Rev. Dr. Charles Dorsey has served on the New Directions for Women Board of Directors for over six years. In this special radio interview, he speaks with Bruce Cook with Angels Radio on addiction recovery and treatment in the Black community, and reuniting with his father to heal a generational cycle after 28 years. Our intention with this radio interview is to continue the conversation on racial justice, and increasingly support black, indigenous, and people of color.
Through our clinical curriculum of Wellbriety and White Bison, we know trauma is passed down generation to generation and the systemic oppression of people of color has caused health disparities that exponentify over the decades. Communities of color also bear the impact of discriminatory enforcement of drug laws – meaning people of color end up incarcerated while others have the privilege of treatment. POC are more vulnerable to the negative consequences associated with substance misuse, but are statistically less likely than Caucasians to access substance use treatment.We have a responsibility as a long standing organization to explore and attempt to heal these disparities and barriers, starting with us. How do we ensure all individuals have equitable access to treatment and family recovery support?
Charles is a nationally known motivational speaker, preacher, community empowerment specialist, leadership expert, and group facilitator. His academic record includes a Doctoral degree in Organizational Management from Peppedine University, a Master of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology and a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology from the University of California at Irvine. Charles is happily married to Attorney Lakeshia M. Dorsey, who is invited around the country to discuss policies surrounding family law. We are grateful to Charles for providing volunteer leadership on our Board, and always living in a way that positively impacts others.
Bruce Cook: Tonight we’re going to tackle an issue that is intrinsic to the problems our society faces. It is an issue that a lot of us would rather ignore personally, ignore in our families, ignore in our communities. And frankly, while it affects all people of all races and all colors and all creeds, does seem to have a more serious impact in the minority communities of Black Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans. That is the issue of addiction.
I want to introduce you to my first guest and I’m very honored to have him onboard tonight. It’s Rev. Dr. Charles Dorsey. He is the founder of the Dorsey Group, which is both a personal and a business consultation firm. But moreover, he’s a community activist. He’s very involved with the Black community in particular here in Orange County and elsewhere through Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is also on the Board of Directors of New Directions for Women, which is one of the sponsors of this broadcast. New Directions, as any of you who are listening to this broadcast know, is a residential treatment facility for women fighting addiction located in Costa Mesa.
Let’s say hello to Dr. Dorsey. Dr. Dorsey, welcome.
Charles Dorsey: Hey, Bruce. It’s good to be on the line. Just a privilege to be here. Happy to be connected to many of the really tough and important conversations that matter in Orange County but also to be connected to such an influential voice like yourself at a time like this.
Bruce Cook: May I call you Charles?
Charles Dorsey: That’s fine, please.
Bruce Cook: Great. I want to start with this quote that I found on your bio. “Addiction is the hole in the soul of America.” Speak to that.
Charles Dorsey: We know that when we talk about addiction, it’s taboo in many minority communities. It is something that impacts generations, something that impacts most of us in our professional lives. And, certainly, it’s oftentimes left out of conversation. It’s something that kind of creeps into our lifestyles. And sometimes it’s our addictive behavior that lands us in some of the places that we’re in.
I actually get this quote from one of my mentors, a family mentor. Dr. Wilson, who’s no longer with us, who was married to Becky Flood, the past CEO of New Directions for Women. We noticed that many communities were suffering but nobody was talking about addiction. And so it’s that hole, it’s that gap that nobody really wants to talk about. We have seen that politicians don’t provide the finances to really, really solve and yet it’s something that impacts all of us very closely.
Bruce Cook: Well, it’s a very profound statement. Let’s go to the horrible things that have been happening with the Black community and the police in terms of these tragic murders that have happened. When addiction is in play and the police aren’t capable of dealing with it. What do we do to change that and why has that not been brought into the public square to talk about it? Why has that been not talked about?
Charles Dorsey: The truth is addiction covers so many of our communities. It is not exclusively an African-American theme. It not exclusively a people of color theme, but all of us are impacted by addiction and so if we make addiction the focus, we might actually uncover the fact that …. with your permission, Bruce, I’d like to speak freely.
