CPPNJ - The Center for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy of New Jersey

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Black Psychoanalysts Speak: IPTAR’s Diversity and Culture Committee Presentation


By Marion Houghton, LCSW

“Something is happening here.” With these words, Richard Reichbart, PhD, captured the energy and excited anticipation in the room at NYC’s Park Avenue Methodist Church on Saturday morning, May 12. He opened the program by introducing Michael Moskowitz, PhD, who, in turn, presented the invited panelists. They were C. Jama Adams, PhD; Annie Lee Jones, PhD; Cheryl Thompson, PhD; Kathleen PogueWhite, PhD; and Kirkland Vaughans, PhD.

Michael asked the roundtable members, who were all Black but came from very different places and by different paths:

    “What brought you to psychoanalysis?”
    “What made it possible for you to come here today?”

I realized: “It feels alive here.” I had originally decided to attend in support of my colleague and friend, Cheryl Thompson. Now I felt a compelling sense of personal engagement. The audience filled the entire room. I looked around and saw a diversity of color—all shades of black and white humanity. Together, it seemed each of us both claimed our own space and shared a common one.

Each of the roundtable participants spoke in turn, to and with each other, and we all hung on every word. Poignant stories were told—mostly about experiences of feeling as if being “on the outside looking in”---as these Black women and men described entering and struggling through their respective psychoanalytic trainings.

“Folks weren’t my people,” Kathleen said. “Psychoanalytic institutes were racist,” Jama said.

The more I listened, the more I identified with what the participants were saying. How could that be? I’m not Black…my mind searched within itself. Someone mentioned a paper by Mary C. Waters entitled: “Optional Ethnicities: for Whites Only?” So, perhaps there was much more to think and learn about.

Before the program ended, many audience members were sharing their own experiences of rejection and misunderstanding related to ethnicity and cultural origin. One of the panelists referred to psychoanalysis itself as a “traumatized immigrant.”

In response to the expressions of alienation and isolation shared by participants about their psychoanalytic journeys, Kirkland Vaughans offered a different perspective. He told his fellow roundtable members and the audience that we all need to take responsibility for “building some space” for ourselves in the Institutes to which we belong.

I heard many stimulating ideas that Saturday morning…

    Institutes need to become more culturally respectful—they need to create space for “telling truth.”
    We are all strangers. We all have to make a home for each other.

How are we doing with culture and diversity at CPPNJ? It seems to me it would be a discussion worth having. And how can we open up our outreach activities to seek out persons who have not traditionally been included in our Institute?

There may be a “Black Psychoanalysts Speak: Part 2”. Anyone interested?