Center for Psychology & Culture Fund
Est. 2020 by Urban Community Alliance Inc. and Dr. Maysa Akbar
When Maysa Akbar, Ph.D. envisions the Center for Psychology & Culture in the coming years, she pictures a think tank that draws community leaders from around the country and the world to work on issues around the interactions between racial inequalities, racism and mental health “and to look at it in a more profound way.”
In 2020, Dr. Akbar, CEO and founder of Integrated Wellness Group, assistant clinical professor at Yale University’s School of Medicine and a member of The Foundation and the Urban Alliance Inc. boards and Shirley Ellis-West, executive director of the Urban Community Alliance Inc., established the Center for Psychology and Culture Fund at The Community Foundation. They were able to do so thanks to a bequest from the estate of Helen W.M. Brackett to Dr. Akbar, and Dr. Rashmi Jaipal, professor emeritus of psychology at Bloomfield College in New Jersey.
Drs. Akbar and Jaipal represent the American Psychological Association at the United Nations “informing psychology practice within the international community.” Brackett, who worked closely with the UN, wanted to support the work being done by BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) community leaders to address racial trauma and anti-racism work.
The Center, which is currently affiliated with the Urban Community Alliance Inc. in New Haven, will create racial equity policy, road maps and frameworks for others to use,” according to Dr. Akbar, who is also Chief Diversity Officer at the American Psychological Association. In addition to working on racial trauma in the U.S., the Center will focus internationally, first in India, addressing issues around race, caste and mental health.
Dr. Akbar says establishing the Fund at The Community Foundation was the right fit at the right time because of the focus The Foundation has on social and racial inequities in its Stepping Forward initiative. Stepping Forward is a supplemental commitment of $26 million to help Greater New Haven emerge stronger than ever from the coronavirus pandemic and to advance racial equity in the region.
“One of the responsibilities of being a board member is that you support the nonprofit you are a board member of,” Dr. Akbar says. “I encourage every board member to make a financial commitment to the nonprofit for which they serve. Making these types of contributions is not only rewarding it also facilitates moving the mission of the nonprofit forward.”
The Center for Psychology & Culture will address how communities of color are impacted by racial inequities and “how racism, oppression and discrimination impact the emotional and mental well-being of the person,” Dr. Akbar says. “Historically those two things have not been connected. We discuss oppressive systems in isolation from how it impacts the people most affected. Beyond identifying impact, areas of economic, workforce development and education we must identify how to promote health, mental and emotional well-being. What the psychological sciences are telling us is that ignoring the health of communities of color is what most often leads to the health disparities that were significantly highlighted during COVID.”
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