Lisa Dazzell’s story is just beginning. Everything she has done in her life has been done with intention and for Dazzell there is no intention of slowing down. Dazzell believes in the voice of the Black community and hopes that her work will serve as a form of empowerment and liberation.
From Guyana, Dazzell and her family came to the United States when she was five-years-old. It is common for those who immigrate to a new country to experience a culture shock, but growing up Dazzell’s grandmother taught her and her siblings about race, specifically in the context of white societal norms. “Although I saw and experienced first-hand racial disparities within the Rockaways, it wasn’t until college that I learned about systemic oppression and the different forms of oppression that stifles advancement within the Black community,” said Dazzell. This led to her attending Macaulay Honors CUNY Lehman College for her undergrad, where she received her B.A. in Psychology and in Africana Studies with a minor in Health Education and Promotion. Now attending Iowa State University, Dazzell is pursuing her PhD in Counseling Psychology. “I decided to study Counseling Psychology because it gives me the opportunity to decolonize therapy, as we know it, as well as break the silence about mental health, which is necessary for us in the Black community given our experiences of intergenerational historical trauma at the hands of white America,” explained Dazzell.
Once she receives her PhD in Counseling Psychology, Dazzell plans on using it to expose the falsehood of the shame associated with therapy in and for the Black community. “I want to use culturally sensitive therapy to help members of the Black community work through differing presenting concerns related but not limited to racial identity, trauma, interpersonal concerns and self-worth issues. Following, I hope to use the knowledge I gain from my degree to help my community prosper by providing positive coping resources and a safe space to continue to grow while promoting Black empowerment,” Dazzell said. Dazzell is vocal about remaining in academia so she can be able to teach Africana Studies in order to educate Black people about their history as well as work within the community to conduct meaningful research. “I also want to use my energy to fight for a social justice cause that I am passionate about with community-led activism and community organizations,” said Dazzell.
Dazzell’s work within the community is shining through her work with the Rockaway Advocate. Her involvement began in August 2019 after Dazzell was asked to be the editor of that edition of the newspaper. “After that process I decided that editing was something I enjoyed and decided to be an editor for the recent edition as well. Throughout that process I really enjoyed writing stories that truly aligned with my interests and sharing my knowledge with my community,” she said. Following her connection to the Rockaway Advocate, Dazzell became involved with the Rockaway Youth Task Force. The Task Force operates as a grassroots member-led organization that is mostly comprised of young women of color within the Rockaway Peninsula. The Task Force works to build power to secure social, economic and racial justice for residents of the Rockaway area. “I learned about the Rockaway Youth Task Force from my sister Dekendra Dazzell who was first a youth organizer who advanced to become RYTF’s Farm Manager for some time. I got involved with the organization formally by asking to shadow RYTF’s then-Community Engagement Officer Andrea Colón. After shadowing and volunteering at the organization I realized how deeply rooted my passion for social justice is and how I want to continue the work of Black empowerment and Black liberation in any way possible. One form of this for me is writing which includes free writing, poetry, social justice articles and research articles as well,” Dazzell said.
Within Dazzell’s writing for the Rockaway Advocate, a lot of her content touches on topics like food justice and politics. These topics align with her mission of Black empowerment and liberation through knowledge. “For me, food justice is a basic human right so it comes easy to write about things that our community deserves but unfortunately because of white supremacy and racism we do not have access to. Therefore, it is important to make people aware of the racial inequities and systemic injustices that impact the Black community whether it is food justice or another cause. Further, I also attempt to use my writing to educate Black people about other significant concerns within our community such as mental health,” explained Dazzell. Dazzell is pushing the movement through her work of educating the community. Assata Shakur is one of her biggest inspirations as she reflects what it means to be a revolutionary. Community-based work is important to Dazzell because it gives a voice to the community that she so greatly believes in. “Oftentimes, Black people are disproportionately impacted and lack resources within our own communities. As a result, community based action allows us to be heard. We get to advocate for our basic human rights and we refuse to be silenced. Writing is just one way that we remain resilient and share our opinions, positions, advocacy and social justice praxis. For me, writing (social justice articles, research articles, poetry), teaching, and remaining an active member in my community will allow me to further my community based action goals in hopes of fostering Black empowerment and Black liberation,” said Dazzell.
Outside of working with the Rockaway Advocate, Dazzell is currently a practicum intern at Iowa State University Counseling Services where she saw clients before COVID-19 and she is also working on her thesis, which is a critical phenomenological analysis of racial inequities that impact the Black community.