Mental Health Empowerment Project Twentieth Annual Peer Network Gathering
A Keynote Address by Vanessa Jackson LCSW
Paul Chipkin, Senior Peer Advocate, Staten Island Peer Advocacy Center
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“I am unapologetically an angry black woman! Why aren’t you angry?
We want a queen! We want a queen! Kill the queen! Kill the queen!
You just need to discharge your rage so that you don’t destroy the person next to you, trying a different strategy!
People have learned how to chop off the heads of the leaders, so leadership must be diversified! There are all sorts of people out there doing things that we never hear about! What are your passions? What is your neighbor living for?
What happened to you? How does it affect you now? What do you need to heal? Though still wounded, what are you capable of---even so?
I am happy to stand with my people, but I am completely unwilling to have you walk over me! Sometimes, one may need to walk ahead! You must go with the people who are walking with you! You may need to return for the rest!
One doesn’t need an MSW to provide healing! Certifications say that someone needs to be a gatekeeper on who gets to be our leader. Someone gets to steal our wisdom and then sell it back to us!”

In the sixties, the terms “conservative” and “liberal” were both tainted, both dirty! The powerful sentiments, recorded above, were spoken by Vanessa Jackson LSCW, a seasoned radical activist from Atlanta, Georgia, whose work can be found online at She was a featured keynote speaker at the twentieth Mental Health Empowerment Project Peer Networking Gathering, held on August 26th and 27th in the Catskills.

I’m partial to an intelligent and fresh voice; a person, less interested in making it big, by saying what is unthreatening and, therefore, ultimately, ineffectual. We need leaders - new ones and a whole bunch, who will stand up to oppression and who are willing and able to break through the usual pabulum, and not offering more of the same standardized, cookie-cutter non-solutions to problems that have haunted us for generations! Cowardice, laziness and lack of imagination haunt the mental health recovery movement, just as they do all of this world, giving us, year after year, more of the same, with a dismal prognosis which brings the earth to the brink of destruction. We need to be bold in our outlook, determination and approaches. We need to learn to think freely, in refreshing ways that truly address the mediocrity and complacency that keep us stuck. We need to admit when we are not functioning as alive beings in our minds and hearts and find ways to address this “living death” as we discover it in ourselves. Within our personal lives; within our movement and in the world, there is crisis. Business as usual doesn’t address any of it.
We must identify how and why we are not growing, when it is true, and discover ways out of the predicament.

Vanessa Jackson spoke of the need to take care of ourselves. “Ranting is underutilized as a tool for social change! Activism is exhausting! People out there are just trying to do you in! Why aren’t you outraged?”
We must stand behind one another and support each other in our weariness. What, of the load, may I take from your shoulders? I am here so that you don’t have to do everything! Relax! Refresh yourself---we’ve a long-haul job to do—no one should be a lonely, exhausted hero---we must offer one another the types of help and relief which will permit us to succeed, without keeling over at the finish line! We are, ultimately, held accountable for our own self-care. Let someone else hold the reigns---it is critical to our work!
We must find our own sources of funding for our efforts., Other peoples’ money comes with other peoples’ expectations. Our work, our goals, are too important---problems that have been haunting this world for far too long for us to “water-down” the mission to provide a budget that pays for misguided work! There are millions of consumers of mental health services. We can find the means to pay our own way, so that the right approaches to addressing what ails us, can be followed!
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