Ujima met with Vicky Coffee-Fletcher to discuss the Hogg Foundation has supported the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference and the impact it makes in the community.
Ujima: Thanks Vicky for taking time to meet with me today. Tell me a little about the Hogg Foundation.
Vicky: The Hogg Foundation was started 75 years ago by Ima Hogg and her brother Will Hogg. She was the only daughter of Governor Jim Hogg, a native born Texan, who became governor. The family was left some land and it struck oil. Because they felt they earned the money from the soil they also felt the money should go back to the community.
Due to the foundations advocacy of consumer work and recovery it has become more aware that Ms. Ima (who was lovely called) most likely lived with depression. She left a large part of her endowment to Children Mental Health in Houston. I manage the Ima Hogg Endowment in Houston. She was a big advocate for ensuring children of color had services. The family has a stronger presence in the Houston area. I am a part of the Division of Diversity and Community engagement at University of Texas. For more information about the history, visit http://hogg.utexas.edu/about/history.
I am also the Program Officer for a Houston Area Faith based initiative that funds Black churches to educate their community about Mental Health in the Black community. The grant covers five churches in Houston, four in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and one in Taylor, Texas. The grant is used to get the word out about mental health , recovery and connect with local Mental Health resources in their community.
Ujima: How long have you been a part of the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference (CTAAFS)?
Vicky: I have been a part of the conference since theinception in 2000.
Ujima: What has the conference meant to you?
Vicky: For me it means we are continuing to educate the Black community about mental health. As a people, we are familiar with the prominent issues that we suffer and are more comfortable discussing such as diabetes, breast cancer, more physical ailments. But there is still a big stigma and it is important to continue because we have so much outreach to do. The conference allows professionals to be in same room with consumers and families that have the living experience and learn with them.
It helps with the education of the person needing an active voice and role in their treatment. The biggest gain for me is professionals letting their guard down and getting to talk and be involved with the person that is living with Mental Health everyday. Every year I think we are there but then you hear people still speaking with the old frame of thought .
The conference is built around empowering families. The conference also provides a professional piece where cultural competency can be discussed. It an opportunity for professonals to share how to deal with certain cultures and what may work better in reaching the consumer.
Ujima: Sometimes I feel we still have to get people to the door.
Vicky: Yes, we have been taught to pray about it or “they” do it that way, we don’t do that in regards to getting help.
Ujima: Do you feel we are reaching the black families, the black community?
Vicky: I feel we do reach the Black community but we need to triple our reach. We need to do more advocacy. Because Austin is becoming less black, as we are pushed out, due to economics. Our challenge is to get out to surrounding areas Pflugerville, Del Valle and more, to do more work out through the churches. We see the same people every year so that is saying we are not reaching more people.
Ujima: What would you like the community to know about the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference?
Vicky: For newbie’s, I try to connect and get their feedback. People should know the conference is a very comfortable family feeling environment. It’s a place where people are friendly and they want to be there.
• Most people who attend find that they are not alone and other people are on the same or similar journey.
• They realize they are not the only one dealing with the issues in their family.
• People who attend are not ashamed to talk to about their situation.
• Its empowering to see people talk about their journey
• It’s validating. That there may be challenges but there is hope and you can recover.
• Your family member can heal and live a normal life.
Ujima: Anything else, I may have missed?
Vicky: You will learn new skills or ideas. If you attend, you will leave with resources, i.e. counselors, support group and materials. It can be difficult navigating the system, the conference provides an opportunity to meet people providing the resources . You leave more educated. It is empowering. Once you learn about the issue you can manage it better.
Our community piece is the challenge of getting consumers and families to tell 5 friends, your pastor and family members. As we move forward, the participants will need to carry the message to the community. It needs to be owned and driven by the community.
#CTAAFS2016 #hoggfoundation #mentalhealth #recovery #atcic #ujimamagazine2016 @lifemusicatx @meintheatx @paigeturna @marylinnen @jeanettewhill #behindthescenes #embraceyourcommunity #healing #healthandwellness
Damita Miller-Shanklin, Ujima Magazine