The Finish Line: Chance the Rapper, Power to the People, and Power of the People
What brings you joy?
God, Hip-Hop, Friends, Pokemon, and Security.
Michaelangelo's Mental Health Story:
We all have a story. With unforgettable characters, mind blowing plot twists, and unfathomable resolutions truly and masterfully orchestrated by God.
This is mine.
I have watched the specter of depression, like an insatiable beast, eat away and destroy the lives of many I have cared about, myself included. It makes individuals feel worthless, not cared for, hopeless, and not wanting to be on this planet anymore because of all the pressure and anguish. I’ve seen it, experienced it.
In the Black community in particular, the coping methodologies of the past are becoming outdated. We can't just “pray it away”, “stay strong”, “just get over it” and dismiss it by simply blaming it on the devil. We all we got. It's time for us as the new generation to usher in new stratagems of vulnerability, open conversations, lack of judgement, and pure, familial love with each and every individual we know that is going through it not just for ourselves, but the future generations that depend on our survival and to fulfill the dreams of our ancestors. I write this as the introduction to my story to not be preachy, just aphorisms gained through what I call: “The Finish Line: Chance the Rapper, Power to the People, and Power of the People.”
When my parents divorced back in 2009, I moved into unfavorable housing conditions with mice, little to no food on a weekly basis, and sleeping in a laundry room for a majority of my high school career. Graduating Salutatorian of my high school and gaining a scholarship to go to college, I found a way out of my situation down South.
Unfortunately, depression still followed me, and no matter how much I achieved, the awards I had won, the exotic places I had traveled, the people I had impacted, the good grades I had gotten...it still found a way to plague me. So much to the point where I was hospitalized two times for suicidal thoughts, all my scholarships were lost, and my school threatened to kick me out if I had one more “mishap”. My mental illness made me lose a lot of friends and people I cared about. Furthermore, when I didn't graduate with my incoming class, it destroyed me, making me feel like a failure. At this point I didn't know what to do.
But then salvation came in the form of everything and everyone I had invested in. Power to the people, Power of the People.
See, with my depression, as a Black man, I felt showing signs of it would make me weak. Not only did I struggle day to day with it, but I harnessed a perpetual sort of energy within me to be a blessing to other people exhibiting joy and motivation to all those I met. More than all my accomplishments, I became known on campus as the guy with a lot of energy, happiness and ability to brighten someone elses day. I felt like it was duty no matter what else I did, to give others joy even if I or them were not feeling so hot. Everyone fights a different battle every single day both externally and internally, some are just more vocal about it than others. I realized in my actions that we all we got, and we gotta start acting like such on a daily basis to protect each other's peace and joy. I found joy in being one to others. I had people coming to me saying I helped make their day, that I helped them stop contemplating suicide and negative thoughts for those down days. It gave me power and purpose knowing that the feelings were reciprocal and I could make a difference.
Thus, whenever I was homeless, couldn't afford a bite to eat, was down in the dumps, and couldn't live day to day, I had joy influx from the community I had invested so much in. Without barely mentioning my problems they all jumped in to help me whenever I needed. That's love. That's the major reason what has made me so powerful in all that I do.
With this power of the people, I was able to finish, as an exchange student, my last few classes in my hometown and transfer my credits to my home institution down South. What motivated me this entire last semester was a song by Chance the Rapper and T-Pain. The hook went:
“All my days, I prayed and prayed, I’d see the Finish Line,
Oh, I'mma finish mine.”
These simple words helped me persevere, knowing all my efforts and sacrifices of my friends were not in vain. I would make it. The power of the people helped me survive. The beloved community being candid about their pain and helping me with mine made me shine and make it to the Finish Line. As I make it to the end of my collegiate career, I can't help but smile bright at the joy of God's blessings and lessons.
I dedicate this piece to Da’Shaun, Rodney, Kaya, Clarissa, Kevin, and Morgan. Their bravery and triumph over the specter of depression on a frequent basis gave me the courage to topple mine every single day.
I am joyful.