The Color of Hope
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The Color of Hope

People of Color Mental Health Narratives

About the Book

Mental illness affects people of all backgrounds yet many people of color go untreated. According to the Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites. High school aged Hispanic girls are 70% more likely to attempt suicide than White girls of the same age.

The Color of Hope: People of Color Mental Health Narratives is a literary project that sheds light on mental health in communities of color by sharing stories from those affected by mental illness.  The book contains 20+ essays, interviews, and poems from people of color.  Proceeds from will go toward various projects and organizations that serve the mental health community and will change on a rotating basis.

About the Author

Vanessa Hazzard & Iresha Picot

Iresha Picot is a Licensed Behavior Specialist, and has a Master’s Degree in Urban Education Policy and Post-Graduate work in Women Studies from Temple University. In addition to a Master’s Degree, she has Post-Graduate certifications in Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism. Currently, Iresha works in the Behavior and Mental Health fields as a Licensed Behavior Specialist and Therapist and is currently a Lead Clinician in a School Therapeutic Treatment program. Iresha is also a Birth Doula and a Prison Abolitionist.

Vanessa Hazzard is an internationally trained massage and bodyworker, writer, and healing arts educator from Philadelphia, PA. Over the past eleven years, Vanessa has studied in a variety of areas in the wellness industry including Yoga for Trauma and Addiction with the Transformation Yoga Project, Traditional Thai Massage at International Training Massage School (ITM) and Chi Nei Tsang with Thanachai Chaimongkhon in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She has had her poetry and narratives featured in Elephant JournalFor HarrietSoarRecovering Yogi, Blavity, and Apiary Magazine’s The Hive. Living with bipolar disorder, Vanessa aims to educate wellness professionals and the general public on mental illness by developing/facilitating trauma-informed yoga and massage classes. Her goal is to provide the space and tools necessary for participants to develop mindfulness, discipline and strength from the inside out.

About the Contributors

Misia Denea
Misia Denea

Mind Chatter

I did not sign up for this

Put in psychotherapy at age 17

Prozac and Zoloft made me numb

Paxil made my heart jump into my throat

Ev Reheard
Ev Reheard

Black & White Rabbits

My mother is from South Korea. My father is an American of German and 

Irish decent. 

For my entire life, I have watched people’s faces as they meet me. 

More than half greet me with curiosity about my heritage. A few tell me 

they assumed I was simply white or an Asian girl with very light features or 

dyed hair. 

I always dealt with being labeled as two things that never seemed to 

completely fit. The other half was always disagreeing. When I was 30, I 

was given another label that no one could identify clearly… a diagnosis: 

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Black and white thinking, literally.

My mental health, like my “color” is invisible. 

Nichole Webb
Nichole Webb

Interview with Nichole Webb

Vanessa: Nichole, thanks so much for agreeing to participate in this 

project. When were you diagnosed with mental illness?

Nichole: I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2002, though I’ve had 

bouts of mania since then.

Vanessa: Do you have any co-occurring illnesses?

Nichole: Yes, hypertension and tachycardia.

Vanessa: Have you ever been hospitalized for mental illness?

Nichole: Yes. After high school, I attended community college. At around 

age nineteen or twenty, I began using drugs and alcohol. I was kicked out of 

my home and lived on the streets for a few days. 

Mr. Nate Butler
Mr. Nate Butler

Mental Health

“If there was a real war on drugs, it would have to start in the psychiatric 

ward of the nearest crazy house, because what the Mad Scientist did to the 

mind of the so-called American Negro is some sick shit.”

My name is Nate Butler; I have been incarcerated for 25 years now. I have 

been housed in several different state prisons fighting off the beast. The 

beast is something mental that every Black man knows about especially 

those of us trapped behind these prison walls. 

Iresha Picot
Iresha Picot

The Mama that Yelled: Black Mothering Through Depression

She yelled all the time. 

Yelled about the house not being cleaned. 

Yelled about my school work. 

Yelled about spending too much time on the phone. 

Yelled that the music was too loud. 

She just always yelled. 

