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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, April 19, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsAssociation of Black Sexologists and Clinicians Meets at UVI, Discusses Stereotypes, Sexual...

Association of Black Sexologists and Clinicians Meets at UVI, Discusses Stereotypes, Sexual Expression and HIV

Lively and open discussions marked the spring roundtable series of the Association of Black Sexologists and Clinicians, allowing attendees to explore new perspectives on black families, relationships and sexuality in America.

About 20 academics and clinicians from the mainland attended the “Black Americana…With Liberty and Justice For All!” mini-conference on Monday and Tuesday at the University of the Virgin Islands. Presenters discussed subjects ranging from long-term relationship among African-American older couples to polyamory in the black community to how black parents discuss sexual consequences.

While the presentations varied greatly in their focus, the attending sexologists study and work to address social factors and health issues that uniquely impact blacks in America.

Black professionals are underrepresented in the fields of psychology, therapy and academia, so much so that James Wadley, co-chair of the roundtable series, is one of only two African American male sex therapists in the country that have been certified through the American Association of Sexuality, Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

Leah P. Hollis, co-chair of the roundtable series and assistant professor at Morgan State University, explained that the conference provides a welcoming and open academic setting for voices from the African diaspora to be heard.

“Many of us don’t have a chance to visit the Caribbean or Africa, so this is an opportunity to have an experience in the diaspora and to start a dialogue on black sexuality,” Hollis said.

One presentation investigated what makes HIV transmission so pervasive among African Americans. Though this demographic only makes up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans account for 44 percent of new HIV diagnoses.

Professor Yolanda Bogan, Emberly Gammons and Dominique Monroe, all researchers at Florida A & M University, surveyed the school’s freshmen to learn about their sexual behavior, including their attitudes toward condom use.

Monroe said even though most of students are aware of some of the dangers of having unprotected sex, many don’t know how to negotiate condom use and fear it will cause an argument. Girls in particular don’t want to seem too aggressive if they carry condoms, Monroe explained.

“We need to teach kids that they have agency over their bodies, about self-pleasure and self-love, and to know their bodies. You don’t have to seek a sexual partner if you’re not ready,” said Dalyschia Saah, who founded the St. Louis-based organization Afrosexology that teaches sex-positive education in predominantly black communities.

Wendy Ashley, a professor at California State University Northridge, spoke about black stereotypes. Her work explores the concept of intersectionality, what she describes as the “diversity factors that make each of us unique and the corresponding power and privilege, or lack thereof, associated with the combination of factors.”

After having surgery last year to remove a brain tumor, Ashley had a black eye for four months. As a bruised, black woman and frail from her recent surgery, she said many strangers looked at her as if she was the victim of domestic violence and gave her husband mean stares. But no one ever asked her if she was okay.

“Intersectionality prevents us from ignoring the things we cannot see, so we don’t just judge others based on gender and cultural stereotypes,” Ashley said. “We are a culture of disconnection, but shame and isolation perpetuates suffering.”

During a roundtable talk on culturally relevant education, Henry Grubb, a professor at the University of Dubuque, discussed how it can be difficult to speak about psychology in the black community.

“Psychology does have a lot to contribute, but how do we get it out there?” Grubb asked.

Bogan said, “Black people tend to think that psychology is something extreme – is it supposed to replace my religion? They’re just confused by it.”

Grubb, Bogan and other conference attendees agreed that there needs to be more outreach and education to reduce the stigma of talking about psychology in the black community.

Wadley, who played a central role in organizing the event, invited professionals from the Virgin Islands and the public to attend the conference, but there was little local turnout.

Hollis said, “I believe that to achieve social justice, we have to eliminate silence. We see HIV stats, but there’s a silence, so we need to start a conversation and shine a bright light on many issues affecting the black community.”

“That’s how you solve them,” Hollis said.

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