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How Are You, Really?: A’shanti F. Gholar Gets Honest About Mental Health & Electing More Women to Office

How Are You, Really? is an interview series highlighting individuals—CEOs, activists, creators and essential workers—from the BIPOC community. They reflect on the past year (because 2020 was…a year) in regards to COVID-19, racial injustice, mental health and everything in between.

Design Art by Sofia Kraushaar

A’shanti F. Gholar was just starting a new chapter in her career when the pandemic hit. The new president of Emerge—an organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office—had big plans but adjusted to fit our new way of living. I chatted with Gholar to look back at her past year and how it shaped her mental health, career and her views on the state of racial injustice in our country.

So A’shanti, “How are you, really?”


My first question is, how are you?

I’m hanging in there. I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine a few weeks ago and that definitely relieved a lot of anxiety. I feel very blessed to be here as so many millions of people did not survive the pandemic, and many that did overcome COVID will have lingering health issues.

The past year was definitely hard. I took over as president of Emerge right when the pandemic hit, and it changed everything. We are an organization focused on in-person training and we saw that disappear overnight. 2020 was full of unknowns and I just had to trust my gut with the decisions I was making. Despite it all, 2020 was our most successful year at Emerge.

How Has The Past Year Taken A Toll On Your Mental Health?

It’s not just the pandemic, but the increase in racial injustice that we are consistently seeing and experiencing. I don't talk a lot on my social media pages about the murders of Black people because some weeks that means you are talking about it every day, and I'm too emotionally exhausted. I actively avoid watching the videos of any of the murders because it is too much for me personally to see how Black lives are seen as not having value. It is a constant reminder of the physical, emotional, and mental toll of racism and anti-Blackness.

Do You Find It Difficult Talking About How You Feel To Others?

I don't. I had two cousins that died by suicide, so I take mental health very seriously. I have a wonderful support network that always checks in to make sure that I'm good. It is important to talk about how we are doing, good or bad, and as a CEO, you need that outlet.

Design Art by Sofia Kraushaar

Why Do You Think It’s Tough For Bipoc To Talk About Their Mental Health?

For many Black and Brown people, our communities and even our own families, have created a negative stigma around mental health issues. There is the belief that we can just be strong and get over it. Any narrative that equates mental health issues to weakness is dangerous. We need to care about our mental health just as much as we do our physical health.

What Are The Ways You Focus On Your Mental Health? Are There Self-care Rituals, Tools, Books, Etc. You Lean On?

For me, it’s the little things. I love me some YouTube! Jackie Aina, Patricia Bright, Andrea Renee, Maya Galore, Alissa Ashley and Arnell Armon are my favorites. Watching them always makes me so happy, but it isn't good for my bank account as I end up buying so much makeup and other items. I try to workout at least three times a week. I also LOVE astrology and have been studying it more. As the world is opening back up, I will start to travel internationally again, which is my way to really unwind.

With So Much That Has Happened In The Past Year, What Has Made You Smile/laugh Lately?

Emerge recently marked the milestone of having over 1,000 alums in office including the first Indigenous Cabinet Secretary Deb Haaland! That always brings a smile to my face.

How Has The Pandemic Played A Role In Your Career?