Shaken by the death of George Floyd and the recent protests against police brutality, mental-health advocate Ashley Bianca Jones wanted to make sure the black men around her had an outlet to release their frustrations and talk to each other about what has been happening.
In honor of Men's Health Month, Jones is hosting a moderated discussion about mental health within the black community. The event, "A Conversation Addressing Men's Mental Health in the Black Community: Black King Edition," will take place June 19, or Juneteenth, at Topp Cuttaz barbershop in Miami Lakes.
Jones says that after seeing how the recent police killings and protests affected those around her, she wanted to focus on how black men are feeling.
"It's unfortunate that we have to go through all of that," Jones says. "[Everything] we've gone through as [black] people, especially what black men have to go through — that is so unfortunate."
The barbershop is known to be a safe space for many black men, and with the focus on mental health, Jones wanted to create an atmosphere that would allow attendees to feel comfortable and accepted.
Three featured panelists will help guide the discussion: therapist Mat Jeanius, Dream Defenders co-founder Phillip Agnew, and activist and artist E. Mackey, who recently photographed the Minneapolis protests and George Floyd's funeral.
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Join us this Friday, On #Juneteenth at 6:30PM for a much needed conversation on #MensMentalHealth in the Black community ___ RSVP (link in bio) and masks are required?? *Space is very limited in order to properly observe social distancing. ___ #TheComeUnionGathering powered by #AshleyBiancaJones @ccynthia05 on the graphics
Jones is the creator of the Come-Union Gathering, a collective that aims to help black people openly talk about their experiences with mental health. She modeled the name from the word "communion," or the sharing of intimate thoughts and feelings. For the past two years, Jones has hosted events at coffee shops, salons, and restaurants to gather people in judgment-free zones.
"Sometimes you go through something, and you want to kind of give back," she says. "That was my way of giving back and creating a space where people can really just talk about mental health without sweeping it under the rug."
Even though black adults are 20 percent more likely to endure serious mental-health issues, the topic continues to be stigmatized within the black community. Jones recounts her experience dealing with anxiety and depression and feeling unable to seek help because of the taboo within her Caribbean cultural background. After finally seeking help, she wanted to encourage others to do the same.
"That made me want to build a nontraditional support group and give people a space to really voice how they're feeling," she says. "I want you to feel like you're talking to your friends who understand you."
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Friday's event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Local sponsors, including the World Famous House of Mac, a black-owned Miami restaurant, will be on-site. Masks are required for entry, and seating will be limited to accommodate social distancing.
Jones thought it was perfect to have this month's event on Juneteenth, the day that marked the end to slavery in 1865, to parallel the freedom of expression she hopes attendees will feel.
"We're definitely celebrating it," she says.
A Conversation Addressing Men's Mental Health in the Black Community: Black King Edition. 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, June 19, at Topp Cuttaz barbershop, 16363 NW 57th Ave., Miami Lakes. RSVP via ashleybianca.ticketleap.com.