op-ed: “why black women need their friends more than ever in the wake of sandra bland”

August 5, 2015

Sunday, August 2nd was International Friendship Day! In the wake of Sandra Bland it is imperative to support the black women in your life. 

By Jia Justice, AFROPUNK Contributor.




The quality of the relationships in our lives critically impacts happiness and brain development.


Our relationships are physiological safety nets. This relieves the stress of focusing on our survivial in a time where every African American is coming to terms with our own continuity. We are questioning our own mortality. We are questioning our own mortality.


When survival is continuously threatened the body produces fear hormones also known as Fight-Or-Flight Response. Adrenal calls on its hormone buddies, catecholamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.


They exist to help you in your time of need but will be your foe if they stick around to long similar to houseguests. They weaken the immune system with time and can influence severe physiological damage. 


External friendships activate your internal hormone friends. High levels of happiness produces oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine together with serotonin protects us from falling into the quick sands of depression. 


10 Happy Hormones Benefits

  1. Relieves PTSD, Social Anxiety and Mood Disorder

  2. Buffers against physical pain and speeds up the healing of a wound

  3. Increases trust, generosity and self esteem

  4. Keeps your body slim and youthful 

  5. Alleviates insomnia

  6. Heart healthy

  7. Saves money on medical bills 

  8. Improves life expectancy by 7.5 years

  9. It’s contagious

  10. It’s free 



By now we’ve all heard of the mysterious circumstances surrounding Sandra Bland’s death in Texas on July 13th. A dash camera video depicts Sandra, a 28-year-old African American woman, pulling her car over to the roadside under the instructions of a Texas police officer. The events that followed can only be described as ominous and horrifying.


Each detail that seeped out of the investigation of her murder was increasingly sinister as well as perplexing. The careless handling of Sandra’s deceased body and investigation has spirituality injured the black community particularly black women. 


I’ve comforted several of my black female friends experiencing nervous breakdowns under the weight of the aforementioned hate crime avalanche. We collectively understand Sandra could have been any one of us or our family members. 


I’m reminded of my own emotional eruption. The South Carolina Church Massacre influenced two days of emotional collapse and restoration. Tears fell freely down my face as I walked the streets. I felt hallow like a hurt zombie trudging down the boulevards of New York. I found myself roaming the African Burial Ground to feel connection  with the divine, soothing and spiritual nourishment.





My friend, Siri and I intentionally selected a black owned restaurant to unwind  the night Sandra Bland’s murder had been announced. We needed to feel whole and speak candidly while we mended the parts of us that no longer felt intact. Siri Nelson is a bi-racial social justice writer for media outlets like AfroPunk and Creative consultant. 


Earlier in that day, Siri mourned the life of Sandra at work and on her commute. She organized an emergency gathering of friends for reflection and affection. It particularly distrubed Siri that her white friends did not grasp the severity this loss life impacts black bodies everywhere in an increasing hostile country. Nor did they want to understand.  She had relentlessly defended her friends’ Jewish faith in the face of adversity. What happened to recpirocity?


This moment illuminated that our suffering isn’t universally empathized with the way Cecil the Lion is. Our pain is only of concern to other  black people. Due to the disinterest in our wellbeing, spaces and time are not granted for us to come to terms with our sorrow. Many black women in college or with a career like Siri and I are forced to make time for mourning. 


ForHarriet.com  and Youtuber, Evelyn FromThe Internets created this clever video (depicted above) highlighting the need for restoration in the era of #BlackLivesMatter. 




PTSS is a term originally coined by Dr. Joy DeGruy,a black woman, PhD holder, educator and social worker.



Her book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is the culmination of 12 years of research on the physiological along with behavior effects of intergenerational trauma from American slavery. 


Which is totally relevant to our lives today. This term will always be relevant so long as systemic racism exists. The definition below is from a Tumblr post.


Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome




1. Slavery produced centuries of physical, psychological and spiritual injury.


2. Systemic and structural racism and oppression, have resulted in multigenerational maladaptive behaviors, which originated as survival strategies. 


Example Sentence: 


Sometimes I crawl up in ball and cry myself to sleep when I hear about the assault on black bodies and learn about systemic racism.

I am exhibiting symptoms of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.




Historical Trauma, Transgenerational Trauma, Societal Trauma, It’s Time To Catch A Reparations Check


My friend and I previously discussed the chapter in Malcolm X’s biography when his mother, Louise psychologically crumbled when he was a young boy. Louise witnessed her husband and Malcolm’s father Earl’s assassination by the KKK. Earl’s death alone was not the cause of her mental lapse. It was the apex of societal trauma at the hands of white supremacy.  




Black women experience a unique combination of sexism, ableism, homophobia and racism in America that differs from the opposite sex. We face oppression that results in social and physical assault on our hair, bodies, beauty, vernacular, family dynamics and health.



Oppression manifests itself in the form of street harassment, police brutalityincarceration as well as economic genocide. Our bodies and culture are mocked and coveted in seemingly the same breath. We’ve seen this duality emerge in Amanda Steinberg vs Kyle Jenner cultural appropriation feud. Kylie cleverly deleted  #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter after she wrote, “I woke up like diss.” under the instagram picture of her cornrows before the media storm took off.


A stigma exists amongst the African-American community that mental health services are something that is exclusive to white people. Shame stops American women of African descent from acknowledging their problems to begin with. 1 out of 5 black people do not have health insurance.