Bruce Cook: Please do.
Charles Dorsey: It might highlight the significant presence of institutionalized racism. It might highlight the White privilege that exists in some of these encounters. So we can talk about all of the different policies that have increased the population of African-Americans and people of color in jail, how the sentencing for powder cocaine versus crack cocaine [is different]. We were in a board meeting at New Directions for Women and I was tripping because recently the President call the opiate crisis an “epidemic.” I don’t know if you remember that. And one of the things that sprang up with me was well, back in the ’80s when communities of color were under siege under crack and it became, you know, a war on drugs. We wanted to lock people up.
But now when it starts impacting other communities, it’s a health epidemic. It’s something that we should now invest in. We’ve got to now do something. It’s a health crisis and we see the distinction in treatment of those stories when addiction is at the heart of it. Imagine what the world would be if we had abated this addiction health crisis back in the ’80s. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation today with the opiate crisis if we had really humanized those people who were suffering back in the ’80s, particularly African-American people, and African-American men who are now locked up, right …
Bruce Cook: Right.
Charles Dorsey: … when they probably needed treatment. So this is something that really highlights that hole. We don’t even want to talk about it, so we prefer to kind of credit it to other things.
Bruce Cook: Well, the drug addiction that you described from back in the ’80s in the Black community it was also in the White community, but it was totally under the rug in the White community. And, unfortunately, in the 40-plus years that have ensued, drugs in America, I think, have destroyed our country. My opinion, one person, one lone voice on radio, it is so bad Americans don’t even have a clue how bad it is.
Charles Dorsey: Right.
Bruce Cook: And maybe if we focus on some of these societal problems that are coming to light now in terms of injustice and inequality and economic division, we need to also be looking at this. How did you get so personally involved, Dr. Dorsey, Charles? How did you come to the table, as they say? What was your motivation?
Charles Dorsey: There are two ways and it started with relationship when I was at this church working with a target population – young people. One of my soon-to-be mentors walked in the room. That would be Dr. Maurice Wilson, a trained psychologist. He’s working over in New Directions for Women, and his wife Becky Flood came in. They had a son. His name was Sam and I got an opportunity to work with Sam.
If you know that family, they are head over heels on treating addiction and making sure that even if it’s a hole in the soul of America, it does not have to be a hole in the soul of Orange County. And so we were a church that was continuing to try to get at some of the ills that Orange County was facing. Orange County boasts of some of the highest rates of DUIs. We’re like the DUI champion of the state.
I was not aware of it because in communities of color we’ll spiritualize it real quick. We’ll say to pray your way out of something that you probably need treatment for. So we see that in mental health but we certainly see that when talking about alcohol addiction and drug addiction. So anyways I got close to them and began to work with their son and began to see really the impact of that particular work and I – I’m not necessarily disclosing their story but that was the doorway in for me. And I think that because they were an interracial couple, this allowed them to introduce the conversation to our predominantly African-American church in a way that allowed us to really see it.
Of course, then we see that the leader of our church had issues with addiction. I leaned into this type of work. New Directions allows a woman to go through treatment with her daughter or her son, with her child. And typically if you’re going to go into treatment, you have to separate from your child, right. So I was like man, that’s not okay. But I also have a tough road that I’ve been walking because I reconnected with my dad after 28 years.
So when you really look at the importance of being able to stay connected to your parents while they are moving through generational trauma and struggle, these two roles intersected at New Directions for Women and gave me some permission to lean in. And then, of course, I walk into the room and there aren’t many people in the room who look like me, right? And that’s the consequence of how sometimes the people who need the treatment aren’t necessarily in the rooms or reflected in the rooms where the decisions are being made. So I also committed to being sure that I represented the population that needed addiction treatment most, and tried to advocate to create an environment where people who look like me can have access in a more intentional way. New Directions has been the place where I’ve been trying to do that. I’m really, really happy about the progress that we’ve seen, with the women that have been attain recovery. But we still have a steep hill to climb.
