A memoir about surviving ACEs

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I became a professional reader long before I was a writer when I was living in homeless shelters, subsidized housing, and welfare hotels with my mother in New York City.

Most of the middle class and affluent black folks I would come to know in the future would wince and give me a look I couldn’t read when I would tell the story that I outline in my new memoir, The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. All some intolerant, ignorant bigots need is to continue to hear about the dysfunction of black families or the lie that we are all poor (living in inner cities) and broken and hopeless. But unfortunately, in my case, the dysfunction was just part of what I lived through as a kid.

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Dr. Seuss takes over community heroes panel at ACEs conference in California

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(l to r) Teri Barila, director of the Children’s Resilience Initiative; Dr. Ariane Marie-Mitchell, assistant professor in Loma Linda University Preventive Medicine and Pediatric Depts. (Photo: Jennifer Hossler)

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Sauntering on stage to the beat of Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone, four “heroes” of the ACEs movement took their seats for a panel on trauma-informed and resilience-building communities on October 21, the last day of the 2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences Conference in San Francisco.

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Assisting refugees: Lessons on trauma and resilience

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Lao wedding in the U.S.

Making do with what you’ve got

 There are a lot of stories about refugees in the news. Some years ago, I helped resettle refugees from the Vietnam War. Trauma and resilience define what it means to be a refugee. All of them had lived through years of warfare. They had seen friends and family members killed. They had to flee the familiar towns and villages they had lived in all their lives. They arrived in a new country with hardly any resources, in a land where nobody spoke their language or understood their customs. Could you do that?

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Teens lead way in teaching Camden, NJ, about ACEs and resilience

Hopeworks teens lead a workshop about ACEs science

Hopeworks teens lead a workshop about ACEs science

 

Two volunteers race against the clock to stack red Solo cups into the highest tower they can manage.

Queenie Smith keeps knocking them down.

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The boy born out of resilience

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A few months ago I published a blog, “A Mother’s Rage”. I re-accounted my rage and helplessness regarding my daughter’s high school rape in Miami, FL. I ended my post with words of hope. I wrote how several years had passed since my daughter’s assault. She was now engaged and pregnant with my first grandchild.  This is the rest of the story.

I held my daughter’s hand as she labored through the night with my grandson. I tried to comfort her fiancée, who felt helpless. I rubbed my daughter’s back, and held my breath each time she pushed. She pushed for five hours, but never gave up, because she is resilient. She brought her son — my grandson — into the world with her strength, love, and resilience.

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“Resilience” premieres at Sundance Film Festival to sold-out houses

(l to r) Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who appears in Resilience; Robert Redford, father of Resilience director James Redford; Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic site coordinator Laura Lawrence, who appears in Resilience; Resilience producer and director James Redford; Resilience co-producer Dana Schwartz

(l to r) Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who appears in Resilience; Robert Redford, father of Resilience director James Redford; Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic site coordinator Laura Lawrence, who appears in Resilience; Resilience producer and director James Redford; Resilience co-producer Dana Schwartz

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Resilience, a documentary that looks at the birth of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and how it spawned a movement across the world, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday. The first two screenings — both on Friday — were sold out.

Not bad for a film whose director, James Redford, wasn’t even planning on submitting it to the festival.

The buzz started before the festival even began. Wired.com listed Resilience as No. 2 in the 25 documentaries not to miss. WhatNotToDoc.com also singled it out. Nonfictionfilm.com did a story about the documentary.

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“Resilience” an official selection of Sundance Film Festival

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He wasn’t even planning on submitting Resilience to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, says James Redford, whose production of Paper Tigers has been screening to sold-out audiences around the U.S. this year.

But late this summer, he shuffled some papers aside on his desk, and there was the application. It was due the next day. What the heck, he thought. I’ll submit it, as I have every other film I’ve made, but I won’t tell anyone. Why get people’s hopes up…again?

Two weeks ago, he was astonished to hear that Resilience was chosen to be an official selection. This gives the documentary great visibility and considerable boost for further distribution. It also brings information about the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, its import and how it’s being used to another large and influential group of people.

Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope looks at the birth of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study and how it’s spawned a movement across the U.S. It focuses on the work of pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities. It features interviews with several leaders in the ACEs movement nationally and in communities, including Laura Lawrence and Laura Porter, and Drs. Robert Anda, Vincent Felitti, Nadine Burke Harris, Victor Carrion, Jack Shonkoff and David Johnson.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and a patient.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and a patient.

The ACE Study measured 10 types of childhood adversity, those that occurred before the age of 18. They are physical, verbal and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with mental illness, or

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