Association of Black Psychologists
The Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) was founded in San Francisco in 1968 by black psychologists and psychology students from across the country looking for a way to use their skills to benefit the black community. The association was formed to address the significant social problems affecting the black community and to have a positive impact on the mental health of the national black community through planning, programs, services, training, and advocacy.
It was as clear then as it is now that to a degree the success of mental health services for the black community depends on the ability of black psychologists to (1) act as free and independent agents in the interest of black people; (2) resist and/or inoculate themselves against the degradation and dehumanization resulting from the effects of white supremacy; and (3) advance and increase the utilization of their understanding and application of the experience, essence, integrity, and vitalism of black people. The association recognized that if the practice of black psychologists, including theorizing, did not respect and reflect the essence, experience, and integrity of black people, then everything black psychologists provided (therapy, service, treatment, and theorizing) would only disserve, dehumanize, and further debilitate black people.
The founders of the Association of Black Psychologists were Calvin Atkinson, Ronald Brown, Ed Davis, Jim DeShields, George Franklin, Reginald Jones, Roy Jones, Robert L. Green, George Jackson, Mary Howard, De Lorise Minot, Leon Nicks, Lonnie Mitchell, Bill Pierce, Joseph White, Shirley Thomas, Samuel Winslow, Joseph Akward, J. Don Barnes, Harold Dent, Russ Evans, Bill Harvey, Al Goines, Luther Kindall, Thomas Hilliard, Mel King, Walter Jacobs, Jane Fort Morrison, Wade W. Nobles, Sylvia O'Bradovich, David Tarrell, Charles Thomas, and Mike Ward. Guided by the principles of self-determination, agency, and mutual self-interest, these women and men set about building a professional organization through which they could address the long neglected needs of black people and black psychologists. The association's founders pledged to see themselves as black people first and psychologists second.
The members of the association recognized that Western (i.e., white) psychology failed to provide a full and accurate understanding of the psychological experience, essence, and integrity of black people. Since Western psychology's theories and therapeutic practices clearly were not uncritically applicable to black people, the association decided to develop a culturally grounded discipline and field of black psychology. As an African-centered discipline, black psychology not only would include the study of the behavior of black people but also would seek to transform black people into self-conscious agents of their own mental and political liberation. In addition, the work of the radical black psychologists in the association helped to clarify the intellectual justification and application of African-centered thought and the co-emerging field of Black Studies.
From its inception, this liberatory black psychology was created by (1) engaging in severe critique and rejection of white psychology's methodology, conclusions, and ideological promise; (2) providing Afrocentric models of study, theory, and therapy; and (3) self-consciously intervening in the struggle for a more humane and just society and environment. The development of contemporary black psychology was grounded in the recognition that what was needed was a theoretical and therapeutic practice that was centered in the experience, essence, and integrity of black people. Thus the association through its African Psychology Institute defined African-centered psychology as “the self-conscious ‘centering’ of psychological analysis and application in African reality, culture and epistemology. African Psychology examines the process that allows for the illumination and liberation of the spirit. African Centered Psychology is ultimately concerned with understanding the systems of the meaning of human beingness, the features of human functioning, and the restoration of normal/ natural order to human development.”
The stated purpose of the ABPsi was and continues to be to have a positive impact on the mental health of the national black community by means of planning, programs, services, training, and advocacy. The association's objective is to ensure that the skills and abilities of black psychologists are being used to influence necessary change and address significant social problems affecting the black community. Specifically, the formal organizational goals of the association are to (1) enhance the psychological wellbeing of African (i.e., black) people in the United States and throughout the diaspora; (2) promote constructive understanding of African people through positive approaches to research; (3) develop an approach to psychology that is consistent with the experience of African people; (4) define mental health in consonance with newly established psychological concepts and standards regarding African people; (5) develop international support systems for African psychologists and students of psychology; (6) develop policies for local, state, and national decision making that influence the mental health of the African community; (7) promote values and lifestyles that support the survival and well-being of the black race; and (8) support established African organizations and aid in the development of new independent African institutions to enhance Africans' psychological, educational, cultural, and economic situation.
The Association of Black Psychologists has grown from a small group of concerned professionals into an independent, autonomous organization of over 1,400 members who see their collective mission and destiny as the liberation of the African mind, empowerment of the African character, and illumination of the African spirit. ABPsi has been guided for over 35 years by a member-elected board of directors, regional representatives, and national staff. The chronology of ABPsi presidential leadership is as follows:
Charles W. Thomas, Ph.D. (1968–1969), Robert Green, Ph.D. (1968–1969), Henry Tomes, Ph.D. (1969–1970), Robert L. Williams, Ph.D. (1969–1970), Stanley Crockett, Ph.D. (1970–1971), Reginald L. Jones, Ph.D. (1971–1972), James S. Jackson, Ph.D. (1972–1973), Thomas O. Hilliard, Ph.D. (1973–1974), George D. Jackson, Ph.D. (1974–1975), William Hayes, Ph.D. (1975–1976), Ruth E. G. King, Ed.D. (1976–1977), Maisha Bennett, Ph.D. (1978–1979), Joseph Awkard, Ph.D. (1979–1980), Daniel Williams, Ph.D. (1980–1981), David Terrell, Ph.D. (1981–1982), Joseph A. Baldwin, Ph.D. (1982–1983), William K. Lyles, Ph.D. (1983–1984), W. Monty Whitney, Ph.D. (1984–1985), Melvin Rogers, Ph.D. (1985–1986), Halford H. Fairchild, Ph.D. (1986–1987), Na'im Akbar, Ph.D. (1987–1988), Dennis E. Chestnut, Ph.D. (1988–1989), Suzanne Randolph, Ph.D. (1989–1990), Linda James Myers, Ph.D. (1990–1991), Timothy R. Moragne, Psy.D. (1991–1992), Maisha Hamilton Bennett, Ph.D. (1992–1993), Anna M. Jackson, Ph.D. (1993–1994), Wade Nobles, Ph.D. (1994–1995), Thomas A. Parham, Ph.D. (1995–1996), Frederick B. Phillips, Psy.D. (1996–1997), Kamau Dana Dennard, Ph.D. (1997–1998), Afi Samella B. Abdullah, Ph.D. (1998–1999), Mawiya Kambon, Ph.D. (1999–2000), Anthony Young, Ph.D. (2000–2001), Mary Hargrow, Ph.D. (2001–2002), Harvette Grey, Ph.D. (2002–2003), and Willie S. Williams, Ph.D. (2003–2004).
The organization has grown over the years and has an exciting future because of the many new psychologists who are entering the field with an eye toward linking African concepts with contemporary African lives.