Coach Cassie J is a transformative force in the realm of mental health and healing. With over a decade of personal and professional experience, she’s ignited by her own family’s journey through the labyrinth of mental health challenges. Witnessing her children’s struggles and her own undiagnosed conditions, she emerged from the shadows of stigma to pave the way for others. Founder of Black Women DO Heal, she offers a haven for Black and Brown women to shed the weight of superwoman expectations, heal from generations of trauma, and embrace intentional healing. In this interview, she unveils her journey, the uniqueness of Black women’s mental health battles, and her profound mission to usher them into freedom and restoration.
Fancy: What sparked your interest in mental health?
Coach Cassie J: More than 10 years ago, my family was in turmoil. I was heading into a divorce, and two of my children began acting out in ways they hadn’t before. It was very overwhelming, and none of the tools I was used to using was working. Someone referred us to a mental health youth program, and my kids were able to get in, and we started our journey through the mental health system. It was very overwhelming, and there were so many things we did not learn until it happened to us. The more I learned, the more exhausted I was and saw what the process was doing to my family, the more I wanted to do something so other women and their children wouldn’t have to go through it alone.
Through getting help, I learned that not only had I been dealing with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and trauma since my youth, but, when I was growing up, my mother was also dealing with mental health challenges as well (and some others in our community). NO ONE talked about these things, and instead of intentional healing, the cycle repeated itself with me and my children.
As I continued to see the gaps in care and support, I kept wishing something could be done to support. I had some ideas for a space for black women and moms to get support and rest, and the youth as well, but it wasn’t time to act on them yet.
After getting help, I was eventually invited to be trained and to work as a Certified Peer Support Specialist in the program my children once received services. There, I realized that mental health was exactly where I was supposed to be. Everything in my life had been leading to that point. Helping the families and individuals daily was the most rewarding and humbling experience I’d ever had. It was wonderful to be a resource for others in a way that was not available to me and my family when we were going through it.
Fancy: What inspired Black Women Do Heal?
Coach Cassie J: When we entered the mental health system, I didn’t believe in mental illness- except for what looked like those extreme cases. I certainly didn’t think my children or myself could suffer from mental health challenges. Turns out, I was wrong on all accounts. Through getting help for my children, I eventually got help for myself. It was life changing-but I also realized I’d lost so much time with myself and my children for not knowing the reality of mental health and the stigma that I had from my community. Because of the stigma, the healing process for my family was very isolating and frustrating. After getting help myself and seeing my healing unfold, I began to jot down ideas of support for other women who were going through mental health challenges and the loneliness of it all.
While I loved the work I was doing in Peer Support and the opportunity to make a difference every day, it wasn’t enough after a while. My heart would always turn back to the idea to heal Black and Brown Women in a way that was not humiliating, that was culturally for us, by us; and to make sure it was a space for Black Women to intentionally heal. I always knew we were strong was never a question. I also knew that my strength was crushing me for so long, and after talking to so many other Black Women, I realized their strength was crushing them too.
We had a form of healing, passed down to us through what our elders and ancestors knew to do to survive. Yet I wondered, what our lives could be if we were collectively intentional about our healing. After my full-time work in Peer Support ended, I heard God say it was time. I started Black Women DO Heal, and here we are almost four years later. We are helping women drop the “superwoman cape” and realize “your strength was never meant to crush you.”
Fancy: In your experience, are the mental challenges of Black women unique or different from those of other ethnicities?
Coach Cassie J: The idea that I suffered, so you have to figure it out and suffer too. In my lived and professional experience, some of the challenges that make Black Women unique are that in addition to being subject to mental health and addiction just as all races are, we have the additional burden of code-switching, taming our talk, our bodies, hair, and mannerisms for the comfort of the dominate culture, raising children with love AND toughness to prepare them for a world that may see them as a threat, not being believed-whether it is our mental health or physical health, the internal stigma we have adopted of having to be strong at all times to prove our womanhood and our worth, and not only the traumas that life can bring, the generational trauma that has been passed down to us from our ancestors. All of this makes the perfect storm that has kept many of us suffering in silence about what we go through; living our lives bound instead of the freedom that intentional healing brings. We have quite literally carried the weight of the world on our shoulders, and it has been killing us, internally.
Fancy: What type of projects and events have you all completed in the past?
