Practicing Cultural Competency – Ep.63

Innovative Payment Technology – Ep.62
October 4, 2022
Global Impacts of Overturning Roe v. Wade – Ep.64
October 19, 2022

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè unpacks the importance of practicing cultural competence and how it influences sexuality, social work, physical and mental health care. 

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion, and equity. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andre earned her PhD in human sexuality education from Widener University. She earned a bachelor in women’s studies at the Pennsylvania State University. She went on to earn her MSW from Temple University, followed by her master’s in education from Widener University. Dr. Andreas has worked in various capacities within the field of social work. She began her work doing advocacy for people impacted by intimate partner violence. She has worked with various non-profit organizations in Philadelphia and Camden, implementing various modalities of therapy with families and adolescents within the juvenile justice system. Dr. Andre specializes in working with individuals with bi-cultural identities. Their approach to health aims to empower folks to identify and interrupt maladaptive behavioral patterns that disrupt or negatively impact their physical, mental, emotional, and sexual wellness. Dr. Andre has practiced social work internationally and is passionate about helping future social work practitioners develop a worldview framework, understanding and respect regarding different cultural aspects of human behavior.

She has a number of research interests and specialization, including the experiences of first generation Afro-Caribbean women navigating sexuality in their bi-cultural identity as a result of immigration, sexual health disparities amongst first generation individuals, mental health concerns among first generation individuals, curriculum writing for culturally competent, comprehensive sexuality education, sexual culture and immigration, sexual migration, queerness, immigration and cultural identity, sexual related issues in therapy, including sexual trauma, pleasure, identity. She is currently residing in France, but also teaches in the United States. So please help me welcome Dr. Jesse Lamarre Andre. Awesome. Well, I am so excited, Jesse, to have you here. Jesse Lamarre Andre.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Sounds great. Yep.

Melyssa Barrett:  I got to keep practicing, my tongue needs practice. But I’m so excited to have you here to talk about your perspective, because there’s so much in what you do that I think people should be aware of and should not only, and I think your focus not only on the people you serve, but to the practitioners that are out there serving them as well, which is fabulous. So maybe you could just talk a little bit about how you got to be where you are and what you’re doing over in another country right now.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So I guess we should probably start at the beginning. So my father, I was born in Haiti, my father in the 80s, at the height of the HIV pandemic, a little after the CDC made that horribly misinformed and racist 4-H Club. He migrated and immigrated to the states and we joined him afterwards. And that was kind of like my first experience really being in another culture, being in a space where I wasn’t understood and the way that I talked, the things that I believed were vastly different from those around me. And that experience of otherness and being reminded that I was an other, and people not really taking the time to understand where I was coming from, starting in school, moving throughout my life, really kind of got me into the work of the impact that culture, bi-nationality, bi-cultural identity, all of the different ways that kind of plays on a person.

So fast forward to grad school, the first time I’m at Temple, it’s my first class, I decided that I wanted to be a social worker. I submit my first assignment and I had an instructor ask me if English was my first language. And I proudly said, no it wasn’t. And she said, “Well, you write like it.” And she said, “I would recommend that you take some time off and come back. This program might be a little too academically rigorous for someone like you.” And mind you, this is a social work professional, they are licensed, they’re in this field because they want to help people. And she said that to me. And I remember just kind of being so shocked at what I was hearing. And the whole entire time I was in that class, when I was answering questions and writing papers and talking, doing role plays about how we would help someone in the situation, I was always being corrected.

And it took a while for me to understand that the way that she was correcting me was because she wasn’t seeing the fact that I wanted to honor the person and the culture that they’re from and let that inform how I practiced with them. And so that really kind of got me started in really thinking about what cultural competence means in social work and in the helping professions. Because, the word culturally competent services is this key hot, it’s this hot topic word that we throw out, but do we really know what it means? So is it enough to just say, “Oh, well I learn a few key facts about working with someone that is from Pakistan,” or “I have observed people from this community and I see what is important to them.” Culturally competent services has now been reduced to facts about someone’s culture and not really looking at how their culture, how their experience is informing their behavior, and it’s informing all of the things, and it should inform how we practice with them and what kind of aid we give them.

