Welcome and introduction

In honor of Black History Month, we highlight the efforts of psychologists of color to find equal space and voice in APA.

February has long been known as Black History Month, an opportunity to honor the history, culture and heritage of African Americans in this country. During this time, we are often reminded of the sacrifices that were made to help pave the way for an African-American man to ascend to the most powerful office in this country, president of the United States. We hear about the sit-ins, the marches, the unlawful imprisonments, the struggle for basic human dignities and the fight to not only survive but to thrive. As an African-American woman, I can gratefully admire the strength and fortitude exhibited by those generations that came before, which afforded me the luxury to enjoy “the little things” that I take for granted on a daily basis; freely using the public ladies room, sitting at the counter to order a cup of tea at my local coffee shop or even reading and writing in public. However, as a psychologist, I must consider the enormous personal costs to health and wellness that were often endured. Unfortunately, the fight for complete equality in this country is not over and the emotional and physical toll of daily encounters with racial oppression is manifested in significant health disparities among African Americans and other people of color in this country.

This February, OEMA, through its Ethnicity and Health in America Series (EHAS) is raising awareness about the physiological and psychological impact of stress as it relates to racism and discrimination. Although the chronic condition of stress can have negative side effects on people of all races, the unique psycho-social and contextual factors, specifically the common and pervasive exposure to racism and discrimination, creates an additional daily stressor for many African-Americans. A full description of OEMA’s forum, Race Related Stress among African Americans: How to identify and cope with daily microaggression, organized in honor of Black History Month is included in the OMEA updates along with a brief discussion of other recent OEMA activities and calls.

As we consider African-Americans’ experience of racism and continued fight for complete equity in this country, it seems only fitting to discuss the efforts of psychologists of color to find equal space and voice in APA. In this issue, we feature a commentary by the 2011 Chair of APA’s Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA), Miguel Gallardo, PsyD, on the vote to amend APA’s By-Laws to include seats for the four major Ethnic Minority Psychological Associations. This was an issue about which CEMA felt very strongly. In fact, a campaign to education APA’s membership about the amendment and the need to vote was spearheaded by CEMA members, particularly Gallardo and Dr. Iva GreyWolf. For many, the results of the vote were disappointing to say the least. In his analysis, Gallardo speaks to the need for healing and offers a hopeful look toward a more diverse and integrated APA. In complete alignment with this vision, we provide an update on the most recent meeting between APA’s president and the presidents of the four Ethnic Minority Psychological Associations. Finally, we provide a summary of Division 45’s (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) efforts to find a comfortable identity by considering a name change in What’s in a name? APA's Division 45 Set to Consider Potential Options.

As always, I want to thank the staff of OEMA for their continued effort to produce the work of our office. I also want to extend a very heartfelt thank you to Dr. Gallardo for his contribution and GreyWolf and Dr. Helen Neville of CEMA for their editorial feedback on the commentary. I would also like to thank Drs. McDonald, Trimble and Vazquez of Division 45 for their piece on Division 45’s potential name change. Without their contributions this issue would not have been possible.

I hope you have enjoyed the observances of Black History Month this year and that it has fed your mind and spirit. Understanding the history and heritage of African-Americans is not just a “Black thing.” It reminds us all that the struggle for an equal space and an equal voice in this country is long and certainly not over. As psychologists of color we must continue the fight in our communities and in our professional organizations. In the spirit of Gallardo’s commentary, our ancestors sacrificed for it and our descendants demand it.

Tiffany G. Townsend, PhD
Senior Director of OEMA