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Crucial Conversations: Bibb County Schools counselor on current climate, importance of mental health

Afrika Hamilton is a counselor at Howard Middle School.

MACON, Ga. — Crucial Conversations are happening in our community that are broadening the ways that we think. Wanya Reese talked with Afrika Hamilton, a school counselor at Howard Middle School, about her views on the current racial climate and other topics.

Wanya Reese:  We have seen it across the news for the past couple of weeks. Racial tensions have just been really high right now, but what is your opinion on what's going on? 

Afrika Hamilton: I think for me, my personal opinion is it is a time where all of us can come together, I am very excited for those that have been using their platforms to broadcast Black Lives Matter. I feel like in a sense of police brutality, it is that time where not only us as black women and men, but just whites to come together (also) to push this, because in a sense of it is that time to kill that racial tendency between us as men and woman in the United States of America.

As we approach the start of school, Hamilton has already been proactive in getting ready. 

WR: Going into this school year, kids always ask a lot of questions. As a counselor, how are you going to deal with that? What is your mindset going into the school year?

AH: So I think I've had a really good experience in the sense of, I've been able to teach a mental wellness class this summer with Upward Bound, and even though they are not my middle school students, they are high school students up- and-coming seniors, and just kind of getting an insight on how they're thinking as our young students within Macon, Georgia. So some of the things, I have a thing called 'Hot Topics,' and I ask them, 'What are some of the things you want to talk about during our hour sessions on Tuesday and Thursday?' one of the things was dealing with the cultural climate within our country, and also just kind of learning how to deal with anxiety, I feel like a lot of the young people want to speak out but don't have a platform to speak out.

Hamilton hopes counselors can help bridge the gap for adults and kids who are having trouble coping during this pandemic. 

WR: Mental health is so important. Why do you feel mental health is not only important for minorities but everybody? 

AH: I feel like mental health has always been important,but that is just the counselor in me talking. I feel like it is one of those things have been neglected and I feel like people are now seeing the importance of mental health, self-care self-awareness, one of the things I have (done) is cognitive thinking so the way that you think, the way, that you act, then that turns into emotion, so I think that is one of those things teaching our kids and teaching our staff strategies, this is a very heavy time, especially coming from COVID-19 -- pretty much working in isolation and not being around people and ending our school year very abruptly to going into police brutality, and the way the climate of the world in the sense of rioting, protesting, and so I think it is important to pay attention to how we are feeling within our body.

WR: Lately, we have seen a lot of people apologizing -- what do you think about the power of an apology?

AH: People say things and that is truly how they feel, so to come back, especially people in power, the apology kind of came after the fact, but it does not change how you feel about the situation. You apologized because you knew you had to because you are going to lose your following or your financial backing or different things. You are going to lose your supporters, but for you to say something of that extent, I feel like you truly meant that.

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