AT&T hosted the event “Coffee, Hip-Hop and Mental Health” at its flagship store in Chicago on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019.
The initiative is the brainchild of recording artist Christopher LeMark, who created the event to remove the social stigma surrounding mental illness and offer a space for people to discuss their issues and share resources for those looking to heal.
LeMark was joined by Tiffany Everege, a therapist and owner of Soul City Therapy; Kadeem Kamal, a licensed school psychologist; Dr. Brooke Williams, an internal medicine resident; and Phor, a recording and tattoo artist and cast member of “Black Ink Crew: Chicago,” during an open and transparent about their experiences with mental health.
Rolling out spoke with LeMark about why talking about mental health is so important and how hip-hop has helped him.
What is the goal of “Coffee Hip-Hop and Mental Health”?
Coffee Hip-Hop and Mental Health is a traveling support group and what we do is show up with a team of therapists and doctors, social workers and counselors. We have conversations in various communities to normalize the therapy conversation and normalize the mental health conversation. We do it in a cool way by incorporating music and all these other different cool things to bridge the gap.
Why is hip-hop an important part of this initiative?
I’ve been doing music for over 20 years, and I’ve always talked about my childhood and the abuse I was subjected to. I have always been an advocate for growth, and I always rapped about it in my music.
Last year, I was sitting in Starbucks and had a mental breakdown out of nowhere. It was over 20 years of unresolved trauma. It was in that moment that I decided to go to therapy. It was hard facing myself, but once I got through that, I decided that instead of getting on stage and just rapping to people, I’ll come back with a team of health [professionals] so we can get the community to start talking about their pain.
How can Black men alleviate the stigma around discussing mental health?
Growing up, you would be labeled a punk if you showed emotion. It’s important to look at where that has gotten us. We have Black men in jail, on drugs and committing suicide. We have been holding on to all this pain. We need the therapy to release it. We have to open up and talk about the painful issues because, if we don’t, it will be a detriment to ourselves and the people around us.
Name your top three hip-hop songs that have helped you along your mental health journey.
1. “Only God Can Judge Me,” Tupac
2. “If I Ruled the World,” Nas
3. “Just to Get By,” Talib Kweli
The next event, titled BOUNDARIES, is planned for Saturday, Nov. 16, 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., at Envy Hair Studios, 1525 E. 55th St. in Chicago. For information and to learn more, visit chhamh.com or @christopherlemark on Instagram.
Take a look at the gallery above for pictures from the event.