So yeah, I mean, that’s really what got me started. And I have been really lucky enough to have had different opportunities to take some contracts overseas and putting myself in these different cultures. I get to see that in action, right?

Melyssa Barrett:  Absolutely.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  I am an interloper. I’ve come into the UK, I’ve come to France, I’ve come to Morocco trying to provide aid, but am I providing aid with the lens that I think aid should be given, or am I providing aid and am I supporting it, am I practicing social work through what someone from this culture needs? And what does that look like? So that’s kind of me and my work in a nutshell. So I rambled a bit, but [inaudible 00:08:53].

Melyssa Barrett:  No, I think it’s fabulous that, I mean, you’re literally living what you’re doing, which is also informing you as you serve your clients, which is awesome. I mean, I think probably many of us wish we had the opportunity to help people in a way that also really is central to who we are and how we do it, based on so many global perspectives. So you’re actually taking those perspectives and then it’s informing your practice in a more culturally competent way, which is awesome. Because I know you do a bunch of things, not only in mental health and emotional, but you also get into sexual wellness and how couples culturally communicate, if I have that right?

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. Yes. So it’s quite interesting because when I was doing my PhD, and a lot of people say, doing PhD is often doing me work, particularly in the social sciences. I mean even some people in the stems they’re really passionate about a topic and they decide to dedicate 10, 20 years of their life pursuing this degree. And for me, myself, being a person that was born in Haiti, grew up in Haiti and then had to live some parts of my life in the United States, I found myself in a relationship with a French person, with a French men. And apart from the common language that we have of speaking French, there are so many other different ways cultural differences show up in our relationships, and we don’t take the necessary time to really dissect what that means. First example, is how we communicate with each other, not just words beyond the language stuff, because the language part is just at the basis of it, but how we communicate in the essence of what a conversation between couples look like.

Some conversations that are being had, right? Because I have some friends here that when talking about my partner’s relationship, they’re shocked that I’m actually having these relationships with him, or I’m sorry, having these conversations with him. And I’m sitting there thinking, “Well, but why wouldn’t I have these conversations with him? This is my chosen life partner.” And the idea of certain things being off topics to partners, not because you want to keep it from them, but that’s just culturally acceptable. I didn’t know that. The simple conversation of your siblings and their sex lives. And I remember an awkward conversation, one of my siblings had called me and had asked the question about cunnilingus, and I was like, Here is the answer to that. And my partner turned and looked at me and said, “You’re giving that information? You talked to your siblings about that?”And I said, “Well, of course, I do. Why wouldn’t I want my siblings to be having pleasurable sex?” And this is a younger sibling. And I’m like, “I would want them to come to me and ask for information because I don’t want them to go and get it from pornography. I want them to go get it from somewhere that’s responsible.” And I had posed a question, I’m like, “Well, don’t you and your siblings talk about sex?” And the resounding, “No,” right? And not no because, “Well, it’s awkward because family,” no, because of that’s just not something that you do.

And so I followed up with some of my other friends and I’m like, “Do you guys think this is a weird conversation to have?” And I got the resounding, “No, no, no, no, we don’t talk about this.” And so these small nuances, even if it’s among friends, so how does that creep up in a romantic sexual relationship? Because love is not all you need, there are other things that kind of factor into making a relationship work. And so yeah, so all of these different cultural dynamics of how we view relationships, what we think relationships should look like, what a healthy relationship looks like, all of those at its basis are linked in culture. And these conversations are not being factored when these couples are seeking therapy.

Melyssa Barrett:  Well, and what’s interesting is, I know probably everyone as a parent is also probably thinking about their kids and how they access information. And you want them to have accurate information, you want them to understand. But it can be a difficult conversation to have, especially when you may not be comfortable in your own sexuality in discussing those things.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. And I think this is where I am looking to the future and the younger generation to start normalizing these conversations. Because I think what’s been happening is, we’re comfortable in ignorance. In the sense of, if we don’t talk about it, then it’s okay, and we’ll only need to talk about it if it comes up. So a conversation about certain issues, important issues, is we’re waiting until it’s too late to have these conversations. Whether it be about, okay, so from your culture you are experiencing a social worker as someone who takes babies. And for me, in my culture, I’m what I know a social worker to be is this.

