UMOJA program celebrates Black History Month with speaker Thea Monyee

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Monyee explained how Black joy can be achieved through sexual liberation and wellness.

By Cassandra Nava, Online Editor

Thea Monyee is a licensed therapist and guest speaker who has made appearances on HBO, BET and Fox Soul. (Photo Courtesy of MarleyAyo)

Guest speaker Thea Monyee addressed students across the Los Angeles Community College District via Zoom to speak on the importance of joy and pleasure, and what that can look like for Black and marginalized people.

The Umoja Black Scholars program kicked off their Black History Month festivities on Feb. 11 with a virtual lecture titled “Pleasure Noir: Pleasure in Black Bodies and Other Marginalized Persons.” Monyee, a licensed therapist, actively works to decolonize marginalized people through pleasure. The wellness activist focuses on changing the narrative of her Black ancestors from suffering to joy. She teaches people that eroticism is not just limited to the physical aspect of sex, but can be found in daily occurences.

“We dissociate the idea of pleasure from our ancestors as though they did not experience it,” said Monyee. “The reality of that is that if they did not experience or have some sort of joy or pleasure, we would not be here. It wasn't just their struggle, their strife or the strength of their resilience that got us here, it was also their joy that brought us here.”

According to Monyee, the word erotic is defined as “transformational creative energy.” She explained that even a conversation with a stranger can be classified as an erotic exchange, because something inside of the individual changes from the start of that conversation until the end; something was born from it.

The licensed marriage and family therapist, who is currently studying to become a certified sex therapist, has a long list of credentials, including appearances on HBO, The Oprah Winfrey Network and Red Table Talk. She stated that although she is licensed in the same field she is trying to deconstruct, she works on bringing health and wellness to Black people similar in the way that it was pre-colonization. Monyee wants marginalized groups to have a right to access what they enjoy, without the social pressures of today.

An important topic to Monyee is the hypersexualization of Black women, and how that can guilt them into not acting on their pleasures. She explained that the trope of Black female identity being equivalent to sexual deviation has robbed women of potential experiences.

According to a survey of university students by Contexts, the number of “hookups” that Black women have compared to their white counterparts is significantly less. Monyee explained that Black women are not as sexually liberated, which goes against this false stereotype. She questions how society can affect this, asking, “Is it because of that trope that they felt they could not move as freely in their sexuality as their white counterparts?”

After explaining the importance of self-love, the lecture ended with a question and answer portion. Dr. Elliot Coney, Valley UMOJA Black Scholars counselor and coordinator, asked Monyee about the trauma that happens to Black male bodies everyday. Coney explained that even as a doctor of education, he still feels that he is seen as a threat. Monyee explained that surviving in a white-centered country is a traumatic experience.

“We give Black men a really narrow path of what they have to do,” said Monyee. "But we never stop to say, is that what they really want? Self-care must apply to black men. We massage that message into women, but not to men in that same way.”

The UMOJA program will continue to celebrate Black History Month with virtual events scheduled throughout February. Students can stay tuned with the events by checking the college’s newsletter, Valley Weekly.

Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez addressed students and faculty about the importance of celebrating Black culture this month stating, “Education, engagement and enlightenment are keys to social justice and racial equality for all. As educators, it is our collective responsibility to purposefully serve our higher education community and, at the same time, to challenge it.”

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