Web Accessibility Support

The People Person

Two-time Howard alumna LaNail Plummer, EdD, draws from her various life experiences in her work of bridging the gap in Black mental health services.

by Larry J. Sanders (BA ’14)
Dr. LaNail Plummer

LaNail R. Plummer, EdD (BA ’02, MEd ’06) has centered Blackness as she bridges the gap in Black mental health services. “The primary thing that breaks a particular taboo in Black mental health is when a client sees and relates to a Black therapist,” Plummer says.  

Plummer is the chief executive officer of Onyx Therapy Group, the mental health organization she founded just over a decade ago. “I started with a couple clients, and then they started telling their friends and family,” she says. “The company grew because of the demand. Now it’s a team of 34, an international mental health and human services company in all different settings.” 

Plummer attributes normalizing the conversations around mental health to elevating its significance in our everyday lives. “People think mental health is just about Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” Plummer says. “But mental health is also about decision-making, who you choose to be your partner, how you see yourself when you look in the mirror, the things that you say to yourself. Your courage, your confidence, your competence, your spirituality. All of that is mental health because it is all about the human experience.” 

A self-described therapist by nature, Plummer’s passion and personality are key to her mental health advocacy. “Whatever this gift is that the ancestors have placed in me attracts people who need that therapy,” she says. “Because of that magnet, it makes an easy opening – with this gift and this personality and the skillset that I’ve been able to learn throughout my career – that just allows me to talk to any and every one about mental health.” 

Plummer earned a Bachelor of Arts in administration of justice with a minor in psychology from Howard University in 2002. She was first introduced to the concept of clinical counseling while in work-study, which prompted conversations about a career shift with her professors and mentors. Post-graduation, Plummer worked at the University for a year before pursuing her Master of Education in counseling, graduating with her second Howard degree in 2006. Plummer also earned a Doctor of Education from Marymount University in 2018. 

Perceptive and resolute since her youth, Plummer determined at age 11 while in her hometown of Los Angeles that she wanted to one day attend Howard University. With her father enlisted in the military, Plummer was parented by a single mother afflicted by a drug addiction. She says she first found an interest in mental health due to her own upbringing. 

“I started to get curious about how some people were making decisions that were aligned with success and prosperity – and more explicitly, how they were making decisions about being with and raising their children,” Plummer says. “At a young age, I was already curious about decision-making processes and psyche, especially because it was affecting my family.” 

Inspired by the career of Thurgood Marshall, Plummer initially aspired to practice family law, tailoring her middle and high school curricula to be a prime candidate for admission to The Mecca. Around this time, Plummer relocated to Seoul, South Korea, with her father; after Seoul, they moved to Hawaii. She believes these formative experiences helped provide the requisite courage to exist outside her comfort zones. 

“I believe that confidence is built off of competence, and competence is built off of lived experiences,” Plummer says. “That was the baseline for my desire and confidence to leave all that I knew to voyage a new path.” 

Resplendent in Onyx's black and green color scheme, Plummer has just completed a corporate pitch on behalf of her company. Among the life lessons she picked up at Howard: “the power of communication through style.” 

“I brand when I pitch, so that people remember the color of the dress, the glasses, the business card. Everything matches and makes sense,” Plummer says. “There’s something to be said when you walk into a room with confidence, and you look together – people take that seriousness to another level.”

This story appears in the Spring/ Summer 2024 issue.
Article ID: 2151

More In...