I can remember thinking about cutting her vocal box out of her once. Or a 

few times. I told her this in a fit of rage, when I was about 16. She just 

looked at me and yelled some more. I am pretty sure that Audre Lorde was 

talking about my mama when she said, “I am deliberate and afraid of 


Lydia Kirkland
Lydia Kirkland

Interview with Lydia Kirkland

Lydia  Kirkland  is  a  mother  from  southern  New  Jersey.  In  2013,  she  lost  her 

daughter, Brianna. As with many grieving parents, Lydia has been living with depression 

and post-traumatic stress disorder since her daughter’s passing.

Vanessa: When did Brianna pass away? What was the cause? 

Lydia:  She passed away on Feb.24, 2013. She was misdiagnosed by the ER 

and  passed  from  Type  I  diabetes.  Her  original  diagnosis  was  a  virus  that 

was supposed  to take its course and I was told she would be fine. The next 

morning I found she had passed away in her bedroom.

Natasha C. Davis
Natasha C. Davis

Sleeping Beauty, Watch Me, and What's It Like

What’s it like to wish away the madness?

To wish you could do more to think differently?

What’s it like when you’re mentally challenged? 

Your memories jacked, and your past memories absent? 

Vanessa Hazzard
Vanessa Hazzard

A Complicated Normal

I felt normal for the first time in my life. Not bland normal, just sane 

normal; a stable, healthy, functional normal. I should’ve known that my 

kind of normal is a bit more complicated when a seemingly innocent hug 

from behind triggered a rush of memories long forgotten. It wasn’t even so 

much the memories themselves that bothered me. It was the feelings of 

being dirty, used-up, and insignificant that accompanied them. I’m not lazy 

when it comes to my mental health. I do the work, as tiresome as it may be, 

and yet this occurrence sent me into a tailspin. How can some people shake 

off their woes, while others, like myself, are just left shaken? 

Rosa Clemente
Rosa Clemente

Not Ready to Die, But Wanting to Die: Depression, Hip Hop, and the Death of Chris Lighty

Right now I should be finishing a paper for my independent study. But I 

just heard the news about Chris Lighty’s death. Though I never meet him, 

being part of the Hip Hop village, I always heard good things about him. 

Reading my sister, Joan Morgan’s, one word post on Facebook, 

"devastated", I broke down and thought, another possible suicide in our 

village. Why is this happening? All of us living and breathing are dealing 

with a myriad of challenges, especially financial ones, so what is it that 

makes one want to kill themselves? And why is there so much silence in 

communities of color? We all grew up hearing about suicides, and for a long 

time I believed that only white kids killed themselves. When I was in high 

school, there was a rash of suicides that I heard about, read about. I would 

say to my friends, “white kids are crazy”. Little did I know that I myself 

might have been a little bit "crazy". 

Khalil Bennett
Khalil Bennett

My Story

Because of my incarceration, my family, friends, and community, have 

taken dramatic changes words cannot describe. Some for the good and 

some for the bad, such as the loss of physical, spiritual, and mental life. 

Love has diminished. But most importantly, the understanding of the 

prisoner’s life has been the hardest. 

I haven’t seen any changes being made for the good for those that resist 

against bad. The good I have seen is one becoming conscious to his 

surroundings and the world overall. The changes I would like to see is more 


Pierre Pinson
Pierre Pinson


One by one men are siphoned into a pallid room. There are two prison 

guards waiting intently. One busies himself with his paperwork, the other 

dons a despotic mask, his own necessity, a defense mechanism.

“Strip”. It is an order, a foreign language to criminals, gangsters, and the 

underbelly of our society.

The prisoner obeys, an acquiesce, given the circumstance. 

“The underwear too,” instructs the guard. His bottom lip is wrapped 

around a wad of chewing tobacco. His breath is putrid. His glare is a 

challenge to the young, black prisoner…an exercise of power.

The prisoner concedes.



"Black people have a secret sitting in their living rooms, lurking in their 

closets, and tucked away in that special room. We won’t talk about it, 

would never publicize it and barely ask for help. 

It’s our brains. And like every other race on this planet, ours get sick too. 

I have worked in Special Education for a number of years now and I’ve 

seen it there. I’ve seen it in close family and friends. And if I’d ever give 

therapy more than a one session chance, I’m sure that I would have been 

diagnosed with some form of depression and or anxiety." 

Shanda Mickens
Shanda Mickens

Interview with Shanda Mickens

Vanessa: When were you diagnosed with bipolar disorder? What sorts of 

treatments have you received and were they successful? 

