Various mental health service providers gathered in North Beach Saturday to discuss ways to improve psychological well-being of the city’s Black and underserved communities through conversation and camaraderie.
The event, titled “Respect My Mind,” was organized by Fillmore hip-hop artist, actor and founder of the Isiain Foundation, Isiain Lalime X, also known by the name Gunna Goes Global, and Hunters Point's Tinisch Hollins, the executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice.
The two organizations are joining forces to bring more mental health resources to underserved neighborhoods around San Francisco such as Bayview-Hunters Point and Fillmore.
About 30 community members representing a number of grassroots organizations in varying aspects of mental health service met at the Dream Event Space at 1524 Powell St., networking and sharing ideas on ways to make mental health services more relevant and accessible to the communities they serve.
Topics at the event included suicide, depression, anxiety and nontraditional forms of addressing mental health issues in San Francisco’s Black and Brown communities.
For Hollins, the topic of suicide struck a chord in her own life after her brother died by suicide in 2021.
“I am never not going to deal with that loss. I don’t think it’s possible,” she said. “The one thing that I’ve learned from this experience is that it happens way more than we think it does. It may not always look the same.”
She said that being around people who are also focusing on their own healing of trauma helps her cope with the loss of her brother.
Autumn O’Bannon established a partnership with Californians for Safety and Justice for her project, Concrete Rose Correspondence School, back in 2021. Her organization aims to provide currently and formerly incarcerated people with an opportunity to obtain a Class A California commercial driver’s license.
O’Bannon, who is from Hunters Point, said she believes conversations about mental health in a community setting, like the “Respect My Mind” event, can help destigmatize the topic.
“When you think about mental health, you think about talking to therapists or something more one-on-one,” she said. “For me, just being in this room, and just having these conversations—mental health can look like this. It doesn’t have to just be personal.”
X—who came to the roundtable dressed in a purple and black jacket with patches naming different San Francisco neighborhoods—has in recent years dedicated himself to representing the culture of the city through different media endeavors.
He was part of projects such as the film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and has released several hip-hop albums, such as Feel More, which celebrated the Fillmore, San Francisco and the Bay Area at large; 21 SUMMERS, which chronicled his upbringing in the city; and his latest album released in May titled Therapy in the Ghetto, an ode to his recent work in bringing awareness to Black mental health.
He said media and music can be detrimental to a person's mental health if it’s imbalanced.
“People don’t understand the power of vibrations,” X said, describing how his grandmother used to shut off his rap on Sundays and play songs by Michael Jackson, Prince and Patti LaBelle while cleaning. “It’s important to balance the issues out. I’m not saying rap is going to make you go and commit crimes, but it's essential that there’s a balance in the art.”
In the coming months, X said he hopes to continue to organize the “Respect My Mind” project, establish a network of mental health providers and bring resources directly to community members.
The partnership with the Isiain Foundation, Hollins said, is in order to establish a center of community support to help residents directly get the city resources that may take months to get.
“We are essentially trying to create an Underground Railroad for people to get access to mental health support,” she said, adding that the city’s waitlists won’t deter people from needing services. “We stand in the gap. It’s time for us to see that as legitimate. It isn’t informal. We are the formal mental health support of our communities.”
Joel Umanzor can be reached at email@example.com