Thoughts in Response to Addressing Racism: Where We Stand and What We’re Doing

By Patrice Olootu, Co-Chair of The Magdalen House Inclusion Project

Around the country and the world, the killing of George Floyd has ignited feelings of hurt, anger, and frustration. The devastation already upon us from the COVID-19 virus, including its disparate impacts on vulnerable communities, is compounded by the recent killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the underlying current of racism on display against Christopher Cooper in Central Park.

My mind and heart are heavy. The news is overwhelming. This issue does not impact one community, but all communities. It is an extremely dark time, and there are no words to truly describe the effect it has on many Black Mothers everywhere. I have two sons, and even though I have done as much as I can to teach them right from wrong, etc., I never know when my sons may be an innocent victim of something similar. Through it all, I know I have to rely on God’s strength and not mine. I, too, have those same conversations that many black mothers have, and all I can do is teach them and hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Thank God I have a better relationship today with my sons than in years past now that I’m recovered. At least now they answer my calls no matter what, and I am in the moment to have a conversation that I will remember and one they can respect.

In the midst of the darkness of this time, I am grateful to see so many individuals and organizations speaking up and taking action. Part of the problem has been we were the only ones saying anything for so long. The silence seemed like an indication of just not caring. Other races just kept quiet. We all have to peacefully demonstrate our disdain for such heinous acts, or it will continue. Thank you to The Magdalen House so much for your kind words, thoughts, and support. The best thing we can do right now is to lift everyone up in prayer and pray for the healing of our nation.

With the recent letter from The Magdalen House Executive Director and Board Chair, I am excited to be a part of the action that is being taken moving forward. As co-chair of The Magdalen House Inclusion Project, I am passionately dedicated to increasing the awareness of alcoholism amongst black women. As an alcoholic woman, I am among those who have lost the privilege of drinking and I am finally in acceptance of that because I know that I really am a real alcoholic. But I have also personally experienced the stigma in the Black community that surrounds alcoholism, especially as it relates to women.

For me, admitting to the fact I have a problem with alcohol is perceived as weak, and some family members still wonder why I am putting “family business” out there. Growing up, no one ever addressed the alcoholic cousin, auntie, or uncle because it was not viewed as a problem. It’s considered “having fun.” Eventually, it was anything but “fun.” As an alcoholic, my drinking was killing me slowly but surely.

When I first found The Magdalen House in 2012, I honestly did not feel as if I connected because there were very few, if any, women who looked like me. Once I left, I worked with my sponsor and went to a couple of meetings outside Maggie’s but, still, I felt like I did not fit in.

When I returned in 2019, I had a new willingness and I was able to see the thing that we did have in common: alcoholism. I am grateful for that desperation that allowed me to look past our differences, but my hope is that through initiatives of The Inclusion Project, Black women coming to The Magdalen House now won’t be discouraged by lack of representation or questioning if they belong. I honestly believe that if we can educate Black women about the disease of alcoholism and show those the way who are wanting to recover how it works, we can change many lives.  Black women are a driving force in many families and they can help to carry this message to those who are still suffering in our families and communities.

My vision is for The Magdalen House to become a safe haven for all alcoholic women, inclusively.

Thank you and be lifted in all you do.  Love makes the world go ‘round!

Patrice