By Genoa Barrow: Art Imitates Life

Genoa Barrow

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer | | Hollywood is known for creating fantasies and false narratives, but the entertainment industry does keep it real sometimes, particularly in its efforts to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Mental health awareness for African Americans has found its way into popular TV programs with creators and showrunners including storylines that see main characters seeking therapy or having characters be mental health providers. Other shows feature therapy in other ways.

Filmmaker and show creator Lena Waithe deserves kudos for normalizing therapy by incorporating it into series like “Twenties” and “The Chi.” In a “Twenties” episode titled “Happy Place,” the main character, a queer Black woman named Hattie, played by Jonica “Jojo” T. Gibbs, seeks therapy to understand her father’s absence and its impact on her relationships with men. On “The Chi” after one of the show’s main characters, Kiesha Williams, portrayed by actress Birgundi Baker, is abducted and becomes pregnant from the sexual assault, she is seen in multiple episodes visiting a psychologist.

She also encourages her family to work on their issues. Kiesha’s mother and her wife also see a therapist throughout the series’ six seasons. The main male characters also participate in a circle discussion, meant to help them support each other.

Directed by Debbie Allen for most of its six seasons, “A Different World” took on a number of serious issues including apartheid and divestment, domestic violence, date rape, and colorism. In an episode titled “Ex-Communication,” its resident Southern belle, Whitley Gilbert, played by Jasmine Guy, visits a therapist to help her through relationship woes. Allen plays the exasperated therapist who helps her find clarity and tells her to “relax, relate, release,” which becomes a mantra for many that is still used to this day to help center one’s self and get through a tough or trying situation.

WEtv has similar shows, “Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition” and “Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Reality Stars.” Couples get relationship advice from Dr. Ish Major and Judge Lynn Toler. Past pairs have included Soulja Boy and Nia Riley, Monie Love and Tony Tuff, Mally Mall and Tresure Price. Ray J and Princess Love, and Waka Flocka Flame and Tammy Rivera.

This article is part of the Senior Staff Writer Genoa Barrow’s special series, “Head Space: Exploring the Mental Health Needs of Today’s Black Men.”

The post Art Imitates Life appeared first on The Sacramento Observer.

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