Black Community Ambassador Program Supports the Supporters

Jasmine Sardari, left, from Gahanna and Matthew Wilmot, from Columbus pose for picture in Dorrian Commons Park in Columbus on June 10. Both are participants in the Black Community Ambassadors Support Program. Nicolas Galindo/The Columbus Dispatch

The Joy Society began as the Black Community Ambassador Support Program (BCASP). In March 2019, a group of African American individuals gathered and reflected upon their own experiences and challenges with mental and emotional well-being, as well as those of others who looked like them. Initial brainstorming focused on the well-being of Black helpers. These social workers, teachers, organizers, nurses, and others in both paid and volunteer roles live out a commitment to a better humanity and a better lived experience for the Black community. Participants painfully reflected on the lives of Amber Evans (2019) and MarShawn McCarrel (2016), beloved Black helpers who were lost to suicide. Inspired to fill a void, the Black Community Ambassador Support Program was designed to offer safe, supportive spaces for Black helpers to connect, step back from giving, and receive.

The difficult reality awaiting the Black community in 2020 created new urgency in the development of BCASP, and required a reimagining of offerings in a virtual space. In this reimagined online experience, the primary focus became facilitating culturally-responsive services, workshops, and safe spaces for Black essential workers who were on the front lines of both the COVID-19 response and the social justice movement.

Over time, programming initially intended to serve those in Franklin County attracted people all over the world, including Canada, the UK, and beyond. The success of BCASP, along with stories and research about the negative effects of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice movement on not only front-line workers, but professionals across all communities, indicated the need for expansion. The Joy Society began in order to provide support for not only helping professionals of all races and backgrounds, but professionals in all roles and industries.

Black Community Ambassador Support Program was featured in the Columbus Dispatch:

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