‘Godfather of Black Psychology’ Addresses Chicago School Students Nationwide
Dr. Joseph White, pioneer of the Black Psychology movement, delivered a multicampus lecture to Chicago School students on Feb. 17 in Washington, D.C. His address, “Black Psychology: A Historical Review and Outline of Today’s Challenges,” was streamed live via the Internet, allowing students in Chicago and Los Angeles to watch, listen, and participate interactively.
“He is the personification of something we value as a core value at TCSPP. He is truly an agent of change,” said D.C. Campus President Orlando Taylor in his opening remarks.
Held in recognition of Black History Month, the lecture focused on the national policy implications of addressing mental health issues within the increasingly diverse communities of American society.
Dr. White also highlighted seven psychological strengths of African-Americans: improvisation, resilience, connectedness to others, spirituality, emotional vitality, gallows humor, and healthy suspicion of “you know who.” Each strength, he maintained, is born out of the unique and sometimes challenging cultural experience of being African-American.
The address was followed by formal responses, presented by one student from each of the three campuses, and a Q&A session.
Ameera Bella, a doctoral student and the respondent for the L.A. Campus, said she appreciated Dr. White’s relatable, down-to-earth speaking style. “What struck a chord for me the most was when he spoke about being burnt out during a time in his career,” she said. “He realized that he needed to go within, work on himself, and discover new and different ways to be an agent of change.”
Dr. White first rose to prominence at the 1968 convention of the American Psychological Association, where he founded the Association of Black Psychologists. “He argued that you have to look at the mental health issues in the African-American community through the lens of black culture,” said Dr. Taylor after the event. Though the idea was controversial at the time, “40 years later, everybody recognizes it to be a truism,” he added.
Known as the “Godfather of Black Psychology,” Dr. White, professor emeritus of psychology and psychiatry at the University of California-Irvine, received a Citation of Achievement in Psychology and Community Service from President Clinton in 1994. His work also helped other contemporary movements such as civil rights and gender equality to gain traction.
Dr. White received an honorary doctorate from The Chicago School in 2010 and delivered the 2012 commencement address at the Chicago Campus in June. He joined the school’s board of trustees in May.