44 Days Celebration Explores Black Mental Health

The Black Mental Health Series featured panels by Dr. Lynna McPhatter-Harris of the AUHSD and Dr. Carnetta Porter of CAPS, co-hosted by Dr. Kristen Freeman of the Counseling Department.

Each year, Saint Mary’s College of California hosts a 44 Days: Honoring Black History celebration. This year, the fifth annual celebration took place between February 9 and March 24, 2022 with the theme of “Power, Pride, and Purpose: How We Can Find and Use Our Power.” It encompassed the collaboration with stakeholders and community members by highlighting speakers, workshops, and other events that took place during the celebratory 44 Days.

Co-hosted by the Counseling Department’s Dr. Kristen Freeman, the Black Mental Health Series included a series of Black clinicians, teachers, and scholars who spoke on topics related to Black mental health. Dr. Freeman has an MA in Counseling Psychology from Santa Clara University, and an EdD with an emphasis on urban education from the University of Southern California. She has experience in nonprofit, government, education, and community-based settings, and has experience providing counseling services to individuals, families, and groups, using traditional, holistic, and integrative approaches.

“I was involved in 44 Days last year when I started, but I didn’t have a leadership role,” said Dr. Freeman. “This year, myself and Drs. Cynthia Cutshall and Carnetta Porter of CAPS were trying to think of areas that perhaps are missing, and that align with the power and purpose of 44 Days. We know students and faculty are really suffering — suffering during the pandemic, suffering being online, suffering not being in community, and the stress of what’s going on in the world, in terms of racial oppression and white supremacy — that we said, let’s highlight and let’s discuss this from a full place of transparency, with the mission to strengthen our communities in doing so.”

Featured presenters included Dr. Lynna McPhatter-Harris, Director of Student Support, Equity, and Inclusion at the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD), and Dr. Carnetta Porter, Staff Therapist at Saint Mary’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Both Drs. McPhatter-Harris and Porter participated in sequential events as part of this series. These sessions were conducted via hybrid in-person and Zoom modality.

On the evening of February 22, 2022, Dr. McPhatter-Harris spoke about misconceptions of Black mental health. Her presentation covered the impact of historical trauma on unconscious patterns and help-seeking behaviors. She also emphasized the importance of learning vital strategies that will allow individuals to recognize and understand when support is needed and change the narrative from deficit to strengths-based.

Dr. Porter’s presentation took place on the evening of March 1st, where she spoke about how Black Lives Matter at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). Dr. Porter invited an interactive exploration of how traditional paradigms of social and racial inequalities within American educational systems and PWIs impact the academic success and power dynamic between the Black-identified student experience with White faculty and administration.

Visit our website for more information about the Counseling program offered by the Kalmanovitz School of Education.