We shouldn’t be waiting until the last hour to have these conversations and to have these frank conversations, whether it be about cultural differences or sexual identity, sexual experiences, all of these things. Where we have adopted the, “We don’t talk about it” and are comfortable in that silence and that ignorance, and then are shocked when we get get the outcome, which is people who engage in behaviors are doing things, and they’re engaging in harmful things or in maladaptive behaviors or clinicians or social workers practicing unethically. We are not having these conversations and then are shocked at the outcome.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right. Well, and I mean, you talk about some of the cultural differences. So can you talk a little bit about maybe some of the differences that you’ve seen between the United States and other countries in terms of just how couples connect, aside from communicating on the specifics, but are there other things? I mean, I think we were even having a conversation about, what was it? I want to say, serial killers. So what was it about? I’m trying to remember now.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. There’s a family annihilation that occurred in India and it was shocking because three generations of family basically annihilated. And that is not something that exists or that’s happened in that culture because it’s a collectivist culture. The reason why this murder happened, and the person that committed this murder actually had some roots in the United States. And so when he essentially murdered his family, people were talking about how it’s the disease of the west, that you have a child that is so independent that they’re not thinking about the whole community, that they have put their own desires ahead. And pretty much as the results of seeking their own, I guess individualistic desires is at the cost of the family, which allowed them to think it was okay to kill the entire family.

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow, that’s so sad.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. So I think from the different experiences that I’ve had in looking at social work across the globe, starting within the United States, within the United States, there has been a culture of really not understanding what social work is, starting first with what exactly is a social worker. People are shocked to find out that in order to claim the title, it’s a licensed trademark. So in order to claim the title social worker, you actually have to have a graduate degree from a social work, an MSW, and you have to pass a licensing exam. So once you’ve passed this licensing exam, depending on what that looks like in your state, you can actually take on the title social worker. However, from the 60s, early 70s when we saw welfare reform changing and the landscape of the United States changing, social work has been synonymous with baby snatchers.

Social workers have been synonymous with part of the system, part of the reporting system that was separating families. During the 90s when the United States was going through the crack epidemic, the social workers would come in when they were making the welfare check, and they’re the ones that would tip off or report that they suspected mom or dad was using crack cocaine, thereby separating families. So the history of social work in the United States has veered from what originally it was meant for, which is, we have a chosen profession where people are dedicating themselves to aiding and supporting the community and strengthening families. So now from the 60s on, there have been kind of a change in the image of social work, but social work is still synonymous with the system. Whereas in India, a social worker is someone that is providing the community access to resources.

So at the height of the COVID pandemic, a whole bunch of us were called to India to help the small remote villages kind of pass out supplies, really learn about COVID and how to support themselves. For me, myself, I was absolutely prepared to have the door slammed in my face, to have a combative stance of the people in the community that I was trying to help. Because unless they were coming to me, meaning they’re like, “Hey, I’m volunteering for treatment.” Like I saw in the United States. I was used to combative and people not trusting me. Whereas, in this community, a social worker was someone that was actually helping the people in that community access resources. So if you wanted to know how to apply for a birth certificate, if you wanted resources on where to get lifestyle or where to get hand sanitizers, the social worker was the gatekeeper of the information to the community.

And I saw that replicated also in other countries, which was interesting. And so someone had said, they’re like, “Okay, could it be that in worlds that are developing, in nations that are developing, the actual social worker is at it’s root doing what the-

Melyssa Barrett:  Definition.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  …profession say they should do?” They’re actually assisting the community, and why is that often lost in other worlds? And then I saw Japan. So in Japan it’s quite different in the sense of what social workers represent. They’re there, but they’re not necessarily the… It’s the support as well, but it’s not synonymous with all of these horrible things that we see synonymous in the United States. So it kind of got me to thinking, where did we go wrong in the United States that the helping professions have been synonymous with people that are tearing apart communities. And it all goes back to how we in the United States perceive people who are visibly different than us.

