The Healing Power of Art in Intergenerational Trauma

Race, Sex, Age and Disability


  • Gloria Swain M.A, York University, Independent Artist



Throughout this paper, I use a political and activist lens to think about disability arts and its potential role in opening up a necessary conversation around how madness is produced by experiences of racism, poverty, sexism, and inter-generational trauma within the Black community. I begin by explaining how the Black body has a history of being the site of medical experimentation. From the perspective of my own experience, I suggest that this history of medical abuse has caused Black people to be suspicious and wary of the healthcare system, including the mental healthcare system, which forecloses discussions around the intersection of Blackness and mental health. I go on to argue that this discussion is further silenced through the trope of the ‘strong Black woman,’ which, in my experience works to perpetuate the idea that Black women must bear the effects of systemic racism by being ‘strong,’ rather than society addressing this racism, and she must not admit the toll that this ‘resilience’ might have on her mental health. I close with a discussion of how my art practice seeks to open up a conversation about madness in the Black community by suggesting that madness is political.

Author Biography

Gloria Swain, M.A, York University, Independent Artist

M.A, York University, Independent Artist



How to Cite

Swain, G. (2019). The Healing Power of Art in Intergenerational Trauma: Race, Sex, Age and Disability. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 8(1), 15–31.