Black Experience: It’s ok to be human

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Jackson Advocate Engagement Editor Joshua Martin

“Thank you Lord for allowing me to see another day. Please watch over me, my mom, my little sister, and the rest of my family members. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.” 

Every morning before I start my day, I say this prayer to myself. In a way, it helps me focus and crystallize what the most important things in the world are to me which, oftentimes, acts as a beacon of light when I’m in my darkest and lowest moments. 

As men, specifically Black men, we are faced with so many expectations and responsibilities that the pressures to keep a leveled head in today’s society is almost impossible. Toxic masculinity and the need to act tough and avoid showing emotions can be harmful to our mental health and have serious consequences for society. Naturally, we are viewed as providers and protectors; we believe and others perceive that we must remain strong and persistent. Any sign of fret or worry may be viewed as soft or weak.

Not many wonder, I assume, how we deal with trauma and disappointment. How we cope when we lack emotional intimacy and the ability to communicate effectively what we truly need. Opting to suffer in silence leads many of us down a path of unhealthy coping mechanisms, which inevitably leads to causing major bodily harm, drug abuse, and even the reocurring suicidal thought. This especially occurs during the holiday season when those without family or friends tend to feel isolated from the rest of the world.

I shamefully admit that I, too, have sometimes wondered how life would be if I were not around. I assume that I am valueless and my existence is not welcomed anywhere. When I get in these moods, I tend to shy away from any social interactions with people, display irrational behaviors, and sometimes fail to meet routine expectations of me. 

Growth is a continual process. Learning how to effectively communicate is something that implores all of us to strive to achieve – not just to one another but to ourselves. It saddens me that many of us feel as if we have nowhere to turn to – no safe space where our voices will be heard. 

As a community and as a culture, we need to dispel all of the negative stigmas associated with mental health by actively seeking help and understanding. 

It may not always be easy to spot the signs that someone is suffering, but don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions when you notice drastic changes in a friend’s or loved one’s behavior. Don’t assume someone has everything all together.   

My safe space is my mom, my sister, and the small collection of people I trust with my vulnerability. Remember, hurt people hurt people. With that being the case, I have decided to not sit on any unanswered questions I may have or thoughts that may breed any negative feelings. 

It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok to not be well. It’s ok to be human. Fellas – for those of us that are struggling with life in any aspect – speak up and let someone know. You are loved, and you are a masterpiece who is more valuable with us than the alternative.

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Black Experience: It’s ok to be human

By Joshua Martin
January 9, 2023