So the others, and what that looks like when we actually try to help them. In these homogenous societies, the other, there’s not really a lot of definition for other. And so diversity or inclusion looks different. In the United States, there’s a long history of racism, prejudice, discrimination, and that has not, in the 300 plus years that the United States has been around, there hasn’t been much involvement on how we see others in relation to ourselves and how we view difference. Now, we are moving towards a place where we’re not seeing difference as a threat, we’re not seeing difference as a deficit, we’re not seeing difference as something that needs to be corrected and changed that hopefully we’re seeing difference for what it is, it’s just different. Right?

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  And the helping professions has not really caught up to that because we’re seeing difference. So if I as a white doctor have normalized being in existence as white hood or whiteness, if I encounter someone that is different than that, my mind hasn’t really figured out how to help and how to work. And therefore, if I’m not mindful, I might be perpetuating bias, and the person on the receiving end is sensing that, “They don’t know how to help me.” And by all of these things, now, we’re doing more harm than good, now we are getting into that nasty cycle, which is these people can’t be trusted because they don’t know how to engage, interact with me. I just rambled, but I hope that makes sense.

Melyssa Barrett:  No, it totally makes sense. And what’s interesting to me is how much research you’ve done in so many different areas. I think one of your research projects or papers had to do with mental health among first generation individuals.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  And so can you talk a little bit about the kind of differences in that? And certainly, I mean, even as we think about racism in America and the trauma that comes from… And honestly, I was on a webinar not long ago and they were talking about the continued trauma. Because, it’s not that we’re actually past the trauma, we continue to have that trauma kind of reignited, I guess, as we go.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah, absolutely. So mental health within first generation individuals is actually one of my passions because again, this is something that I have lived and I have seen. So for someone who decides to migrate, no matter, unless they left as a child, as young baby, where they have no conceivable connection to the country that they left, they’re kind of grappling with two versions of themselves. The person that they would’ve been if they stayed in their home country and who they are. And a person who is a first generation immigrant, they are kind of adept in walking, having two foot, they’re one foot in each part of the door. They have one leg and this leg and one foot and the other, and have gotten used to the balance of identity versus the culture of their host country.

So within my practice and the work that I’ve done, even before I decided to open my own practice, I noticed a lot of first generation individuals talking about the toll that this duality takes on them. There’s that. And then for some of the folks that I saw, contending with parents and a community that may not value mental health, that may not see the merit of mental health. And when I say mental health and mental wellness, when you’re thinking about someone who’s mentally unwell, some of these individuals were like, “Well, I mean I’m not crazy.” And I asked them, “What do you mean by crazy?” Or “I’m not mentally ill.” “What do you mean by that?” “Well, I don’t hear voices. I’m not responding to internal stimuli.” I’m not all of these. So they’re looking at the visual, the extreme aspect of mental not wellness and not looking at the fact of anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, the toll that really navigating this dual world takes on a person.

And the fact that we really don’t know how to work with this population. Because I mean, the research out there says, “Okay, they’re here.” But what the research is not telling us is how do we work with them? What are the therapeutic interventions that are going to be helpful in working with this environment? What are some things that we as practitioners and clinicians need to be mindful of when we are working with this population? And that information is not out there, unless you are talking to someone, a clinician who’s lived it, or if you’ve lived it yourself, which I have. So I’m like, “I know what might be helpful.” And then trying to always learn new different ways to expand on that. Because again, we have, and this is what I mean by cultural competence in the work that we do, within the first generation community as it relates to mental health, we have the information, the statistics on these are some of the things, this is what it looks like, but the practicality, the doing part of the cultural competence, we don’t have anything for that.

And the interventions that we’re seeing when they’re getting that so-called peer reviewed or empirically based, empirically factual stamp saying, This is something that is effective, when you’re looking at who they tried it on, you are trying on white middle class families. How does that then translate to first generation, living near the poverty line family that’s dealing with this issue? You want me to apply an intervention that has not been tested on them to see if it actually is effective on an already vulnerable population? And this is how we lose people.

