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'Black Therapy 101' promotes mental health awareness in Pittsburgh

A woman addresses a seated group inside an art gallery.
Adam Michaels
Artist Talk Mental Health Founder Sydney Davis (right) speaks at a Black Therapy 101 event in November.

Mental health awareness in the Black community is the focus of a free event this week.

At Black Therapy 101, attendees and expert panelists will gather in an informal environment to discuss connecting counseling services to people who can use them.

The event is the latest in a series organized by the group Artist Talk Mental Health along with fellow nonprofit Steel Smiling.

The Black community has particular mental health needs because of its long and ongoing history of oppression, said Steel Smiling operations director Courtney Abegunde.

“It’s very important to have spaces that are curated for Black folks, and that’s why we love partnering with artist talk, because both organizations can do that authentically,” she said.

Social worker Julius Boatwright founded Steel Smiling in 2015 to foster positive mental health experiences for Black residents of Allegheny County. Sydney Davis founded Artist Talk as an art and performance series in which artists would discuss the mental health aspects of their work.

“Art is an expression of our mental health,” she said. “It’s what’s going on in our minds and in our bodies. So to be able to use both those thing in expressing ourselves, rather than it just being words is really powerful. I think a lot of things come out in artwork that we maybe don’t even know [are] inside of us. … It gives us a better sense of who we are and what we’re feeling.”

The Thu., July 11, event is the third Black Therapy 101 event. (The previous one was in November.) It takes place 6-9 p.m. at Opya Studios, a photography studio at 2402 Sidney St., on the South Side.

Along with Davis and Boatwright, the panelists include therapist Darla Timbo; the artist Treble, a graduate of Artist Talk’s Therapeutic Spaces program; and Rakeem Collins, a graduate of Steel Smiling’s Beams to Bridges program.

More information is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: