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The blaring alarm relentlessly forced Kenneth out of his slumber. He groaned with frustration, as he had finally fallen asleep an hour and a half ago, after a night of tossing and turning. He begrudgingly slipped on a hoodie, some sweats, some socks and some slides and headed off to class. He surprised himself that he was going after the day and night he had yesterday. But let’s be honest, he was going to see Monica, the one bright spot in life right now. He walks in, looks around and doesn’t see her. As luck would have it, she wasn’t there. He throws his hoodie on and takes a seat in the back of the auditorium style classroom. Without her there to shift his mood, he knew he better distance himself, because he had the ability to be a total jerk today. Just breath Ken. Just don’t think about it. Just get through this class, don’t speak, don’t make eye contact, don’t smile. Just sit and listen and leave. Don’t explode. Don’t explode. Carson comes in and sees Kenneth and of course, walks over. “Hey bro, give me some dap” Carson says with a faux hip hop culture inspired accent. Just don’t think about it. Don’t speak. Kenneth tried to remind himself and so he didn’t look at or speak to Carson. Hoping he would take the hint. It was a morning class after all. Not everyone is a morning person. Silence could just mean, he was still waking up. Carson didn’t take the hint. He playfully shoves Kenneth. “Aw man what gives, you too cool to dap me up?” Kenneth at this point decides to take the L and heads for the door. His whole life required self-control. But for some reason. Well, he knew the reason. Today he had none. So, he knew he had to leave. Two steps away from the door, his professor calls to him. “Kenneth. Class is about to start, are you ok?” “Carson yells out, “Nah Professor, he wouldn’t even speak to me. I think he’s just angry about something.” The professor looks confused. “Angry? You’re alive, you’re in college, you walked here on your own two feet, you have a dorm roof over your head and food in your mini fridge. What, do you have to be angry enough about to cause you to leave class and waste those scholarship dollars?” His fists clenched. His nostrils flared. His eyebrow furrowed. Through clenched teeth Kenneth said, “I’m not angry. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not angry.”
Kenneth doesn’t know how he ended up there, but after leaving the classroom and wandering around the campus, he ended up at the counseling center. Maybe it was because he remembered that Monica sometimes volunteered there in the peer mediation center that was a part of the counseling center suite.
“Hello, welcome to the counseling center.” A friendly receptionist said. “Did you have an appointment with a particular counselor or are you walking in?
“Oh no no nothing like that.” Kenneth stammered. “I’m just here… um looking for someone.”
“Ok who?” The receptionist, still smiling asked.
Kenneth looked around briefly and didn’t see Monica. “Oh, she’s not here so I’ll just go.”
“Ok well feel free to hang out. We have snacks, futons, books, DVDs, video games, board games. And, if you want to talk, we have people for that too.” The receptionist offered.
Suddenly, the idea of going back to his dorm room where he may have to interact with roommates, seemed less desirable. And, he thought to himself, maybe Monica will be in later. He decided to stay.

