Friday, November 4, 2011

Ashley Smith Tackles the Stigma of Mental Illness in Black Families

For many African American families discussing mental illness is a hush hush subject, which can compound the problem of people suffering with of mental illness.  If you can't talk about it, research it,  or understand the effects that illness has on the family, there is no way to solve the problem.   Young people like Ashley Smith who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 20 are trying to dispel this stigma.

Ashley was unaware of her illness until she stole a military truck and went on a high-speed chase with the police. She was jailed and later hospitalized for that crime. Later she learned about the mental illness that ran in her family.  Now she is in recovery with the support of family, treatment teams, peers and her faith.  To help other families and young people, she started Embracing My Mind, Inc.   "I want to help reduce stigma, change perceptions, and encourage an open conversation about mental illness."  Her story is being featured on CNN.  Learn more about her work at

For more stories of success and support visit or read Black Pain by Terrie M. Williams. For referrals and help try

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women: The Social Entrepreneur

Amber Koonce has been named one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women and dubbed The Social Entrepreneur.

Two years ago, Koonce, a public policy and African and Afro-American studies double major, volunteered in Ghana. “I’d been excited to go to a place where my natural hair and features would be embraced,” she says. But there she found women who were unhappy with their looks: “One told me that she aspired to marry a white man so her kids wouldn’t look like her.” Koonce had a theory why. “Ghanaian girls had blond-haired, blue-eyed dolls that didn’t resemble them at all,” she says. So when she returned to the States, Koonce founded BeautyGap, which ships black dolls to Ghana and Kenya to show children a new beauty ideal.   By providing dolls of color for these young girls to adore, Beauty Gap seeks to promote self - love among girls of color in a world dominated by the Western standard of beauty.

She’s also supporting young people in another way—by working in juvenile detention centers as far away as Ghana and Scotland and as close to home as Durham, North Carolina, where she spends Saturday afternoons helping young offenders envision a future without crime.