On this episode of Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast, Marketing intern Ebony Baker leads the discussion on Black Mental Health and Taylor’s partnership with The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. Joining her are Ariel Smith, Strategist, Joshua Bull, Senior Art Director, and Sabrina Lynch, Senior Vice President of Strategy as they dive deeper into their involvement with BLHF, the importance of Black mental health, the generational impact it has had on black people as well as the country; and finding the joy over everything.
Narrator (00:00): Hey you, welcome to Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast, where we discuss and dissect the integrated worlds of marketing, innovation, pop culture, sports, and all of the possibilities in between.
We’re creating a unique space - for purpose, insightful debate, and growth. Join us.
Ebony Baker (00:25): Hello! My name is Ebony Baker and I am the Marketing Intern for Taylor. Today I am joined by Ariel Smith, Strategist, Joshua Bull, Senior Art Director, and Sabrina Lynch, Senior Vice President of Strategy. Thank you guys for joining me.
Sabrina Lynch (00:46): Hey!
Joshua Bull (00:47): Hey, thank you for having us.
Ebony Baker (00:49): Hey, hey, hey. And how is everyone doing today?
Joshua Bull (00:55): Very well. Happy Friday. Feeling good.
Sabrina Lynch (00:57): Wonderful. I dunno, on a scale of one to 10, it fluctuates through the week, but today I think I'm at six and a half, seven.
Ebony Baker (01:06): Okay. Yeah, same. It's been a very interesting week. Yes. And speaking of this week, and with all that's gone on within the world, I know you guys worked on the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, and I'm excited to learn more about this foundation and your contribution, while also discussing mental health. My first question to you is, when it came to the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, why was there a need to change the foundation?
Sabrina Lynch (01:41): That's a good question.
Sabrina Lynch (01:43): I think I'd say that, given the times that we've seen over the past 24 months, there was a heightened discussion and conversations around the importance of black mental health, but no one really being routed to where you can actually get the help.
Sabrina Lynch (02:08): So as much as people are waving the flag saying that there are issues happening in our communities, there is no one's talking about the vulnerability or the immense amount of strength it takes from us to heal with all the daily traumas that we go through as the black experience in America. We know what's going on and we know the importance for it. But how you're directing us and with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, the team on that side, Chevon, Tracy, Taraji, were doing an incredible job of talking about the advocacy, and now it's time to take it to the next level of really understanding how do we show that it matters within the black community, and how do we show we could be better allies or ways to be better allies with all of the networks and the connections that we have.
Ariel Smith (03:00): Yeah, it was more so showing people what getting the help looks like versus just telling people that they need to go see a therapist, go see a counselor, go find you a life coach or somebody with a sound mind, and we all understand that it's something we need to do. But then again, what does that look like? And so with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, they want to be able to be that resource to advocate what getting help looks like for wherever you are on your journey versus just saying, here's these resources and tools when they have these resources and tools, and they're going to show you how to use those resources and tools.
Ebony Baker (03:38): I love that. I think that you both spoke very eloquently to the importance of black people, the black community, having those resources. Which leads me to my next question. How can you explain your connection to this as both black men and women?
Joshua Bull (04:00): It goes deep for sure. I remember we were chatting with a client, and I was thinking back just to even being a teenager and you're going through those changes and my mom suggested maybe you should see a therapist. And I had such a visceral response because anything in that area, if you needed to go to see a therapist, that meant there was something wrong with you, you were broken versus it just being a natural part of healing and being whole, almost like going to the physical doctors. Just working on this project took me back and helped me also understand that there is such, almost like poverty in our communities when it comes to mental health. And I think that a lot of that comes from the way we were oppressed and put down. I am so enthusiastic about changing that and being a part of an effort that is trying to drive to a future where we all become whole and get the help and experience the mental wholeness that we deserve.
Sabrina Lynch (04:55): No, I love what you used there, Josh, and I've never thought about it that way. Was the poverty and thinking of the word poverty in a really different way versus it being so economical because that is true. I feel that we are in the black community and just taking off the table our ethnicities and the different cultural ways of coping, and there's one commonality that I've seen is pure strength. You have to be strong, you have to dig deep, and if you're feeling down, you've got to dig deeper. And it's always about pushing on through and bearing on through the pain versus actually looking it dead in the face and then letting the emotion of what we are going through or wash over us and being okay with those emotions. I feel that in my experience just as being both West Indian, British and then an alien in America itself, the black experience is very, very different.
