An Afrocentric LGBTQ+ Mental Health Revolution in San Francisco

While there are mental health services in San Francisco for those living in the margins, there is a clear lack of support and resources for assisting the Black community from within the community. Dr. April Silas, Executive Director of the Homeless Children’s Network (HCN), saw this need and developed the Ma’at Program in June of 2018. As she describes, “We don’t begin our work from any established system of thought that’s consistent with white supremacy or all of the institutionally established ways of viewing families in the Black community as less than. We start from an interpersonal love and authentic relationship. We start as part of the community.”

The Ma’at Program highlights Black therapists providing Afrocentric mental health services to the Black community throughout San Francisco. Not only does it aim to improve behavioral health outcomes for Black/African American individuals and families in San Francisco, but it also addresses the historical legacy of intergenerational racism, inequity, and trauma within the community. The goal is to support individuals and families of African descent to passionately and unconditionally affirm Blackness, in addition to helping them improve mental health and functioning, increase coping skills, improve relationships with family members, and facilitate connections with educational programs, peers, and community.

Homeless Children’s Network (HCN) has been providing mental health services to members of the LGBTQ+ community for the past two decades through partnerships with San Francisco-based LGBTQ+ organizations. HCN’s Ma’at Program in partnership with Soul of Pride focuses on three areas: mental health services, outreach and community engagement, and cultural events. Dream Keeper funds enabled LGBTQ+ Black clinical staff to provide mental health services for 43 of the city’s Black/African American LGBTQ+ community members. Clients included children and youth, caregivers and other adults, as well as community partners needing support in addressing the mental health needs of Black/LGBTQ+ individuals.

Program staff also engaged in community work to continue to develop and expand the Afrocentric behavioral health model to ensure inclusivity of all members of the Black/African American LGBTQ+ community throughout San Francisco. They participated in 163 outreach calls, meetings, and other communications to potential advisors, community partners, educational programs, referral sources, and others, as well as in community conversations emphasizing the needs of the city’s Black/African American LGBTQ+ community. Program staff also took part in strategic planning and infrastructure design to elicit feedback from the Black/African American LGBTQ+ community, and in outreach to engage and introduce services within communities throughout San Francisco, as well as to generate referrals. Additionally, staff engaged with the San Francisco Dream Keeper Initiative and other Black-led and Black-serving San Francisco agencies to increase the efficacy of cross-referrals and community learnings.

Populations: Black LGBTQ+ communities

Links:

  • Read the full spotlight about the Ma’at Program
  • Learn more about the Ma’at Program
  • Learn more about the Homeless Children’s Network
  • Read the Ma’at Program 2021 Evaluation Report
  • Find community groups for queer people of color in San Francisco

Date: 2021