Healing the Community: How Health Centers Can Address Community Violence

At the Core of Care

Published: December 5, 2022

SARAH: This is At the Core of Care, a podcast where people share their stories about nurses and their creative efforts to better meet the health and healthcare needs of patients, families and communities. 

I'm Sarah Hexem Hubbard with the Pennsylvania Action Coalition and the Executive Director of the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium. 

As part of our special training coverage, we’re bringing you a conversation about the role community health centers can play in addressing community violence. Two community health professionals will share their perspective with us, and how they’re working to improve access to health care and reduce violence in their communities.

My colleague Jillian Bird, director of Training and Technical Assistance at the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium, will lead the conversation.  Through a wide variety of ongoing programming, Jillian and her team help support providers working at community health centers across the country.


JILLIAN: Thank you, Sarah.

Joining me for this conversation through Zoom are Cheryl Seay and Wayne Clark. Cheryl is the Program Manager for the Center for Community Health Workers at Penn Medicine at Home. She's based in Philadelphia and is also the founder of the Jarrell Christopher Seay Love and Laughter Foundation, which is focused on addressing gun violence and community health. And Wayne is connecting with us from Oakland, California, where he is a Health Navigator at Roots Community Health Center, Inc. He's also the Founder and Executive Director at Oakland Impact Center, which provides innovative counseling, mentoring, skill building, violence prevention trainings, and more as we'll hear.

Welcome Cheryl and Wayne to At the Core of Care.

CHERYL: Hello, thank you.

WAYNE: Thank you.

JILLIAN: I appreciate you both coming together to talk about this topic. Could you start with telling us about why you do the work you do and what brought you into the field of community health? Cheryl, if you could go first and then Wayne.

CHERYL: I've always been a community servant, so to speak. Just from growing up and observing my parents, they were always givers in the community. And that just carried over into me. And then, you know, after I was married and got my own family, we did the same things. We were the block captains on the block. Everyone came to our house for help and support. Money for heating bills, or the kids would come for popsicles, or we were the family that did everything with everybody on the block. We always supported the children, we always supported the families. After a while, I was working in the university. And my job was discontinued. But then I was offered the opportunity to work as a community health worker on the medical side. A friend of mine said, you know, you and your husband, you're always helping people you do all these great things I think you will work well as a community health worker. So that's how I landed in the role of a community health worker at Penn Medicine. And then recently, I was promoted to Program Manager for about eight months now. So that's how I kind of got into this role and this work, because that was something that I always did naturally.

JILLIAN: Thank you, and Wayne.

WAYNE: Thank you for sharing Cheryl. I could feel the passion from the work you do. I highly appreciate you. Yeah, for me, it was kind of coming through, once being a part of the problem in my community that brought me to the work. I came up in a home where I was a single mother, three boys. I was the youngest, all different fathers. My mother moved to California from the East Coast by way of Little Rock, Arkansas. And we struggled really, really bad. As the young one, when my brother went off to college, my mother was sick. My middle brother was kind of the black sheep. I made some decisions to try to help my mother and help my situation. You know, we didn't have PG&E a lot and food a lot. We were the families that Cheryl was talking about helping.

And so, for a long time, I lived the life being part of the problem in my community. But around the age of 33, I'll be 46 in a month, lost a few really, really close friends to gun violence. Lost one of my friends to life in prison, and this was my closest circle. And kind of a light went on. I have children four children and I always committed myself to since I didn't have my father, I wanted to be the best father I could be. And the light kind of went on and said, Man, this going to be the end for you, prison or death if you don't change something, and we committed to being good to our children.

And in that journey of transformation, I started just realizing that I had never really heard this conversation around healing and trauma. And so it hit me like a ton of bricks like, wait, I'm not just a product of the thing. I'm not just this animal that people paint you out to be, but there's trauma in our communities.

And so as one who always has been what I call investigative, I started to really do a lot of research on this stuff and say, wow, I found that the core of the troubles in our community is the trauma. And then I started understanding that this is historical, you know, from my ancestors. And so taking this deep dive of understanding that our community is traumatized over and over and over, it made me start to take my own journey. And as I started to heal and be proud of myself and progress and do amazing things, I just wanted to offer that to everybody else in my community, because I know now that the possibilities are unlimited. And I actually also say that we the people who have been through the problems is the people who can help the people that are going through the problems. And so there was nobody more qualified. And so finding myself in these spaces, I came to Roots in very intentional because Dr. Noha, who was the Founder, Executive Director, was one of the most powerful voices I heard that was connecting health to violence.

