Charlene Muhammad | Specially for the Oakland Post
Wilhelmenia “Mina” Wilson, executive director of Healthy Black Families, Inc., in Berkeley, grew up in a small family in the Bay Area.
Her parents met in college and were each other’s first loves. Still, there was trauma.
As Ms. Wilson grew older, she went through her own traumatic experiences. As a young woman, she was also a victim of domestic violence.
“The only way I could save myself was to walk away. And not only did I leave the area, but he knew where I worked. I left my job. I left and made a new life for myself,” she said. “And as I moved away, I also had to remain alone until I could heal myself. And that took a few years.”
To overcome her trauma, Wilson used some of the techniques she shares with others now as CEO of Healthy Black Families, Inc.
“I had to learn it myself. I had to unpack my trauma. I had to learn to love myself again. And then that allowed me to navigate relationships in a different way,” she said. “Well, I’m not really speaking out about what I think. I’m really speaking from what I know, from my own personal experience, and I’d love to try this and see if it works as successfully at the macro level as it has worked for me at the micro level.”
In an interview with the Post News Group, Ms Wilson opened up about the root causes of domestic violence and suggested several viable solutions.
“Exposing people to the lack of human dignity, when people’s basic needs aren’t being met, creates many different types of negative behavior,” she said.
She traced the root causes of domestic violence to how the capitalist system sometimes devalues black people, and black women in particular — both of whom she believes are rooted in slavery. Black women are a commodity and black men are vulnerable because they can’t protect black women and will be butchered if they try, she said.
Fast forward to 2022 and “there’s the same kind of socioeconomic structure today as there was then. Black poverty is high. Black unemployment is high. Blacks are still less about homeownership,” she added.
With that monthly struggle for livelihood, coupled with a lack of opportunities to meet people’s needs, “people tend to implode on each other,” Wilson said.
She said that when she thinks about solutions to domestic violence, she thinks about breaking free from the system that wants to manipulate and capitalize on black people, how to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and new ways of life and being can make a living.
Some solutions she offered were: addressing poverty and the socio-economic fabric by creating an economy within the black community and buying blacks; supporting underfunded grassroots organizations rooted in the community; building programs and professional training for children and the community; entry into agriculture and urban farming; and building infrastructure and providing support services.
Regarding the economic solution, she said blacks must learn to “use our allies in support of our ends,” even if those allies are not black. She explained that other resources can and will provide, but she advocates for Black people to set their own agenda.
Wilson specifically emphasized the importance of self-control, citing biblical figures such as Jesus as examples.
“They had mastered themselves and they had learned the universal law. And they knew how to walk in the world so they could be creative energies,” she said.
She remembered a course she took with Dr. Ishmael Tetteh, a spiritual teacher from Ghana, on the subject of soul processing. Students were asked to create a timeline of their entire life. Tetteh referred to the painful parts of her life as “ruminant,” which is partially digested food that a cow continues to chew on.
“These painful experiences are like ruminants in our minds, and we keep chewing on them. And he said the goal of this life soul processing is to break apart those cud spots and then redefine them in a way that serves you,” Wilson said.
She said as a black person in America, “we all have trauma” that needs to be unpacked.
Another solution she suggested was creating culturally authentic spaces for Black people to heal together. But she said the first step is to unpack the pain that fuels the violence.
“That often means you have to pull people away from each other so they can do their own healing,” she said, because “it’s hard to heal with people who have harmed you.”
The necessary infrastructure for them includes safe shelters and community-based interventions.
“If it’s a mother and children, where do we put them while we work things out and how do we put them in a situation with the man who does it where they can do some anger management instead of criminalizing everything.” ?” she asked.
When Wilson experienced domestic violence, a woman close to her helped her.
“She spoke to me and she was the person who made space for my healing. She let me stay with her for a while. And so, fast forward, years go by, I get my act together. And I think of her, and I go back to her and I’m like, ‘I don’t know how to thank you for what you’ve done for me,'” Wilson recalled.
“And she said, ‘Girl, what you don’t understand is that this isn’t even about me.’ She says, ‘The only reason I’m here to do this for you is because there was a woman who did it for me.’ And she said, ‘So you don’t owe me anything.’” She said, “’What you owe is that when you see a need, you get up and do it for someone else.’”
Wilson says she’s tried to follow that advice her whole life.
“And I think we have to go with that kind of heart to really heal people. It can’t just be tactical stuff. It has to be human stuff. It has to be a matter of the heart,” she said.