For several days, I left a tab open in my browser. The link was to a New York Post article from several years ago. In it, the now-deceased Cheslie Kryst was positively gushing over the beauty of her National Costume ahead of the Miss Universe pageant.
I kept avoiding reading about Chryst’s joy and looking at her beautiful, shining smile. Because I could not bear to weigh that light against the darkness of her recent death by suicide.
When I saw news of Cheslie Kryst’s passing last weekend, my breath caught and my eyes teared. Although I had not followed her career closely, I remembered when she earned her crown a few short years ago, and that she, along with Kaliegh Garris and Nia Franklin made history when they became the first Black women to hold the Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA titles simultaneously.
Blogs, social media pages, magazines, and newspapers published radiant photo shoots of the trio. And, it seems, a real-life bond formed between them.
Accomplished, beautiful, and successful by any stretch of the imagination, Kryst appeared to have so much that other people desire.
But she also lived with high-functioning depression, the depths of which she didn’t disclose even to her mother.
When I finall got up the courage resolve to read the NY Post article, I also stumbled across a blog Kryst started to empower and instill confidence in professional women. Surprised the site was still live, I couldn’t help but wonder…
Who would take it down?
Who would answer if someone filled out the contact form?
When a person dies by suicide, who finishes the work they began?
Who carries their dreams?
It is a strange truth that when Black public figures die, I feel an emotional weight.
In the same way, I feel a gut punch when Black people who are not public figures have their lives cut short by police violence, as in the recent case of Amir Locke.
As I am far from the only Black person emotionally impacted by events that feel so far removed from my daily life, it is no wonder that the Associastion for the Study of African American Life and History has selected Black Health and Wellness as the official theme for Black History Month 2022.
Earlier this week, when I first saw pages I follow sharing this theme, I confess that I wondered why this theme had been chosen and why it seemed to be so speckling so many Black History Month-related conversations.
But less than a week into February 2022, I understand.
Not only does it advantage us to learn about how Black Americans have contributed to every area of the fields of health and wellness in this country. But also – and critically – we need to take care of ourselves – and each other – so that we can keep showing up to our lives each day.
So that we can keep existing to encourage each other.
So that we can keep setting positive examples for our children and the generations to come.
So that we can build new tables at which our people can sit and be served love.
We have to take care of ourselves and each other.
For the love of us.