And I really hadn't started to hear that until about three years ago. And that caught my attention. Because I'm like, yeah, the root of the violence is health issues, mental health is all kinds of health. And then at the root of a lot of the health is gun violence, too, because you get the mothers and that are going through all kinds of stress and the families, it takes a toll. And so I came to Roots, because I wanted to be close to the voice that I knew that was doing major work. And healing has been at the core of my journey. And so that's kind of what brought me to the work is that I was once a part of the problem. And I passionately now like to serve and be a light, and make the connection to y'all. We not just like this, because we are but we need healing. And we're a traumatized community.

JILLIAN: Thank you both for sharing these reflections on your community and your lived stories. I do really hear from both of you this desire to be available to your communities, to give back to your communities. And it's given you this opportunity to interact directly with community members in an effort to improve lives on a personal and broader level. I’m wondering Cheryl, if you could give us an idea of how your life story or events of your family have directly given you cause to address community violence within your community here in Philadelphia?

CHERYL: In 2011 you know, my family's life changed forever. As I mentioned before, we were always the family on the block where everyone came to. But on April 24, 2011, Easter Sunday, our family had just finished Easter dinner. And these two guys rang the doorbell. And my husband said that he got a funny sense when he saw these guys at the door. They were asking for my son Jarell, who was in the basement preparing for school, it was Easter break. So he was getting ready for school the next day, washing clothes and doing all those type of things. And so my husband called Jarell to the door, because Jarell knew everybody. He played basketball, like everybody knew him, all the children loved him. And he went outside on the porch. And my husband said he went with him because he just didn't feel right about these guys. And so they asked Jarell a question. And Jarell said, I don't know what you're talking about. Now, Jarell is six feet tall, six two, 200 pounds. And so he talks to the guys, tells them that he doesn't know what they're talking about. He turns around to go back into the house, the guys make pretend they're walking down the steps. And as Jarell is going into the house, they turn around, and one of the guys shoots Jarell in the back twice. And he falls at the door. And my husband is screaming, and I'm screaming, and the neighbors are screaming. Everybody was outside. And I couldn't open the door. It was just the most horrific day ever. Like, it'll never ever, ever, ever be the same for me or my family.

And we felt like we were betrayed, because we had been a family that was always giving on the block and helping others. And now this happened to us. And nobody was saying anything. Nobody said they saw anything. And it was a beautiful day outside, it turned the darkest day ever. Even now 11 years later, you'd look around and you see these things have gotten even worse. These shootings are happening every day at anytime, anyplace. And it doesn't seem like anything is getting better. And so we started the Jarell Christopher Seay Love and Laughter Foundation because Jarell always gave us love and laughter. Every night he would tell us love you Mom, love you Dad. You can imagine this six foot tall guy. [Laughs] You know, sharing that love. And that's who he was. As I said, all of the children in the neighborhood loved him. Even the little children would come to the door. Is Jarell home? Can he come out and play basketball? Because he was just that type of guy. He always looked out for others, the elderly, the children. He was always there to support others and my other son as well.

And so we developed the foundation. And the mission of the foundation is to unite communities by connecting families while helping to protect our children through gun violence prevention, safety, and education. And through our organization, over the past 11 years, we have worked with the youth in our community through different programs that we have offered.

One is the defenders program. Then we have another one, the LIP program, which is Ladies In Power for peace where we mentor young girls. And through both of those programs, we empower our youth to know that they don't have to let their current life circumstances determine their destiny. We also teach them about their history because they're not being taught their history in school. We also teach them about being a good citizen, knowing and understanding the process of voting, making sure that they go for their driver's license and their voter’s registration and the things and life that they need to be successful. And we also empower them to be involved in their community and perform community service activities.