Bruce Cook: Charles, when we come back from break, which is just about to happen, I want to pursue what you just brought up about reconnecting with your dad after I think you said 26 years.
Charles Dorsey: 28 years.
Bruce Cook: 28 years. That’s a big issue for a lot of people regardless of color, but it’s a major issue for people of color. And I want to talk about that and the role of the African-American man in society and why you think addiction has particularly hit him, him being the population.
Charles Dorsey: Yes.
Bruce Cook: It’s a pretty big task but I’m giving you a heads-up. We’re going to go there in a minute after our commercial break. Ladies and gentlemen, we are on air tonight, Angels Radio all over Southern California. We’re talking about addiction in society. We’re talking about how it relates to the transformation of everything we’re going through now. I’m Bruce Cook. I’m with Dr. Charles Dorsey and we will be right back.
Bruce Cook: And we’re back, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Bruce Cook live Sunday night on Angels Radio broadcasting all over Southern California. Again, it’s a great honor to be talking to all of you tonight with Dr. Charles Dorsey. We are talking serious talk about addiction. And you’re probably saying what the heck is a show doing on Sunday night talking about addiction? And I got to tell you it couldn’t be a better subject because, as Charles said in our previous segment, Orange County is the DUI capital of Southern California.
Anyway, with that little sermon passed, I had asked Dr. Dorsey to share with us his personal experience and relationship with coming to terms with his dad after 28 years of separation and how that ties into the whole situation that is a major point of discussion in America today about the Black male in the family situation. Charles, enlighten us.
Charles Dorsey: Yeah, this is actually quite significant. If you guys are listening and you haven’t taken a look at some of the statistics associated with what some people call the “father factor”, the statistics are glaring. I’ll share a little bit about my story but the US Census Bureau did a study that would suggest that 19.7 million children – more than 1 in 4 – live without a father in the home. If you do the math, that’s about 5 million children, and they suggest that those who live without fathers in the home are four times greater risk of poverty, seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen, more likely to have a behavioral problem, two times greater risk of infant mortality. I mean two times greater to suffer obesity, more likely to go to prison, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. I’m talking to the fathers who are listening, you matter. Your presence matters. Your voice matters. How you live your life matters, how you appear, right. All of that is really important.
And it resonates with me because after 28 years, I reconnected with my dad and to be honest with you, Bruce, it’s changed my life. I have not been the same. I feel like I was on my way to living a good life and connecting with him has really increased my trajectory to something great especially –
Bruce Cook: How did it happen? How did it happen and what had separated you for so long?
Charles Dorsey: You know, it’s – I’m still discovering that story, but the story is that he separated from my mother and for some reason, he just decided not to come around. He tells me one of the reasons why he didn’t come around is because of a dispute that he had with my mother. As quiet as it’s kept, I will say this one time, but I think my mother enjoyed taking advantage of the great fruits of the vine and enjoyed going out. My father honestly disagreed with that so they kind of separated. I don’t know if my mother was an addict or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she liked a little alcohol, okay.
Bruce Cook: Okay, well, there you go. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what we’re talking about.
Charles Dorsey: She has not confessed it but I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m going to leave that there with you, Bruce, and you guys read between the lines if you wish, but he decided to call me. He said, “Charles, I want to tell you what happened.” And when he shared with me his story, I discovered that there was so much that I did not know. I had attached every negative attribute of my own life, right, to my dad because it’s easy to do that when the absent parent isn’t available to speak for themselves.
And so in that way when he began to share his story with me, I’ve discovered that one of the keys, particularly when talking about men to us really being who we’re supposed to be in our families, is tied to our fathers. And so many of us have fathers that became addicts for various reasons. It could just be general life challenge. It could be trauma. But they leaned on alcohol. They leaned on drugs. They leaned on some other form excessively or impulsively use that form of medication in ways that created distance between them and their family members. And so what we have strived to do through a work called Fathers and Sons Speak is to give a safe space for a dad to tell his story and for a son to tell his story and for them to understand that they are inextricably bound. And once those stories are shared, we know a little bit more about what we’re supposed to do and contribute to the world, so that’s it in short.
