Posts Tagged ‘race’

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The 51-year-old University of Cape Town researcher had been suffering from depression, and his death has prompted reflection on being a black academic in South Africa.

Bongani Mayosi, a prominent cardiologist and dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, died of suicide on July 27. He was 51.

“In the last two years he has battled with depression and on that day [Friday] took the desperate decision to end his life,” his family said in a statement at the time, News24 reports. “We are still struggling to come to terms with this devastating loss.”

Born in 1967, Mayosi grew up under apartheid in the Transkei region of South Africa. Homeschooled by his mother as a child, he later studied medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, incorporating a year of research to qualify for a BMedSci degree. In 1998, he won a fellowship to join the PhD program in the department of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford.

Upon returning to South Africa a few years later, Bongani worked on a number of projects, including searching for the genetic mutations underpinning arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy to identifying risk factors involved in cardiovascular disease. In 2006, at 38 years old, he became the first black person to chair the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

His career over the next decade would be marked by several awards recognizing his contributions to cardiology. In 2007, he was named one of the top 25 “influential leaders in healthcare in South Africa,” and, two years later, received the Order of Mapungubwe, South Africa’s highest honor. In 2017, he was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine.

Becoming dean in 2016, Mayosi was responsible for handling part of the university’s response to a tumultuous period of student unrest across the country. In a letter published on News24, the university’s vice chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng writes that during that period, Mayosi’s “office was occupied for about two weeks in 2016. He had to manage pressure coming from many different directions, including from staff and students.” Over the next two years, Mayosi suffered from depression and took time off from his position; he resigned twice, but was persuaded to change his mind.

Mayosi’s death has led colleagues to examine the external forces that might have contributed to his desperation. In early August, Johannesburg’s City Press and other outlets reported that UCT had instigated an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mayosi’s death following calls from concerned colleagues and the university’s Black Academic Caucus. In a statement on Facebook on August 2, the Caucus wrote that “it is hard for us to exclude the UCT working environment from the tragic death of our colleague, and indeed others, including students.” Many researchers and activists also highlighted challenges Mayosi faced as a black academic in South Africa.

Matshidiso Moeti, the African regional director for the World Health Organization—where Mayosi had chaired the African Advisory Committee on Health Research & Development—was one of many health officials and researchers to send condolences after news of Mayosi’s death. “We will always cherish him for his diligence and immense contribution to the development of the WHO strategy for strengthening the use of evidence, information and research for policy-making in the African Region,” she wrote.

Cardiologists Hugh Watkins of the University of Oxford and Ntobeko Ntusi of UCT write in a memorial published yesterday (September 11) in Circulation that “one of the most striking impressions from his funeral, attended by thousands of mourners who remembered him with awe and love, was the abundant evidence of his commitment to bring others with him, nurture talent, and provide the sorts of opportunity from which he had benefited. . . . We speak for many in saying that we are in awe of what Bongani achieved.”

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/celebrated-cardiologist-bongani-mayosi-dies-64787?utm_campaign=TS_DAILY%20NEWSLETTER_2018&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=65896990&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_Xn_C3066EAlU479N7jk9yk0YpvAneSzSm7Ae9hwdounQSXC6y1NB1SlSwEHpKfuJXV3J_nz64REq0mTIGy6GuyMPE0Q&_hsmi=65896990

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by John Haltiwanger

As a musical genre, hip-hop is often denigrated for seemingly condoning misogyny, materialism, violence and crime. But this is an unfair characterization and an overgeneralization.

Yes, there are some rap artists who write songs containing nothing of substance. More often than not, however, hip-hop offers many of us an insightful view into a dark world we’re unfamiliar with: the impoverished inner city.

In this sense, hip-hop has the potential to educate and foster empathy.

To borrow from Jay Z:

I think that hip-hop has done more for racial relations than most cultural icons. Save Martin Luther King, because his dream speech we realized when President Obama got elected.

[Hip-hop] music didn’t only influence kids from urban areas. People listen to this music all around the world, and [they] took to this music.

Once you have people partying, dancing and singing along to the same music, then conversations naturally happen after that.

We all realize that we’re more alike than we’re separate.

Indeed, hip-hop breaches ostensibly impenetrable cultural divides, breeding solidarity among people with disparate backgrounds.

This is precisely why recent albums like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly have been widely celebrated and even used by high school teachers to teach lessons about race and oppression.

Beyond enlightening people on race, poverty, the War on Drugs and the inner city, it also appears hip-hop has a hidden benefit as a powerful tool against mental illness.

A study from Cambridge University found that hip-hop is extremely effective in combatting depression, bipolar disorder and addiction.

When you think about the themes hip-hop encompasses, this makes a lot of sense. Many artists rap about overcoming numerous obstacles in the ghetto, from gang violence and poverty to drugs and police brutality.

The overall narrative of hip-hop is one of progress. Artists tell dynamic stories of advancing from deeply oppressive environments to living out their wildest dreams.

Fundamentally, the message of hip-hop is one of hope.

Thus, hip-hop has the effect of “positive visual imagery,” helping people see the light when the whole world feels dark.

In other words, during bipolar episodes or periods of depression, listening to hip-hop can help people visualize or imagine a more positive place and where they’d like to be in the future. In turn, they arrive at a more secure mental state.

The study was conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Becky Inkster and psychiatrist Dr. Akeem Sule.

As Dr. Sule puts it:

Much of hip-hop comes from areas of great socioeconomic deprivation, so it’s inevitable that its lyrics will reflect the issues faced by people brought up in these areas, including poverty, marginalization, crime and drugs.

We can see in the lyrics many of the key risk factors for mental illness, from which it can be difficult to escape.

Hip-hop artists use their skills and talents not only to describe the world they see, but also as a means of breaking free.

We believe that hip-hop, with its rich, visual narrative style, can be used to make therapies that are more effective for specific populations and can help patients with depression to create more positive images of themselves, their situations and their future.

One of the prime examples utilized in the study is that of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” a hip-hop classic.

In the song, Biggie details his rise from deprivation on the harsh streets of Brooklyn to the covers of magazines and a life of affluence. It’s a song about making it against impossible odds.

There are so many other examples like this within the world of hip-hop. From Jay Z’s “On To The Next One” to the more recent Kendrick Lamar track, “i.”

Interestingly enough, not long ago, Lamar stated he penned the song as a form of encouragement and inspiration for prison inmates and suicidal teenagers:

I wrote a record for the homies that’s in the penitentiary right now, and I also wrote a record for these kids that come up to my shows with these slashes on they wrists, saying they don’t want to live no more.

Accordingly, it’s apparent some hip-hop artists are already deliberately attempting to help people with mental illness.

Regardless of the criticism it receives, hip-hop is a form of artistic expression with limitless educative and therapeutic potential.

The rapper Killer Mike has noted there is a commonly held view that hip-hop poses a threat or danger to society, but as he explains:

The kids spending hours per day writing rap songs aren’t a threat to society; they are often trying to escape the threats from society.