Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

How an Inglewood teacher is creating a safe space for black people to talk

by Libby Denkmann | Take Two®

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Rosalind Henderson's group meets in Culver City to discuss all issues relating to black people living and working in Los Angeles. Courtesy of Rosalind Henderson

On a recent Saturday morning in Culver City, a young woman recounted her experience as an African-American working in the restaurant industry. She explained she often felt singled-out by mostly white and Latino coworkers.

"I remember when they finally hired someone else that was also black, all my coworkers coming up to me and saying, 'there's another black girl, but don't worry, she's darker than you,'" she told a group of about 20 people sitting on sofas and chairs in a meeting room at SHARE! The Self-Help and Recovery Exchange. "As though we're immediately against each other."

The young woman was not alone in recalling incidents of racism. People come to this meeting twice a month to share and listen to similar stories.

"I see the need for a safe community for African-Americans to get together and talk for real. To emote," Rosalind Henderson explained.

Henderson is a leadership trainer who founded what she calls the African-American Self-Improvement Group. Henderson is also a teacher in Inglewood. She's been an educator in inner city schools for 27 years.

Henderson said high profile cases of police killing unarmed black men motivated her to finally get her self-improvement group underway last year.

She guides each meeting through a series of discussions on a theme. This week they tackled discrimination in the workplace.

"To be in isolation and to deal with the stresses, for example, of continued racism on the job, is a lot for a person to bear," Henderson said. "It's kind of nice to be able to come to a group that says, 'I get you. I'm going through the same thing.'"

One man who works in film production described being the only black person on set and feeling like he had to eat lunch in his car.

Another woman said working in the medical field in Orange County as an African-American gave her the sense she was being stared at like an alien from Mars:

"There's this sense within me that's even stronger now, that I have to work harder, be better, you know, be stronger, be more accurate, be more thorough with every single thing that I do, especially in the workplace."

The group also voiced concerns about the direction of the country under the administration of President Donald Trump, and what the new political landscape could mean for black people.

One worry: "How much [Trump] belittles groups of people," Henderson said. "There's a historical trigger Trump is hitting. I think this pushes us together to come up with strategies to learn how to stand politically, emotionally, economically as groups of people, as African-Americans," Henderson said. "We need each other."

For more information on the group, Henderson can be reached by email at rosalindhenderson1@gmail.com.
 

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