Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT
Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT
First I want to gleefully type at you about the many honors our chapter received at the CAMFT Leadership Conference in February. LA-CAMFT was recognized for our Chapter Management last year, stood out as having a higher percentage of our board attending and participating in the conference this year, and awarded former president, Christina Castorena, the Chapter Leadership Award for her significant contributions to LA-CAMFT over many years. At the CLC, how proud I felt to be a part of this team, sharing and learning alongside other state chapter board members, and hearing how fully the larger association is committed to supporting the professional community on macro and micro levels.
Next, I want to thank everyone who registered and attended our Law and Ethics training with Curt Widhalm in March—despite the many technical snafus. The start of the journey was harrowing, and the patience of attendees in-and-out of the Zoom room was practically saint-like. Our webmaster, Mike Johnsen, was a superstar (as always) early on, when the registration service LA-CAMFT uses experienced glitches outside our control. On “Game Day,” Di Wilson, Elizabeth Sterbenz, and Billie Klayman masterfully kept spirits up as they problem-solved a resolution to the Zoom-room capacity issue we naively hadn’t anticipated. Curt graciously waited with us, giving a presentation rich in content, and kindly offering unscheduled time for questions at the end.
All of this is in the rear-view mirror now, even more so when this posts in May. I’m aware of how these wonderful and worrying moments loom so large as they’re happening, and feel so insignificant as time retreats. What persists weighs on me—the never-ending battles for equality, kindness, respect, and justice, as I know they weigh on so many of you.
The horrifying cell phone videos streaming in social media feeds, of atrocities inflicted upon fellow humans, threaten to break me, but I recognize that those recordings shine light on ugliness we might now find ways to prevent in the future. If these videos force us to become virtual bystanders, we are now challenged to face what cannot be denied or dismissed. In the camera’s light, we are called upon to devise ways to cope with the realities of failing systems, that program people for violence and tribalism, perpetuating hundreds—no, THOUSANDS—of years of people dividing and treating each other as subhuman. This unraveling and reorganizing is complex and difficult work that cannot suddenly be turned around or undone with simply a hashtag.
As I write this, the trial addressing the death of George Floyd while in police custody takes place, laying bare the undeniable inhumane treatment caught on video last May. Five days ago a recording captured a 65-year-old Filipino woman en route to church in Manhattan being viciously beaten on the street, as nearby security guards closed their building doors, and their eyes, to the brutality without intervening. Once again we’re cast as digital bystanders to horrific events we’re sentenced to watch on repeat. As we demand justice for George, and others in our Black, Native, and Latinx communities, we must also be as vigilant about justice for our AAPI brothers and sisters.
Since March 2020, reports of violence against Asian Americans have increased greatly, with women and elders being most significantly targeted. The coalition, “Stop AAPI Hate,” noted that 44% of incidents reported since the pandemic began have been in California, where 15% of our 40 million residents identify as Asian American with the U.S. Census. With the insanely xenophobic language the Former White House Occupant (FWHO) used in 2020 from his malignant-bully pulpit, we find ourselves facing more than just a misinformation or willful ignorance problem. FWHO provided hateful followers the justification they sought to misdirect their anger onto innocent groups of fellow Americans over the very real frustrations and desperations of feeling locked-up and under-employed in the name of public health. Although none of this is new to anyone who outwardly presents other-than-Caucasian, this violence has become as infectious as the virus itself, and in too many cases, as deadly.
We have a gun problem, a violence problem, racism and xenophobia problems—and we definitely have a mental wellness problem in our country. That’s where we must look at what we as a community of mental health professionals are doing, and can do, to support and advocate for, not only our clients of color, but for our colleagues and loved ones as well. We must educate ourselves and do better.
In 2017, Janaki Neptune and Christina Castorena led the charge to form LA-CAMFT’s Diversity Committee, establishing the Therapists of Color Support Group as their first order of business (for more information contact Niparpon@yahoo.com). Following the Anti-Racism Roundtable in August 2020, under Christina “Tina” Cacho Sakai’s leadership the Diversity Committee founded the Black Therapists Support Group facilitated by Baaba Hawthorne which met for the first time last month. These groups are no cost and are open to all Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students who identify as indicated, and who are committed to creating safe supportive spaces to “process experiences of racism, (systemic, social, and internalized), discrimination, implicit bias, racist injury, aggression, and micro-aggressions, along with additional experiences that therapists of color encounter in the field of mental health.”
In an effort to inspire further allyship, former LA-CAMFT Presidents, Randi Gottlieb and Matthew Evans, along with former Sponsorship Chair Estelle Fisher, created the White Therapists Anti-Racism Group, with a mission that includes the expansion of white consciousness around issues of racism and privilege, while increasing engagement in anti-racism work within our community.
As this is a movement, not a moment, next we must support the Diversity Committee and our AAPI colleagues, as they come together to design an AAPI peer support group. If you or someone you know would be interested in being part of this important enterprise, please contact DiversityCommittee@LACAMFT.org.
Look out for each other beyond hashtags, my friends.
Paz y Amor—siempre.
JJVW - Jenni June Villegas Wilson
Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT is a collaborative conversationalist, trained in narrative therapy and EMDR. She works with creative and anxious clients on improving, avoiding, and eliminating co-dependent and toxic relationships, while finding healthy ways to be unapologetically themselves. She is the primary therapist at Conclusions Treatment Center IOP in Mission Hills, and has a private practice in Sherman Oaks.
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