African Americans experiencing trauma after Buffalo shooting, experts say

Crystal Cranmore Image
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
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Many African Americans have been experiencing trauma in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, impacting their mental health. Crystal Cranmore has more.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Many African Americans have been experiencing trauma in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, impacting their mental health.

Experts say trauma is causing more Black people to seek therapy.

The fear and panic that spread throughout the Tops Grocery Store as Peyton Gendron allegedly gunned down 10 Black people might have been 300 miles away from New York City, but the effects of that day are widespread.

The mass shooting is just the latest in a series of tragedies, from George Floyd to the pandemic's effect on African Americans.

In his latest music video, "Trauma," released in honor of Mental Health Awareness month, Plainfield musician Carl Brister hopes to ease the pain.

"We've experienced more than a little bit of trauma in our journey here as African Americans," he said. "And I feel like what this song says is that in spite of the fear, that trauma and traumatic experience, we must find a way to rise and shine through that. We have to stand up."

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, Brister says it's never a good idea to keep emotions bottled up.

"Whether that's with someone that's professional, professionally trained, or with loved ones, but talk about it," he said.

In Harlem, therapist Aarian R. Punter says she's seeing more African Americans seeking help.

"I would say 60 to 70 more people of color coming to therapy in the last two years, that's a lot in Harlem," she said. "Where people shop should not be something scary, and the fact that people have to question it, that's the sign of trauma."

Gendron's own mental health was called into question, with the possibility that pandemic isolation pushed him over the edge.

"He's adolescent, so what happens is that he's probably on social media a lot, on for long periods of time and being fed racist ideology," Punter said. Coupled with isolation, I would say it made a perfect storm."

Back in New Jersey, Brister is preparing for his annual Love and Unity Festival in West Orange, an event born out of loss with a purpose to heal and quell the hate.

"We can get beyond the barriers that we put up," he said. "And music just has this way of breaking all those barriers down."

The unity festival is scheduled for May 21.

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