Global Mental Health, represents William James College's commitment to reducing racial/ethnic disparities and diversifying the mental health workforce. The Academy is designed to provide critical mentorship, career orientation, skill building, and professional enrichment to talented Black students pursuing Master’s and Doctoral degrees in mental health counseling and psychology.

The Academy’s Inaugural Dinner, attended by a diverse group of students, professors, administrative staff members, and community members was replete with emotional expressions of pride, joy, and hope. Dr. Natalie A. Cort, Director of the Black Mental Health Initiative & Graduate Academy, used her opening remarks to acknowledge the historical oppression of people of color and the resultant contemporary inequities. She remarked that the lives of many individuals attending the dinner “…are indelibly marked by brutality. Brutality and assault of beautiful black bodies…brutality and assault of brilliant minds…brutality and assault of rich lands…and brutal systematic attempts to be made invisible.”  Dr. Cort shared with personal and painful awareness that her use of the name ‘Cort,’ gives “…voice, legitimacy, and life to long dead men who owned, degraded, defiled my ancestor mother and father,” therefore the world’s history of the enslavement of Africans, is not a part of her past as it has always defined her life. Dr. Cort communicated to the “…generous, kind, and committed” scholars that they are “…the perfect representations of their [ancestors] beautiful dreams,” and that those ancestors “…have paid for us. They have already sacrificed everything…their bodies…their blood for this moment.” She ended her remarks by encouraging the attendees to remember and give thanks to “…those ancestor mothers and fathers’ whose tears and screams, whose despair and moments of hopelessness are repaid in full by our excellence, by our commitment to kindness, and our rejection of casual cruelty.”