Sabrina Lynch (05:51): And it felt to me as an extreme coming into America and how, I am going to be a real, devalued black life. And I think for me, 2020 was just the pinnacle of that. But it wasn't the pinnacle of it because those types of deaths you've seen all the time. But now, again, and during that pandemic where nobody had a choice to look away, nobody had a distraction, you can't deny that. And it was the weight, again, being inside and feeling just cocooned constantly in pain and grief and having no outlet for it. I think it's going on to what we were saying before is that everybody was so focused on why it's important to get therapy versus the, well how, where do I go? What does the face look like? There is an element of trust that I have to have the confidants to relay my truths, to relay my pain. I'm not just going to do that to anybody off the street just because I type in something in Google and a name comes up. How are you helping me build that trust to build that connection with that person? That's important.
Ariel Smith (07:04): Yeah. That's like someone said, these are the people whose ancestors put us into these traumatic places. And so it's like how do you build trust with people who essentially have perpetrated to us even having these traumas in the first place? Because you know, most people, when you go to see a therapist, they're usually a white person. It is what it is, but which is why Boris is going to try to fix that. But in this triumph, we still need to get that help. So it's like how can we go and have this honest conversation with this person who looks like the person is why I'm even having this experience in the first place? And so it's learning to navigate those different spaces and hopefully having a therapist that will acknowledge, yes, this is something that you're dealing with, what is the best way for me to help you feel confident and comfortable? What the work that we're doing here is truly to help you and not on some savior trope aspect.
Joshua Bull (08:02): Now that really speaks to me. A hundred percent. Cause I had a therapist for years, a lovely white woman from North Carolina, and when things were going down, especially last year, I was like, yo, I can't talk to you about this. She's no longer my therapist. I'm actually actively still looking for a black therapist. It's very hard to find someone that looks like me in space. So yeah, 100% agree. That's such a great point.
Ebony Baker (08:30): No, it truly is. The fact that we even have to go on a wild goose chase, if you will, to find a black therapist is something that I believe speaks volumes. I love that you all have already spoken to the trauma of what you've experienced. If you could elaborate more on that and how the trauma of it all has impacted your life as an adult?
Ariel Smith (09:00): For me, mine is rooted between my relationship with my mom. She never really dealt with her childhood traumas, and so that kind of hindered our relationship being more than what it could be. Even still to this day, just from me seeing how it's so messed up to say, but me seeing what I don't want to look like as an adult, I was able to looking and start researching within myself what traumas that I have for my childhood that I can potentially maybe push on to other relationships. Maybe it's with my friendships, maybe it's with my boyfriend, maybe it's coworkers that I don't want to project onto them. And so that's how I began to start dealing with my traumas based off of my mom not dealing with her traumas and me noticing how that can affect all types of relationships that I have as I'm maneuvered through this adult life.
Ebony Baker (09:55): Wow. Yes. Everything that you said just resonated so much. I know that's something that us within the black community we experienced, that definitely begins at our childhood. And you all spoke earlier about reaching the black community and what it will take. So my next question is what strategies did you put in place to reach black communities while working with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation?
Sabrina Lynch (10:30): I would say that it was talking to the communities. How are you supposed to know the depths of pain and trauma and what's going on in the minds of black men, women from different generations if we don't actually create a space for us to talk about it? And I feel that when the conversations that we had with multiple black men and women regarding the subject was, first of all, there was a level of comfort because we looked like them and it didn't feel like something so clinical. And what helped, I feel, was the empathy, there was an empathy and connection. It reminds me of something that I saw. I think it was something that Dennis Washington mentioned where they talked about Spielberg directing Schindler's list, and could a white person have directed Fences? And he said, well, Spielberg could have directed Goodfellas. Martin Scorsese could have directed Schindler's list, but it's a cultural thing. He said, you and I, he was talking to the reporter, was black. You and I both know what it sounds like when we hear that hot comb sizzling on the stove in the morning, we know the smell of grease. We know certain elements. So it's culture. And that's why, the reason why I shared that is that I feel it applies to these kinds of conversations is that we are connected in a way that others aren't. And so we're able to get the space to hear you.
