DISSERTATION: "Oral Histories of Black Women Advocates in the Civil Rights Era: Illuminating Perspectives of Black Healing, Wellness, and Spirituality,"

This body of work goes beyond an academic endeavor; it's about authentic connection. It made me listen not just with my ears, but with my heart, to incredible women who fought for justice.

These oral histories reveal hidden stories of the Civil Rights Era, including healing, wellness, and spirituality. My dissertation honors their resilience and highlights overlooked aspects of the struggle for justice and equity in the Civil Rights Movement.


African American women have been the backbone of the African American community since their ancestors were forcefully brought to what is now known as the United States. While this remains a fact, the nuances of Black womanhood and its relationship to public and private advocacy have been largely ignored, dismissed, and/or unable to be captured by social work researchers. When the focus shifts to Black women narratives, too often what follows are insights in alignment with dominant Eurocentric frameworks, focusing chiefly on experiences that are palatable to those disinterested in acknowledging the legacy of racism and oppression. As a result, there is a dearth of knowledge exploring the wisdom borne from generations of advocacy executed by Black women as a source of survival and fulfillment. This leaves modern-day Black women advocates without a roadmap for combatting race-based trauma, and the practitioners that serve Black women reliant on harmful so-called “best practices” that defy Black cultural values. Much research conducted about Black women activists is less focused on their personal experiences and more on their perspectives about what they have contributed to society. While these insights are valuable, without the full picture of Black women’s lives, pathology and dehumanization are perpetuated. This study explains findings from a secondary data analysis of oral history interviews archived in the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library, Black Women Oral History Project, collected from 1976 to 1981. 

Full Citation:

Murray-Browne, S. Q. (2023). Oral Histories of Black Women Advocates in the Civil Rights Era: Illuminating Perspectives of Black Healing, Wellness and Spirituality (Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, Baltimore).

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Sweet Mary Agnes and her Three-Legged Stool, 2023
Sculpture, Mixed Media

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Artist: Myeashia Osuntola Abram (Oshun)

COMMENTARY: Decolonizing Mental Health: The Healing Power of Community

Since the uprising following George Floyd’s murder and then COVID’s devastation of communities of color, the therapy world has undergone a shift: practitioners are more eager to do the once fringe work of decolonizing mental health for Black clients to provide treatment that truly heals them. I know this because I offer a training on this topic, and it’s exploded in popularity. But as exciting as it is—and believe me, I’m thrilled that we might finally be putting truly liberatory therapy to use on a large scale—our trainees are discovering that the real job in front of them is not for the faint of heart.

True liberatory therapy training leaps headfirst into the history of systemic oppression in the United States and how the harms endured by people of African descent remain unaddressed—even at times maintained—by our profession, which was established and is still overseen by white folks. We dig into how the therapy world continues to favor working with individuals apart from their community and the many ways this inhibits the healing of Black folks, who rely on community as a main source of support in a world that’s long been hostile to them.

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PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL:  Factors that contribute to stigma toward opioid users among social work students

This study aimed to understand contributing factors of stigma toward people with opioid use disorder (OUD). We conducted a randomized factorial survey with Masters in Social Work (MSW) students (n = 70). Students received four vignettes describing a person with OUD, yielding a total of 275 vignettes for analysis. We tested whether stigma differed according to the characteristics of people with OUD. We found significantly more stigmatizing attitudes toward people with OUD who 1) inject heroin versus use oxycodone and 2) do not always take buprenorphine as prescribed versus always takes buprenorphine as prescribed. These findings indicate the need for MSW training that destigmatizes heroin use and inconsistent medication usage.

Full Citation:

Wimberly, A. S., Petros, R., Sacco, P., Tennor, M., Murray-Browne, S., & Arikat, L. (2022). Factors that contribute to stigma toward opioid users among social work students. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 1-12.

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PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL: Passport to Freedom: A Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Program for Previously Incarcerated Women

Poly-victimization is often reported by formerly incarcerated women and leads to physical and mental health problems that interfere with daily functioning, sustained employment, and housing stability. Although reentry programs exist, few focus on the physical and emotional impact of multiple traumas. Passport to Freedom (P2F), a woman-centered, trauma-informed reentry program, was developed to support formerly incarcerated women. The pilot intervention, performed in 2017, focused on the connections between trauma and health, coping with symptoms, and managing one's own health.

To examine the effectiveness and feasibility of the intervention, we performed the current mixed methods study with two phases: (1) focus groups, and (2) sessions combining mindfulness and health promotion activities with follow-up evaluations. Participants (N = 24) showed decreased symptoms of depression and concerns of everyday stressors after the intervention. Of participants, 84% (n = 16) reported practicing mindfulness and 63% (n = 8) stated that mindfulness exercises helped with daily stress management. The P2F program offers a promising approach to support formerly incarcerated women with health self-management.

Full Citation:

Wilson, P. R., Jagasia, E., Lee, J., Hill, K., Peay, A., Murray-Browne, S. Q., ... & Sharps, P. (2023). Passport to Freedom: A Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Program for Previously Incarcerated Women. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 1-9.

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COMMENTARY: Want to reduce overdose rates? Treat poverty first - Baltimore Sun

Overdose rates are higher in areas where people live in poverty and even higher among people of color living in poverty. In the last decade in Maryland, the proportion of opioid-overdose deaths involving Black people has continually risen, while the proportion involving white people has declined, mirroring nationwide trends. This past year, the disparity has worsened.

Drug-related deaths for Black Americans have persistently climbed. Within Maryland, Black people over 55 had more opioid-overdose deaths in 2020 than any other demographic, with 56.6% more deaths than white people over 55. It is perhaps no coincidence that nationally, Black people over 55 were 26% more likely than white people to lose their jobs between April and October of last year, as the pandemic swept the globe. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing societal conditions that make it next to impossible for people experiencing poverty to make a living. This means that for people with low incomes and a substance use disorder, they are more likely to continue to use, to use in unsafe circumstances and to die.

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