JILLIAN: I'm sitting here listening to your story, start from such a profoundly, intensely tragic event. And what I'm hearing you say, the end here is how much you've kind of doubled down on loving your community. And when I imagine, it could be very easy to want to retreat into anger and despair. And it's a really profound story and the way that you've put into action, emotion and loss. I wonder about that resilience, and you speak about healing, including the whole family. And I know that this touches on a lot of the work that you're doing Wayne and just interested to hear how Cheryl's story is resonating with you and where you see your work intersecting with Cheryl's and how your efforts are directed at healing?

WAYNE: Cheryl, thank you. My heart is full, and also heavy at the same time, but just a lot of celebration. Man, we are such resilient and powerful people. And that's the message I want my life to carry is that you can take your pain and turn it into power, you know, and you can take it and we have choice. Our work, it's so much, you know, at the heart of it, it's so similar because my thing I started my particular organization, after working with a lot of different organizations as a contractor and working mainly like with the city of Oakland, and then I did some work with the city of Flint, too, as a consultant. And one of the things that Cheryl pointed out is that it's not just about the children, it's about the whole family.

And so even in a lot of my work and starting my own organization, one of the things I had was a container called Brothers Behind Mothers. And the reason why is because as we were working with a lot of these, you know, young men caught up in the cycles of violence, a lot of my work was working with the perpetrators and the victims. And so what I started to realize is, this saying came out of it, that we're working with the fruit. But what about the root? Which is the mother's a lot of times, you know, we have so much work, I just have a belief that you know, and even out of my own story, like if, if you would have came in and really took some time to see why like why I was being who I was being at the age of 15, 16, 17 and these early ages, you would have saw my mother was in the hospital for eight months, one year. We were struggling with no finances, P&E was being cut off. And my mom was doing the best she possibly could. She was doing the best she possibly could. She is my She-ro, and she was doing the best with the cards she was dealt but it just wasn't enough. There wasn't resources. Nobody was really coming to help. And so one of my passions have come out of this understanding that, okay, I can sit with a young man. And I've had many of them tell me this over and over, they say, Mr. Clark, I sit with you for an hour or two, and I feel like I can do anything.

Then I go back to the block, and gun violence happens. Now I'm back in fight mode or I go back home, and my mother needs medicine for my little brother. What do I do now? I still know everything you sat and told me. But there's these things going on in my home.

And so one of the things that I looked at when I started my organization, as I said, to work with anybody, I have to do at least one in-home visit to work with us to qualify, because what I've come to understand is when you go to the homes, or go to the community, you'll get the answers on why people were struggling more than anything they'll probably tell you when they can sit down and because they can't really articulate everything that's going on in their lives.

And so in this process of seeing all this, knowing my own story, knowing of all my friends story, it really has become about the family. Because to have this healing work be sustainable, you can't heal one person, and then they go back to the pack. And it's still trauma. So I have a passion about working with the mothers. I've really done a lot of research on what I feel like we're being reactive, so you can look it up, and we have much money on reentry. But then there's not the pro-active work, you know, like Cheryl is talking about working with young people. I mean, I've built this passion where I want to start working with the six- and seven-year-olds, because the times is changing. And these young people are carrying guns and they know all about everything. And they're carrying the trauma and we understand that this path of trauma.

And so when Cheryl talks about the family like that lights my heart because that is what I think I don't see enough, I see a lot of organizations working with the individual. But actually, we need this holistic healing.

I have many young men or young women that you know, we work with them, and then they go back home and the family don't understand what they're trying to do anymore. So there's a lot of alignment, I believe that the healing it really does have to happen holistically. But I think we definitely need to be more pro-active in our work. And I really would like to see more funds and more intention put into that because, and just even talking about healing in our community, it's taboo.

Therapy, when I first got therapy when somebody came to me five years ago and was like, you know, hey, a good mentor, he's like, I'm gonna pay for your six therapy sessions, because the work you do is amazing. But eventually, you need some help, too. And I was like, no way. We don't do therapy. That's for crazy people. That's what I've been taught. And he broke it down to me in a way it was like, and I was like, I'll try it. So I went and it was the most amazing experience in my life. And so then I just been doing therapy at everybody like Oprah, like you get therapy, everybody needs therapy. But sometime I am their therapy, just my showing up in my in my way with my energy and working on myself. And I think we need to concentrate on the mental, the physical, the spiritual, the whole person, you know, and I think there's a disconnect. So mostly everything Cheryl said is I piggyback and it's the same work I'm trying to do.

