“If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.”—Chinua Achebe
CHN grew out of the belief that by confronting the lie of White superiority and Black inferiority we create pathways to healing. By sharing our stories about the lie’s effects on our lives, we discover that we are not alone. We discover that our feelings are justified, that they do not have to limit or define us, that we can heal, and that we can write our own stories grounded in the truth.
“Somebody told a lie one day. They made everything Black, ugly and evil.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.
One night, in club in Washington, D.C., Enola Aird, the founder of CHN, saw a woman looking at herself in a mirror, oblivious to her surroundings, and saying: “Here you are DeeDee. Old, Black, and ugly, as usual.”
Enola felt DeeDee’s pain, and then felt that pain turn to anger. She felt the direct connection between Dee Dee’s words and the narrative that lies at the heart of so many lost hopes, dreams, and lives: the toxic idea that Black people are inferior. As Enola pursued a career in corporate law and the non-profit sector, DeeDee’s words haunted her. She shared those words when she talked with friends about the challenges facing the Black community. She remembered them every time she read a news report about the seemingly unending struggle for racial justice. She especially recalled them as she worried about the epidemic of violence among young people in many Black communities. As Enola puts it, “I came to believe that the lie is at the root of every problem facing Black people all around the world, and that we will continue to suffer until we replace the lie with the truth.”
“The conqueror writes history. They came, they conquered, and they wrote. You don’t expect the people who came to invade us to tell the truth about us.” — Miriam Makeba
The lie of White superiority and Black inferiority was devised centuries ago to justify the enslavement of African people and the exploitation of Africa’s land and resources. In the 1400s, Europeans began creating a hierarchy of humanity that placed Whiteness at the top and Blackness at the bottom, and, sometimes, entirely outside of the realm of humanity.
To enrich the Western world, Europeans objectified, commodified, and dehumanized Black people. For almost a millennium, the advantages conferred by “Whiteness” and the disadvantages imposed upon “Blackness” have been multiplying.
Despite our resilience, our relentless strides toward equality, and individual economic and political successes, the lie is still with us. It is at the root of the stereotypes and biases that shape people’s perceptions of us, and worse, our perceptions of ourselves. It is at the root of the systemic inequalities we face all around the world.
According to the United Nations (2015), people of African descent across the globe are among the “poorest and most marginalized groups” who “have limited access to quality education, health services, housing, and social security, and all too often experience discrimination in their access to justice, and face alarmingly high rates of police violence, together with racial profiling.”
Enola launched CHN in 2006 in New Haven, CT, to build a long-needed infrastructure for complete freedom from the lie. Over the years, each member of CHN’s board has joined Enola because of a personal resonance with her vision, and because of the concrete steps she has taken to make it a reality. We have all experienced the transformative potential of emotional emancipation.
For fifteen years, CHN has been creating innovative healing strategies, mobilizing volunteers, and forging crucial collaborations to build the movement. We’ve created spaces to heal from the trauma caused by the lie, so that Black people all across the African Diaspora can finally be empowered to move beyond surviving to flourishing.
In 2019, we observed the 400th anniversary of the first recorded forced arrival of Africans in the United States by convening people from across the Diaspora in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, to make a spiritual break with the past grounded in the lie of Black inferiority and forge a new path driven by the truth of Black