Kerry Washington and Kendrick Sampson Talk Focusing on Mental Health Amid Fight For Racial Justice
Kerry Washington is making sure that those fighting for racial justice are also taking care of themselves along the way. The actress and producer shared another soothing yoga and breathing tutorial on her Instagram Live on Sunday, but this time, she followed it up by having a candid discussion about mental health with Insecure's Kendrick Sampson. The 32-year-old actor and activist has opened up about his personal struggles with anxiety in the past, and now he's speaking up to urge anyone working to end racial inequality to actively nurture their mental well-being.
Sampson and Washington, who recently worked together on an episode of Insecure, chatted about the generational trauma Black people experience, the importance of therapy, how to deal with anger, and BLD PWR, an organization Sampson cofounded to encourage Hollywood stars to use their platform to advance radical social change. To hear their entire discussion, you can fast forward to the 20-minute mark in the video above, or check out a handful of the highlights and standout quotes ahead.
On the necessity of helping Black people deal with generational trauma:
Sampson: "Especially for marginalized communities, Black folks, indigenous folks, there is generational trauma. There is trauma that hasn't ever been addressed. [There] hasn't ever been a culturally competent, trauma-informed mental healthcare system or even a system of practices that is cultural and accepted and encouraged in our communities. We haven't ever had a point in history where we've been able to deal with the trauma of slavery, genocide, and such, and then it went to Jim Crow, and then it went to segregation, and then the prison industrial complex, and then policing, which is a continuation of that legacy, of slave catching and slavery under the guise of the 13h Amendment. [Generational trauma] informs the way we raise our kids. It informs the way we have our interpersonal relationships, how we deal with other communities.
"We really can't liberate mental health — truly have a culture and a society where we're well, thoroughly well — without a practice of abolition and reparations, of looking into abolishing the systems that target us, target our mental health and exacerbate poor mental health, and build new ones that are centered in wellness, centered in healing and recovery, and repair of our communities."
On knowing when to take a break:
"Don't let your ego trick you into thinking that if you take time for yourself that this movement is going to end."
Sampson: "For me and for many folks, we found that being a part of the solution is part of the healing. It's easy to feel hopeless because we're inundated with all this bad news and oppression and trauma, and being a part of the solution gives us hope. At the same time, in order to continue to participate, what we say is, 'the movement will move without you.' That's two-pronged: it's saying be on the right side of history because it's gonna move without you, but also don't let your ego trick you into thinking that if you take time for yourself that this movement is going to end."
On the importance of taking care of your mental health:
Sampson: "Right now I'm doing a lot of things because, just a warning to most folks, if you don't, you end up having a lot of physical health problems. I've been coordinating with my doctors to make sure I'm doing what I need to do. My main things are making sure I get a little bit of sun . . . but also making sure I get a little bit of fresh air if I can, eating properly, getting electrolytes, water, nourishing myself. I do therapy at least once a week. Now I'm going to try and up it to twice a week. I do my best to schedule my priorities and not prioritize my schedule, so not try to fit everything in, but say, 'What are my priorities?' and focus on those.
"At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember, especially during this time as we are in a heightened traumatic atmosphere every day, is to remember that it is OK if you do not accomplish those goals. Be kind to yourself."
On how people can support BLD PWR's mission:
Sampson: "We're trying to organize Hollywood around liberation culture. What that involves is connecting Hollywood to the folks on the ground who are doing the real work every day. As we know, these protests are the moments where we show our presence in the streets and our numbers, but the work actually happens every day. We want to make sure we're lifting those efforts up. So make sure you join a local organization for an issue that you're passionate about."
"Go out there and find the people who are doing the work and shine a light on them."
Washington: "Don't reinvent the wheel. People are out there changing the world for a living, so go out there and find the people who are doing the work and shine a light on them. Give your money to them. Give your time to them. If all you can do is bake cupcakes, bake cupcakes for Black lives."
On healthy outlets for dealing with anger and frustration:
Sampson: "There's exercise. There's therapy. It depends on what you love. I love to play the piano. As soon as I touch the keys, my whole demeanor changes. I'm not great; I love what I play, but it's for me. Being with a community that accepts you for who you are, understands you, can hold you accountable, a lot of the time, that's a great place to express your rage."