Hundreds discuss trauma and solutions at first Black Men and Boys Healing Summit

October 10, 2016

Musicians and dancers of Obo Addy Legacy Project perform at Black Men and Boys Healing Summit.

This weekend, hundreds of community members, national experts, behavioral health professionals, business owners, public and private sector partners and more gathered for the 2016 Black Men and Boys Healing Summit. The conference aimed to raise awareness about trauma among African-American males and discuss a community approach to healing.

The summit comes on the heels of unarmed black men dying at the hands of law enforcement and violent retaliation against police. These incidents have caught the nation's attention and ignited a debate about trauma and what is "well" in the black community.

Four keynote speakers headlined the two-day event, covering topics ranging from historical trauma to masculinity. The summit also included live entertainment and 18 educational workshops hosted by local facilitators.

This year's conference was the first of its kind. Its organizers included non-profit Helping Men Heal, Multnomah County, the City of Portland's Office of Youth Violence Prevention and Black Male Achievement Portland.

County Chair Deborah Kafoury spoke during the opening ceremony. She highlighted the value of investing in the Black community and improving access to local supports.

Chair Deborah Kafoury speaks at the first Black Men and Boys Healing Summit in Northeast Portland

"Multnomah County is committed to raising awareness about trauma, to improving relationships and increasing civic engagement among black males," Kafoury said. "And we will continue to invest in a safety net of services and supports that are trauma-informed and culturally-responsive.

Looking forward, organizers hope to make the summit an annual event. CJ Robbins with Black Male Achievement Portland says the event created a rare space of comfort, safety and an opportunity to learn about trauma in the lives of Black men and boys.

"We realize we need to be able to create even more safe spaces for Black men and boys to build up a literacy around trauma and we'll be looking to next year to make this something that continues and grows."

"Our goal was to start a conversation," Matt Burton, chief executive officer for Helping Men Heal said. "We want that conversation to continue. By helping heal the invisible wounds of the black community, we're improving outcomes for us all."

Kafoury underscored that message. The summit, she said, was an important step towards building a healthier community.

"It's our mission to promote and protect the health and well-being of all people in our community," Kafoury said. "This summit is a key step in addressing the issues of racial and social injustice."

County Department of Community Justice Adult Services Dir. Erika Preuitt, Cascadia Behavioral Health Cynthia Connais, County Mental Health and Addictions Services Assistant Director Ebony Clarke, Office of Youth Violence and Prevention Antoinette Edwards

Guests at Black Men and Boys Healing Summit hug

(L-R) County Juvenile Services Manager Brian Detman, Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Marcellus Casey and his father Carey Casey with the National Center for Fathering

Denise Johnson with Care Oregon bows head for prayer.

Keynote speakers Dr. Delisha Pittman with Helping Men Heal and Sam Simmons Specialist in African American Historical Trama

Taneshia Collazo chats with guests. Her nine-year-old son Carter sits next to her at the conference.

Mother and son hold hands at event

Black Male Achievement Program Coordinator CJ Robbins

Portland Police Captain Kevin Modica performs Master of Ceremony duties for first Black Men and Boys Healing Conference

Conference organizers and Multnomah County Staff Ebony Clarke and Erika Preuitt

Hiag Brown with Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center smiles for camera.

The Obo Addy Drummers perform at Black Men and Boys Healing Summit.

Picture courtesy Naim Hasan Photography shows Erin Fairchild with the Defending Childhood Initiative in Multnomah County