JILLIAN: Thanks so much for all of that this comprehensive expertise that you both are sharing with us. And I keep hearing your personal stories and how this is giving you what I consider a special expertise. And you also both work in systems of healthcare, and what an amazing insight you have as providers to navigate through communities and understand the populations that you're working with. Both of you work with organizations that are quite different. Cheryl, yours is a massive academic hospital system that is invested in its community and particularly in the community health worker program. And Wayne, you're working with Roots, this community health center that's really mission-driven, rooted in a community and doing work really focused on the needs of that community. So I'm really curious about the day-to-day ways in which you see the systems participating in the healing and addressing, supporting individuals facing violence. Or on the other hand, and where we are still falling short with our systems? And you both have mentioned a little bit of that up to now, but I'm wondering if you could look at it more from that perspective of the system? And maybe Wayne, you could start.

WAYNE: So coming to Roots was like, it was a no brainer for me. I literally sought them out. Dr. Noha Aboelata from Oakland, California, with this vision that connects health or healing, and violence like you know, and, and built this amazing organization, Roots, that offers the person anything they need pretty much from helping people with medicines to therapy. I'm talking to on like on the spot, you can come to this one stop spot where you can almost get help with anything. I mean, if you need a mentor, if you need to talk to somebody, if you need help getting an ID. She looks at all of this as a part of health. And so that was so interesting to me, because I've never seen anything like it. And so in my day-to-day work, I'm actually a life coach. So that's kind of what I do. But the title was in within Roots is Health Navigator and what I like about that, and it was first time I heard it is because Doctor Noha understands that we're helping people navigate their healing. And so that's why it's called a Health Navigator. Because healing, you know, it's step by step, sometimes just getting the ID when nobody in your family, you know, just having somebody around with good energy and good vibes and positive outlook on life. Or it's just having a good example around.

And this is the work that we get to do. So I'm encouraged by some of what I consider some of the individual systems, which I feel like is a small part. But the bigger systems, I think we aren't there yet. I think we're still struggling as a bigger system to get this understanding that health and violence is connected, that people are not just violent, innately. You know, nobody comes out of the womb wanting to do these things, but there's things that happen along the way.

A vision for me really would be where bigger healthcare places will have more people like me and Cheryl sit at the table in some of their bigger meetings, influencing and giving them not just the book stuff. See, you get all the stats. That don't tell you half of the stuff me and Cheryl can tell you what's really going on. So my vision is, what would it look like if Wayne or Cheryl was sitting with a big hospital and had a voice at the table saying, Okay, I know that's what your numbers show. But let me give you some insight on what's really going on there.

And then on the same side, when I'm out here with all of the workers that's doing the street work, what would it look like for somebody from the health care system to come in and actually sit at our tables. So this cross working.

I just believe this separation, where we don't understand that it's all together. There is no separation really. Many of the mothers that show up at hospitals, they don't even know how to identify that their depression, their stress, or whatever it is, is because I lost a son two years ago, they won't even tell you many times because they think it’s normal. So I really would like to see us crossbridge this stuff. And I am so excited to be a part of an organization that's doing it. But I feel like at this point, collectively we're not doing a good job at that. And so I would love to see more of that in the bigger systems.

JILLIAN: Cheryl, is this leading you to have a response to Wayne?

CHERYL: Yeah, I totally agree with you Wayne on having bigger systems involved, especially our health systems involved in in part of the solution, working towards the gun violence. And it's so ironic that you should mention like sitting at the table with some of these big health systems, because for the past year, me and five of my colleagues have been sitting with the Penn Medicine executives, in a mentorship program, where we've been telling them and talking with them about how we would like to see people of color at the table making a decisions about the care of the community that they serve. Because when you don't have that, then you don't have fair and equal treatment and care. You have bias, which I've seen, you have folks that are just out of touch. They're not into reality, like it's so many things. So if we don't have equal representation at the table for decision making. How can we ever move towards changes? Like we're always on a spinning wheel trying to catch up. So that's a program we've been working with over the past year. It's coming to an end soon. And we hope to have some continuation in thatprogram. But I pray that some positive results come from that.

