Counselor to use hip hop therapy to help victims of violence

Ronald Crawford, a mental health therapist wants to use hip hop therapy to heal those scarred by violence. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

I hate to think about how that graduation party where 10  people were shot last month may scar the young people who were there.

It was a bloodbath.  Nightmarish. About  30 people had been dancing  outdoors at the corner of 23rd and Huntingdon Streets in North Philly on May 20 and enjoying the warm weather. Then, bullets rang out and partygoers literally had to run for their lives. That incident – a mass shooting is really what it was – didn’t get a lot of press coverage but many of those who lived through it will never be the same again. How could they? One survivor, who wasn’t identified, was shot four times as he tried to escape the carnage.

That’s why when Ronald Crawford, a local mental health therapist heard about it,  he fully expected that neighborhood folks would start flooding the counseling offices of Stop and Surrender Inc. Those offices, which offer drug and alcohol counseling as well as crisis intervention, anger management programs and other mental health services,  are just two blocks away from where the shootings took place.  When that didn’t happen, the 54-year-old counselor went on Facebook and groused about it.  One of his counseling colleagues told him if the patients didn’t  come to him, then he had to go to them.

 

Ronald Crawford, a mental health therapist, wants to use hip hop therapy to help those scarred by violence. Michael Bryant/ Staff Photographer

So, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Cecll B. Moore Recreation Center in the 2500-block of North 22nd, Crawford will host a therapy session specifically for victims, witnesses and any others who may be walking around traumatized by recent incidents of violence or others in need of therapy.

He specializes in Hip Hop Therapy, a therapeutic approach that uses rap music and other pop cultural references to meet people where they are. Crawford’s not sure how many people will actually show up to the free session, but his goal is to try and engage people in discussions and make therapy cool.

He plans to kick things off  with a handout describing symptoms associated with depression. He also will play a G-rated version of the Meek Mill song, “Traumatized.”

Many of the lyrics aren’t printable but here are some that are: “It really hurt me when they killed Shotty
I was locked down in my cell and I had to read about it
And when they killed Diddy, left him out in Philly
We was young and gettin’ money, man we used to run the city
We was rockin’ all them shows, f—— all them —-
And when they killed Darryl, Renee had to see him froze on the ground
Downtown, I can hear the sounds now
When she walked up to that casket seen her son and fell down…”

 

“I’m actually showing them, ‘y’all thought therapy was corny and y’all thought therapists were corny. Here I am a therapist and a person who has experienced trauma. I’m just like you guys,'” said Crawford, who works with at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated males.

Therapy, he said, consists of  talking things out.

“Part of the reason that people are resistant to therapy is because of a lack of knowledge about how good it is,” added Crawford, who started counseling others as part of his own recovery from drug addiction.

I wish Crawford luck.

For a whole lot of reasons, black folks, historically, have been reluctant to seek out mental health professionals. Some of it is cultural. Often, it’s because counselors don’t look like the patients they are serving and people assume therapists can’t relate to their issues of chronic poverty and racism. Sometimes,  it’s because of a lack of information.

A whole lot of folks need it but have no idea. That’s why so many self medicate with drugs and alcohol. Or have little tolerance for minor infractions.

“I grew up right around the corner from where his clinic is. You hear sirens all the time,” said Marquita Williams, a Philly-based mental health therapist and a senior advisor for Community Behavioral Health, a nonprofit providing substance abuse and mental health services for city residents.  “There becomes a normalcy to that experience.”

“I think we’re all walking around with a level of trauma that needs to be addressed,” she added.

There’s a whole lot of truth to that. But open conversations such as the one that Crawford hopes to start at the Cecil B. Moore Rec Center Wednesday night can be a step toward healing. The therapy session is free and open to the public.