Coach Cassie J: During the pandemic, we started by having healing conversations with our Virtual Conversations Over Brunch, inviting guests to speak about various healing topics. We have our empowerment program, BWDH Queen for a Day, a bi-annual program where we surprise and honor a Black or Brown Woman nominated from the community who does so much for everyone else but needs support when it comes to self-care and respite. Our Day of Collective Rest is a respite activity to provide a safe, relaxing space for Black and Brown Women to have respite, self-care, and a nap. We have had Sistah Social Healing events where we have had virtual game nights and go to the movies as a group. We also have our virtual Transparency Tuesday Talk support group, a safe space for us to come together and talk about healing and for the Sistahs to be seen and heard safely. Knowing that the arts are healing, each year we complete a creative healing project. This year, it was our BWDH Storytelling Event, Show Yourself, in collaboration with our community partner, Friends of the Freedom House, in New Orleans. Five Queens stepped up to share their stories of healing. We have also collaborated with our community partners, CARE4ME Servies in Jackson, MS for the annual event, How Did We Get Here; A Woman’s Healing Summit. We had various speakers talk about their journeys and give tips and information on healing to the Queens in attendance. We have provided corporate support groups for organizations to serve the Black and Brown Women in their programs. This year we started offering corporate self-care workshops with our One Day Woo-Saa offering. We also launched a magazine, Melnanted Queen Magazine, in 2020, which is currently on hold.
Fancy: In your line of work, what are most Black women healing from?
Coach Cassie J: Trauma is the number one culprit. There are so many things that have affected us, that we did not realize were traumatic because they have been normalized so. Whether it was the trauma of not being believed in a healthcare/mental health setting, being attacked and not feeling safe to share it, the trauma of blackness in this country and particularly in these southern states, or mental and emotional health that has been ignored or swept under the rug. All roads in this healing work lead back to unresolved and often unrecognized trauma.
Fancy: What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Coach Cassie J: The blessing is that God could take some of my past’s most hurtful and shameful things and turn them into healing balm for another Sistah so she knows she is not alone. When I see the shoulders drop and the sigh of release in a Queen who just knew it was her, or she wasn’t worthy, realize that it was not just her and that there is hope AND healing on the other side, I am reminded that my pain was not for nothing. God wastes nothing! I get to hear the strength in their voice after they’d been discouraged and beaten down, but now they are not only healing but starting to help others too. Seeing the growth and the courage of those I help each day is a beautiful reminder of God’s grace and goodness.
Fancy: How would you describe your Swagher? What makes Coach Cassie J, Coach Cassie J?
Coach Cassie J: I would have to describe my Swagher and what makes me, me like this. I have the gift of seeing the nuances of life and giving people grace no matter where they are in their journey. I understand that where a person or entity may currently be, may not be indicative of their full gifts, talents, or healing abilities. I am no longer afraid to take the beautiful risk of being myself, and I have learned that those who will love you, will love you-period. I have learned that I must take care of myself AND that care may look different in different seasons of my life. I also have a passion for doing this healing work with others, but through this work have realized it should never be at the expense of myself. I also endeavor to incorporate rest in everything I do. I do what I do in honor of my sister, mother, children, and ancestors who did not have access to these safe healing spaces, but whose sacrifices and pain have brought this to fruition and given glory to God.
Finally, I am a walking contradiction- outgoing, giving, public, and very private and calming. Peace is my love language I am no longer afraid to rock the boat to stand up for myself or for someone else. Most of all, I believe in Christ and give myself grace, knowing my relationship with my Saviour is a continual experiment in humility, grace, self-love, forgiveness, and love for others.
Fancy: Are there any projects or events you are working on now and would like to share?
Coach Cassie J: We are planning our slate for our 2024 Healing Season. We will continue with our projects and programs listed above with a few exceptions. We will take How Did We Get Here; A Woman’s Healing Summit to Georgia along with our community partner, CARE4ME Services, We are reviving our Virtual Conversations Over Brunch as a Podcast featuring Mama Vetra and me in January 2024. We will also have our first retreat, Relinquishing the Cape Healing Retreat at Sea February 15-19, 2024 cruising out of New Orleans. We will crown our BWDH 2024 Queen for a Day. We are finally expanding our Day of Collective Rest to Jackson, MS, and Memphis, TN; and last but certainly not least, we are excited to take our respite work to the next level with our Black Women’s Respite Project. This healing space will be a safe space for Black and Brown Women to come and take a break, receive coaching support, and get resources when they feel they are heading towards burnout overwhelmed. We are raising funds for our mobile unit as well as our partnership with Friends of the Freedom House to provide a separate safe space for Black and Brown Women doing healing work in the community.
Fancy: Where can readers connect with you online?
Coach Cassie J:
Black Women DO Heal can be found:
Facebook: Black Women Do Heal
LinkedIn: Black Women Do Heal
Coach Cassie J can be found:
LinkedIn: Cassandra James Weathersby
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