Russia is transferring American basketball star Brittney Griner to a penal colony, her lawyers said, but they do not know where. Griner has been jailed for eight months and has been handed a 9-year sentence for possessing a small amount of hashish oil.
Dr. LaNail R. Plummer, CEO of Onyx Therapy Group has weighed in on the troubling case of the incarcerated athlete, and what issues it raises for our community and Black queer people.
|Moscow court has officially denied Brittney Griner’s appeal of her 9-year sentence on drug charges. You are one of the 1500 Black women leaders who in July signed the petition to the Biden Administration for Griner’s safe return, what are your thoughts behind Griner’s arrest? Do you think she was targeted by race, nationality, gender, orientation … all of the above?
Dr. LaNail R. Plummer: Yes indeed, I had the opportunity to support Brittney from afar. Whenever we have a platform, be it big or small, we should use it (not hoard it) to support those that we believe in! And, it’s clear that I believe in BG, not just because she’s a Black Woman who is Queer but because right is right is right and wrong is wrong. And while it’s easy to assume she was targeted because of her race, gender, and/or sexuality, I’m more inclined to believe it was because of the intersections of her nationality (as a US American) and her celebrity status (as a good af career basketball player). I believe she’s a political pawn in a game of strategy and exchange. The US is being tested to see how much weight they will put into returning a Black Woman who is Queer, home… and the Russians want political leverage. Her race, gender, and sexuality matters to us, as US Americans… but her nationality and celebrity status matters to the Russians. All of her identities are on the forefront but for many different reasons and agendas.
As a queer woman of color can you offer insight into some of the feelings Griner might be experiencing right now—and what might be some of the mental health ramifications she is experiencing?
Dr. LaNail R. Plummer: While I haven’t had the opportunity to share space with Griner, her experiences, timeframe of incarceration, and circumstances would lead from a transition of Acute Stress Disorder to PTSD. The former is more time based, but she’s approaching 9 months of trauma, which would move her out of ACD and into PTSD. Emotions- well all… ALL. I’m sure that the most permeating ones are complex and forcing her to stay in her limbic area with heightened activation in her amygdala… but I’d believe that she’s also experienced hope, joy, and happiness at very small and minute moments. However, I imagine fear (and the inability to take flight or freeze) is the one that stays with her the most and the longest. Since anger is secondary, I believe it’s present but not the root of her emotions. In this case, I think her and our shared sexuality identities are less important to her emotions… and the fact that she is a human, sans all identities, is what and where the connection to emotions lie.
Griner’s arrest and sentencing was for something that is legal and considered medicinal or therapeutic in the US. What medical or mental health advice can you give to queer and BIPOC folks before they travel who might be accustomed to self-medicating for anxiety while stateside and not aware that they might not be able to travel with those habits?
Dr. LaNail R. Plummer: Self medicating is a term used when we don’t have prescription, or rather scientific permission, to engage in the substance. While I have not seen her medical or therapeutic notes, I understand how high pressure jobs, attachment separation, and identity intersections can cause more stress and possibly anxiety, that will impact her performance. For those of us in the US that have access to medical and therapeutic care, we need to get prescriptions for our substances, like cannabis. It’s an actual and factual form of mental health treatment with far less side effects than traditional psychotropics. It’s healing to the brain, the mind, and the body. Therefore, we need to take the leap and get our medicinal cards… instead of just not relying on “hand me downs” and “what’s in the streets.” Plus the latter is actually quite risky because you never know if your stash is laced, pure, or of good quality.
With detained or imprisoned people like Julian Assange, it has been shown that their mental health suffers. What are your professional and personal fears for Griner? What also are your thoughts about the mental health of her wife?
Dr. LaNail R. Plummer: My fear is extreme. It’s that, with another denial or delay, she will choose to ascend with the ancestors instead of ensuring what she believes imprisonment would look like for her. Keep in mind, she’s in a land of which the National language is not native to her. In addition, her identity intersections could allow for protection or persecution within the walls of the prison. I imagine her body has already shifted from its routine of needs, like vitamins, exercise, etc. and the lack of consistent serotonin and dopamine release, alongside a lack of access to her preferred substance treatment, is likely causing a whirlwind on her body that she can neither understand or explain. Coupled with hopelessness, she could make the same decision that many of our foremothers made during the middle passage, to leave this Earth and ascend to spirit. And while I would not want this for her, I understand the physical and emotional pressure that could lead to this decision. Regarding her wife, I suspect she carries the hope that will sustain both of them… and in her internal moments of conflict, she leans on those who have the capacity to carry her weight.. because, that’s what a village is about.
Any events, resources, or initiatives Onyx is providing between now and the end of the year?
Dr. LaNail R. Plummer: We at Onyx are ALWAYS sharing resources and information on either our website, or through our social media channels: YouTube, Instagram, and our Podcast. We will also be hosting another mental health series at the Eaton Hotel in DC this Sunday, November 6th, with quarterly events taking place there throughout 2023.