Today we’d like to introduce you to Bobby Jamaal Sampson.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The person I am today is due to my family and me bearing witness to the trauma in my community. I was born and raised in South Central LA, Crenshaw area by a family full of social services providers. Before I knew that I would be a therapist, I knew that my career would be one of service to others.
My grandmother owned a small all-boys group home, and my parents worked with foster youth and children with behavioral concerns. During my childhood, my sister and I would spend a large portion of our time at my grandmother’s due to my parents working. Some of my best memories are with the boys that would come and go from that small home. I was able to develop strong relationships with the boys that lived there. During those years, I learned about the trauma that caused them to be placed in the foster care system. In retrospect, those earlier years are what helped me further develop my empathic skills.
While I was surrounded by love at home, that did not shield me from the world and the oppression those that were deemed different from society experienced. From school to the hood, I was often reminded that I was unlike all the other boys playing sports and riding bikes. I learned at a young age being different was viewed as a problem; being flamboyant was a problem. I can recall often crying because I didn’t understand why I struggled with making friends and feeling so low I didn’t want to live anymore. As I got older, I sought out people that would affirm my identity and would assist me in understanding why I was different from the other boys. When I decided to identify at 17 as a gay black man I struggled, and I began to hang around folk that did not have my best interest. During those years, I was confused and experienced difficulty with developing self-love due to my lack of positive gay role models, not just in media but also in my community.
After years of developing more robust bonds with positive representations of black LGBTQ folk in 2012, I decided to go back to school and be the person that I needed when I was a child. I’ve been providing mental health services for over six years around South-Central LA, South bay LA, and Long Beach. I eventually got my Masters in Social Work from UCLA with a mental health emphasis. I have experienced working with varies populations from youth to homeless adults and the severely mentally ill. I love pouring hope and faith into both my gay and black communities. I realized that in order to help my people overcome what is holding them back from progressing, I needed to be in spaces to assist them and provide resources. I’ve been a Psychiatric Social Worker for over two years providing therapy to homeless, severely mentally ill individuals, while also working in an inpatient psychiatric hospital linking clients to resources. During the weekend, I also participate in research focusing on trans-youth that are beginning hormone replacement process.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing about this process was smooth ha-ha. I feel like being a therapist is emotionally draining at times, so deciding to be of service to others was scary. Realizing that I would be in the space helping individuals process trauma felt overwhelming. I had many conversations with myself regarding my ability to help people the way I envisioned a therapist should help. I also knew very little black folk that provided therapy, especially no black gay men that provided therapeutic services. I was hoping I would see that at grad school, but I was one of three black men in my whole graduating class. I was often scared that I was too black or too gay for the space. During grad school, I met a lot of friends that helped me realize that me showing up, a black gay man that wanted to help my community, was good enough. I had a mentor professor Serna that helped push me to see my identities as a value. He explained the importance of a black gay therapist showing up and letting people see that its possible to overcome barriers. He would always tell me that if I weren’t in the space providing the support, telling my story, others would be, and they may not love my community the way I do. I had to process my insecurities and dig deep to help me realize my full potential. I leaned on my family and friends often to pour love into me when work became stressful.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I currently provide therapy and homeless resources to individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County with the Department of Mental Health. My focus has always been mental health amongst vulnerable populations such as black folk, low income, homeless, substance abuse, and severe mental health diagnosis. Monday through Friday, I travel around LA county linking folk to shelters and food banks while also participating in weekly therapy sessions with individuals that are on my caseload. The goal of my work is to decrease homeless around LA county for the most vulnerable homeless, the ones that mental health is so severe they need providers to come to their location.
Along with that work, I also do contract work with an inpatient mental health hospital discharging clients and linking them to outpatient mental health services and homeless resources for those that need housing. I think it’s important to be in those spaces because the majority of the individuals in LA county that struggling with homelessness are black men. I want to be there to help people reach their full potential however I can. I believe what has always set me apart is my upbringing. I’m from the hood, so I know what the lack of resources can do to a person. I’m aware that I’m privileged to have gone to college and have a career. When I’m in my community I know that I have to be the change that I want to see around me, I have to do the work to uplift my neighborhood, so there are more black folk in spaces to create long-lasting change.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory is playing video games in my grandmother’s group home with my sister and the boys that lived there throughout the years. We would all come together during the summer nights in the living room, laughing and enjoying each other’s space until we were forced to go to sleep. I feel like those experiences helped shape me; it helped me learn what community and love for others felt like. Those moments also helped me realize that community and family do not have to be biologically tied. Family is what you make it with whom you make it.
- Address: 2600 Redondo Ave Long Beach, CA 90806
- Phone: 3238779325
- Email: Bobbyjsampson@gmail.com
- Instagram: bobbyjamaal