400 Chicago high-schoolers, many of them struggling to see the value in their lives, are reminded by a millennial author that #BlackLivesMatter.
At the end of April this year, I gave the keynote address standing before a crowd of 400 Chicago high-schoolers at an annual teen summit held at my alma mater, Northern Illinois University. The theme of the event was #BlackLivesMatter.
Ironically, however, my presentation to the youth was to explain why for so long felt I like my black life didn’t matter.
I opened up to them about the fact that at age 10, when I was severely bullied for being overweight, I was already self-mutilating.
And life didn’t ease up as time went on. I lost out on my opportunity to play college football; I got into a relationship that became abusive; I gained 170 lbs in the matter on months; almost failed out of the university and went on to spend 10 years attempting suicide.
One young lady, after I finished divulging my truth, said:
“Excuse me; may I talk to you in private? I want to talk to you because I was depressed for a few years and I used to cut myself.”
She showed me the scars on her arms and I immediately embraced her. She then began to weep.
I looked up for a second during our embrace and noticed her peers – the majority of whom reside on Chicago’s most dangerous streets – coming my direction with tears in their eyes, too.
These young men and women were bold enough to take off their “mean grills” and engage me in a dialogue about coping with depression and contemplating suicide.
The shift in energy that enabled everyone to be so vulnerable manifested when told them I overcame by taking time to realize who I was, outside of what people said and thought.
I reminded myself, through post-it notes plastered all over my dorm room or notebooks, that I mattered.
Though things ended on a high note and students left with a fresh outlook on life, I couldn’t help but to think about the countless other young black men and women who are struggling to see the value in their own lives.
Last week, Mr. Don Lemon appeared on The Tom Joyner Morning Show to talk about suicide being “a black thing now”, citing statistics from a 2009 National Institutes of Health study which says:
“Suicide is the third leading cause of death in all teens in the United States. Historically, black teens and young adults have lower suicide rates than white teens, but in recent decades, the suicide rate for black youth has increased dramatically.”
This is why it’s important that we not only show love to all people, especially to our black youth who face particularly rigid systemic challenges, but also tell our stories, because if hurt people can hurt people, then surely healed people can heal people.
*Tune into www.TheDrVibeShow.com on 8/22/15 to hear various thought-leaders and I discuss mental health and suicide prevention*
Thanks for reading!