Louisiana Native Selected as a Top Five Finalist for the Rooted in Rights Storyteller Series
May 1, 2018
Today, we share Ashanti Brown’s story. Now selected as a top five finalist for the Rooted in Rights Storyteller Series, the Alexandria native hopes to spread awareness on mental illness within the African American community. Rooted in Rights’ mission is “to tell authentic, accessible stories that empower our community to advocate for disability rights,” and the Storytellers Series is a segment within their campaign that features videos created by and targeted toward people with disabilities. These Storytellers work with the Rooted in Rights team to write scripts, direct videos, edit the final product and share their content online, and Ashanti hopes to be able to share her message with the world.
We were lucky enough to learn more about Ashanti and her goals if she becomes the next Storyteller:
I am an Alexandria, Louisiana native. When I am not looking for a job, I work as a freelance resume writer. Prior to that position, I worked in education. I worked just over a year as a Head Start Teacher in Rapides Parish, which included working as a one-on-one teacher for a child with autism. My formal education includes a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Grambling State University. I’ve completed graduate coursework in both Criminal Justice and in Business Administration.
How did you discover the Rooted in Rights Storyteller Series?
I discovered the Rooted in Rights Storyteller Series via the American Association of Disabled Persons’ (AAPD) Facebook page. I started following the AAPD on Facebook, because they provide good information about policy developments in disability and health care on Capitol Hill. Rooted in Rights has collaborated with AAPD in the past on the Storytellers Series.
What made you decide to enter?
I decided to enter the contest because I am interested in video production. I think video is a powerful medium that is important in shaping the way people think. I want to produce a video that will shape the way society thinks about African Americans with mental illness.
Could you tell us more about the topic you chose to speak on for the Storyteller Series?
I want to explore the intersection of race and mental illness–specifically, the African Americans and mental illness. This topic is important to me, because I am African American, and I was diagnosed with depression as an adult. Despite mental illness affecting many areas of my life, I’ve never felt totally comfortable talking about it openly; mainly, because of the environmental messages I received from peers, loved ones, and society that mental illness is not something to talk about or something taken serious enough to get help for it. I have changed the way I think about my disability, I feel, by talking about it openly as I get more comfortable with it, and I feel that I could in some small way help destigmatize mental illness in society. It is noteworthy that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reports there are more than 16% or over 6.8 million Africans Americans who have a diagnosable mental illness (SAMSHA 2018). How much of this is attributable to poverty? I believe African Americans are the only racial group that have been systematically oppressed politically and economically since their ancestors’ arrival in this country. It goes without saying that political and economic oppression has detrimental effects on one’s mental health. I want to win the Rooted in Rights contest; however, if I don’t win I will still do my part to advocate for myself and others like me to ensure persons with mental illness love themselves and are treated equally in all areas of life.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations: African Americans. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/specific-populations/racial-ethnic-minority