SYDNEY DAVIS, HOST OF “BLACK THERAPY 101,” THURSDAY, NOV. 2, AT 38A GALLERY IN EAST LIBERTY. (PHOTO BY ART LIKE US)
Day by day, month by month, the stigma of African Americans not caring about or not understanding the concept of “mental health” is fading.
East Liberty native Sydney Davis, 29, has taken a sledgehammer to that stigma, unveiling a “Black Therapy 101” free panel discussion, to be held at 38A Gallery, 5929 Penn Ave., East Liberty, on Thursday, Nov. 2. It runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Davis told the New Pittsburgh Courier she’s made it her life’s purpose “to develop empowering art and mental health events for people” in her community.
She said she’s embarked on her own therapy journey.
“Back in my school days, I had a knack for getting into all sorts of trouble, so I found myself quite familiar with the counselor’s office,” Davis told the Courier exclusively, Oct. 31. “I was the voicetress and funny student who somehow always ended up in the counselor’s or principal’s office. Those counselors, they were like my safe haven, my refuge. I honestly felt like I got along with them more than the students most times. Looking back, I realize my humor and acting out were my ways of coping with things happening at home and the stress of school. It was probably anxiety or depression, but back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, those weren’t topics we openly discussed.”
Davis went to a professional therapist in high school, and as an adult, “I’ve had my share of therapy, but it’s been a bit of an on-and-off relationship,” she said. “I’ve had therapists who didn’t look like me or understand the unique challenges I faced as a Black woman, which made it difficult to connect with them who weren’t Black.”
The COVID pandemic didn’t make things any better. Davis said she had to go through a breakup, job hunting and the struggles of being a full-time artist in the past few years. But in the long run, therapy helped Davis learn a lot of coping tools and life skills.
“I was getting better, while I saw my friends still drowning in their struggles,” she said, which pushed her to start Artist Talk Mental Health and Therapy 101.
“Artist Talk” is celebrating two years in operation this month, November 2023. She’s collaborated with the organization Steel Smiling and The Future is Black for the Nov. 2 event. The event will explore a range of topics including the benefits of therapy, different therapeutic resources and insights into the therapeutic process. Davis said attendees will also learn information on how to access BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) therapists.
“Finding a Black therapist in the city can be incredibly challenging, to the extent that some people believe they don’t even exist,” Davis told the Courier. “My therapist even referred to himself as a unicorn at one point, given how rare it is to find a therapist who looks like you. So, featuring other Black artists and members of the community alongside BIPOC therapists is incredibly important.”
DR. DARLA TIMBO
The panelists for the event will include people familiar to the Courier. Dr. Darla Timbo, PsyD., LPC, is a member of the Courier’s “Fab 40” Class of 2022. She’s a professional psychologist, licensed professional counselor, and owner of Atlas Counseling Services in East Liberty. She also serves as faculty at PennWest University, California Campus. She has over 15 years of experience in the field of psychology and counseling, including leadership experience and research. Within Atlas Counseling Services, Dr. Timbo primarily serves underrepresented groups of people, primarily including Black women, and individuals recently released from incarceration.
DR. RUEBEN BROCK
Other panelists include Mauri Tate, LCSW, who has worked as a school social worker and therapist for several years and will be launching Bridging the Gap Services, LLC, in 2024 to provide mental health services to underserved communities; Dr. Rueben Brock, a trained musician, photographer, filmmaker, professor of psychology, author and motivational speaker; and Sonya Dugal, a Board Certified Art Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Board Certified Transgender Care Therapist. Dugal provides gender-affirming care to gender expansive, non-binary and trans individuals.