Phoenix House Celebrates Black History Month in California

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Poster for Black History Month by a Student at Phoenix House Academy of Los AngelesWhy is Black History Month so important? In order for us to become more engaged, compassionate and aware, we need to remember the injustices of the past, and the neglected achievements that may have gone unnoticed. Most importantly, we need to celebrate our collective successes continue, step by step, to change the cultural landscape of America, creating a more tolerant, free, and multi-cultural society.

All Phoenix House behavioral health programs  in California featured special celebrations, events, exhibitions, lectures, and meetings this month. Click the following link for a description of selected programs that truly celebrated the creative contributions of African Americans to the world we live in.

Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles

During the entire month of February, Phoenix House Academy of Los Angeles residential treatment program for teens with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders celebrated Black History Month in many ways. At our fully-accredited high school, Black History topics were incorporated into the curriculum for all classes. Every teacPoster for Black History Month by Phoenix House Academy Studenther taught class lessons that exposed our clients to people and issues of Black History, including inventors, writers, social activists and more. Throughout the month our clients listened to presenters speaking about Civil Rights and the Civil War. Phoenix House Academy also organzied a “Black History Month Essay and Art Contest” for students who could write an essay or make a portrait of a famous African American. Thanks to the contest, the school was enriched by several amazing works of art, literature, and poetry reflecting the influence of Black History on America. The artwork will be used to decorate the classrooms.

Phoenix House Venice

At our Residential Treatment Program for Men in Venice, CA, on the 28th of February, clients and staff  gathered for a Black History Month (BHM) Presentation including essays, poems, and artworks created by the clients. The essays discussed major issues and personalities in Black History, such as the New Jim Crow study by Michelle Alexander, the original “Hannibal” – ancient general, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, and Malcolm X. The 10 presentaters were judged by their peers who voted to give the first prize for the passionate recitation of the “I have a dream…” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event also included a soul food dinner, and African American music. In addition, Dr. Maja Trochimczyk, Phoenix House’s Senior Director of Planning,who is a well-known poet and music historian, presented some of her published poems, including “Look at me…” ” that celebrates the beautiful voice of an incomparable jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, singing Misty: “The dark honey of Ella’s voice/filled the valley with a golden sheen…” Dr. Trochimczyk also wrote a new poem for this occasion, celebrating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad that brought thousands of runaway slaves to freedom.

Elizabeth Stanley-Salazar, VP and Director of Clinical Services, gave out certificates, gift cards and book prizes to competition participants. She commented: “The first Annual Venice Center Black History Month Poetry and Essay Jam was an enormous success. The 10 clients who presented opened their minds, hearts and souls to the community and expressed their dreams, pain and hope to all of us. This was only made possible through the safety and trust created by the rest of the community through attention, support and respect.” She praised the wonderful dinner, the efforts of other Phoenix House staff and concluded: “You always know a party is good when nobody wants to leave. Community broke into dance following the presentations.”

Phoenix House CVSP Treatment Program

On Friday, February 22, 2013, Phoenix House clients and staff celebrated the Black History Month with an event entitled “The Dream…to Achievement” at the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe.  The event started from reading the famous speech, “I have a dream…” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an introduction of one way in which Dr. King’s dream was achieved – in the Presidency of Mr. Barack Obama.  One of the participants in the program read a brief biography of President Obama, followed by an excerpt from his inaugural speech of 2012.

After this tribute to the heroes of the past and present, the celebration became interactive:  A Trivia Game focused on African-American Success Storeis and Inventions.  Did you know that Dr. King changed his first name as a young boy from Michael to Martin? Many people are aware by now that George Washington Carver invented the peanut butter and over 400 other plant products. But di"Cry me a River" artwork by Phoenix House's Client A. Bartholomewd you know that Otis Boykin was the creator of 28 electronic devices, used in computers and even a pacemaker?  Or, on a lighter note, that Lonnie G. Johnson invented the Supersoaker watergun? Participants could learn that W. A. Martin patented a lock in 1889, and P.B. Downing invented and patented the street mailbox. Elijah McCoy patented the lawn sprinkler and Frederick M. Jones invented the air conditioning unit for the refrigerated truck…

Finally, the CVSP Black History Month Celebration included testimonials by program participants and artists, including M. Bartholomew, who created a colored pencil drawing, “Cry me a River” to express his remorse about the things he did under the influence of drugs.  Men talked about the role of art as a way to improve their lives, express their concerns about their past, commitment to self-improvement. They also want to use their talents to beautify the space around them and in this way give back to the community.  Mr. Christopher Wellington commented: “Art is an important means of behavioral modification and leads to changed thinking and successful rehabilitation. Our purpose at Phoenix House Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program is to help men recognize the errors in what we call ‘criminal-addictive thinking’ and learn new ways of interacting with the world, and contributing in a positive fashion to the community.”

For more information about our behavioral health treatment programs, or to refer someone in need for admission to our substance abuse or mental health services for adolescents  or adults at Phoenix House facilities in California, please call our Call Center at 1 888 671 9392. We are here to help you find the information and services you need!

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