Ariel Smith (11:56): A hundred percent. I know the research was my favorite aspect of working with the foundation. I don't think, we, or for me, per se, I wouldn't ever, ever have the experience to even do something of this nature if this project wasn't something that we were working on. And like I said, Sabrina said, just from us doing field research and talking to people was so much of an eye-opener to even things that I thought that I knew and I didn't know about black mental health. And just seeing how the different backgrounds people had and where people were currently on their journey, seeing where their mindset was as far as what therapy was, what therapy could be to them, and some of the challenges they've experienced, like Joshua said, finding someone who you feel comfortable with sharing such intimate stuff. Just hearing the different backgrounds and the different responses to things really brought light to a lot of things, which we were able to transition and form this amazing strategy behind, which I think sparks volumes to why this was even put in our place in the first place, and how people say things are not a coincidence.
Ariel Smith (13:04): I think us getting this project was not a coincidence.
Sabrina Lynch (13:08): And I think it was timely as well. And it was timely because with the team that's behind it, which is namely us on it and our other colleagues as well, it's like, who really understands what we're trying to achieve? And where I came into it with this, and hopefully speaking for Ariel and Josh was, I know people in my family and my friends that need the support. So what work can I do in creating and building and shaping this organization that will benefit that person in my family? And that was a personal motivation.
Joshua Bull (13:44): Oh, absolutely.
Ebony Baker (13:45): Wow. No, that's amazing. It's actually very refreshing to hear. So with all that you guys did in collaboration with this foundation, do you believe that it has the ability to reach the black demographic as a whole? And how do you become a trusted ally? What would be the advice that you would give them?
Sabrina Lynch (14:16): I'd say the first point is that we were very, very careful with the work that we did, the strategy set up of it, what the brand mission would be is you don't treat black people as a monolith. There are different degrees of pain, there are different degrees of trauma. And we also, what we were speaking about before is from a cultural perspective, are you lumping African communities who are in America, west Indian communities are in America and African Americans altogether? No, it's very different. Very different. So it's not so much about reaching the whole versus making our communities feel that their individuality matters and they are seen. This is not about, it's all about healing as a collective, but the collective can only begin with when we recognize that your pain and your journey is very different to others, and then we see you and we appreciate you and we appreciate that you trust us with that.
Ariel Smith (15:20): Absolutely. Absolutely. The monolith thing was a huge eye opener for everybody. Everybody loves to group folks into different boxes and identities, but with this project or with this foundation, we all come to that realization, you truly cannot put black mental health in the black mental health group. You have to pull it out from different pieces, pull different backgrounds in, and then different experiences. And on top of that, we may even have had the same experience, but the way we received it was very different then because of other previous projections and stuff that have been put on us. It was just so much understanding of the differences and nuances of everything, which to me speaks to how beautiful our blackness is. We are not just what you see on tv, we're not just what we share and we're not just what people perceive as be, but we're so much more. And that's what the beauty of this product was able to unfold and uncover.
Sabrina Lynch (16:21): Yeah, just building off what Ariel said is that yes, we are more than just the pain. And I think that's where we felt a little bit, we're over it. We're over the black experience, always constantly being about trauma. That's one part of it. That's one part of it, but there is joy on the other side of it. And can we focus on how we are heading towards joy in spite of all the obstacles we have to overcome rather than we are the very definition of the obstacles that we are continually facing. And that for me was that it was tiresome to constantly be seen in the media all the time.
Joshua Bull (17:01): Yeah. And it kind of goes back to your question at the beginning of what needed to change. And then in a way what Sabrina said is exactly kind of what needed to change, taking it from a focus on trauma, trauma, pain to what's that outcome we want? We want joy for our community. We want that wholeness for our community, for you as an individual. And so from there, naturally sprung and just to shout out to the good brother, Joel, I worked with him creatively. Your joy over everything became the platform that the strategy and all of the incredible work that Sabrina and Ariel did, and the team all culminated in that your joy over everything and focusing on that outcome and that being what we really want. And once again, for not just us, but for generations after us, that's the motivation. That's why we're pushing so that our sons and daughters and their sons and daughters can experience not generational trauma, but generational joy. That's huge. That's inspiring. That's what gets me out of bed. You know what I mean?
Sabrina Lynch (18:06): My goodness
Ariel Smith (18:09): To add to the beginning, you asked, what does allyship look like? It is, how can I bring joy to somebody? That is what allyship is for us. How can you bring joy to us?