“According to the National Poverty Center, poverty rates for blacks greatly exceed the national average. And poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. 


Studies show about 72 percent of black mothers are single compared to 29 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 53 percent for Hispanics, 66 percent for American Indian/Alaska native and 17 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander. 


Since black women are more likely to be poor, to be unmarried and to parent a child alone, which are all stressors that can contribute to poor mental health, they are also least likely to have resources like adequate mental health insurance to address problems such as depression.” 


Nia Hamm, Huffington Post writer


While friendships are not a barrier for institutionalized racism and police brutality more friendships prevent suicides. Black Girl Dangerous has an excellent article to find and screen mental heal pratictioners.





1. Themed Party


Chances are you and your posse have common interests. Why not create a theme party to celebrate those silly passions that hold all of you together?


90’s themed parties are popular for a reason, ya’ll! Check out the video above of 90s theme TV shows you can use as inspiration. 



  •  BBQ/ Cookout

  • Adult Slumber party 


Why This Works: 

 A themed party induces feelings of nostalgia. Nostalgia can actually be a powerful motivator. It is incredibly helpful with reminding us that we will continue to find meaning and joy in the pockets of time we have in  life. 


2. Made With Love 



I love care packages! Sometimes you have the problem of having too many cool things to choose from when selecting a gift for your besties. 

Insert care package to save the day. If you can make smaller gift bag filled with goodies 


  • Swap homemade frozen meals.  Life can get a little hectic. Help a sister out with an easy dinner she can heat up and enjoy. 

  • The gift of photos.  DIY inexpensive frames from the discount store filled with picture of the crew. Or create a photo flipbook for $2.99  with your favorite pictures. 


Why This Works: 

Hunger produces the same Fligh-or-Flight hormones in the body. Help your friends relieve stress by adding snacks to your care package.


3. Create A Bucket List Together .

Get your crew together and play a round or two of ”Wouldn’t It Be Really Cool If ?” Affirm all the desires that arise from this session. Aim for 25 tasks or more.


Let these goals be unbridled and as unrealistic as possible. Mediocrity is crowded. There is more competition for average goals than there are for exceptional dreams. 


Your goals should scare you a little but excite you a lot. Include objects, financial milestones, experiences, travel and books to the list. Create art together, give back to your community, go on a road trip or start a business as a team. 

  • Plan a vacation road trip together.

  • Wine bottle milestones.  Purchase a couple bottles of medium price wine then add labels to the wine. The wine will mark the progress in your lives all of want to commemorate together. Bed-Vyne is a black owned business in Brooklyn you may order wine online from.


Why This Works: 

Create something together fosters satisfying feelings of bonding and lengthens the relationship. You are shifting your mind towards your future. ​​​​​​​​​

4. Umoja

(Swahili word for “Unity”) 


Form meaningful connections with your community. Support collectives started by brillant everyday black women just like you.


If you live in New York City try attending a event by Legends In Training, Black Youth Project 100  or  Womanhood


  • Random Act of Kindness Adventure. Go on a giving spree. Hide a $10 bill in a bookstore;pass out care packages to the homeless, etc. 

  • Volunteer.  I highly recomend New York Cares for New Yorkers. New York Cares is a volunteer base organization that pairs New Yorkers with big hearts with hundreds of volunteer options. Their database is user friendly, intuitive and well maintained. Give it a go!


Why This Works:   

You and your squad are enveloped in meaningful connection with other like-minded people. Strong community ties increase self-esteem, feelings of belonging and could even tubro-boost your career/business. Events provided by these collectives are safe spaces to be unapologetically black. 


5. Wear Matching Outfits. Nuff said.


Why This Works: 

Matching outfits shows solideraity. Who doesn’t love to play dress up?


6. Time Capsule 

Grab your day one friends then  compile a time capsule from using a box or tube with your favorite things including current selfies. You may dig up your time capsule in a few years or on special occasion. 


Why This Works: 

Time capsules have the same  physiological advantages as the Bucket List and Theme Party activities does. You may enjoy the happy hormones nostalgia produces once you’ve prepped your capsule. Including anticipating asatisfying future that will act as catalyst for opening this capsule again. The word of the day is future. 


7.Gratitude Cards 

Spread the love by writing your bestie Thank You cards to comfort her when you can’t be there in person.


Each card caters to a different moment in your friend’s life. 

  • You’re having a bad day

  • Just for fun

  • You miss me

  • You’re angry

  • You’re bored

  • You’re happy


Why This Works:

This is a smart way to cheer your bestfriend whether you are around to soother her or not. 


8. Healing  .

Hold a healing gathering/circle. There is ancient wisdom encompassing vitality and rejuvenation that was severed from us since slavery. Reconnect with divine guidance in a phone free environment for a few hours. 


  • light some incense

  • pour some tea

  • sing

  • dance

  • create music

  • laugh

  • cook wholesome food

  • stretch your bodies

  • cuddle together

  • have a discussion


This is a balance of being happy in the now along with having a vision for the future. I recomend supporting holistic services black women own… 


Harriets Apothecary

The Indigo Child Mystery School

Queen Afua 

Lisa Nicols 


Why This Works:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

You are your sister’s keeper. While friendships are not a barrier for institutionalized racism and police brutality more friendships prevent mental collapse.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ 


* This article was originally published on Legends In Training.