AUSTIN — Austin native, journalist and media consultant Vee L. Harrison spent years capturing stories of pain and trauma people in her community experienced.
Now, in Harrison’s newly released book, “Hood Healing,” she said she writes about trauma facing Black Chicago from multiple perspectives: as a journalist bound by duty to put her emotions aside and as a human being intimately connected to the grief and violence on Black bodies that has long been the currency of the media industry.
Harrison wrote “Hood Healing” because trauma cannot be overcome without first looking at it in its entirety, she said. That also means looking at how the traumas common on the West Side, like poverty and addiction, are inherited from the violence done to generation after generation of Black people, she said.
“When we’re talking about trauma, we need to talk about how it directly links to ancestral slavery. We are still living out the moment that slaves were stolen from Africa and brought over in 1619,” Harrison said. “We are taught in this country to ignore that. How can something so violent and atrocious be ignored?”
“Hood Healing” is an anthology of interviews with professionals whose work has been steeped in the generational trauma that impacts Black communities. Interview subjects include Na-Tae’ Thompson, founder of the nonprofit True Star Foundation, and Harrison’s mother, Sandra Harrison.
An interview with Dr. Tanya Sorrell, a professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, highlights the mental impacts from daily traumas many Black people experience but that are so often brushed under the rug, Harrison said.
“What happens when our schools are closed down? What does it feel like when there are no grocery stores? These types of traumatic experiences are things we’re so used to as Black people in Chicago that they’re just a part of our lives,” Harrison said.
The book also features others in media, like former Sun-Times reporter Evan Moore, broadcast journalist Sylvia Snowden and Emmy award-winning journalist and Chicago State professor Garrard McClendon. Harrison’s conversations with people who “are usually the storytellers” discuss the need for more empathy in media because “everyone shares trauma,” she said.
Many Black journalists are intrinsically tied to the situations they report on, Harrison said. When her brother was killed in early 2021, she felt firsthand how careless media narratives failed to capture his humanity and the reality of the pain rippling through her family and the community at large, she said.
“When you live those things, you see those things, I’m part of the story,” Harrison said. “Empathy has to be part of the way we move forward in journalism.”
The frank discussions of “the whole truth” about the trauma facing Black communities are a prerequisite for true healing, Harrison said. There is power in vulnerability, and breaking the stigma around candidly discussing things like violence, poverty and addiction can open the door to finding real answers to those problems, she said.
“It gives this credence to these stories that allows people to see beyond those faces and names. It’s really important because talking about it becomes healing … because we create space to funnel our thoughts about it and find solutions around it,” Harrison said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: