The hashtag appeared last summer, shortly after George Floyd’s murder and right in the middle of waves of protests and violent confrontations with police: #BlackTherapistsMatter. Therapists and therapists-to-be started using it both to remind people to take care of their mental health, and as a beacon. #BlackTherapistsMatter was a signal in the noise, a way of indicating where Black Americans could find therapists who look like them.
Shevon Jones was still in training for her mental health license when she posted that hashtag for the first time. In her Instagram posts, she’s wearing a T-shirt that declares “Black Therapists Matter” in boldface type. She posted it to let people know she was part of the answer to that feeling of exhaustion, anxiety, and depression that many Black Americans were feeling—and as a rallying cry.
“Representation matters! Being able to show up and your therapist looks like you and understands you matters,” Jones wrote in the caption of her post. “We need more Black therapists to show up and fight this fight.”
#BlackTherapistsMatter first emerged on Twitter in 2016, after a police officer shot a behavioral therapist named Charles Kinsey. At Kinsey’s facility, an autistic patient had walked out and was sitting in the middle of a traffic intersection playing with a toy truck. When police arrived, Kinsey was sitting next to his patient, talking to him. When he saw police, he laid down in the street with his arms up and yelled to the officers that the man he was with was not a threat. A police officer shot at Kinsey and struck him in the leg, claiming he thought the toy truck was a gun.