May of 2015, I posted an entry entitled “Sacrificing your Sanity to be Superwoman?” which opened up a discussion about black women and mental health. I wrote it because I felt that the fear of discussing mental health within the African-American community had caused many of our internal battles, which have resulted in chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and suicide. I inserted the article under the “trials” tab.
Last week, rapper Kid Cudi released a statement on his Facebook page. He did not blast or diss a fellow rap artist, nor did he announce the release of a new mixtape or album. Instead, he vocalized his personal battle with mental illness. The Cleveland born star blatantly told the world about the decline in his mental health, and that he would soon enter rehab hoping for a successful recovery. So, although Cudi may be experiencing a trial in his life, this post is recognizing a triumph within our community. And this time, it’s for black men.
Of course, because I’m a woman, I’m not sure what men endure emotionally. But I do know that society has pretty much always associated unemotional with masculine, as if men are inhuman. Little black boys are taught not to cry, and taught to hide or brush feelings off at an early age.
Educator and culture critic, Josie Pickens, who was quoted in “Sacrificing your Sanity to be Superwomaan?” wrote an article published on ebony.com 2 years ago entitled “Building Emotional Bridges for Black Men”. In the article, she mentions educator and activist Tony Porter and how his TED Talk “A Call To Men” heavily discusses the topic of invulnerability and black men. Porter says, “I grew up in New York City, between Harlem and the Bronx. Growing up as a boy, we were taught that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, dominating—no pain, no emotions, with the exception of anger—and definitely no fear.”
Pickens did further research and asked a group of Black male readers to comment on how the African-American community can work to create safe spaces where black men can be vulnerable and express typical, natural human emotions. One reader responded, “I think the first thing we need to do as men is acknowledge that we do in fact have feelings. Our hearts can be broken, we do have fears, there are moments we feel vulnerable, and yes, we are, in fact, human. How can we start the conversation about our emotions if we don’t know where to begin?”
I’m not a black man, but I have a brother who’s black, as well as a father, and a few male friends, who are black. And I would have to say I agree with the reader, and Mr. Porter. Yes, African-Americans come from a past which required very little to no emotion in order to survive. I recognize that we would not have made it this far without our ability to remain strong through anything and everything. However, we must figure out a way to evolve as this world continues to evolve.
It’s almost like there’s, what I’ve named, a reverse boy who cried wolf curse on black men. It’s not the typical scenario of crying for help so often that when you actually need help no one listens. But rather, black men are so silent about needing help, or about experiencing pain that no one even thinks about asking. And when they do speak up, we’re quick to question, dismiss, and silence them, again.
Cudi has previously been involved with drugs, which some believe most likely contributed to his issues. Which could very well be true. However, I think that’s the issue. Mental illness is to real to make any false accusations. His issues could have stemmed from genetic, biological, psychological, or environmental factors; not necessarily from personal fault or some sort of character defect. Whatever his case may be, I am simply glad that he spoke up and spoke out to a world who didn’t even ask in the first place. He didn’t have society’s permission to express his thoughts, but he did anyway. I’m happy that he took the initiative to get our attention, and say “Hey, I’m hurting, and I need help.”
Kid Cudi used his celebrity platform to create a nonjudgmental space for conversation about a very uncomfortable, yet uncompromising topic.
I hope you come out stronger and better, mind, body and soul.