Inherited Resilience: How BIPOC Communities Thrive Despite Hardships

When we engage in discussions about BIPOC communities, the narrative is often focused around inherited trauma and the lasting scars of historical and ongoing systemic oppression. There’s  tremendous value in identifying these traumas – they provide the needed context to help us understand the various challenges we face as BIPOC individuals.

However, focusing solely on trauma can make us forget another powerful legacy passed down through generations – that of resilience.

We first want to acknowledge that not everyone is privileged enough to belong to a stable, nurturing home or community, and for those in abusive or other detrimental situations, this discussion may not resonate. Our intention is not to gloss over such realities but to shed light on an aspect of BIPOC lived experiences that’s often left unexplored.

BIPOC communities are more than the survivors of trauma. We are the inheritors of resilience, as we stand on the shoulders of generations who, despite adversity, persisted and thrived. Generations that may have gone through war, loss, isolation, displacement, and immigration, and have passed on to us the versatility, perseverance, and resilience that can be developed through those difficult journeys.

Resilience is not merely about the ability to bounce back from hardships – it’s also about cultivating strength, joy, support, and connectivity within communities. 

Here are some of the ways this resilience manifests:

1. Community Building

The ability to create and sustain strong communities has long been a cornerstone of resilience in BIPOC societies. This collective sense of responsibility, the “it takes a village” approach, is nurtured over generations. It fosters environments where community members pull together to overcome adversities, share resources, and provide mutual support. Communities can gather for celebrations, for emotional or financial support, and even for collective mourning as prescribed in some traditions. This deep sense of interconnectedness forms the foundation of resilience within our communities.

2. Embracing the Value of Family

BIPOC communities often hold a broader view of family structures and relationships than typically seen in Western cultures. Our societies are often collective, rather than individualistic.  Many cultures within these communities promote a familial bond that doesn’t sever when one turns eighteen, for example, but one that is a lifelong commitment no matter the circumstances. This continuous family support network, emotionally and at times financially, can act as a safety net, fostering resilience and providing a defence against life’s challenges.

3. Ancestral Traditions

Ancestral traditions within BIPOC communities are much more than preserved customs – they’re sources of wisdom and healing practices. Take food, for instance. In many cultures, the act of preparing and sharing meals goes far beyond sustenance. It becomes a medium to express care, create connections, provide emotional nurturing, and evoke comfort, further solidifying the bonds within the community.

4. Artistic Expression

Artistic expression is another strong mechanism of resilience in BIPOC communities. Across the world, BIPOC cultures are rich in arts, music, dance, cultural traditions, and other creative outlets. These mediums can often serve as therapeutic outlets to express emotions, relay stories, and seek solace. They’re powerful reminders of strength, resilience, tradition, and shared history, and can therefore foster communal identity and unity.

5. Connection with Nature

In many Indigenous cultures and other BIPOC communities, a profound spiritual connection with nature exists. This connection offers comfort and builds resilience since engaging nature with reverence and respect is seen as a form of reciprocal healing and at times a spiritual practice. The earth gives, and we give back, creating a beautiful symbiotic relationship that nurtures both sides.

6. Storytelling

In BIPOC cultures, oral traditions and storytelling are integral methods of passing on lessons, values, histories, and experiences from one generation to the next. These narratives often highlight resilience – guiding, inspiring, and connecting community members to their shared past and future. Oftentimes, it’s not only the content of the story that inspires resilience, but simply the act of listening intently to a parent or elder and deepening your bond with them. 


Although the language of mental health care and therapy may not be commonplace or even recognized in all BIPOC communities, these communities have crafted unique, inherent ways to care for their kin and communities. It’s in these survival practices that they’ve passed down not just a legacy of hardships, but also of healing.

Remember, it’s always okay to seek professional help in addition to relying on these inherited tools of resilience. Therapy and mental health care can coexist with these resilient practices, adding another layer to the healing process.

Until next time!

Zainib Abdullah

WellNest Psychotherapy Services

Zainib Abdullah is the founder, executive director, and a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. Her approach to healing incorporates various therapeutic modalities. She works from a client-centred, anti-racist/oppressive/colonial & trauma-informed framework. As a yoga teacher and student in the lineage of Classical Yoga, she further incorporates mindfulness based therapies to support clients in accessing greater connectedness to their inner wisdom and peace.

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