An Interview with Dr. Dasha Lundy
In 2021, Questlove released Summer of Soul, a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, also known as the “Black Woodstock." The purpose of this festival was to bring Black people together to celebrate music, culture, and pride. While watching this documentary, Dr. Dasha Lundy found herself enthralled in the beauty of Black culture. As she reflected on the film, she turned to writing to express her feelings, and I had the pleasure of speaking with her about her words and the impact the film could have on the health of the Black community?
Q: This documentary exhibited the ultimate expression of Black joy. How could watching this documentary improve the mental health of the Black community?
A: It was Black people coming together. It was just a good spirit. Everybody was smiling, and happy, and dancing, and there also was a sense of empowerment I felt watching that documentary. It just let me know that sometimes we have to sit back and evaluate where we are and just come together. Not for a meeting, but just come together to have fun.
Q: While watching the documentary, you were particularly intrigued by Nina Simone’s song “Young, Gifted, and Black.” In what ways have you proven to be “young, gifted, and Black” in your community and what do you think the impact has been?
A: I have always had a sense of pride. I’ve been involved in the community since I was in high school. I have always been unapologetically Black. Throughout the years, I have tried to hone in on my voice and my purpose to be a greater voice and a greater power. I think that’s what Nina Simone was saying, that we are young, gifted and Black, and it’s up to us to operate in that purpose and in that authority. I always had a belief in myself that I can do more. It was up to me to expose myself to the challenges and educate myself on how to shift the community to what the community needs.
Q: In your writing, you stated, “I pray for a day that we can collectively grow together and support each other, but it takes a moment in time where each individual must believe that they are young, gifted and Black. The only way to figure that out is to have your heart open to the meaning of that.” What do you think is the first step to getting others to open their hearts? How would that affect our community from a lens of mental health?
A: People have to sit back and look at themselves. It always starts with us. I'm a big supporter of self love and people have to define how that looks for them. I’m learning as I mature and grow older that self love is being able to express myself freely, no matter what the situation is. If something’s bothering me, I need to express that and get rid of the negativity. That’s self love to me. Self love is also making sure that my mind, my spirit, and my body stays healthy. That’s love in me. People have to discover what makes them and what helps them find their Black joy. That's a journey that everybody has to take, and it’s not an easy journey. We live in a community that is so negative about everything. As a part of the healing process for us and as individuals to move forward, you have to practice self love or you won’t be able to make it, or transform people who may not know how to love themselves or understand what love is.
Q: There is a part of the song that says,
“We must begin to tell our young
There's a world waiting for you
Yours is the quest that's just begun”
If our community embraced the mindset of the lyrics to “Young, Gifted, and Black,” how do you think the community would improve as a whole?
A: We will be able to do the work. We can’t do the work when we don’t even collaborate. Once you love yourself, and you understand yourself, and what you’re supposed to do, and you’re not in competition with the other person, now you can bring other people together and you can do some amazing things. Like, transforming our community. We don’t have to complain about if we’re getting the right education because we will be the ones collectively making sure our kids are getting the necessary tools to succeed. We won’t have to worry about the outside forces that don’t really care about us. We’ll just continue to collaborate and transform.
Q: Why do you think it is important for the Black community to be an advocate for ourselves about the status of our overall health?
It goes back to understanding if you’re not healthy, if you don’t cater to yourself, if you don’t have discipline around health, you won’t be able to do anything. You won’t have the energy to do anything, you’ll live in frustration, and you won’t have confidence. It’s not about the superficial, “I’m doing this cause I want the nice body,” but it’s more of making sure you are aligned mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically to make sure you can do the work. We lose good people because they don’t take care of themselves. You have to be a role model. Look at yourself and make sure you’re practicing what you're preaching. Bishop TD Jakes says, “Reproduce who you are.” So the question for the community is, “Who do you want to be?” Become that, and then replicate you. My prayer is that we get to liberation collectively. That makes a healthy community.