UF student, professor launch Academics for Black Survival and Wellness

As unrest about systemic racism mounted nationwide, University of Florida doctoral student Pearis Bellamy kept getting messages from non-Black colleagues asking what they could do to support her and other Black academics. Beyond educating allies one by one, Bellamy had a more sweeping vision: a week of full-day experiences that she’d make available online, free, around the world.

With her mentor, UF counseling psychology professor Dr. Della Mosley, Bellamy quickly mobilized to launch Academics for Black Survival and Wellness, with activities beginning on Friday, June 19 — the Juneteenth holiday commemorating emancipation. Participants can register for the entire week or by the day.

In just a few days, thousands joined the group and signed up for the sessions.

“That really shows that non-Black colleagues want to know how they can support their Black colleagues,” Bellamy said. “For me as a grad student, that's exciting to see because it continues to underscore the value of the research and the work that we've been doing.”

The week includes two tracks, one offering antiracism education and training for non-Black allies and another offering healing for Black people in and out of academia.

“One of my favorite parts of the week is how we're able to do both,” Mosley said.I really want Black people who are hurting very deeply, who are grieving very deeply, to have a sense of community and to be provided some empirically grounded, culturally relevant strategies for wellness.”

Enlisting partners across the country and across disciplines at UF, Mosley and Bellamy structured the events around evidence-based approaches. 

The antiracism training for allies is organized around five goals:

  • Deepen your understanding of the history and deep-rooted nature of anti-Black racism in the U.S.
  • Understand your personal relationship to white supremacy and anti-Black racism.
  • Reflect on the personal impact you have on the Black people in your immediate environmental context.
  • Develop a personalized plan to enhance the safety and wellness of Black students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members through your academic roles.
  • Take action that includes time, energy, financial resources, and accountability until Black liberation is realized. 

Some materials and sessions will be available after the events conclude.

“A majority of the healing and wellness services that we're providing during the week, we're going to make available to Black academics afterwards, so that when they are in those difficult faculty meetings and in those difficult classroom conversations, or in areas where they're isolated as the only Black person, that they have somewhere to go to feel a sense of care and wellness,” Mosley said.

Bellamy hopes Academics for Black Survival and Wellness will spark ongoing action. 

“This is not going to fix everything. This is not going to answer everyone's questions, but it's a start — showing people some of the resources so that they can continue to address anti-Black racism where it shows up,” she said. “We're hoping that this can be a continuous conversation.”

Alisson Clark June 18, 2020