Juneteenth and Looking Back at Your History
Happy Juneteenth! As we celebrate this day, I reflect back on all of the events and people that happened that made my life possible today. While we still have a long way to go (and a lot more work to do), I am pleased that we know how to get there. If you don’t understand my history, you don’t know what drives me, and that’s important in SFBT too.
Happy Juneteenth here in 2020. And you know, I think sometimes we think about slavery as something that was like eons and eons ago, but for me, it’s quite personal. I did a project in graduate school where I reviewed my family tree and learn that my grandparents, my grandmothers, grandparents were slaves.
My grandma’s grandparents were born into slavery and I couldn’t believe that it was just like that close to me on a family tree. It was just like that close in this generation. And,for those of you who don’t know, Juneteen celebrates the year that slaves were freed, in Texas. June 19
1865, I believe, slaves were officially freed in Texas, which is always kind of an unusual thing because it was two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation, but that’s how long it took for it to happen in Texas. And then slaves were freed and now, June 19th is the day we celebrate what we call Juneteenth as
like the African American independence day, kind of. And on days like this, I sit back and I think about all of the people and all of the things that have contributed to me being in the position that I am in now, like it wasn’t that long ago that people who look like me were not allowed to get educated.
It wasn’t that long ago that people look like me. Were not allowed to vote. I currently experience discrimination and systemic racism and sometimes personalized racism in the field of psychotherapy. In fact, in the field of Solution Focused Brief Therapy, I experienced it. So this is like a real, like, sensitive, serious in real time thing for me.
But I can’t help it, on days like this I think about like, all of the people who’ve contributed to me being in the position that I’m in now, both professionally and personally, you know, this woman one time, this woman from Germany, named Kiersten, she sent me a message on Facebook a few years ago,
criticizing my work, saying I don’t give credit to people who come before me, which I think is ridiculous because I constantly give credit to the people who’ve come before me and influenced my work. I often talk about the work of Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg who originated Solution Focused Brief Therapy. I constantly talk about Chris Iveson, Harvey Ratner and Evan George who are the most direct influences into my work.
I love them like brothers. I mean, without them, there would be no me. And I’m very clear about that. But for me, the contribution into my life goes much beyond psychotherapy. Like, I think about my grandmother who told me, my grandmother was the very first person to tell me that she thought I was special and was going to be capable of doing special things in this world.
And without my grandmother, I don’t think I would have had any shot at all to grow up and have any level of positive self esteem. So I can’t help but think about Annette Hellum, I love her and miss her to this day, she passed away several years ago. But I also think about
my heroes, like, as a kid I grew up in an abusive home and for whatever reason I loved autobiographies. So I would go to the library to not have to go home. And I would read books. I read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’. I read ‘A Long Walk to Freedom’, by Nelson Mandela.
And I just would read these things and to see people that were working so hard to create a world where I had free opportunities and where I had equal choices and where I had the ability to be treated just as a human being has been meaningful to me. And it saddens me that we live in a world now where those things are still being called into question.
It saddens me that we live in a world where those things are still just not as readily available to people that look like me, as they should be. So many people sacrifice so much just to get to where we are. And I’m saddened that we’re still having to deal with some of these things. But I’m also hardened. I’m also devoted. Because I owe a debt of gratitude to the Solution Focused people who have come before me.
I have a responsibility to them to carry this message forward. So to Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer and Chris, Harvey and Evan and Rayya Ghul and Linda Metcalf, and all the people who have invested in me, I constantly think about not letting them down because I have a significant responsibility to carry it forward.
But also to the people in my family, like my Mother who gave up everything so her three children could have a better life. And my Aunt who at a real difficult time in my life was there to make sure I can continue my education. My grandmother, who saw her young grandchild, struggling to hold on to his psyche through a difficult childhood,
made sure to invest in me and allow me to develop as a human being. And I also think about the people who worked really hard on a global scale, the Nelson Madela’s, the Martin Luther Kings and Medgar Evers and all of those people, the Malcolm X’s. All those people who worked to make sure that I could be doing the things that I’m doing.
I have a significant, significant responsibility to do the very best that I can at all times. And I work very hard to make sure that I do that. And one of the reasons why I think Solution Focused Brief Therapy is remarkable, and in this moment kind of what we need, is because like, if you don’t know that about me,
if you don’t know that what drives me is that responsibility to the people who’ve got me here. Then you can’t be my therapist, right? Like, if you miss that, then you miss who I am and what drives me. But if you can tap into that, then I become like unstoppable. If you tap into that,
then I can do just about anything. If you tap into that, then that’s where we’re like. So when we ask clients, “What are you best hopes from our talking?” That’s what we’re after. Like my best hopes, regardless of the problem, is to make my grandmother proud. It’s to honor the lineage and history of the people who have sacrificed to get me here.
My best hopes is to repay Chris, Harvey and Evan, Linda Metcalf, Rayya Ghul, Mark McKergow. Like, all of these people who’ve influenced me professionally, my hopes is to honor them. It doesn’t matter what the problem is. So when you ask clients, like, what is the thing you most desire, you got to find that meaningful thing that resides in their heart.
You got to find that meaningful piece of ingredient that just drives them to do what would have previously been thought of as impossible things? Because I am evidence that human beings can do things that were, at one point, thought of as impossible. And when I sit here and I think here we are on Juneteenth 2020, and I think of all of the things that have gone on to get where we are now,
I can’t help, but look on social media, look on the news and see that we have so much further to go. But I’m pleased a bit. I’m pleased a bit, that I know how we’re going to get there. And I’m dedicated and devoted to working to get there. And in today’s world, I see more people listening than ever before in my lifetime.
But we have more work to do. But let’s take a moment and just look backwards. Solution Focused Brief Therapy is historically been thought of as an approach that only look forwards. And I think that that’s bullshit. I think that that’s crazy because if you don’t understand my history and you can’t understand me or what drives me, and I think we should take a moment and look back,
as Chris would say, we don’t want to remove the history because that’s where our family jewels are. So you don’t want to back because that’s where my strength is. I’ve been through some really difficult things in the field of Solution Focused Brief Therapy and experienced some racism at the hands of some prominent people. And people say what got me through it is I would sit back and I would think,
how did Nelson Mandela deal with 28 years in prison? And what kept Martin Luther King going? And, and how did Malcolm X do what he did? And if they could do that, then I can do this small part. Like if they can do that, then I can deal with this crazy email I just got, or I could deal with this rejection,
this unfair rejection I just got. If they can do that, then I’m capable of dealing with my reality. And you draw from the strength of the responsibility you feel from the history, from what you come. That is what this day is about to me. So I hope that you enjoy Juneteenth. I hope that you enjoy your own history. And I hope you take a moment today to think back about where you’ve come from and where you draw your strengths.
It makes all of the difference in the world. Happy Juneteenth 2020. Hey, thank you so much for watching that video. I really appreciate you guys listening to me share my thoughts and ideas about Solution Focused Brief Therapy and as I try to make you very best Solution Focused Brief Therapist that you could possibly be. If you could please help me share the word,
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