Melyssa Barrett:  Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back. We were talking the other day about trust. And I mean, there’s already a lack of trust-

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  …between when folks are doing experiments and research and whether it’s Tuskegee or otherwise. I mean, we could talk about Henrietta Lacks and a whole bunch of examples. But I think there’s such a challenge in creating that perspective and for people to be informed that way without someone like you who actually is traveling and working in it and really paying attention to the behaviors and the cultural dynamics. I mean, I’m not a therapist or a social worker or anything like that, but I was listening to, I think we were talking about, it was a webinar on the Crown Act or something. And we had, I think Dove put it on, if I remember correctly. And they had physicians talking about the differences in how symptoms show up on dark skin versus light skin. And just the basics of what that looks like physically. So to me, I start thinking, when you talk about the mental health and wellness, it’s like, it can show up so much differently, but how do practitioners even understand what those differences are when it comes to different populations, different ethnicities, different cultural backgrounds? I mean, that’s difficult.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. And as I was listening to you talk, it kind of brought back to me my own experiences in that and that distrust, that lack of trust that exists. And we know why it exists and so we’re working to change that. But right now, we know it exists and it’s impacting the work that we do. So within my MSW classes that I teach, there is a book that I refer back to, and it’s called, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. And this book was actually based on a real life factual chronicles of a family, a Hmong child, her American doctors, and these collisions of culture. And so in this book, the social worker is highlighting their work with this child who has an illness and how the family’s Hmong culture clashes with her American doctors. And when you read the book, if you are not a provider, you’re like, “There’s absolutely no way this would ever happen in real life.”

And then I actually had it happen to me. So when I was working in Philadelphia, I started working with a client and it was an 11 year old child. And the 11 year old child was hospitalized for psychosis and for responding to internal stimuli. Now, mind you, that kind of symptom, it’s quite rare in people under the age of 18, the symptoms of schizophrenia tend to not show up until early in someone’s early or mid twenties. So the fact that we had a child that was responding to stimuli, it was quite interesting. So I go to the hospital but within two minutes I realized why I was the one that was selected for this. So this is a Haitian family, the mother spoke, she was conversational, but didn’t feel really confident in her English. The father spoke absolutely no English. And the child, while they had been in the United States for I think three years, so had really good grasp of English, was actively responding to psychosis.

So again, the doctors are like, “Well, we’re not really going to take anything they have to say at heart because they’re responding to stimuli.” And talking to the family, I understood from mom of her concern and she had wanted to bring her pastor to sit in on the meetings, because they were talking about the fact that the voices that the child said that they were responding to, was the voice of their grandfather who had passed, I think maybe two weeks before then. So you have that, that’s the background of it. And so the child went to school and was talking about the fact that he had been hearing his grandfather and his grandfather had been telling him things and trying to reassure him that everything would be okay. Now, with just that information that I’ve given you, what would be your takeaway from what this child may be experiencing?

Melyssa Barrett:  Grief?

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Grief. Right. But what was interpreted as what this child was experiencing was they’re Haitian, they believe in voodoo and so because the mother wanted the pastor there… By the way, no one asked this child what these voices were, they just automatically started medicating the child. And so the mom, when she saw her child and she saw that he had deteriorated. He was fine when he left for school. And now two days later, he’s not responding, he’s nonverbal, “What happened to my child?”

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  And the gaps of culture that existed there. And so when I actually challenged the psychiatrist, I was like, “Why was he immediately sedated? Right? Because you pretty much have medically sedated him.” And they’re like, “Oh, well they said that he was responding to internal stomach stimuli.” And when I’m talking and asking what words were used, “What did you say to this child that they would answer the way that they did?” The language that was used.

Child didn’t understand that. This is an 11 year old, right? this is an 11 year old. You’re using language that they don’t understand, you’re confusing them. And so the child didn’t get to tell them that when he goes to sleep at night, he hears his grandfather’s voice or that he’s maybe considering the grandfather died two weeks ago, so he’s experiencing grief. That we need to rule out a whole bunch of other things before we can start this child on a medication cocktail dose. And so I’m sitting there, “Why would that be the first act of treatment?” And the answers that I got from the psychiatrist, from the nurses, from the social worker, I’m like, “So you all just going to take a stereotype or take assumptions and insert it into how you practice with people and inadvertently cost harm. And so the mom, when the child was discharged, stopped the medication.

