Christopher LeMark’s life experiences have shaped him into an individual who has found his purpose in serving other people. LeMark is the founder of Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health, an advocacy organization that creates safe spaces to discuss mental illness and shares resources with communities where they are not readily available.
Rolling out spoke with LeMark about Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health, why it was important for him to address this issue and his newest collaboration with the Boxville business incubator in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.
What inspired Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health?
I was sitting inside of a Starbucks in Millennium park train station in October of 2018, and I just started crying. After all of the years of pretending to be OK while hiding the internal suffering, grief and disappointment, I just couldn’t hold it anymore. The more I wiped my face, the more tears fell. I was tired of struggling. That day I decided to go to therapy.
What are your thoughts about how Black people view mental health issues?
Our community has always had to be resilient. We have learned how to tuck away or toss our emotions to the side. We don’t have time to feel. There’s a stigma in our community, a lot of fear of being labeled.
Why was it important for you to take on this issue?
I saw a lot people in my community dealing with these issues. I knew that my history created a motivating story through the many experiences in my life. I wanted to share my story so others would share theirs.
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