Bruce Cook: That’s pretty amazing. I understand you just had a child. Is that the case?
Charles Dorsey: Yeah. Yeah so you guys may hear a little wiggling, a little squeaking in the background. I’m trying to keep her quiet. She’s sleeping. She’s got the pacifier in. I’m super nervous. I’m looking at her. I’m like oh man, Bruce, I hope she doesn’t scream out in the middle of the interview. [Laughs]
Bruce Cook: We’re going to put her on radio at how many months of age. Listen, what are you going to teach this daughter of yours? What’s the most important lesson that you, as a father who has learned so much on your own experience, what’s the biggest lesson to teach this child? What’s her name?
Charles Dorsey: Her name is Temi. That’s her nickname but Temitope, which means “mine who’s worth being thankful to God for.” I think the biggest lesson that I can teacher hear is really about being her most authentic self. She has something to give to the world. So though opposition and challenge and difficulty and all of the different sort of forces that will come against her just because of her skin color and where she comes from and how she presents to the world are going to face her, I’m just going to try to give her permission to be herself by just being as authentically you as you can, and the rest of the pieces will fall into place. So that’s probably the top lesson.
Bruce Cook: Wouldn’t you say or at least feel more hopeful that this new brand new generation will face hopefully a better situation?
Charles Dorsey: Yeah, Bruce. That’s why I come on shows like this. That’s why I’m inspired by people who do what you do. That’s why I’m connected to New Directions for Women because the work that we’re doing we necessarily may not see the fruits in our time. But for the generations that are coming behind, what if the world had created a pathway for people to actually access affordable addiction treatment and as a consequence families stay together longer? Like what if the world saw my baby child and didn’t see her skin color first, but saw the way she illuminated the world and the content that she brought to the world and her hopes and her dreams and all the positivity that she’s going to bring? Like we actually can help to create that world. I don’t know that we can do it everywhere but in the spaces that we’re responsible for we can move that needle, right?
Bruce Cook: Absolutely.
Charles Dorsey: She will live in a better world than we do.
Bruce Cook: And despite whatever negativity exists in this time of great chaos and change and fear, the truth is we have come a very long way in less than 50 years. Don’t forget people listening tonight, I believe it was 1967, which was what, 47 years ago, there was a federal law on the books all across America banning interracial marriage.
Charles Dorsey: That’s right, that’s right.
Bruce Cook: That was only four decades ago. Think how much has changed. Think how much has changed. What we’ve got to do now at least in my pulpit here on the radio, it’s all fine and good to take down negative images that represent bad things in our history, but we can’t forget the history. We cannot push it aside. We can’t pretend it never happened. We have to learn from it and we also can’t – I don’t think we can push aside the good things in minority cultures that have been so rich and so part of American life, and pretend that everybody’s the same. We’re not the same. We’re just not the same.
Charles Dorsey: Right, right.
Bruce Cook: We need to learn to respect on another and to do that we all individually, as you just said, have to be our authentic selves, an teach our children to be the best they can be. So I hope that happens in the next generation. I hope we don’t go backwards.
Charles Dorsey: Well and to be honest with you, Bruce, if I could just put a little plug here, it is sometimes out of crisis that we discover the best parts of ourselves. And so our hope is like this is exactly the heart of recovery, isn’t it, where we find people in find crisis and we challenge that crisis and out of that that emerges a beautiful soul, a beautiful mission, a healthier life, a better generation. And so we believe this conversation is provoking people to confront that difficulty. Even when we’re looking at our society, this very, very turbulent and great moment of unrest, there will be something that emerges out of this as pure gold and shining light that’s going to help get us to where we need to be. It’s a special time for people to discover their passion and really give back to this world what they were created to give in the first place.