Hume Center wins the Empowerment Award

The Hume Center was honored today during Contra Costa's Office of Consumer Empowerment's SPIRIT Graduation with the Empowerment Award. This award, which was voted on by the 2021 Graduates of the SPIRIT Program, was shared with our partners NAMI Contra Costa as the vote was a tie. The Empoewrment Award celebrates an agency that is an impactful partner with the SPIRIT Program, its students, and its alumni, and is working toward the empowerment of the vulnerable, the unseen, the unserved, and the opressed.

The following is Hume's acceptance speech, as deliverd by Chris Celio.

"I’d first like to thank Reynold, Margaret, Pooja, Karly, Cynthia, Rebecca, Jamie, Lynitra, and Alika at Hume as some of the many people here who made our SPIRIT program happen. I’d like to thank all of the SPIRIT graduates who have worked at Hume as you’ve taken Hume to new hieghts!

There’s an old saying that you all know that starts off, “It takes a village.” It’s a saying we’ve all heard a hundred times, and so maybe we say it without thinking. But these days that saying is more important than ever. Why is that you ask?

Well, it could be because we’ve all gotten through a horrible world-wide trauma together and we’re still recovering?

Today I have had the honor of witnessing joyous hugs and flowing tears as students hugged each other as they met in person for the first time. They found a way to be a village for each other across the virtual distances between them, and to lean on each other. This class was not an easy eight months and they got through it together.

Or maybe “It Takes a Village” is more important now than it ever was because none of us are at full strength right now or have access to our full support systems or our self-care options.

Some of us are pretty fragile as we cross this finish line, holding onto our fellow students’ shoulders as they help us across. Human bodies are not designed to be in constant stress for this long, so let’s pull through this together until we can breathe easier and let our guard down.

But the real reason I say It Takes a Village is more important today than ever before is because SPIRIT has truly proven what true empowerment is all about.

In an old fashioned view on the concept, let’s call it the expert empowerment model, to empower someone was to give them something they lacked. In other words, to empower someone was to view them as an empty cup and to take your own pitcher to fill up their emptiness for them, inherently giving them value when they before had had none.

In our case it gets worse. People with lived experiences were seen as broken, smashed cups who could never be filled up again.

In these views of empowerment, the dark message behind the self-glorifying rescue mission of transformational expert empowerment was that you are broken and worthless and the person assigned to empower you from the dominant or normal culture must be modeled after in order to heal. Your brokenness was innately believed and their professional expertise was the only way to rescue you.

True growth was achieved, it was said, by declaring your broken parts and rough edges as worthless and replacing them as fast as possible with “normalcy” and following the straight and narrow.

But that is not the empowerment we celebrate today, for SPIRIT has taught us that true empowerment is not something given to you from another and it is not assimilating yourself to a dominate culture and it is not leaving yourself behind in a journey toward normalcy and self hate.

True empowerment is instead the revealing and celebrating of your true inner self, with all the glorious rough and jagged edges that come along with lived experiences, something all humans share yet only few admit.

True empowerment fully embraces that “it takes a village” because it acknowledges that the knowledge needed to heal is already contained within that village. The Peer and Family Movement is the utmost proof that the village does not need to import “foreign” knowledge from experts to come tell the village how to live and how to heal.

Instead, the success of the peer and family movement has taught us that all we need to do is truly and fully elevate the lived experience within the village, and we can end the chronic suffering we see all around us.

So now I see you all as the healers of your villages, and I appreciate that we work in a county where SPIRIT graduates are added as professional healers year after year. Peer and Family Providers are not just adjunct or assistants or purely for outreach. You are weapons against suffering that treatment plans all across this county are calling for as prescribed and equal members of the treatment team and administration.

On behalf of The Hume Center, I appreciate that you have given us this great honor. I am proud to work at a place that elevates all voices equally around the treatment table. I am proud that family and peer services are integrated fully into what we do and how we think, and that the designation of LE (Lived Experience) has as much respect around the table as any other letters after someone’s name.

So never let anyone see you as a broken worthless cup, or an empty cup that they must fill in their own image, and instead see yourself as a beautiful overflowing cup that is already filled, just as you are, with all the ingredients necessary that you’ll ever need to join in the mission to reduce suffering and bring healing and connection.

Graduates of 2021, please raise your right hand high in the air. And now please reach forward and turn off the imaginary Zoom mute button. And never let your voices be muted again, as we need you as members of the team to provide services and continuously improve the system."


July 27, 2021
2021 SPIRIT Graduation
Chris Celio, PsyD
Vice President of Clinical Operations