CHN grew out of the belief that sharing stories creates a pathway to healing. By sharing, we discover that we are not alone. We discover that our feelings are justified, that they do not have to limit or define us, and that we can heal.
Enola Aird’s vision for CHN began to take shape in the early 1980s. In a nightclub in Washington, D.C., Enola saw a woman look at herself in a mirror, oblivious to her surroundings, and say: “Here you are DeeDee. Old, Black, and ugly, as usual.” Enola felt DeeDee’s pain, and then felt the pain turn to anger. She felt the direct connection between those words and the narrative that lies at the heart of so many lost hopes, dreams, and lives: the idea that Blackness is inferior. As Enola pursued her career in law and non-profits, DeeDee’s words haunted her. She repeated them when she talked with friends about the challenges facing the Black community. She remembered them every time she read a news report about the seemingly unending struggle for racial justice. She especially recalled them as she worried about the epidemic of violence among young people in many Black communities in the early 2000s.
In 2006, Enola founded CHN in New Haven, CT, to build a long-needed infrastructure for freedom from this narrative. Over the years, each member of CHN’s board has joined Enola because of a personal resonance with her vision, and because of the concrete steps she’s taken to make it a reality. We have all experienced the transformative potential of emotional emancipation.
For over a decade, CHN has been creating innovative healing strategies, mobilizing volunteers, and forging crucial collaborations. We’ve created spaces to heal from the trauma of anti-Black racism, and free ourselves from its root causes, so that people across the Diaspora can be empowered to move beyond surviving to flourishing.
Anti-Black racism was invented centuries ago to justify the enslavement of African people and the exploitation of Africa’s land and resources. In the 1400s, Europeans began creating a hierarchy of humanity that placed Whiteness at the top and Blackness at the bottom. To enrich Europe and the United States, this hierarchy was institutionalized. Black people were objectified, commodified, and dehumanized.
For almost a millennium, the advantages conferred by “Whiteness” and the disadvantages imposed upon “Blackness” have been multiplying. Despite our resilience, our relentless strides toward equality, and our individual economic and political successes, this lie is still with us. It is at the root of the stereotypes and biases that shape people’s perceptions of us, and worse, our perceptions of ourselves. It is at the root of the systemic inequalities we face all around the world.
According to the United Nations (2015), people of African descent across the globe are among the “poorest and most marginalized groups” who “have limited access to quality education, health services, housing, and social security, and all too often experience discrimination in their access to justice, and face alarmingly high rates of police violence, together with racial profiling.”
Black lives will continue to be devalued unless we free ourselves, our children, and the world with the truth.