#Diversity? — What “Solidarity” Really Looks Like


If we could read the secret history of our enemies,

We should find in each man’s life sorrow and

Suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What would solidarity look like if national peer-run mental health organizations and other national leaders came out with statements in support of other movements’ struggle for freedom from oppression?

Doing so before tragedy — or when in need of signatures — shows good will and solidarity.  I saw leaders hop on the bandwagon when mass murders took place in Orlando, if only in the interest of furthering the agenda to fight the Murphy bill.

The appearance of looking out for self-interest has a damaging effect when it comes to others who fight “in solidarity” with us. Forming true solidarity requires more than an occasional blog or a thought piece.

Solidarity is more than a retweet or hashtag!

The Western Mass Recovery Learning Center (WMRLC) has shown amazing leadership around organizing and showing up for people of color, and taking a stance on police brutality and racism.

“The truth is that the RLC is, in large part, about healing, growth and empowerment for people who’ve experienced psychiatric diagnosis, extreme states, *trauma* and a variety of other life-interrupting challenges … And, Racism *IS* trauma, and it certainly interrupts many lives.”

“How could we ever separate healing in general from healing racism?”

—  The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community

Our communities have yet to truly get together.  What would it look like if we were truly unified in solidarity?  We certainly would not have powerful national organizations co-opting this movement and positioning themselves to make millions based on the intellectual property — the thoughts and processes — created by thought leaders of this movement.  We would have community-based centers providing intentional support, open 24 hours a day, instead of crowded jail cells holding people in pain.  It wouldn’t be easy, but we have to do it.

Solidarity also helps decrease racism within communities. Racism isn’t free, and for those that remain silent in the face of death and oppression the costs are high. Your freedom becomes precarious the longer you are silent, while others are being subjugated to oppression in any manner.  The benefits and payoffs of opposing racism and oppression are getting smaller now than ever before in history.  This is not a club you want to belong to.

As we remain silent in the mental health community, with little public statement or show of solidarity, we continue to erase the voices of many in our community. Make no mistake: we lose as a community.  Erasing and ignoring the struggles of Blacks and other people of color in the mental health communities costs us heavily.  We lose funding for our organizations, we have splintered leadership, and no one is truly speaking for those who truly have no voice.  We need unity and solidarity within our movement and with other movements.

The last three years have been painful for this country.  From the murder of Trayvon Martin, the trial of George Zimmerman, the love letter from Alicia Garza asking us if black lives mattered, to the public humiliation of Mike Brown’s lifeless body lying in the street on a hot summer day for hours. This pain is intricately intertwined with the mental health community.

Today marks the second anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.  As we are holding Mike Brown in our memory we also ask that we each hold solidarity close to our hearts. We all deserve to be held accountable before our peers, and not face imminent death at the hands of arresting officers.
Only the ability to reach across the divided line of race, and hold each others’ pain as our own can lead to true healing.

Many Black folks murdered within the last few years carried diagnoses of “mental illness.”  There have also been many white folks murdered by officers across the country as well. We should be standing in solidarity with movements fighting law enforcement oppression — instead of fighting them — because they have announced they will no longer stand for murder, and that their lives matter.

We can form a national community of solidarity, and a shared common destiny — inwardly and outwardly — that can be on the forefront of the fight for freedom from oppression.  We have to first decide what the cost of silence is within the mental health community. Is it a price we are willing to pay? Are we willing and able to model reaching across any and all divides in the pursuit of freedom for all?

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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    • I very much appreciate your saying: “Forming true solidarity requires more than an occasional blog or a thought piece.”

      “Solidarity is more than a retweet or hashtag!” Yes!

      I’m glad that you held up the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community as an example of feet on the ground work that is being done. I’m wondering if Mad in America readers have other examples to answer your question: “What would it look like if we were truly unified in solidarity?”

      Western Mass has one of few peer respites across the country. I’d like to see peer respites in Mass that could be accessible to people in Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn, Fall River, Brockton and other urban communities. I agree with you that in Solidarity “We would have community-based centers providing intentional support, open 24 hours a day, instead of crowded jail cells holding people in pain. It wouldn’t be easy, but we have to do it.”

      I commit to working to make this dream a reality, not just a re-tweet but a fact. I know there are many others in Massachusetts who share this commitment. M-Power.org is one place where we might grows as a movement that has its feet on the ground.

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      • True solidarity this month should include everyone who professes to be part of any “movement” for the better calling up their two Senators and insisting on explaining to them why they should vote against Murphy.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the Senate announces a vote on the Friday before Labor Day for the upcoming week, just as the House did the Friday before July 4th. All
        the “advocates” were on vacation then, and they’re likely to be again. And people were chit-chatting away on MIA about everything except the urgent warning announcements “Surviving & Thriving” and I were trying to put out.

        Are we going to let them pull this off again?

        I’d like to see people at MIA start pledging to make these calls and creating some peer pressure for others to do the same. Any good reason why anyone here should slack off on doing such a minor thing?

        Tweet this, please.

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        • Thank you Oldhead. You are absolutely right!

          Let’s get the word out and not be lulled into complacence by news reports that the Senate version is dead because of fights over gun owners rights.

          Your Friday before Labor day theory should give us enough fear to get this done! Yes, I commit to making those calls and getting at least ten of my friends to make them too.

          Thank you for pushing us to action!

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          • I realized way too late for comfort that nothing would come from assuming that there were “mh advocates” out there talking 24/7 to the “right” people with the “right” arguments. Well, the “surprise” House vote was 422-2. What’s that say? (I understand the dissenting votes were from libertarian Republicans.)