“I’ll chill for a second.” Kenneth said. “Great! All you have to do is just sign in and answer three questions to the counselor and you’ll all set.
“Should have known there was a catch.” Kenneth said under his breath as he walked to the counselor’s office.
A 50 something black man greeted him and led him back to a private office. “Kenneth, I’m Dr. Williams. Please have a seat and answer these three questions and you’ll be on your way.
Kenneth sat down, suddenly on guard. But he said nothing. Dr. Williams took this all in and then proceeded.
“Question 1. Do you or have you ever experienced any short- or long-term mental illness, including but not limited to anxiety disorders, eating disorders or personality disorders?”
“What! No! I ain’t crazy.” Kenneth adamantly answered.
“Question 2. Have you ever attempted suicide?”
Kenneth looked shocked. He paused. “No, I have too much to live for. You getting deep on me Doc.
Dr. Williams replied, “Fair enough. The last question isn’t so bad I promise. Question 3. When is the last time you were angry?”
Something clicked in Kenneth. He was tired. He needed to exhale a little. It was hard to breath. For some reason, he trusted Dr. Williams. He took off his hoodie and slowly looked up at him, right in his eyes and said, “Doc, I think I’m too numb, to be angry.”
Dr. Williams pulled off his glasses, sat back in his chair and said. “Tell me about your day yesterday.”
“My day yesterday?” Kenneth thought that was a big jump from discussing his numbness to asking about his day. Aren’t therapists supposed to start at what happened when they were 5 or their daddy or mommy issues?
“Yes, your day. Instead of starting with the past, we’re going to dig into the present.” Dr. Williams explained. “Before numbness, you had a feeling that you needed to numb. Let’s see if we can’t figure out what those feelings were.”
“I’m not good at this Doc. I don’t know where to start.” Kenneth said quietly.
“I appreciate your honesty.” Let’s try this. I’m gonna give you a category, and you tell me if and when anything in that category and/or situation happened yesterday”
Kevin nodded silently, not trusting himself to speak when it came to yesterday.
Dr. Williams put his glasses back on. “Ok so I want you to answer as best as you can. And don’t filter your answer. And be honest with me and yourself.”
“When is the last time you felt a lack of power/control?”
“Oh, that’s every day. Especially yesterday. Found out, my dad is injured and can’t work right now, my little brother needs new clothes, my best friend just lost his scholarship and my girl’s car broke down

and she needs help getting a new car part. Then to top that off, my job cuts my hours and I know it’s retaliation from a customer that lied on me. Do you know how helpless I feel, not being able to do everything that everybody in my life needs me to do? I feel like I’m at the mercy of my job. I feel like I’m at the mercy of everyone else’s needs and opinions. When you’re built to not make excuses, to make it happen and to fix things and your whole identity is based on being able to deliver and you can’t, this is embarrassing that my job can affect my life that way. My boss can control me by controlling my wallet. I say I’m a king, but I feel like a peasant. Saying that out loud sounds like whining so, I go numb.”
“When is the last time someone was scared of you?” Dr. Williams asked.
“Yeah, that’s exhausting. Exhausting having to adjust my demeanor just for being in my skin. I’m black and I’m male and that’s all it takes for people to be suspicious of me every where I go. I’m literally just minding my business and people are clutching purses, locking doors, following me in the store, looking nervous when they think I’m getting upset. I speak in my regular voice and if I project at all, then ‘I’m raising my voice.’ So, all day long I’m having to compensate by, making sure I’m smiling, making sure I don’t walk too fast next to someone, making sure my voice doesn’t raise…”
“When is the last time you didn’t feel supported by your support system?”
“Well to be honest, I think they mean well but, sometimes I feel more like a source than a person. So many times, I listen, and I help and I support and no one asks me, if they need to listen to me or help or support me. Or when they ask, it’s just an obligatory question so they can jump into why they actually called or text. It can be frustrating.” Kenneth said.
“Do you ever think of the past and how do you feel when you do?”
“I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m not this over-the-top black power guy. But I do think about it doc. I think about what was taken. I think about what my ancestors went through. I think about, the fact that I come from royalty but don’t know their last name. I think about, how much further along my life would be if we didn’t work for free for hundreds of years. I think about, how that past effects my present life so much because people still see me as lesser, because of it. I think about, how people still treat me like I have something to prove. And if I speak on it, that I’m living in the past. I honestly get disgusted.”
“Is there anything about yourself that you don’t like?”
“Funny you mention that. I came here to see Monica. That’s my girl. Sometimes, when she catches me on one of my days I’m really trying to be numb, to make sure I don’t take out anything on her, it doesn’t always go so well. I can’t tell her all I’m facing so; I say I’m fine and she can tell I’m lying. Then she thinks I don’t want to open up to her when really… I just can’t. Then my messages come off short or I don’t really say anything at all. Or she pushes me, and I get snappy. Basically, I’m not the best communicator and I’m disappointed in myself when I hurt her. And without her to talk to and no one else either…. It gets a little lonely. I get alone with my thoughts and then I end up clenching my fists and walking out of class.” Kenneth shrugs his shoulders.
So, I’ve heard you say, helpless, exhausted, frustrated, disgusted, disappointed and lonely. Not once did you say angry.
“And that’s just one day, doc. One day. It’s hard enough being young, it’s hard enough not having enough money. It’s hard enough needing people. It’s hard enough to go for your goals. So, add onto

