Juwan Bennett, a group facilitator with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project in Philadelphia, compares their “intergenerational healing circle” to a barbershop in a Black neighborhood. “If you’ve ever been to a Black barbershop it’s intergenerational,” he told The Philadelphia Citizen. “Everybody’s on equal footing.”
The intergenerational healing circle is one in which young men who were recently released from prison join in dialogue with older men, also recently released, who served sentences that lasted decades. No matter their age, all of the men are trying to figure out a way forward post-incarceration, and by putting them face to face, the group aims to offer a different perspective to both. “Everybody has a perspective and can join in the conversation and we laugh together,” said Bennett. “We experience raw emotions together and we keep it honest with each other. What happens with the intergenerational healing circle is that it’s intentional. We’re intentionally building community and intentionally creating space.”
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The learning flows both ways: the older men offer the younger ones employment leads, while the younger men teach the older ones how to set up social media accounts so they can see what their loved ones are up to. “While in prison, we often had to suppress our vulnerabilities and exacerbate our masculinity,” said one participant, “so this space for us is truly healing.”
Circle of life
The lower edge of the Sahara Desert is creeping ever southward, a process known as desertification that saps the ground of moisture, killing vegetation. Since 2007, a program called the Great Green Wall initiative has sought to halt this process with a 5,000-mile line of trees extending across the continent from Senegal to Djibouti. Senegal has put a local spin on its part of the wall with circular gardens, which the country’s reforestation agency says are proving particularly effective.
These spiraling gardens contain plants and trees like papaya, mango, moringa and sage, all of which can withstand hot, dry weather. The circular beds encourage the roots to grow inwards, trapping liquids and beneficial bacteria inside. The result is a mini oasis that requires little water thriving in an arid landscape.
The gardens are assessed every three months by officials, who report that most of them are flourishing. Not only are they helping to prevent desertification, they’re boosting local food security by allowing locals to continue farming where they live. “The day people realize the full potential of the Great Green Wall, they will stop these dangerous migration routes where you can lose your life at sea,” said one gardener. “It’s better to stay, work the soil, cultivate and see what you can earn.”
Black children are 70 percent less likely to receive a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than white children, a disparity health officials chalk up to racial bias, lack of access to care, and distrust of the health system in Black communities. The gap means that fewer Black kids with ADHD receive treatment at an early age, putting them at risk of falling behind in school or ending up in a disciplinary doom loop.
Now, some Black ADHD sufferers are speaking up and spreading awareness. One is Rene Brooks, whose blog Black Girl, Lost Keys has created a community for women like her. At weekly virtual meetings, members share stories of racialized encounters stemming from their ADHD, from being branded an “angry Black woman” to having pharmacists hesitate to fill their prescriptions for stimulants. For some of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever spoken with another Black person about their diagnosis, a revelation that helps them feel less alone.
“When you start receiving treatment, the biggest impact is to your self-esteem, because you’re no longer concerned that you’re just lazy, or that you’re just unmotivated,” Brooks told Kaiser Health News. “You know this is a problem, and problems have solutions, whereas character flaws do not.”