With the protests of NFL players against police brutality and discrimination against African Americans gaining ground, one group, The Coalition of Culturally Competent Providers, convened a panel entitled “When Patriotism Meets Activism” to discuss the implications of systematic oppression on behavioral health in the Black community.

The forum was held at the Hilton Hotel on City Avenue and consisted of panelists from the mental and behavioral health professions.

“The forum is a diverse forum consisting of stakeholders in the community, organizations in the mental health arena, also pastors and professors at the various universities,” said Asher Kemp Jr., interim executive director of the Coalition of Culturally Competent Providers.

“The forum was really just to talk about and look at strategies and the healing process for the people in our communities and the disparity that they are feeling,” Kemp said. “This is one of many events to come where we’ll be looking for better ways to support our communities and moving forward on issues they are dealing with.”

LaJewel Harrison chairs the Coalition and says that its mission to create a space where dialogue regarding race-based trauma is accepted and acknowledged.

“This panel discussion about kneeling is really a discussion about the ways in which we interpret implicit and explicit racism and the steps we must take to heal ourselves,” said Harrison.

It is the hope of the Coalition that such discussions among members of the community would result in the development of possible strategies needed to begin a healing process in oppressed communities.

Moderating the panel discussion was Marquita Williams, Ph.D., who said the topic centered around the NFL protesters who took a knee during the national anthem which sparked a wave of controversy throughout the nation.

“We really wanted to have this event to talk about how we, as mental health professionals, can address this issue from the race-based trauma perspective and create strategies for working with our community,” said Williams.

Although the panel consisted of African-American males, the Coalition says it did its part to include others from a wide cross-section of professionals.

“We sent out invitations to white CEOs, to a variety of other outspoken individuals on this topic and the ones that showed up tonight were the ones who accepted our invitation,” she said.

Williams said that the Coalition looks forward to continuing to hold more panels on this issue and impact change in the community. While discussion is key, Williams said she hoped that those attending the forum will walk away with elevated awareness of the issues discussed.

“What I hope that they will do is recognize that there are many forms of activism and however you raise your voice against injustice, you have a right to do that, it’s OK to do that,” she said.

“I want them to leave understanding that we hear you, we understand what’s happening in our communities and we want to be right there with you arm and arm to heal and empower you.

“The Coalition is serious about influencing policy, programming and research around the behavioral health needs of the African-American community,” said Williams.

Panelists for the event included Dr. Marquita Williams, moderator, former deputy commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services — City of Philadelphia; Dr. Reggie Banks, CEO, Dunbar Associates; Joe Watkins, Republican political analyst, CNBC; James Paige, COO, Community Council Health Systems; and Chad Dion Lassiter, FOX contributor and president of Black Men at Penn.