Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review [Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing]

Had this book been a million pages I would have read every one and this book could very well have been because the stories of the actual happenings  and the scars that this part of world history has left, “the full has never been told”. I knew Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) was a keeper because when an author brings me to sobbing tears in the first chapter it has to pack a power that is worth internalizing.

With six very brief chapters in a little over two hundred pages Dr. Joy Degruy Leary employs your thought processes, not with a history lesson, but with a cultural evaluation that touches who you, your family, your community, the people on your job and your country have been in reality for the past 400 years. Among the many questions that may cross your mind as you are captivated in the pages are: How much of this mind programming from slavery do I still manifest in my life? How has my relationships and everyday interactions with people of European descent been affected by this history of oppression? Wow! Did they really do that?

Dr. Joy Degruy Leary defines the last 385 years of life in America for people of African descent as, “Being undesirable strangers in the only land we know…and many Black people still believe the White people mean them harm.” Thus, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is multi-generational trauma and oppression with the absence of opportunity and equal access to society’s benefits.” PTSS encompasses several components, Vacant Esteem, Ever Present Anger, Racists Socialization which results in issues of abuse in the family and community, Ineffectual Parenting, Violence and Educational Disillusionment. Among these components, the one that gave rise as an immediate need to evaluate was Vacant Self Esteem. Note esteem is not a feeling. As Dr. Joy Degruy Leary explains, it is you knowing your value to yourself, family, community  and world. In other words, what is your purpose? She states that the groundwork for esteem begins at birth. The value of the child must be acknowledged by the family with smiles, hugs, kisses, words of praise, encouragement, opportunity to serve and shown appreciation for their services. Every adult I know needs this as well. Dr. Joy Degruy Leary also inundates the reader with a series of questions for measuring your worth. How much do you contribute to the success of others? To what degree is the world a better place because of  your existence? Hmmmm?

In the chapter, Slavery’s Children, Dr. Joy Degruy Leary interweaves a practical analysis of direct and easily identifiable scenarios that will open your eye to the truth of the syndrome being very real for many people of African and European descent. Do you fall into one of the health statistics of HBP, HIV, diabetes, obesity, homicide or abortions? Have you ever had or continue to have dysfunctional relationships? Have you ever felt shame for being Black?

Dr. Joy Degruy Leary doesn't just talk about PTSS as a problem, she offers real time solutions for both African and European Americans because it affects us all. The last chapter is simply entitled, Healing. The layers of work involved in the process of healing covers personal, family, community, culture, country and world. For the self, it is ever so relevant that Dr. Joy Degruy Leary starts this chapter with her return “home” to Africa.  Many have found healing from slavery’s deprivations begins with this journey. She was told by a sister in South Africa, “Did you think that we would forget you? I am from Lesotho, Lesotho is my home. If I leave Lesotho, Lesotho is still my home…we are so proud of you, we just wondered when you were coming home.” In her encouragement for the healing of our communities and culture she adds, “How is it that a people who suffer generation upon generation from abuses such as these and more still manage to rise! We are a people of uncommon strength and fortitude. …if we are to move ahead and thrive we need to truly understand and accept who we are as a people.”

As a professional writer, no doubt from her many years of education to become a doctor, Dr. Joy Degruy Leary provides a sequence that makes the writing flow easily and keeps the pages turning. Also that professional air comes through on just a few words that you may have to pull the dictionary out for. The bibliography and references compiles a list of some of the best historical writers and text on the experiences and historical accounts of slavery and its aftermath.

In conclusion, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is a book to teach the children from. Dr. Joy Degruy Leary says we must make sure that our beliefs are working for us every day. We believe then perceive the world in the way that validates our beliefs. What do you believe about being who are you, and what will you teach your child to believe? She also wanted us to KNOW, “the road to life is long and hard and you should not try to walk it alone. You need people to help you along the way.” Dr. Joy Degruy Leary has gifted the world with a functional text to acknowledge and heal from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.
                                                   “Kasserian Ingera!” – The Masai

Dr. Akua Gray
November 17, 2013

Accra, Ghana

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