Tracing the histories of Black Music and Performance (MAP) in the context of health and healing

This site is dedicated to tracing the histories of Black healing through Music, Performance, Embodied and Enacted Praxes. Specifically, this archival research project is concerned with the ways in which Black people(s) have created and engaged in music, arts and embodied practices as healing and liberatory praxis. This archival research project is part of my dissertation research that seeks to disrupt current manifestations of mental health treatment and (re)imagine mental health care that reflects/resembles/supports Black people. For an overview of this project, click here.

The Call: The first phase of this project consisted of stitching frayed histories. As the project evolved during the Covid-19 pandemic, I relied heavily on digital sources and traced genealogies from within while searching for multiple entry points. Specifically, I pulled snapshots of the ways in which Black peoples have created and engaged in creative process as a means to support and promote emotional health and wellbeing and put this in conversation with the historical backdrop. To learn more about emergent themes and/or to view the snapshots from this phase of the Black MAP Project, click here.

Response: The second phase of the project invites Black people(s) to submit their own pictures, images, short videos, and other representations with a brief narrative that reflect experiences of Black people engaging in Black Music, Performance and embodied practices that support(ed) or promote(d) emotional health and wellbeing. To learn more and/or to make a submission, click here.

The Why: The history of psychiatry/psychology and larger mental health field is steeped in racialized violence and oppression. Enslaved peoples who sought freedom through escape were once labeled with a disorder termed drapetomania. Black people’s drive and desire for freedom was pathologized. This is only one example of the ways in which Black people have been oppressed under the guise of “treatment.” Black experiences and research amplify the chronic and embedded nature of racialized violence and oppression in mental health care; Black people experience racial discrimination at every level of mental health care. Carceral cruelties are embedded within care systems and disproportionately harm Black people. Furthermore, Black people have largely been left out of mental health knowledge production. This project privileges Black knowledge and lived experiences. Specifically, this project uplifts the embodied praxes that Black people have engaged in throughout history to express, disrupt, resist and dream. Black people know hurt and healing intimately. This work looks to Black knowledge in support of a co-creation of community knowledge in support of our continued survival and towards liberation.

Though this work/research/site is open for public viewing, I continue to stitch and weave pieces together. You may notice new creative additions and/or updated descriptions if you (re)visit the site. I welcome you into witnessing this process for a work that can never truly be done…

The Researcher

Britton Williams presenting at a workshop

Britton Williams is a PhD candidate in the Program in Social Welfare at the Graduate Center (CUNY) where she is a member of the inaugural Mellon Humanities Public Fellows cohort. Her research and work interests include: Black aesthetics in mental health care, carceral logics embedded in care systems, Black liberatory praxis, bias in clinical practice, spatial oppression, community care, community justice, role theory, and trauma-informed care.