She’s like, “No, this medication has changed my child.” And so the social worker comes and asks, “Is the child taking the medication?” And mom’s like, “No, I’m not giving it to him.” Is now being charged for medical neglect. Because again, now, because the mom made a decision to do what was in the best interest of her child, and the medical community took some actions without really taking some time to truly understand culture, how that impacts beliefs, how that impacts behavior, how that impacts how the person shows up in front of you, what they say, how they say it, all of these things. That part was missed from the providers, from the health providers. And so now, we have yet another broken family in the system, a mother that’s accused of medical neglect because she was acting from her own cultural guide, her own cultural groundings and a community, a health community that didn’t want to take the time to understand her.

Melyssa Barrett:  Well, and I mean honestly, I thank God that you were there to come in. I mean, because there’s a lot of folks that end up in situations like this, maybe not as extreme, but I mean there’s not necessarily a social worker that has a lens you bring to really understand that cultural, those beliefs or even want to know really.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. And I think this is why when I talk about inserting this global framework and this global worldview and how we practice social work, this is at the core of that, particularly because, not to say that the way that I see things is the way that they should be. And the reasons why I believe what I believe are impacted by my travels. And I’ve been incredibly privileged enough to travel, but not everyone that goes into social work will have these opportunities. So how do we give them that education? And that’s the part where I feel like is really missed in social work education. That we’ve narrowed, narrowed down, or we’ve whittled down culturally competent practice as just knowing and not the doing part. What does actually practicing from a culturally competent lens look like? What are the skills that a person has to acquire in order to be able to do that?

What are some things that has to be considered when I am a social worker about to engage with a family and they might have beliefs that are totally different from mine. How am I processing all of that? Am I aware that it’s impacting how I see them and ultimately it’s going to impact the work that I do with them? That’s the part that’s not being taught in the helping professions. Heck, even in the teaching professions. Because that’s a whole other thing. As the sexuality educator, I can say this kind of education needs to happen among teachers, but yeah, the doing part of cultural competence is not happening and it’s not being taught or this is how you practice from a culturally ethical or a world view lens.

Melyssa Barrett:  Well, it sounds like you need to be doing a lot more speaking and educating.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  But that would take me away from why I got into it,

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Because I got into it because I wanted to help the everyday person. And that is something that I struggle with. Do I focus more on my curriculum writing or the engagement, the public engagement? So more of this conversation is had, but because I can’t clone myself and time and energy is finite, I’m often struggle with where do I put my energy? What do I put in energy into?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. I’m so thankful and grateful that you have done so much research so far. And I know you have additional research going on, if I remember correctly.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  And I think you even are looking for folks to participate in some way, correct?

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes. So as it relates to COVID-19 and how it’s impacted individuals within first generation communities, because again, the stats that we’re seeing, they’re quite disparaging. And one of the challenges that I have within research is, communities are lumped together. And what that does is it skews the data and skews how effective the data is. Because I’m like, if you’re saying this is the African American community and you’ve slapped in there Caribbean Americans and you’ve slapped in there people that are actually from Africa, there are three different categories within just the term black or African Americans or African Americans living in the United States. And the information that you found is now not helpful to any of those communities because we haven’t differentiated who it’s for. So I’m really hoping by next year, January of 2023, we can roll out this research so that we can actually get the data on what we need to know in order to be effective within this community.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. That’s so interesting, because I think even as we try to be inclusive, we don’t always realize that defining those identities can be really helpful as we move forward because of all of those cultural sensitivities and cultural competencies.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. And I think sometimes people get frustrated in taking a look at the nuances. And that’s the part where for me, as an educator, as a researcher, as a practitioner, that’s the part where I’m like, “No, no, no, no. The detail is in the nuances.”

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Because again, if you’re looking at me within the normal society, I appear to be a visible black person or person of color that is American. And it’s not until you talk to me that you realize, “Okay, well this person, their visual identity doesn’t really necessarily match up to what they’re experiencing. And therefore I have to ensure that any interventions that I want to present this person is actually tailored for them.” So understanding that the experience of someone who’s Black Caribbean is inherently different than someone who, let’s say they’re Black American, born in the United States, generations of parents in the United States, that’s inherently different. While we might share the same, I don’t know, racial category, we don’t share the same experience. Right?

