In many places all over the world, there is often a stigma around mental health and getting help for it. Some communities face that stigma more than others, which increases stress and makes self-care even harder to accomplish.
As a response to such, Eastern Michigan University student Zeporah Payne created the student organization Her Space specifically for Black women.
“There’s a lot to unpack in the Black community," Payne said. "But I feel like there are more things [that specifically Black women deal with]. There’s hair things, there’s dating things, there’s so much with just Black women alone that I feel like I wanted a space for that." After a long and tedious process of searching for an advisor and gathering signatures, the founder got in contact with other women who are interested in the cause.
“I couldn’t have asked for a cooler group of ladies and I feel like the girls that come in are gonna definitely enjoy them," Payne said. “They all have their own individual personalities so I feel like it will be a real sisterhood.”
Her Space's executive board includes Payne serving as president and founder, Faith Richardson serving as vice president, Leilani Clay serving as treasurer, Mariah Myles serving as secretary, and Sydney Clay serving as a member at large.
“Getting the members and getting people interested in the org was super easy," Payne said. "People were sliding up on me as soon as I put it out there like ‘oh my gosh, I’m so excited, we needed a space like this,’ and that really, really, really drove me to just really push it out there."
At EMU, Payne is majoring in clinical psychology with a minor in social work, both fields which have taught her skills that can flourish in her work for the club. Payne said that she would describe herself as a "transformational leader," and relates that title to the coach from the 2006 film "Akeelah and the Bee," who always saw so much potential in Akeelah.
“I always enjoyed that, I was like okay I wanna do something like that, I want people to find healing in whatever I’m doing," Payne said. "In my field with clinical psych I’ll be working with children, my specialization is childhood trauma, so I really do wanna get into the field of mental health and just like digging out those demons, for lack of better words. I think working on childhood trauma just helps to ensure a better adulthood at the end of the day."
Coming soon, Her Space wants to host keynote speakers and hold other events centering discussions around mental health.
“I will say they should expect a prompt, a writing prompt, every time that we meet," Payne said. “Essentially like it’s pretty much a space at the end of the week to just reflect and think about things, think about life in a different perspective.”
The club also plans to hold a Her Space week very soon with hopes to at some point work with EMU’s Counseling and Psychological Services and the Women’s Resource Center at EMU to create focused collaboration events.
Another goal Payne has for the organization is for Her Space to be known among not only students on campus, but mental health professionals as well. Mainly, she wants women to feel safe and know that at the end of a bad day, they have other people to come to who have experienced similar struggles.
“Long term, I think at the end of the day I just want people to know that this can be a lifelong sisterhood if you want it to be, you could find your best friend in here,“ Payne said. “I want this org to have as much longevity as possible.” As a fourth-year student, Payne wants whoever takes over when she graduates to know how special Her Space is to her.
“I literally call this org my child. I can’t lie to you, this is literally my baby,“ Payne said. "Whoever takes over, the next e-board after mine, I want that them to know that this is serious, this is a special place for Black women.”
Overall, Her Space has the mission of destigmatizing mental health for everyone and wants students to know to not be ashamed of their feelings.
“There are people that are feeling exactly the way that you’re feeling or maybe even a little bit different but they can help you with your journey with mental health,“ Payne said. "It’s okay to feel however you feel, it’s okay to think however you think, because we’re humans and we’re going through life. Life is not easy all the time.”
One of the most important parts of Her Space is that anyone involved is encouraged to show up as their most authentic self.
“I just want an organization and I want a group of ladies who can be real and this is the space for it, be real, if you want to scream, if you want to go out to the parking lot, scream and cuss, do that, if you wanna cuss in the meetings, do that, this is the type of org it is,“ Payne said. “Say however you feel, we are not trying to be proper. This is the org for you to come as you are, we don’t want perfect people.”
Currently, Her Space is holding a journal drive to give young underrepresented women a therapeutic outlet. The group will be at the Student Center lobby tables on Feb. 15 to collect journals.
People interested in donating or getting involved with Her Space can follow @herspace_emu on Instagram. Meetings will be held in the Student Center every other Thursday from 7-9 p.m.
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