Karyn Washington, the inspirational founder of the blog For Brown Girls, committed suicide on April 8, according to Madame Noire. She was only 22.
Washington started For Brown Girls to, as she wrote in her mission statement, "celebrate the beauty of dark skin while combatting colorism and promoting self love!" She also founded the #DarkSkinRedLip project, a response to comments by Rapper A$AP Rocky that only fair-skinned women should wear red lipstick.
Karyn's Twitter image
Aliyah Johnson, a friend of Karyn since childhood, posted an aching memory of her today:
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!
I’m here to SPEAK UP for Karyn, myself and others like us. Being African-American does not make us exempt from mental illness. Depression is not a “white people’s thing” it’s a human mental problem that can affect ANYONE and it is real. Medication is not the devil. Praying helps some but not everyone can get better with prayer.
Karyn is me and I’m crying just remembering the moment I locked myself in the bathroom and started to cut. I still have the scars on my arm that reminds me of how I let society and family determine my mental state to the point where I wanted to take my own life.
On For Harriet, Tiffany Gill of Black Girls Unscripted shared her reaction in a post titled All is Not Well With Our Girls: When Suicide Hits Close to Home
Let’s be careful how we use the word 'strong' in context to our womanhood when we speak to our daughters (and each other). Strong is not a state of being. Instead, it is often a reaction born out of necessity. It does not mean hardened or immune to pain, fear and disappointment. Let’s also teach them the difference between 'feeling' and 'being.' Feeling unloved or unworthy in the moment is never the same as being unloved or unworthy.
We must begin to practice a culture of TRUTH. A culture that speaks to our pain as much as our power. A culture that creates spaces for us to safely unload our problems. A culture that welcomes and embraces the truth about how beautiful, loved and valued we are. And most importantly, a culture of truth that affirms our full humanity.
Ty of Gorgeous in Grey remembers connecting with Karyn over grieving the loss of their mothers.
I should have told her I had thought about suicide. That…I think about it daily. That…I wonder how much easier my life would be to not wake up everyday in tears. That…I wonder what my mother is doing without me.
When I heard the news this morning, that’s the first thing I thought. I should have told her I thought about suicide too. But I was/am too ashamed to admit it. I can hardly believe that I am even typing it and sharing it with you. But fuck it, I’ve thought about it. Does that make me crazy?! NOPE!
The blogger at The Black Doctor posted a list of things you can do to help:
- Help remove the stigma and myths that suicide contradicts gender and cultural expectations: Religious stigma of suicide as the “unforgivable sin”; African American men are “hard” and do not take their own lives; African American women are always strong and resilient and never crack under pressure
- Remove stigma associated with seeking and receiving mental health treatment
- Know that “tired” is a word black people often use to express hopelessness, depression
- Recognize warning signs and help a friend or family member get professional help
Many people took to Twitter to share their shock, pain, and outrage, and to start a conversation about mental health:
Dear Black People,
I was told depression is choice, and going to therapy is a white thing to do. That is FALSE!
I have been rereading the #KarynWashington story all day, and I keep coming back to that LRT. Ask someone how they are and mean it.
I'm so shocked and sad to hear of her passing. We'll be monitoring the story and sharing updates as they become available.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, or think someone you know might be, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right now to get help. There is help. Please reach out.
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