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  And that needs to be reflected in research, that needs to be reflected in the interventions, it needs to be reflected in all of it, really.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for just spending an hour. I really want to spend more time talking to you. So I’m hoping you’ll come back and-

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  I would love to come back. Like I said, I could talk about this stuff forever. Not because I like the sound of my own voice, but I’m hoping that people hearing it, it resonates and it gives them cause to do something about it. Or if you’re the consumer or the person that is receiving services, that it can empower you to ask for these things. Right? And that’s the part that really for me, drives it home, that as a social worker or as a clinical practitioner, I’m seeing people often at some of the worst times in their life, that they’ve experienced some of the most traumatic things that could have happened to them. And I need to be able to help them effectively. But most importantly, they need to be able to trust that if they say, this is what I need, that it’s going to be reciprocate different or not appealing, that it’s going to be recognized as valid.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. No, and I’m absolutely right. I think it’s just so awesome all the work that you’re doing. And when I think about just diversity, equity, and inclusion, to me, everywhere you go, everything you do has the cultural competency that you talk about in mental health, physical health, sexual health, human behavior, I mean, I feel like the surface has maybe been scratched.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah.

Melyssa Barrett:  And so I just am so thankful that as you specialize in working with individuals with bi-cultural identities, you’re focused on immigration first generation, Afro-Caribbean, I mean, it’s just so many layers to some of the things that you’re doing. And I’m just so grateful to have met you and to have been able to-

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Shout out to Serina.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes, thank you. Shout out to Serina Hartinger and Fresh Eyes Development. So you are over there in France right now?

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes, I am

Melyssa Barrett:  But you also work in the United States?

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes. So life is not easy sometimes, and I recognize the privilege that I’ve been able to have to do that. But yeah, I followed my heart, and my heart brought me here. And immigrating for anyone who has xenophobic ideas about how easy immigration is, let me tell you, I’ve immigrated three times now, it is not easy. And working here, before I was able to work here, Sally Mae and Navian was still calling me. So I was able to find a position at a university in Texas, which COVID really did great things, and highlighting how we need to have different platforms of learning and utilize those platforms. And yeah, so being able to teach at the university but teach strictly online, and that’s allowed me to be able to go to these different cultures and see what social work looks like, see how that weaves into the community and what practice and care looks like, and how I could take some of that and implement it in my own practice.

Melyssa Barrett:  Fantastic. Well, I mean, thankfully I love the fact that we have so much remote work and that you’re able to do that. And I look forward to having you back and having more, even and more interesting and in depth conversation. Because there’s so many different things to talk to you about, I mean, we didn’t even scratch the surface, on sexuality and all of those other things that I was hoping to get to. So we have to have you back.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  I’ll come back. I mean, if you want me back, I will definitely come back.

Melyssa Barrett:  Absolutely.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  And talk about sex and culture.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. I mean, cause when you think about diversity, and I mean, obviously there are differences in all sorts of ways.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  So I love the fact that you’re actually talking about some of those cultural differences, because a lot of times we don’t hear about it.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. And that’s what I mean by the ignorance, that we identify that there is a difference, we identify that it’s there, but the conversation doesn’t happen. Or if the conversation is happening, it’s scratching the surface and not really getting at the core, as to what’s influencing this behavior.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  What’s influencing this person’s ideas. All of that needs to happen.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  And I’m hoping it does.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. Awesome. All right. Well thank you so much. I-

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Thank you so much for having me.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. No, it’s truly been my pleasure and honor, and I look forward to our next conversation. So we will circle back-

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  …and connect up, and then we’ll certainly let folks know when your research-

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Goes live.

Melyssa Barrett: …at the beginning of the year goes live, so that they can connect on that as well. So keep up the great work.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Thank you.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thank you so much for being here.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  Yeah. And thank you so much for creating this platforms to have this conversation. I was listening to some of the other platforms and I’m like, “Yeah. Yep. Yes, yes.” So yeah, I mean, thank you so much for actually creating this platform so that these conversations are happening.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. I love it. Well, that’s the least I can do. So hopefully there will be lots more coming after me. But again, I thank you and I look forward to our next conversation. So stay tuned everybody, because Dr. Jesse Andre Lamarre is going to be back.

Dr. Jessie Lamarre Andrè:  That’s me and I would love to come back.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.