But also getting back to the other things that you mentioned. I also see, you know, as being a community health worker first before going into the manager role. A lot of the folks that we would talk to and meet, visit and help support often dealt with trauma in some type of way. I've had folks tell me that every man in their life touched them. Some of the older ladies, I've had people tell me how they don't have anything to eat at the house. Or you go to the house. And you see the living conditions where they have holes in the ceilings and the walls and you're wondering, why aren't they coming to the doctor where they're trying to get the house together, because it's in bad shape. And they don't want to come outside because you're free to travel because of all of the things that's going on in the streets. So as so many layers, as involved, that relate to gun violence there have to be addressed. And we do we have to get everyone involved in order to work towards some solutions.

But I've even seen because I've participated in a lot of conversations and some other podcasts and some gun violence symposiums. And I'm glad to see now that is becoming more of a conversation and more people are talking about it. But to also see that a lot of the clinicians or providers that are working in the trauma units are also traumatized. They are also traumatized just because they are already in these professions. And you know, they have a nice paycheck, they live in nice places. That doesn't mean that they're not feeling and absorbing all of this happening day after day after day.

Just like Wayne said, we are all affected by this. This is our pandemic. This gun violence is absolutely ridiculous. And I hope, pray that we all come together every entity, every organization, every party that can be a part of solution come together. Because one thing that's not going to happen and I think folks are waiting to happen is that somebody's going to come in and save us. No one's coming in to save us. This has been going on way too long. We have to do this collectively as one. Then we start to see to change.

JILLIAN: And as individuals as people and health care feels like a system. And what it is when you get basic with it is people supporting other people. And I hear so much you're acknowledging the pain and suffering that is existing in health care professionals lives as well. And there's so much that we do to try to shut those feelings down. Obviously, living within communities that are experiencing elevated violence or so many adaptations people have to make just to get through. And we see it in healthcare systems where people become shut down, they lose that human connection. You know, we've talked about the systems and the impact that violence has on health. Cheryl, you mentioned something almost the effect of universal trauma, you know that who hasn't experienced trauma at this point? I'm wondering if either of you can reflect on strategies that you've seen in practice or you yourself practice that help mitigate some of that trauma that is being experienced in communities, or how healthcare professionals might implement these strategies, in the ways in which they're relating to people that come in for care

CHERYL: Well, I think for the health care professionals, for them to be more relatable to the communities that they serve, that they should have cultural competency training, I know that it's usually something that's required, and they may do like a one-time training or something like that. But I think that's something that should be gone ongoing, because you have to understand the populations that you that you serve, like the things that are their customs, so to speak, you have to know the type of things that they go through and deal with in order to be able to treat them and care for them effectively. You just can't treat them or work with them on what you may think that they should receive or what they should react to. If you don't understand where they come from, like you're not that lived experience like me and Wayne are. So you just can't say ‘Oh, well, you know, They're just complaining because they don't want to lose weight and they just keep eating all the junk food.’

But if you're in that environment in that community where they live at, and you see the food choices that they have, and you see the barriers and challenges, then you're not likely to say, ‘Oh, well, they don't care, or they can't do better.’ You, you say, ’How can we make it better?’

I think that's something that would be helpful, especially with the health care providers and providing like quality care, understand the clients that you serve, and where they come from, would be helpful. And then also too, partnering with like, community groups like the Jarell Christopher Seay Love and Laughter Foundation and Roots. These organizations and law enforcement and senior centers and daycares, and schools, work together collectively, on how we can address these issues. Because like Wayne said, working with six- and seven-year-olds, because things are different, they are very different right now. They are very different in our schools and in daycares. Things that would have never happened 5,10 years ago are now happening, where these kids are bringing drugs to school, weapons to school, babies. And we're not talking about teenagers, we’re talking about babies. So we have to start there as well and include them in. And that's something that the Seay Foundation has done in the past, we went into daycares and talked to children about the dangers of firearms. We have to stop, you know, putting folks in silos or oh, well, these are babies, they don't necessarily need to know about this, because they can't understand that. That's not true. We have to include everybody in this to make it better. So your partnerships is very important, as well as the training for health professionals.

