Motivated by the dramatic psychological changes her mother went through before and after serving time in prison, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) human services major Asia Watkins aspires to work with women of color and their families experiencing the same challenges.
“When she came home from prison my mom just wasn’t the same. She suffered from depression, anxiety, and personality disorder,” said Watkins, a Carson resident who has a certificate in mental health recovery, and is expected to graduate with her bachelor’s degree from CSUDH in May 2017. “So it’s personal to me. I want to go into the prison system and specifically target women of color, starting with African-American women.”
The abuse of medications is one of the most pressing issues is in prison systems, according to Watkins, who carries a 4.0 GPA at CSUDH and recently applied to the University of Georgia to pursue her master’s degree. She believes that Georgia will be an excellent place to launch her career due to its ample nonprofit organizations focused on mentoring and family building in black communities.
Ultimately, she would like to work on changing policies within prison systems, as well as work with and counsel women after they serve time to help them “rebuild their family dynamics.”
“When my mom was incarcerated, the medications that she was put on—and given forcefully—really changed her a lot, both physically and mentally. I want to shed light on that while working in Georgia,” said Watkins, who is one of seven children in her family. “Incarcerated mothers often come home to kids who have grown up, and may resent them because it’s hard for the kids to fathom what actually happened to them while they were away, and usually find their family dynamics shattered. I really want to work to connect families back together, and help keep kids from going down the same path.”
Asia Watkins was awarded the Inspirational Spirit Award by the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce and Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce on March 23 during its annual Black History Month Celebration. The event recognizes the contributions of Black Americans who have made a difference on the world stage, and in local communities.
Inspired by her mother, Watkins started a support group on campus called Shattering My Silence, which helps African-American women engage in safe dialogue about mental health, intersectionality, self-care, and sisterhood. She is a student program coordinatorworks in CSUDH’s Multicultural Affairs, and in the Black Resource Center (The Rose) where she works with the staff to lead students in meaningful discussions on social issues, as well as connect one-on-one with her peers and younger black students to help support them.
“A lot of the time, we are told that if we work hard, which often has to be 10 times harder, we’ll get where we want to go. But I see a lot of black people breaking their backs and still getting the short end of the stick,” she said. “You start to think, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ You then begin to realize it’s a much larger issue than people make it out to be. There are a lot of policies in place that are preventing us from doing what we need to do to get where we want to go. But now I feel I’m getting into the position to help change some of those policies.”