“For African-American women, we always put on that mask and put on that front that everything is OK. We’re all good. We don’t need any help. We have to keep up that facade,” says Delta Sigma Theta Madison Alumnae Chapter President Terri Strong. “But, at the end of the day, we carry a lot of weight. We do cover up and bury our emotions so we can just deal with the day to day. Hopefully, this event will give us some strategies on how we can take that mask off and how we can really deal with what we need to deal with.”

Strong knows that good mental health in times of troubling times, especially for black women, is so very important and that was the impetus for her Deltas, along with the Kappa Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., to organize and host “Breaking the Silence: Taking Off the Mask” this Saturday, Oct. 27 at Badger Rock. This event will be an opportunity for women to remove the masks they wear so that they can begin walking and talking in truth.

Terri Strong

“It’s such a big issue and so important to talk about. A lot of people don’t realize it because we are just so busy, day-in and day-out, just doing everything that we have to do for our families, for our jobs, for our extended families, for our neighbors, for our church,” Strong tells Madison365. “Do we ever really stop and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on with me?’

“Most African-American women, we have the nature of just giving, giving, giving and accepting more of a load to bear on our shoulders and we just really don’t stop to think, ‘Am I taking care of myself? What have I done for myself lately? What am I doing to strengthen me? Is anybody doing anything for me?’ I think, historically, it’s just always been that way.”

Rev. Karla Garcia

The event is a brainchild of Strong that was inspired by her S.S. Morris Church pastor, Karla Garcia.

“She preached a sermon at Mt. Zion in 2017 and she talked about taking off the mask to reveal who we are to deal with what we’re trying to hide behind the mask and then heal ourselves so we can live and be who God really intended us to be,” Strong says. “I’ve often thought about that sermon when I’ve been going through things that I’ve been going through. I’ve often reflected on it.”

Strong thought that this would be something that her Delta Sigma Theta Madison Alumnae chapter’s physical and mental health committee could turn into an event.

“I think it was important to have it around Halloween. While others are putting on masks, we’ll be taking our masks off,” Strong says. “There are a lot of us hurting out there in major ways.”

Jacquelyn Hunt

“Breaking the Silence: Taking Off the Mask” will have an outstanding panel of experts including aforementioned Karla Garcia; Jacquelyn Hunt, clinical substance abuse counselor at Anesis Family Therapy; Peggy Williams, executive pastor at Mt. Zion Church on Madison’s south side; and Myra McNair, owner and founder of Anesis Family Therapy,

“They will lead us through breaking down the barriers and taking the mask off and trying to live our best lives without having to hide,” Strong says. “It’s important to create a safe and trusting place like this where people feel comfortable sharing some really deep and dark secrets. It’s not always easy.”

The event will not only be hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta Madison Alumnae chapter but by their friends, the Kappa Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The Deltas and the AKAs regularly attend each other’s community events, but they rarely join forces to host big events like this. So, this will be special.

“It’s a great thing to collaborate and network so we’re not reinventing the wheel and so we’re not bumping heads with each other. Especially now in this day and time, we have to really pool our resources to do the best programming and best events we can,” Strong says of the Greek collaboration. “So we reached out to the Madison chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha to see if they were interested and, of course, they were. So it’s going to be an amazing collaboration.

“I really look forward to working with them,” Strong adds. “When I first talked to [AKA President] Nichelle Nichols, she was on board right away. This is going to be amazing. I love the fact that we are promoting Greek sisterhood, as well.”

Strong says that “Breaking the Silence: Taking Off the Mask” will be a unique chance to take off our mask off of being superwomen and support each other and love one each other.

“Not only will this be informative and therapeutic, we hope that women will be able to network with each other and to have somebody to lean on in the future,” she says.

It’s a free event. There will be “some spirituality and some religion,” says Strong. “We are going to really look at what’s behind that mask and taking that mask off. Hopefully this is the start of an event that we do regularly. This is just part one.

“Sometimes we’re kind of funny about who we share things with and so, hopefully, this will help women build a network that they will feel comfortable with to talk to in the future … even after the event,” Strong adds. “It’s important to be able to talk about things that we are going through and also that we have in common. I’m really hoping this event takes off in that direction.”

“Breaking the Silence: Taking Off the Mask” will take place this Saturday, Oct. 27, 10 a.m. at Badger Rock Middle School, 501 E. Badger Road. For more information, click here.