As some of you may know, I host an award-winning podcast called Mental Health and Wellness Radio. You can catch it online or on iTunes. I recently did an audio tribute/obit to the two men above, Darnell Levingston (left) and DeWitt Buckingham. They are founders of the speakers' bureau Black Men Speak. Both did a lot of work advocating for black men with mental health challenges and fighting to end mental health stigma in our community. I didn't know Darnell, but I knew DeWitt and I miss him. He came to the office where I work just about everyday. DeWitt recently received a grant to open some kind of transitional housing for men in a tough part of East Oakland. It's near 80th and MacArthur Blvd. I believe it was to help men who were dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. At their memorial service, a woman spoke and said DeWitt told her that he had his housing set up in an area no one wants to be. He told her he could get robbed, or even killed in that area, but he said as long as he could help just person. Just one.The tears were flowing.
Another woman said Darnell's straight talk helped her support her daughter through a severe mental breakdown caused by a traumatic situation. She wouldn't go into details but said it involved 8 men. She credits Darnell with saving her daughter's life.
I see so many men of color on the news for breaking the law, but the cameras rarely come to cover men like DeWitt and Darnell. No doubt there is a lot of ills in the black community, but there are people doing good work too. The coverage is unbalanced. We need more stories that give people hope. At the same time, we flock to bad news. I notice if I blog about something negative, I get way more comments and emails than if I write about a positive story.
Both men had cancer and ironically died within weeks of each other. When people like these men die, I always wonder why. We need men like DeWitt and Darnell in the community. Why did God take them?
Please listen to their stories below. They did a lot of good work in the community and I plan to continue the fight against mental health stigma.