Shanda: I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 13. I was 

already in therapy for ADD. The doctors tried many combinations of 

medications. At one point, I was on Prozac, Lithium, and sleeping pills to 

balance out the Lithium. Sadly, they were not successful and actually had an 

adverse effect on me. Because of the effect that I've had from medications, 

I've been leery about taking prescription drugs and have been seeking other 

alternatives to manage my disorder.

Marie Kanu
Marie Kanu


I was a mess. I would cry all the time for no one particular reason at all.

Just that I always felt worthless and useless and was exhausted from all of

this inexplicable sadness. I wanted to do things besides be sad. But being

sad became like my part-time job and I, at times, I had to will myself out of

bed. I realized that I was getting deeper. I rarely socialized, and I Can’t

usually talked me out of trying out any extracurricular activities. I sat every

morning in the hallway like a bump on a log waiting for my teacher to come

to open the door. A boy inspired, or annoyed by my ennui decided to

attempt to provoke me. He started with a little kick. I did nothing. He

started with a bigger kick. I did nothing. Then he literally stood on top of

my ankles and bounced! I. Did. Nothing.

Debra Powell-Wright
Debra Powell-Wright

Love Letter to My Mom

1963: I was nine years old when my mother, Corrine Brown Powell, was hospitalized for

nine months at Bellevue State Hospital in Pennsylvania, after having been diagnosed 

with schizophrenia. I couldn’t visit her in the place that performed lobotomies, couldn’t 

tell anyone because I didn’t know anyone who had a sometimes crazy mother who had to 

take Lithium, or Haldol, or Thorazine, or Mellaril. In August 2001, I was forty-four 

when mom was diagnosed with cancer of the duodenum. She died that October. Six 

years later, I wrote her this love letter.

Rasheedah Phillips, Esq.
Rasheedah Phillips, Esq.


To create change we must all work together to dismantle the  cycles of 

trauma. We will not do this alone. We will not be ashamed. We will hold 

each other up and echo each other’s troubles because we did not come here 

alone, systematic oppression has always haunted our futures. It is up to us 

to change the paradigm  and cultivate practical methods of healing. Telling 

our stories and speaking our truths allows us to practically explore the ways 

in  which  our  collective  and  personal  pasts  continues  to  affect  us.

Maurice Stevenson
Maurice Stevenson

The Patient Prisoner

Prison robs the human being, from inception to cessation, 

I stand an attestation, 

It strips you, “Strip” stated as a triple entendre

For the physical, mental, and spiritual genres

But as prison takes it too allows one to find

this, of life’s balance in agreement with time.

So when told I was sick, I agreed, then obliged

And it’s within their diagnosis that I found man’s need for the lie. 

Yolanda Ayesha
Yolanda Ayesha

Close to Happy

I live in two worlds

Wonderland & The Real

It's so easy to forget 

who u really are in The Real

White men in white coats 

stick & probe

Telling me I have this dis-ease & that dis-ease

Then ask me if I'm blue

No, I'm more like grey

not this modern "grey is the new black" kind of grey

More like the color of the sky before a storm

Massive, burdensome, impermeable 

Tajsha Lewis
Tajsha Lewis

Interview with Tajsha Lewis

Vanessa:  Hey Tajsha! Thanks so much for participating in this project. I 

know you have been living with mental illness for some time. What is your 

specific diagnosis?

Tajsha:  In  2006  or  2007,  I  was  diagnosed  with  bipolar  disorder  type  II, 

progressing towards schizophrenia. I don’t stay on meds very long so I’m 

feeling like schizophrenia is imminent. 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments i

The Patient Prisoner  1

Close To Happy  3

Interview With Tajsha Lewis  5

Mind Chatter  7

Black And White Rabbits  9

Interview With Nichole Webb  12

Mental Health  14

Pain: Where We Meet Face To Face  16

The Mama That Yelled: Black Mothering Through Depression  18

Interview With Lydia Kirkland 22

Sleeping Beauty 25

Watch Me 27

What’s It Like? 29

A Complicated Normal 31

Not Ready to Die But Wanting to Die: Depression, Hip Hop and the Death of Chris Lighty 34 

My Story 38

Stripped 40

Us 43

Interview with Shanda Mickens 45

Me 47

Love Letter to Mom 49



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