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Dr. Joy DeGruy teaches Kansas City how to heal at powerful lecture

Internationally renowned social researcher, educator and author Joy DeGruy spoke to a packed house about the need for healing Tuesday at UMKC’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Series.

DeGruy’s work is based on her controversial theory called Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, which has been implemented by major institutions like Oxford University, Harvard University and Morehouse College.

“When we start talking about trauma, I started to notice certain behaviors within my community even as a child,” said DeGruy when recollecting about the start of her journey. “There are intercultural phenomenon’s that said to me, ‘Something is wrong.’”

The lecture began with the story of two mothers, one black and one white, in 2018 and how history, up until now, has affected their perception of the world. The purpose of story was to set a mixed audience on the same footing when it comes to the historical context of chattel slavery in the United States and across the world.

DeGruy emphasized the impact slavery has on both the oppressed and the oppressor. Furthermore, there is a cognitive dissonance when it comes to the behavior of oppressing an entire group of people, said Dr. DeGruy.

She says people can start the healing process of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by being honest and not holding in secrets about the past.

“I thought the speech was very educational. It definitely exposed some things that need to be addressed, especially from white culture,” said audience member and first-year social work graduate student Amber Busom.

Busom felt a connection with DeGruy’s subject matter and could relate it to her future goals.

“I am getting into social work to change things,” she stated. “That’s the goal.”

DeGruy concluded her lecture by allowing the audience to ask questions about her theory.

One attendee wondered how to start a conversation about racial issues in the current political climate. Despite the complexity of this issue, DeGruy offered a simple and poignant answer.

“Choose your battles and begin to understand who it is you can reach,” she responded.

To learn more about DeGruy and her theory, check out her book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome— America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.”

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