Interview: Spoken Black Girl
“One thing I always try to bring to light is give people information about mental health. I feel like people always fear things they don’t know about. But once you put the knowledge out there people can move forward in a more compassionate way” – Rowana Abbensetts
Mental health has always been important to me. Back when I didn’t even have the vocabulary to describe everything I was feeling and going through. As I’ve entered this space of business, corporate, and freelancing, I have realized how many people are not taking care of their mental health in the process.
I had the opportunity to speak with Rowana Abbensetts, Founder of Spoken Black Girl. Rowana is of Guyanese heritage, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. On June 1st, Spoken Black Girl officially launched. Spoken Black Girls is a platform that promotes mental health and advocacy for women of color, to have their mental, emotional, and physical experiences shared with the world. I spoke with Rowana about the importance of mental health and how to practice true self-care in the process.
Deana: When was the idea of Spoken Black Girl sparked?
Rowana: Spoken Black Girl was my 3rd attempt at blogging. When I started I had 1-2 blogs and I would do a couple posts and then it would fizzle out because I wasn’t deeply invested. I realized when I started talking about depression and anxiety it was what felt authentic to me and it resonated with other readers.
Deana: Why did you choose to focus on mental health?
Rowana: I have personal experience with mental health. I at the age of 17 was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and it really had a strong impact on me during my college years. I was really depressed. I felt very alone. There weren’t a lot of resources around that had women that looked like me on the cover. I couldn’t find a lot of places to talk about my experiences with other black women. So I decided to write about mental health and my experiences so that other women of color could see that they are not alone and that there were other people going through this and it wasn’t something that had to be suffered in pain. It’s also been a part of my own mental health journey being able to share what I’ve gone through with others and be able to share as a results
Deana: That is brave to share. I think though the conversation is changing, there’s still a stigma around mental health.
Rowana: Just in the black community alone there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health. People are still not getting the right information around what it is is and how it is treated. There’s certainly fewer resources for those wanting to go to therapy or seek medical attention.
Deana: I love how you brought up compassion because many times I see that people do not have it for those who suffer with mental health.
Rowana: Yes, just because it’s not a physical illness doesn’t make it any less real. I want to make people more open to having conversation about mental health.I think my Caribbean heritage affects the reason why I started Spoken Black Girl and why I continue to do the work.
Deana: Tell me more about that.
Rowana: Mental health is severe problem in Guyana. Guyana is very poverty stricken. There’s a lot of misinformation about mental health and people associate it with witchcraft and magic and it creates a very hard stigma around mental health. Growing up I saw the stigma in my family. There were certain things we talked about and didn’t talk about. There was an idea that life is hard, that there is suffering and that you should just suck it up and move on. Especially if it’s not a physical illness that people can see. We definitely had the whole stuff feelings down, endure pain thing.
Deana: What’s your intention with Spoken Black Girl?
Rowana: One thing I always try to do is give people information about mental health. I feel like people always fear things they don’t know. But once you put the knowledge out there people can move forward in a more compassionate way.
Deana: How have you stayed motivated through your launch process?
Rowana: I’m really into meditation and mindfulness. It’s just the idea of removing yourself from the past and worrying about past failures. Removing yourself from worrying about the future and just sitting with yourself in this moment and valuing what you’re going through. Sitting with your emotions. Sitting with your thoughts. That is something I try to practice in order to not beat up on myself. It’s important to be able to pace yourself and be gentle with yourself in the process.
Deana: ‘Be gentle with yourself in the process.’ I love that. What’s the best way to do that especially when things fail?
Rowana: I think it’s really a matter of following through with what feels right to you in your heart. Sometimes failure isn’t so much your own personal failure, it’s more that something just wasn’t for you. One thing I’ve been learning over and over again is that not everything is for everyone and sometimes when something doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean you’re any less than it just means that project wasn’t for you. We all have something we’re uniquely qualified to talk about. I think it’s about trusting your voice and keeping with it.
Deana: What most excites you about the wellness/mental health advocacy space?
Rowana: I just have to say the wellness community for women of color is just unbelievable. Everyone is so supportive. Everyone is so understanding and I think it’s because we’ve all been through a period of time that made us want to become more interested in wellness. I think it develops a empathy that allows us to work with other people and what they’re going through. That gets me excited. There’s so many stories to be told. That’s why I started Spoken Black Girl. I just felt like there was so much more out there that I couldn’t speak on that needed to be amplified.
Deana: What have you learned from launching?
Rowana: I’ve been learning so much about what it actually takes to start a new project and the fact that not everything clicks right away, not everything works right away, not everything is an overnight success. I’m definitely an advocate of everyone being patient with themselves and sitting with themselves through the process and not putting too much pressure to be great right away.
Deana: Yes! The process is ongoing. What’s your next best step?
Rowana: I really want to get my novel together and possibly have that published. I still want to get an Masters in Fine Arts in fiction writing. Growing as a writer is my next best step. Everytime I grow as a writer my other project grow as a result. I want to become a fiction writing master.
Deana: And where is Spoken Black Girl headed?
Rowana: I want it to grow and grow. And ‘m so thankful for everyone that has been working with me. It’s onward and upward for here.
What things do you do to focus on your mental health?
Facebook: Spoken Black Girl