January 31, 2022

CAPS STAFF CORNER - A blog submission from a CAPS staff member

In 1926 Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History”, established Negro History Week to encourage people to learn about the important contributions of Black Americans. February was chosen because Dr. Woodson’s Negro Week was initially aimed at celebrating the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Coinciding with the development of Black Studies departments on college campuses, by 1970 many colleges were celebrating Black History Month. By 1976 President Gerald Ford made Black History Month a federal designation, encouraging all Americans to take time to acknowledge the historic contributions of Black Americans. Each year there is a theme that focuses on influence, social movements and aspirations in the Black community. This year’s theme is health and wellness.

How does Black America celebrate Black History Month? The answer to that question is dependent on several variables. The first being one’s racial identity and how important it is in their life. Those who do not prioritize or acknowledge their blackness may avoid this month. For some Black people, BHM does not require celebration as we are Black every day and live with the joys and pains of existing in America, we know we are, are unapologetically ourselves all year, and do not like the way we seem to have gotten away from what Dr. Woodson intended. For others it is a time of year to showcase or remind the non-Black people in our lives why we are magic and what is Black excellence. And for a large contingent of Black people from child care centers to senior living facilities, it is an opportunity to do what Dr. Woodson intended, educate and/or learn about important Black figures. 

How does the country celebrate Black History Month? In some stores, like Target, there is a special display (similar to what you find during Pride Month) where products by Black owned entrepreneurs are showcased. Basketball games and restaurants may host BHM nights where they invite Black people in the community to patronize their venue at a discounted rate. Many workplaces will turn to their Black employees and ask them to lead a workshop or invite a guest speaker. On television there will be special documentaries and more air time given to movies about the Black experience. 

How does CAPS encourage us to celebrate Black History Month? First, in keeping with this year’s theme of focusing on health and wellness and the intentions of Dr. Woodson, we want to bring everyone’s attention to important Black psychologists. Second, we want to celebrate our Black therapists in the work they do for UCSB, CAPS, and their communities. Lastly, we want to encourage all of you to acknowledge your Black friends, classmates, students, and colleagues by: listening and believing our narratives; doing your own research before asking us to educate you; advocating and defending us when there is no incentive for you; do not use your connection to us to show how liberal or progressive you are; and don’t be afraid to mess up- we are all works in progress and most people prefer authenticity. 

Pioneering Black Psychologists

Dr. Francis Sumner (1895-1954), known as the “Father of Black Psychology”, was the first African American to earn a doctorate in psychology. He was also one of the founders of the psychology department at Howard University.  

Drs. Kenneth (1914-2005) and Mamie (1917-1983) Clark were the first African Americans to earn doctorates in psychology from Columbia University. Together they created the “Doll Study”,  which was instrumental in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education U. S. Supreme Court case that ended segregation in schools. Dr. Kenneth Clark was the first Black president of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Joseph White (1932-2017), known as the “godfather of Black Psychology”, was instrumental in the education of many. During his tenure at CSU Long Beach, Dr. White founded the Educational Opportunity Program in 1967, which is now available across many UC and CSU campuses. In 1968, in addition to being one of the founding members of the Association of Black Psychologists, Dr. White helped establish one of the first Black Studies Program at a university at San Francisco State University. 

Dr. E. Kitch Childs (1937- 1993), was one of the founding members of both the Association for Women in Psychology and Chicago’s Gay Liberation Front. Dr. Childs was also known for forcing the American Psychological Association to change its perspective on homosexuality.

UCSB CAPS Black Therapists

Brian Olowude, Ph. D.,  Director

Meridith Merchant, Ph. D., Assistant Director, Mental Health Initiatives and Inclusion

Mario Barfield, Psy. D., BSU Psychologist

Dominique Broussard, Ph. D., BSU Psychologist

Janel Davis, Ph D., Psychologist

Ashley Gilmore, LMFT, Clinical Coordinator

Marsha Wylie, LCSW, Clinical Coordinator