that, being black. Add onto that, being a black man. A black man who has no idea how to explain or express himself. How to let it out. And as soon as I try, people dismiss it. Sometimes, it’s easier to pretend to angry because that’s what I’m expected to feel. Sometimes it’s easier to appear angry to hide what I really feel. Sometimes, it seems like people can handle me being angry versus sad, disappointed, hurt, frustrated, discouraged and afraid. Truth be told, I feel those more than I feel anger. Sometimes I feel like it all looks the same to them. Sometimes it feels like, nobody cares about why I’m actually angry. They just want to either give generic encouragement, or their too scared of me showing anger like I’m the incredible hulk and I’m gonna hurt somebody. Sorry, I know I’m rambling. I know I’m rambling-“ said Kenneth.
“Never apologize for that. I’m glad you’re here. Never feel like you don’t have the right to express your feelings, even if those around you don’t understand. I’m proud of you for sharing. I would like to see you again, so I can give you some tools to cope. When we don’t know how to handle our feelings, it can deeply affect our mental health and turn into bigger problems. So many men, especially black men, feel these things but we also take care of our mental health the least. I don’t want you to feel numb. We can’t deal with feelings we try to be numb to. Are you with me? Dr. Williams asked?
Kenneth smiled, nodded and said, “I’m with you doc.”
Author’s Note: When discussing the emotions of a black man, anger is one that comes to the top of the list. It brings the questions to mind: Why is it that society think black men are angry? Are they in fact even angry? It is very important that when observing someone’s body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and emotional responses, that assumptions are not made. The next time you see a black man appearing to be angry, bear in mind that anger is the last stop of many emotions that led to it – it is not a black man’s inclination to jump to anger first. Ask yourself, is it anger you see, or do you see tension of forcing down emotions/trying to manage emotions. Try to be a safe space, but most of all, pray, love, encourage, and offer help. They may not be ready for a therapist, but even a IG post about mental health could be a good start. Don’t try to force anything and don’t try to become a therapist or play god either.

Tiffany Wright

Savannah '22

I, Tiffany Nicole Wright am a kind (and I’m most proud of that), quirky, goofy, magical, blackety black, hot-nerdy, semi-accomplished, uber-creative, baddie with a FUPA, overtly-resilient, unicorn-ish woman. Jacksonville, FL raised me. While there, I received a B.S. in Biology in 2008 and became a member of the greatest Sorority in the land, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. 11 years later, I finally found my balls, embraced my true passion and left Corporate America & Jacksonville. Since the Fall of 2019, I let Savannah, GA rebirth me. I currently attend the University by the Sea, Savannah State, risking it all to reach my next chapter in my journey to becoming a professional screenwriter and choreographer. I’m matriculating through my B.F.A., majoring in Visual and Performing Arts with a concentration in Theatre, Minoring in Dance. 3 years ago, I launched my brand MsDevotedTiff Productions, to showcase my writing through digital content and visual media. I have been fortunate enough to have my short films and parodies, screened in film festivals including: LOL JAX (FL), SSU Indie (GA) & Dumbo (NY, semi-finalist) Film Festivals. The assumptions about, underestimations of and lack of permissions given for black woman to be multi-layered, are what drives my storytelling. I tell my truth, usually with a humorous or performing arts twists. I’m “In Living Color” meets weird Al Yankovic (oops, did I just date myself?) with a huge splash of Beyoncé “Lemonade” vibes.
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