            There must be 50 or so people posting any given day plus other people silently reading along. If any congressperson got 50-100 calls or more in a given time period saying the same things I think there would be a percentage who might reconsider, or at least agree that more investigation is in order. Because the House vote was railroaded through under a provision for quick votes on bills deemed “non-controversial.” I’m not generally much for legislative approaches but I don’t think it would be impossible for us to generate some of that controversy in congressional minds.

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          • “House vote was 422-2.”

            Isn’t this just a means of placing a moratorium on the Bill without exposing the silent dissenting voices? If they knew as a result of an open vote who did not agree with the Bill, might not pressure be brought to bear on those people? So I don’t know that it is as grim as that vote would have people believe.

            It may be that there is a silent majority who want to hear the arguments before showing their hands against.

            I hope so anyway.

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          • Boans — No, the House vote is a done deal. We know who the two “no’s” are and should be reaching out to them. Next comes the Senate.

            Judging from what Justin reported hearing, we should keep them fighting over the details as long as possible; that gives us more time to unify the opposition.

            BTW I hear some people want us to support the Senate bill as “kinder and gentler” or something, but unless someone presents a very convincing argument my belief is that we should Just Say No!

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        • P.S. Though the Labor Day thing is speculation some of us are trying to stay on top of this; as soon as a likely date is in the works we will be doing our best to keep people up to date. Of course they should be trying to do so on their own too.

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        • Give me a new hashtag and I can tweet it! I have made calls, written blogs and hosted meetings around Murphy. The organization has not been consistent nor involved enough on a grass roots level. Those that want Murphy defeated need to organize on a local level and get folks from many communities involved. Right now most of the folks I know don’t understand the Murphy bill nor the implications. There needs to be more edication a grassroots level.

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  1. Thanks
    Great idea
    I have had the same thoughts and ideas
    Go for it
    I also would like your thoughts on how us folks coming from a priveleged status can attain the best skills to work with others
    I have found that being in the system is a great equalizer in terms of entering the world of marginalization
    I understand more than I did as a professional but still want to be sure to create
    a good relationship with others of my peers
    I tried to propose a center and it fell on on the deadwood and I found it hard not to be in community
    Still do
    It would be good to have that support

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  2. There is rarely any problem in America the psycho politicians don’t think they can solve with more authoritarianism. I would rather live in a world with crime and problems than omnipotent authority all over them place.

    We should be standing in solidarity with movements fighting law enforcement oppression — instead of fighting them

    The right wingers are all about liberty and fighting government sponsored oppression too and they are good at it but they tend to walk away or even fight these causes when the left starts talking about gun control and inflicting socialism on everyone.

    Once you put faces like those of Crooked Hillary Clinton and friends on these movements too many people are like screw it.

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      • I see right through divide and conquer but you all better start framing this thing as good vs evil or right vs wrong or something.

        More than 60 organizations associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have released a series of demands on Monday,

        The list of six platform demands https://policy.m4bl.org/invest-divest/ Here is where I got the demands link http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/02/us/politics/black-lives-matter-campaign.html

        Fossil fuels ?

        You mean make me pay more for gas ?

        #4 A constitutional right at the state and federal level to a fully-funded education ?

        You mean a right to force me to pay for it ?

        Free health services (including reproductive body autonomy)

        Make me an accomplice to baby killing by forcing me to pay for it unless I refuse to pay taxes ?

        Free daycare !

        Let me just work all say so the government can spend it babysitting other peoples kids

        “We demand economic justice for all” https://policy.m4bl.org/economic-justice/

        Is this Black Lives Matters or Karl Marx Matters ?

        I don’t have all night to pull this apart but if you think turning America into Venezuela is going to help it wont.

        I agree with 85% of what I read on that demand list but the 15% is what drives so many people away.

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  3. Great blog! thanks for sharing. Per your statement “Forming true solidarity requires more than an occasional blog or a thought piece.” I wholeheartedly agree, but please don’t disparage the efforts of people who are so busy just trying to survive that they have no time to contribute to the movement except for an occasional blog or a thought piece. Sometimes, helping someone navigate out of a brutal system of forced/coerced care is a full time job that can be crushing at times. The occasional blog or thought piece from individuals who are institutionalized, under AOT, or from their allies who are in a double bind trying to support them, is as welcome and as inspiring to me as letters from Birmingham Jail. These blogs and thought pieces sometimes are my oly source of hope and hope is what I personally need to survive for the battles that lie ahead! Not everyone has the leisure of attending protest rallies every month, writing to their senators, etc. Sometimes sheer survival is the only political statement that a person in crisis can make. I hope to soon join you in meaningful discussions about how to organize and unify. Just not there yet.

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  4. Hey Iden,

    Just got a chance to read this. 🙂 Thanks for calling out the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community. We are *for sure* still trying to figure out how to ‘show up’ better, but I continue to feel baffled by people who seem to think these are all totally ‘separate’ issues that shouldn’t be addressed together. I remember the comments I got of that nature when I blogged here about Michael Brown, and Baltimore, etc. It’s so incredibly discouraging.

    Looking forward to working with you more in this direction 🙂


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  5. The most ardent socialists and revolutionary communists in the USA are also black.

    Always the revolutionary verve is strongest amongst the most reviled.

    This is why Jews were attracted to the revolutionary struggle in Russia. Finally the promise of a non-racist life. But how long was it until the communists, now in power, backtracked on their promises are resumed the killing and the persecution?

    All political idealists are jackals at heart. Whether they be fascist, communist or libertarian. They’ll save your soul while simultaneously selling it.

    Who is selling communism to the black community?

    There is only one system that has ever given humanity a glimpse of freedom and that is democracy. It is and will forever be imperfect but it does allow for change, often quite radical, and it is the promise to children that only civilised adults can keep.

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