KANSAS CITY, Kan. — May 25, 2020, is a date that may seem inconsequential at first glance, but around the world, many people will always remember it as the day George Floyd was murdered by police.
His death sparked protests, immense grief, anger and calls for change.
And in George Floyd, some saw themselves.
In this 41 Action News exclusive, we brought together six Black men, including anchor Kevin Holmes to talk about that day, our own mental health and how we move forward.
Participants in this discussion included:
- KCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell
- Niwa Babayemi, a doctoral candidate of counseling psychology
- Pastor Armour Stephenson III, City of Truth Church in Kansas City, Missouri
- Retired KCKPD Officer Steve Williams
- Former NBA player and Head Coach Earl Watson.
The first part of this discussion talked about how we viewed George Floyd’s death. In this second part, we discuss how we process and try to heal from what the world witnessed.
All of the participants have heard that countless times before.
Watson: “My whole life, I’ve been rewarded for playing through pain… If you can’t play through pain, all y’all are going to tweet about it. ‘Taking the night off. Don’t wanna play in a back-to-back.’ That’s for real.”
Playing through pain can be great, especially for professional athletes — oftentimes, it’s expected. Playing through pain in the game of life is not.
“I don’t have to be an NBA player outside the court. I can accept when I’m hurt. I can accept when I’m emotional,” Watson said.
Once you accept that, it becomes about devising a plan to keep your mental health in check. That couldn’t be more important after a year of COVID-19, and a year of racial injustice.
Babayemi: “I think the biggest challenge has been doing everything I can not to be numb — not to be numbed by everything that’s happening.”
Babayemi is a doctoral candidate of counseling psychology. Part of his work is helping break down barriers and stereotypes.
The numbness he speaks of has contributed to a world of trauma for so many, especially people of color, in addition to a hesitancy to seek therapy.
According to the New York Times, a 2013 study found Black people were not as open to acknowledging psychological problems. Many were concerned about the stigma of counseling, particularly Black men.
Babayemi said there's history there.
“Therapy was weaponized against people of color to make some sort of point that we were less than. And they twisted science and psychology to make it say that," Babayemi said.
After seeing Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, and the Capitol riot, and a yearlong pandemic, many men are learning that talking with someone is more important than ever.
It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength and proper healing.
Holmes: “What are you guys doing in your respective communities, your respective industries, to try and heal? To try and mend these wounds that people in your congregation, for some of your clients, students, athletes, mentors, young kids?”
Williams: “One thing I’m doing is I’m trying to renew people's minds about law enforcement, about the interest in law enforcement.”
Watson: “A lot of kids want to be hoopers, right? So, to make it to the highest level, you’ve got to have as many resources as possible. You got to eat right, you got to train right, you got to sacrifice your body as far as not staying asleep. And then you have to lift weights, and then you have to get a shooting coach and a dribbling skills coach. That’s what mental therapy is. It’s a skills coach for your mind.”
Bedell: “It doesn’t matter what entity you work in: when you are at the helm of leading an organization, every dart and bullet is coming your way. It comes with the territory, and the key is getting that help. I do. I have therapy sessions, too.”
Stephenson III: “I’ve learned to lean into pain, and I’ve learned to look at myself as not just a Black man. You see, I’m saying 'I’m more than that. I’m a human.' And I had to really embrace that and really say ‘You know what, man? You are a man. You’re good at your job.’ But I had to also embrace the fact that I was freaking human, and I was hurt.”
If you need to talk with someone, there are several resources available in the Kansas City area, free of charge.
- Mental Health Moments newsletter
- Front Line Support, an emergency crisis line for front line workers
- Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition
- Zero Reasons Why, teen suicide prevention
- It's Okay if You're not Okay podcast
- Johnson County Mental Health Community Toolbox, self-care resources
- Whole Healthy You (WHY), youth health guide
- Elevate for Educators, mental health resources for the education community
- Mental Health America on racial trauma