The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, which provides the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK, marked the closure of Black History Month with a groundbreaking lecture exploring the healing aspects of Black history.
Former Brixton resident Rashid Nix, a mentoring specialist and local Green Party spokesperson, presented Black History as Therapeutic Practice at the Maudsley in Camberwell to a diverse audience of service users, staff and community members, who were engrossed by a two-hour journey through 5,000 years of history that included psychology, linguistics, hip-hop culture and ancient African philosophy.
Two subjects notably absent from the presentation were slavery and racism. Nix explained: “Black history is much bigger than slavery and Martin Luther King. The original aim of BHM was to build confidence and self-esteem. Unfortunately, much of what is currently presented only builds mental anguish and racial tension, so institutions understandably choose to ignore BHM and this is where many problems arise.
‘The mental health crisis affects thousands of people, but there appears to be a distinct lack of cultural understanding on how to tackle the problem without resorting to increasing medications. This lecture represents something completely different.”
Language formed the basis of his presentation and by referencing key words – their meanings and usage – Nix unpicked how communication creates a context in which society operates.
The audience response was overwhelmingly positive but listeners were encouraged to question his methodology and examples.
Janet Brown, a 22-year-old psychology student, appreciated how Nix highlighted the connections between Black history and modern society. She said: “His examples of obvious things we take for granted – such as law and medicine – made me realise how much of western civilisation has historical Black origins.”
Meanwhile, 60-year-old Ms Shahida wanted to know why this was not being taught in schools. She said: “This lecture was extremely thought provoking and uplifting – our children would benefit from this”.