JILLIAN: And what do you think Wayne?

WAYNE: Yes, I 1,000% agree with Cheryl. And just to add to that, I think there's an opportunity. Cheryl brought up one of the greatest points for me, and I think you've heard me kind of already talk about this.  As I've looked at people who have done this work, and I'm gonna just call them healers, right? Whether it's people in health care, or people working in the street, helping people heal, we're helpers with people's healing, many times the healer is not getting healed. And so when Cheryl talks about that healthcare person that is struggling with their own stuff, we see it over and over and over. And this is something that scares me really.

I actually have come to my own belief of working around many people who I call my friends, that we have people that run into this work running away from their own work. So it kind of sometimes lets you not focus on your own stuff. But you can feel good about helping by everybody else. That's not sustainable. So I believe, we need more education and more programs for the healers, for those who are actually doing the work. And this is something I am so proud that I've got to be a part of as I've taken this journey. In healing, I'm just understanding that one of the things I tell a lot of people that surprises people with that healing is you know, trauma isn't in your mind. It's in your body.

This simple saying catches so many people off guard. Trauma lives in your body, it is a lived thing. You can say something I can remember my friend being shot 12 years ago, I can feel it right now. Cheryl will testify to this, you can feel it. So it's in our body. So one of the things that has been powerful for me is one of my good friends. We talked about this about five years ago, he’d been working on it. This year, he got a grant, where we brought 10 brothers together from across California, most of them have been incarcerated from L.A. from Oakland to Stockton, been part of gangs, been part of the problem. Let's just say that. But we've all transitioned our life. And we're now doing the work to help our communities. But many of these brothers don't have space to help themselves. So what we did was created create this space called the maroon space. And it's all black men, men of color. Black men in this particular space, and we have had four retreats in Santa Cruz. On weekends. We go up on Friday evenings, and we come back Sunday evenings and it's all doing what's called somatic work. Somatic work is a work that I literally look at it as our ancestors’ kind of work. It's a work where our ancestors didn't have doctors, how did they heal? Well, they knew a wisdom that was in their body, you know, and so many times, our brothers and our sisters, and our healers, and our people are, you know, working with intellect, but there's a higher intelligence that is existing in us that's accessible, that can help you work with stuff. And it's a trip to see some of these brothers who, when you ask them, Where do you feel that in your body, what is your body telling you? They want to go to their heads, but we invite them into, and I'm doing this process to, of tapping into the wisdom of your body, listening to what your body is actually telling you. Many times your body will feel something, you just say, Oh, I had a gut feeling that's a real thing. The gut is the second brain that a lot of people don't understand, you know. And so even bringing that kind of stuff up, just sharing this kind of education about working on our own.

Our own stuff, I think, is one of the big things that I want to see where we're concentrating on getting the healers healing. I've had the opportunity to work with law enforcement.

Kicking and pushing when I first started that work, didn't want to do it. And but I'm always listening to what I call the Mother Harriet Tubman voice that if it says go, I go. That’s my favorite hero. And I went, and it was, it was such a blessing to me, because what I realized is, those are some of the most people that need healing in our world, is law enforcement. The stuff they deal with, like and don't get no help. So all across the board, from our nurses from our street workers from our mothers to when Cheryl says everybody has been impacted by this. Even some of the people that don't recognize when they pushing back on this, there's some trauma there too, you know, it's deep. So this conversation on the healer, getting healed and having access to healing is a big conversation for me. And then, like I said, I do want to continue to think about how we, we really come together collectively, in with saying,

Cheryl talked about our partnering, but don't just partner, but give them partners the same power at some of these meetings, because I see people bring people in to look like a good look. Like okay, Wayne is at the table, but we're not going to listen to anything he really says. But we just want him at the table to be able to say he's at the table. But no, bring people in and value their voices and their wisdom. No, it might not be from a college.

But man, I'm telling you, I have never been to college in my life, y'all, but I've been all over this world. Why? Because once I understood that my experience is something that many organizations don't have access to. You can't get this information. Many people are in those books, and they can read it back and forth, but don't really know how to deal with people. You know the program, I always say, y'all know the programs but don't know people. And that's a problem. You know, so I would really love to see more of our voices valued at the table, you know, actually see follow-through on some of our stuff, but that one with the healer being healed.

