Black Clevelanders are meeting to discuss the effects of police violence on their mental and physical health. These discussions will inform the Community Police Commission as it shapes Cleveland police policy and training.
“You Are My Sister – A Conversation about Police Violence with Black Women” is the first in a series of discussions the Community Police Commission is organizing.
As part of the series, the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board has agreed to pay for monthly therapy sessions of 75 attendees for up to a year.
If the demand is higher, they have agreed to open the program to more attendees, said Shalenah “Shelly” Williams, community engagement coordinator and project manager with the Community Police Commission.
Williams reached out to several local organizations, including Black Lives Matter Cleveland, The Angelo Miller Foundation, Towards Employment and the ADAMHS Board, to put together the sessions.
She found a lot of interest from the organizations, including from Rev. Benjamin F. Gohlstin Sr. A member of the ADAMHS Board, Gohlstin, helped secure funding for the therapy.
People who attend the session can go to one of six mental health agencies that have agreed to be part of the program. Once their attendance at one of the sessions is confirmed, the agency bills the ADAMHS Board, Williams said.
Williams organized the events after hearing in conversations across Cleveland that people move through their day-to-day lives sometimes unaware of the impact of trauma.
“We’ve normalized these negative occurrences without realizing how it is truly impacting our mental and our physical health,” Williams said.
Cleveland leaders are learning about other cities’ programs as they work on a proposal for a local non-police response program.
Billie Gilliam, director of clinical services at YWCA Greater Cleveland and a licensed therapist, led the Thursday night discussion with a presentation about how trauma affects both mental and physical health.
Normalizing trauma and stress can lead the mind to compartmentalize and ignore the trauma, but the body will continue to be affected by it in many ways, she said.
University of Akron researchers will attend the sessions. They are collecting and analyzing data for a long-term study. The researchers will present their findings to the mayor, the safety director and Cleveland City Council.
The Community Police Commission will use information from attendees’ lived experiences to help them build trauma-informed policies, training and procedures for Cleveland police.
“What it is that we’re trying to do is help the police understand that there has been harm done,” Williams said. “And this is how it manifests itself.”
Want to attend one of the next sessions?
Real Men Real Talk – A Conversation about Police Violence with Black Men (for men only)
Saturday, April 29 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The Alpha Education and Leadership Development Center, 2820 East 116th Street
Register for the event here.
For Our Future – A Conversation about Police Violence with Black Youth (18-24 years old)
Saturday, May 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Tri-C Metropolitan Campus, 2900 Community College Avenue
Register for the event here.
A fourth conversation will bring together all three groups for a larger symposium July 28 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The location and event registration link for that event is not yet available.