Sabrina Lynch (18:22): Yeah. And listen, can you listen? I feel that sometimes being an ally, you have to think about the needs of the people that you are helping are more than the intent or action that you want to bring. If you've already got an idea or a rhetoric in your head, I'm reading all the books, I'm studying this, I'm watching these YouTube videos, that's great. Maybe you want me to actually share with you what would really help our community versus then you using it. It seems sometimes these conversations are based on a proof point that allies want to talk about the work they're doing versus actually being collaborative in understanding the tools or resources or knowledge that needs to be built. If you get what I mean,
Ebony Baker (19:09): I definitely get that. I would like to touch more on the joy aspect because that alone is a game changer in the way that us, as black people think, and our perspective and how we react to a lot of different things. I am learning from myself that my happiness is a priority, and I do not have to live my life based off of the pain that I experienced or trying to prove that I am better than that. What about my happiness? So I really want to speak to Josh, the visual journey of the logo, because art is an outlet to which people can not only express their joy and that sense of wholeness and beauty, but people looking at it can also feel the same, which I think is beautiful and really just brings it home for this foundation. What was it like to create the logo?
Joshua Bull (20:25): It was a joy for real. Not to <laugh>, no pun intended. It was absolutely, absolutely so fulfilling. And I feel like my perspective on it is generally the weight and the importance of the work. I wanted that to be reflected in the logo. So it is very solid. And there was such a great conversation, not just about joy, but about wholeness. And as we talked with the client, I just wanted to visualize that so that the mark that I created is the multitude of circles rotating, creating a larger circle and kind of culminating in a visual of wholeness in a way, showing these different generations and showing the outcome we want. That joyful generation after so many generations of pain and not saying that we're ever going to completely eradicate pain, right? Because humans are humans, we're never going to be perfect. But getting to a place of wholeness and representing that and then taking it to the colors, and it's almost natural.
Joshua Bull (21:29): You hear joy to go bright, but I think it's important to speak to the transition, speak to the journey so that it incorporates these darker hues of an indigo and blue, but then these brighter hues of orange and copper, and that creates this great visual journey, almost like a sunset or the sunrise, and kind of represents once again, that journey for our people from trauma to joy. So after locking those in just to exercise or figuring out all these different ways that we can use the colors, use the circle as such a simple element and create these really kind of gorgeous vistas, these's different backgrounds that then we can use in our communications. And from there, even with photography, making sure that we represent a lot of different people, different looks, and also different moods. So not all of the art people are going to be happy people. It is all about showing the journey. I think that's the main piece, and I hope that came through the design.
Ebony Baker (22:32): Yes, I would definitely say so. Just looking at it and finding that feeling of connection I think is a beautiful thing, and your words towards creating a sunrise effect that is very fitting for when it comes to our connection as black people to our ancestors and now, and the trauma and pain and joy that has, that's a part of all of us in our journey. So I thank you all. Are there any last remarks that you would like to say?
Sabrina Lynch (23:10): I'd say the work continues. The work is, the work to heal the work to make an impact in our communities is not something that we rest on. So the strategy part is in full force, the branding, the reshaping of the art direction that Josh has talked about that is in full force, but that's not the be all or end all because it's about building those bridges, building those connections with the communities, both the African American community, black communities, and our allies. That never goes away. It's 24 Hours also. It's our lives.
Joshua Bull (23:48): Yeah, man. I honestly, I love to give honor honors to, big shout to Chris Cooper, big shout to Joel. A big shout to Doretta. Hopefully I'm not forgetting anyone, but it was an incredible team effort that I think we were all proud to work on.
Ebony Baker (24:03): Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I thank you so much for this opportunity to speak with you all about the issue of black mental health and also of course the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation that is doing great work. You all spoke to this process of healing and really identity within black people and amongst our community. So I am feeling very inspired and I hope that all that listens will feel the same and start their healing journey.
Ebony Baker (24:38): I thank you guys for joining in on another episode of Shape's of Influence podcast, and we will catch you at the next one.
Narrator (24:46): Well, that wraps up this episode of Shapers of Possibility—a Taylor Podcast. To learn more about what we do at Taylor, you can find us at TaylorStrategy.com.
Looking for more episodes of the podcast? Find us wherever you stream stuff—we’re on iTunes and other major streaming platforms. And be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter: at Taylor Strategy. Thanks for stopping by and tuning in. Peace.