Let me say this piece, here's one of the biggest issues, to me, is when we do the work, say myself, let me use myself. And I'm working with these 10 young men, and we're making progress. And then I relapse and leave all 10 of those people what they had hoped for a year. And now I'm going guess what, I re-traumatize them, because they had hope. And I was loving them. And then I did the same thing that every system, everything that has failed them, I did it all over to them again. That's what happened. When you don't take care of yourself as a healer, you can leave these people that you were actually leading and I see this happening all the time. And then people wonder what happened. So sometimes you only get one shot with people. They only trust one person. And if we fail them, then sometimes they'll never give anybody else chance. So that's why I believe it's huge for the healer to actually get help, too.

JILLIAN: Yeah, and just hearing what had to have been an amazing experience for you and the men you've been working with, really makes me think of just how much trust they have in you to put themselves in such a vulnerable position and to trust you enough to open and get into their body and what they're feeling. I think about that kind of experience and what it would be for a health professional to be vulnerable and to be a person themselves in a patient encounter and kind of where that falls away, that ability to be a person relating to another person to provide a space to build trust. I think in so many ways our health care system asks us to completely shut down as people and just address everything like a case or a condition or a complaint. And that heal the healer, I think is a really powerful way to consider it, and hopefully, something that we can see more of in not only our bigger systems like Penn, but in our community health centers as well. I think there must be a tremendous felt burden across all of our systems coming out of COVID feeling the tremendous amount of despair of loss, we've lost over a million people. And we also have a heightening of community violence. And I wonder when you think about your place of work, how are you supporting each other? In your day to day work? Are these conversations happening with your colleagues? And if so, what are you doing for each other?

CHERYL: For us, we take time and set aside and have fun time, like fun Fridays. Just for instance, everybody got a paint kit and a blank canvas and a little easel and we'd had a couple of hours, towards the end of the workday on a Friday, and we all painted a picture, which was a lot of fun. And you have to have that break, as a helper working in that role. Because you can burn out most definitely, you can definitely burn out after visiting and seeing and feeling the things that your patients go through that you have to deal with on a daily basis. So you need that little breakaway time. We've also done activities where we've done ax throwing, we will go and throw an ax, get that frustration out. We've done outings to amusement park. So at our center, we do take time, we'll set aside dates or whatever, to do fun things just to kind of relax and just talk with one another, sometimes bring our families in, depending on the event, and just to get that break in and just to enjoy one another, for who we are outside of talking about the patients or, you know, dealing with the doctors or the nursing staff or whatever. Just to be ourselves. And that's helpful. You know, for us, that's what we do.

WAYNE: Yeah, I love that fun. That's the key. I don't think we even use that word in a lot of our work is you don't hear fun. No, don't you dare. But I think at Roots, there's a culture, that's very intentional. You know, honestly, it's still hard in our communities to try to sustain it. But I think that no highest set a culture where first and foremost, I think we do a lot of education in our in our monthly trainings. And throughout the week she has implemented where we do trainings that are for the staff, you know, here's how this can be showing up in your work. Pay attention to this for yourself, not for the client, and you know, and so I love that about the trainings. She's made the therapist that we have at Roots accessible to the staff, which was one of the big ones for me, now that that's a whole thing within itself because I think everybody right now I know in the Black community therapists are thin because people are finally saying with COVID I need some help, and I can't do all of the stuff and so but I think it's amazing that we have access as a staff to therapists and then creating spaces for fun. We do outings.

We have a yearly get together. We have things that we do on a on a regular to try to create spaces. And I think one of the conversations that has come up is you know in my own life is I tell people I take care of Wayne first. I do not know another black man that takes care of himself more than me. And I'm proud to say that, but it hurts my heart to say that I like I looked at my life. And I say, okay, my first dedication is to my children, how can I be the best father to and what it all pointed back to with me taking care of me. And I had never really heard this. And even in my spaces, were especially talking to my elderly brothers. Like it just they bring it up, like, young brother, y'all have access to things and you're blessed to have somebody, we couldn't even, we were surviving, you know, you all have access to things. So I just love talking about some of these things. But I think it really starts with educating people on how important it is to take care of you, you know, and so I think Roots does a great job with that.

