NASW News’ Social Work in the Public Eye
NASW member Kenneth Hanna created Lion Youth and Community Services LLC, an Afrocentric counseling and group therapy center in St. Cloud, Minn., because he wanted to see more African-American leaders, according to an article in the St Cloud Times.
“I’ve really always had a passion for working here, in this town, with the African-American kids here,” Hanna says in the article. He says 40 percent of the kids in the U.S. criminal justice system are African-American, and they make up about 7 percent of the total population.
This could partly be a result of a societal misunderstanding of African-American culture, he says, and partly because of damaging family dynamics. In a matriarchal home, sometimes a mother doing her best leaves a young man feeling worthless. Since this doesn’t teach young men to deal with frustration in a healthy way, it can lead them to be separated in school.
“My groups are really designed to start that healing process first, let’s get that baggage out of the way,” Hanna says, adding that he was surprised by the negativity that surfaced as Lion Youth got started in late 2012.
“When you start talking about empowering black people, somehow there’s this fear that goes into people’s minds,” he says in the article. “There’s a fear of African-American men in particular in our society.” Through his social work skills and Lion Youth, which is open to people of all ages, races, genders and ethnicities, Hanna says he hopes to dispel the stigma that many African-Americans feel about therapy. “I think it’s just a distrust of the system, not fully understanding mental health as much as they should, that it’s normal,” he says. “There are other ways to handle situations besides things that are detrimental to your health.”
Through Lion Youth, Hanna is working to have a youth literacy program in place this summer, and hopes that in his lifetime he will see an influx of African-American doctors, lawyers and leaders. And in order to ensure that, he says, African-American youth need encouragement. “I think we have to make sure that young people have a sense of self, that they can accomplish these things.”
From the May 2013 NASW News.