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Hidden Healers: MTV Commemorates Black History Month With Mental Health Initiative

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
This year, the network’s music-driven mental health campaign partnered with artists Big Freedia and Monaleo to release exclusive episodes about their wellness journeys.

Logic, Selena Gomez, Kehlani, Megan Thee Stallion, Demi Lovato, Michelle Williams — these are just a few artists who have come forward over the years about their personal battles with mental illness along their wellness journeys. Fortunately, the topic of mental health has become more approachable and less taboo as musicians, talent, and digital influencers use their platforms to amplify talking points that were once avoided, including anxiety, PTSD, and self-harm.

Monaleo performs during the Rolling Loud showcase during the 2022 SXSW Conference and Festival (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Last year, MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks introduced Hidden Healers, which was described to the public as “a digital content series created in partnership with a group of four mental health young leaders to drive mental health actions that honor the heritage of BIPOC communities and cultures.” Officially making its debut in November of 2022 for Native Peoples Heritage Month, more videos will be released throughout 2023, including during Women’s History Month (March), Arab American Heritage Month (April), Asian American Pacific Islander Month (May), Caribbean American Heritage Month (June), and Latinx Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15.)

What is MTV’s Hidden Healers Initiative?

“Hidden Healers is a collective movement. It is reclaiming the healing power of our cultures and traditions,” Hidden Healer Ayanna Kelly told Boardroom.

An Afro-Latino veteran, mother, and podcast host of Sazón y Corazón, Kelly emphasized the feeling of dismissal and underrepresentation that BIPOC communities often endure and how the initiative is creating a safe space for those individuals looking to seek refuge for their mental wellness journeys. “We are often marginalized as a community and do not have the same access to mental health resources, so we turned to what we know. The Hidden Healers movement amplifies the power we have to heal ourselves using the tools our ancestors passed down.”

Maddox Guerilla, another proud Hidden Healer and visionary social impact consultant, weighed in on what the Hidden Healers initiative means to him and what his hopes are for the future of the partnership with MTV. “Hidden Healers stemmed from the idea that historically, conversations around mental health and wellness have been whitewashed, and [that] there is a level of institutional trauma that marginalized communities have faced, resulting in Black, brown, and queer communities creating their own healing practices and us reclaiming those roots and ancestral practices,” he explained.

Through their partnership with MTV, Guerrilla expressed the initiative’s goal to “create media representation of culturally grounded healing practices” across cultures, communities, and ethnic backgrounds.

“We want Black, brown, queer, and folks from marginalized communities to see their cultures being uplifted and represented. Our goal is to have youth look at this campaign and feel touched because they are seeing themselves in the Hidden Healers we amplify,” Guerrilla said.

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The mental health series, originally announced last May 2022 during Mental Health Awareness Month, was created in partnership with the four young leaders who developed and presented the idea at MTVE’s first-of-its-kind Mental Health Youth Action Forum hosted at the White House in May 2022 with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, US Ambassador Susan Rice, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, and singer and mental health advocate Selena Gomez. In addition to Kelly and Guerilla, the four leaders also include Mahmoud Khedr, an immigrant from Egypt and the founder and CEO of mental health education nonprofit FloraMind, and Kheira Bekkadja, a Muslim Algerian-American whose involvement with suicide prevention organization Our Minds Matter has informed her passion for creating safe spaces that destigmatize mental health and promote wellness.

Big Freedia attends the 65th GRAMMY Awards (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

As part of the Hidden Healers digital series’ launch, MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks debuted their partnerships with Houston-bred rapper Monaleo and New Orleans bounce music icon Big Freedia for Black History Month. In an effort to deepen the wider audience’s understanding of the relationship between mental health and music within Black culture, MTV uncovered what music has meant for Monaleo’s mental health and healing journey.

“Monaleo and Big Freedia are iconic and they represent everything Hidden Healers represents. They both lean into their own journeys and show us they are real people – they go through things and there is power in music,” Kelly said of the “Beating Down Yo Block” and “Rent” artists, respectively. “They break the mold on what celebrities and icons are ‘supposed to be.’ Who doesn’t love artists who are themselves no matter what? That right there dispels so much even for mental health. You can be a baddie and still have things to work on.”

In praising Big Freedia, whose 2014 track “Explode” was one of many songs sampled on Beyoncé’s latest award-winning album, Renaissance, Guerilla had this to add:

“We were very intentional when it came to Black History Month to uplift the experiences and voices of folks in the Black community that typically aren’t amplified. Historically, queer Black folks have been left out of history, so for us, it was really important to have queen diva Big Freedia representing her voice, music, and overall existence that exudes Black joy and queer sexual liberation. Especially when we talk about history, we need to make sure we are including women and queer leaders who have historically gotten written out. We want to make sure we are bringing the marginalized to the center.”

As for future plans for the program, Kelly expressed that MTV Entertainment’s work does not stop here with the amplification of Black, brown, and BIPOC voices in the conversation around mental health beyond one month marked in the calendar for Black history and its leaders.

“Black history is being created daily! We are naturally innovative, full of spirit, and joy,” she raved of her community, which she noted is also being amplified throughout the Hidden Healers: The Self-Care Playlist specially curated for Black History Month. “Through our partnership with MTV, we will keep amplifying Black creatives and creators that are working towards mental health and wellness.”

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About The Author
D'Shonda Brown
D'Shonda Brown
D'Shonda Brown is the Music and Entertainment Editor at Boardroom. Prior to joining the Boardroom team, she served as the Associate Editor at ESSENCE and Girls United, ESSENCE's Generation Z platform. Through the years, the Spelman College graduate has amassed bylines in entertainment, fashion, beauty, wellness, and business across For(bes) The Culture, HYPEBAE, Byrdie, HighSnobiety, xoNecole, REVOLT, and more.