But individually, I’m very fit. I tell people all the time, I don't even go to the gym for my body. I go from my mind, and my body just reaps the rewards, you know. But I'm going because I know what I'm carrying. And I know what my purpose is. And so, to be the best me for my kids first, then the son to my mother and then, to help to my community and to help to the world, I need to be good for me. So I take time I treat myself to movies, I treat myself to nature, I treat myself to travel, which is my favorite thing, but I make sure I take care of me. And so I'm trying to be an example of that. And I think is doing good. Because a lot of brothers and a lot of my people in my community are started saying, I didn't even really know that was a way that was, you know, a choice. And that's a word, just the fact that we have choice. Some we don't even I don't think we know we have choice, that this is a way that you can actually live. Like I tell people, I take myself to the movies, they'd be like, what I'd like it's something I really enjoy, I go sit my butt in the back of the movie all by myself and watch. Find whatever that one, it ain't got to be a big thing, find something that really gives you joy, and get you disconnected from everything. And do a little bit of it for yourself, you know. So I think that self-care, is, you know, huge. And so, I think that that is that is where we're headed. And I think we got to do a much better job at it.

JILLIAN: I appreciate you both very much. And given everything we've discussed today, I'm wondering if you have any final thoughts that you'd like to leave with our listeners?

CHERYL: I would encourage everyone to get involved in some type of way in your community, rather, is to volunteer or it's not always about having to give money because folks may not have it, but you can give your time, an hour or two, whatever it is to be a help in what's going on in our world today. No, we can't solve every problem. We can't fix everything. But even just that one little thing is helpful to someone. And it's also helpful to you as well. So I would encourage everyone to get involved in some type of way and whatever it is that they enjoy, or being helpful with to do that. And also to remember the motto of the Jarell Christopher Seay Love and Laughter Foundation and that is let love be the power that rules you. So with that when you have the love in your heart and kindness and you let it take over, then you will have the positive outcomes.

WAYNE: Beautiful. Yeah, I want to sit with that for a minute. Thank you, Cheryl. Yeah, for me, I just like to encourage everybody to understand that. We all have gifts. I don't care what you been through. In the beginning of my journey. My biggest battle was guilt and shame for all the people that are harmed, but I had to do some work through that. And I had to realize that I am not the things I did. I made some decisions. So I'm speaking to one particular group of people, sometimes questioning how do I serve? It was the first time somebody invited me to speak that lit a light in my heart to understand oh, this is my thing. Oh, I have I have something in me. So, but speaking to like the bigger organizations that might listen to this or the people that are like kind of outside looking in and wonder how I can be a part because I'm starting understanding there's a lot of that I had somebody telling me about a month ago, Wayne until I met you, I felt like I was looking up at the freeway and didn't know how to enter into helping 

I want to say this, be really intentional. You're intentional about a lot of things in your life. If you really want to help, be intentional by researching and find a way, there's a Cheryl, there's a Wayne, there's a Roots. There's an organization where you can talk with somebody, I don't care if you come from the wealthiest community. And you've never been to one of these kinds of communities. But be more intentional about trying to help because there are many people sitting on the sidelines, who really want to help and just feel like they don't know where to enter. And I would just encourage to be more intentional, there is so much that you can be. And like Cheryl said, the love is needed. Our world needs love and light, and that's what I'm committed to being a part of the love and light.

JILLIAN: I'd like to sit with Cheryl's motto myself. Let the love be the power that leads you. Thank you both so much. Thank you for digging into this very challenging topic, sharing all of your gifts, all of the vision and hope that you see. And also the reality of how you know how these day-to-day struggles affect people. So, I appreciate you both very much. Thank you.

CHERYL: Thank you for having us.

WAYNE: Yes, definitely.



Support for this episode comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is part of an award totaling $550,000 with zero percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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At the Core of Care is produced by Stephanie Marudas of Kouvenda Media and mixed by Brad Linder. 

I'm Sarah Hexem Hubbard of the Pennsylvania Action Coalition. 

Thanks for joining us.