Maysa Akbar spoke Friday at the Quinnipiack Club about her experience with urban trauma — a set of circumstances that perpetuates the oppression of children growing up in urban areas. She connected the problem to modern day socio-economic conditions in urban environments, as well as to historical patterns of discrimination.
The address was part of a reception honoring Akbar, an assistant clinical psychology professor at the Yale School of Medicine and the chief executive officer of Integrated Wellness Group in New Haven, and celebrating the release of her first book, Urban Trauma: A Legacy of Racism, which became available Oct. 3. The event, hosted in conjunction with the Prosperity Foundation — a Connecticut-based black philanthropy organization — attracted guests from around the New Haven area and lasted from 6:00-8:30 p.m. The guest list included Akbar’s friends, coworkers and fans, many of whom said they had read the book.
“[The book] opens up context for conversation that invites people into a conversation for healing, for addressing issues in a way that gives them tools for arriving at constructive measure,” said Leon Bailey, who runs the Church of Bethlehem, a local church that meets in people’s homes.
Bailey, like many of the guests, said he was in “total agreement” with Akbar’s assessment of urban trauma.
Akbar’s research centers on the hardships of many urban communities, tying into a historical perspective of oppression, according to a book description on Amazon.
The reception consisted of brief remarks by Mayor Toni Harp, readings from Akbar and questions from guests. Harp told the News she feels urban trauma has often “been overlooked.”
“I’m grateful for Dr. Akbar for bringing [urban trauma] to our attention,” she said.
Akbar is hosting a fundraiser for Harp’s mayoral campaign this Sunday.
At the reception, Akbar spoke candidly about her abusive father. Her family, originally from the Caribbean, left her in Brooklyn while they returned home. She was orphaned at the age of 13.
Many of those who have experienced urban trauma pretend that family members love them, ignoring clear signs of neglect, according to Akbar. When she was eight, she realized her father was negligent and abusive, a revelation that she said stunted her emotional growth.
“Connections became something that I feared rather than embraced,” she read. “I became insecure and the construct for not being good enough was deeply planted in the recesses of my mind, and my self-esteem was subsequently compromised.”
Akbar said she developed many of the feelings commonly associated with urban trauma — anger, resentment, guilt, hate, loneliness and fear.
In spite of those challenges, Akbar has gone on to receive her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Saint Louis University and completed pre- and post-doctoral training at the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine in 2004. Much of her research centers on pediatric psychology and cultural diversity, according to her YSM profile.
Akbar stressed the importance of treating the emotional distress that negligence and emotional distance inflict on those who have experienced urban trauma.
“The most exciting thing here is that [Akbar] became a representation for young women of color all over the world who don’t see that same opportunity,” said Staci Hallmon, Vice President and Head of Sales of Essence Communications.
Hallmon, a friend of Akbar, communicated with her during the writing process. Essence focuses on the triumphs of black women, and, like Akbar’s book, appeals to audiences using storytelling.
“None of us are not impacted by urban trauma, whether it’s a direct impact or collateral damage,” Bailey said.
Akbar received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from State University of New York in 1996.
Carly Wanna | email@example.com