*By now many of you know the sad and devastating news about 22-year-old Karyn Washington, the founder of “For Brown Girls” and the “Dark Skin, Red Lips” project.
Karyn passed away from an apparent suicide on April 8. My heart cries for this young woman and the family and friends she left behind.
Karyn’s death brings to the forefront the pink elephant in the room of black culture. The topic African Americans don’t like to bring up, discuss, treat seriously: Depression…mental health and not being well.
Too many times we say, “If I had only…” Karyn’s passing should remind us of just how tired we are of saying this…and hearing it.
Those who knew Karyn say she put a lot of effort into uplifting others; specifically black girls and women with darker complexions; Working to impressing upon them a greater sense of value and self esteem.
The thing is, how many times have we asked ourselves if that girlfriend, boyfriend, mentor and even parent who is so passionate about helping us to feel better is feeling alright themselves?
They’re taking care of me…but whose taking care of them! And I’m not talking about physically or materially. I’m talking about mentally and emotionally – because if that’s not OK…nothing is!
What appears to end up happening is, helping you takes my mind off of asking for help myself.
“As women, it is imperative as well as our duty to love ourselves unconditionally, smile and laugh often, and NEVER allow ANYONE to steal our joy.”–Karyn Washington
I’m no psychologist, and I certainly have been told numerous times that the best way to transform my own challenges is to help someone else through theirs; and it works a lot of the time. But only temporarily, because you’ve always got to come back to you.
It is exactly at these times that I believe we have to learn how to discern. To know when to help and when to ask for help. Yes, this may be easier said than done, but that doesn’t make it any less true or any less necessary.
We’ve got to be brave enough to let go of that ego. That voice in our head that tells us that to admit that we need help is defeatist and weak. We’ve got to learn how to ignore those who feed this to us; the ones so caught up in their own fleeting success that they judge or misjudge anyone who is may not feeling “awesome!” all the damn time.
True friends and family understand this, and if they don’t, they are not your true friends and family.
Its like the warning we always hear on the air plane before take off: “Put your mask on first.”
“I remember I’d cover my mouth when i laughed. I had just gotten braces and I wasn’t quite comfortable yet. I was the epitome of an awkward little black girl. You told me I could be your brace face buddy. I think that was the first time if ever heard the term “brace face” !!! Lol & it certainly wasn’t the last either. We’d talk a lot about school and other silly stuff that probably didn’t matter much, but you gave me so much comfort. Now that I think about it, that amazes me. We were only in middle school and there you were inspiring me and teaching me to love my brown self in the most subtle ways. It is no surprise that you would go on to do such amazing things. May “For Brown Girls” (FBG) continue to thrive. That will forever be your brand, your movement, and your legacy! You’re amazing and even at such the young and tender age of 22 you’ve touched the lives of many all over the world. You inspire me and so many other people so much more than you could’ve ever imagined. I wish you could’ve seen the true magnitude of that.
When I look at you I see a reflection of myself and most certainly that is why this hurts so badly. From now on I’ll forever remember your big beautiful smile, your charm, ambition, professionalism, entrepreneurship, confidence, humility, your drive, and your beautiful Brown Skin. That is what I’ll choose to remember… because to be honest, I’m a bit angry with you. Indeed I’m being selfish, but my heart is devastated- yet, because I know a tad bit about what you were going through I can understand. I’m guilt tripping because I wish I could’ve been there for you a little bit more. I’m so sorry, but I can’t help but to think that with just a little bit more time or a little less distance, proximity would’ve allowed me to make, maybe the slightest difference…. Forgive me!”
Reports reveal the loss of Karyn’s mother and other struggles was difficult for her to overcome. We may never know what made Karyn feel that her life was no longer of value. There is no doubt how much she loved the cause of empowering black women.
But we can’t deny how puzzled we are about why this beautiful and incredible black woman didn’t love herself…enough.
Rest in sweet peace, Sista.