“It’s so much easier to choose love. Hate has to be taught. People don’t just come out hating. It’s so much easier to just embrace people for who they are.” -Marvin Toliver

If you look up the word “radical”, you’ll find definitions for its noun- and adjective-based usages. Marvin Toliver, MSW, LCSW, embodies both. He’s a self-respecting bisexual man of color who refuses to bear the crushing weight of racist, capitalist, heteronormative systems. Instead, Marvin advocates fiercely for marginalized folks and won’t accept anything less than complete liberation and revolutionary social change. He’s well on his way with his work at Radical Therapy Center and as one of the creators behind Melanated Social Work.

The road to becoming a radical therapist is littered with lived experience. The journey is paved with other struggles for a marginalized member of an already marginalized community. “Growing up in Oakland, CA, a queer Black man in a heteronormative hyper-masculine environment, I found myself hiding lots of myself, hating myself, hating my skin color because I thought I was too dark,” Marvin says. “I saw a lot of injustice in the world. From homeless to Black Lives Matter movement to harm against queer folks, I saw international harm and [ ] I had to do something.” 

That “something” brought Marvin to Radical Therapy Center, a group practice where folks with marginalized identities are prioritized. The trauma-informed care is focused on liberation not only for their clients but for anyone whose identity is stigmatized (and worse) by the colonial philosophies governing our daily lives––that goes for many therapeutic environments as well.

Melanated Social Work, the group Marvin co-founded with three Black and Brown therapists, is yet another way he’s bringing radical change directly to marginalized people, bypassing the “wellness” structures that cause them intentional and covert harm. The group is a multimedia powerhouse. They’ve got a podcast, a robust IG feed. They hold workshops for current and soon-to-be clinicians plus training on wellness support, all centering culture as a foundation for ending the stigma of mental health in Black and Brown communities while fighting for liberation from systems rooted in white supremacy.

Radical change takes root when everyone has space to grow into the genuine expression of who they are. Marvin sees his challenges, coupled with his privilege, as a bridge for folks routinely excluded from conversations about self-love and transformative healing. “I know my privilege; I know that I’m masculine-presenting,” he says. “I know that I do traditionally masculine things like sports or hip hop or whatever else. And I think that’s a privilege for me too because I can speak to heterosexual men and say like, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on.’ But I can also identify with queer men, just like, ‘Hey, I understand your struggle.’” 


CWH e151: Shauna Murray Brown – Anti-oppressive and Liberation-focused

CWH e129: Claude Cayemitte – The Movement of Justice Comes From Disruption

Decolonizing Therapy for Black Folk

Dr Barbara Shabazz


Radical Therapy Center

Melantated Social Work


Marvin Toliver, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker born and raised in Oakland, CA. He is a radical therapist, radical educator, consultant, guest lecturer, and dope human.

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