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Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week: Trauma-Informed Community Network Stories – Councilwoman Tina Stevens & Rodney Culbreath

Posted:  -  By: Chloe Edwards

Our mission for Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week is to empower the voices and experiences of marginalized communities in acknowledgement of truth to promote healing, reconciliation, and justice. Reflecting on this mission and in our collaboration with various trauma-informed community networks in Virginia, we asked leaders of color from these various networks to share their own stories. 

Below you’ll read a conversation between Councilwoman Tina Stevens and Rodney Culbreath, the founders of the non-profit organization I’m Just Me Movement and leaders of the Winchester Trauma-Informed Community Network. Their conversation shares how they got involved with the trauma-informed community networks as well as their work within the network:

Tina: We initially got started with the TICN because of our passion to help youth and families. We were children who grew up in very adverse situations and because of our lived experience and the ability to make it through some of those tough times, in addition to training as well, we wanted to be in a position where we could help change the trajectory of families that may not have the skills. I think parenting is already tough in itself because parenting doesn’t come with a handbook. But people of color too often don’t have trust and may not ask some of the questions that they would like to ask, fearing judgment and experiencing insecurity. We are really excited to be in a position where we can positively impact all families, but in particular with all of the racial tensions that are going on in the world – to be able to be a visual support for other families that may have some doubts about how they can process through their trauma and move past some of those barriers to reach their own self-determined level of success.

Rodney: The TICN was something we felt could help people along the way, especially children and families that were struggling with different issues in the community and throughout the nation. These things are universal, but effect people in different ways. Trauma is one of those things that affects people in different ways. I look at it like it’s one big circle, but it has different components as far as how it affects Black people differently, how it affects Hispanic people differently, how it affects white people differently, but it all comes under that same umbrella of trauma. It’s how we can address the needs of people and get them the resources that they need. That’s how we really became involved, to impact families. I think that’s the most important thing because if you have a healthy family, healthy kids, then anything is possible. It’s hopeful. 

Tina: I initially found out about the Trauma-Informed Community Networks in Virginia through an invite to the General Assembly Advocacy day that Voices’ hosted. I came down and it was really interesting to see that my voice and my experiences had power. It was also interesting to me that there was a whole network of people working together to find solutions and funding, but also to spread awareness with our elected officials about trauma as well as about the TICNs that are counter-solutions to helping our communities overcome trauma. I got to share my own story and share how trauma impacted my life and because of funding and programs that were in place, I was able to get the supports that I needed and acquire skills to process through that trauma. I really wanted to urge our legislators there at the General Assembly to continue to fund these programs that help little brown children like me that could have been a statistic.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but I felt supported being able to have those experiences with all the trailblazers that were there. It lit a fire in me. I thought, “we’re already serving youth and families that have been impacted by trauma through our program, but how awesome would it be to be able to bring a trauma-informed community network to Winchester?”

I also found out about the FACT framework, which has an equity component to it and I thought, “wow, this is a way for people to do things intentionally – to intentionally have a focus on trauma”. The equity component of it was really important to me because it is something that affects all people, but also LGBTQ and people of color that sometimes have their voices shut down. So through this FACT framework, we are doing things intentionally to serve ALL people, but we are also mindful that we are going to include LGBTQ and people of color. I thought it was also awesome to have the cross-sector collaborators and we’ve identified twenty-two right here in Winchester. So you get the notion: you get the information, and with that fire, just the process of gathering all the information and bringing others in who have their lived experiences, but also that want to join this fight, to help families overcome trauma right here in Virginia.

Rodney: We hope that communication is well-rounded, so everyone is getting the same information and making sure the wraparound services are matching what you’re saying and actually doing. So when families go into places to get help, for example, you do have Spanish-speaking people, you have different needs being met.

Tina: I would like to see more awareness in our communities, more funding towards programs to help families with resources to process through trauma and be able to change their level of hope and have the wherewithal to stop some of the generational cycles. Because ultimately, that’s what we all want. We all want to do the best for our children. We all want to have healthier situations for them. Some of us just don’t know how to do that or what it looks like. Some of them are doing the very best they can, but sometimes they have to stop and think, “I didn’t acquire those skills, so I may not have those skills to give to my children.” I would like to see more sensitivity when people of color share their experiences, that we’re validated, because it is different when you talk about trauma and different ethnic backgrounds, so the equity component is so important to make sure we are serving all people and have intentionality towards people of color.

This network will really help all the little 8-year-old Tinas that were growing up in those situations where your family or your mom is dealing with addiction and she’s a single mom of three children that never learned to deal with stress and to cope with trauma. I would like to be able to see parents that aren’t so hard on themselves but understand that they’ve been impacted by trauma, which is why they’re coping in the best way they can. 

Resilience is not pretty. Resilience is unique for everyone. You don’t have to have a pretty process to your resilience. It is an ongoing work to process through trauma, and resilience is being constantly tested. Everyone’s road will be different. It’s all very necessary, but resilience can be pretty ugly and still be very effective in terms of a learning tool. With support all people can excel.


Read more stories here and learn more about Racial Truth & Reconciliation Week here.

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