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Nova Southeastern Student’s Memoir Tries to Help Black People Navigate Racial Trauma

Micah Dawanyi is the author of the book, “Step Into My Shoes: Memoirs From the Other Side of America," a collection of his memoirs of life as a Black man.
Tendai Dawanyi
(Photo courtesy of Micah Dawanyi)
Micah Dawanyi is the author of the book, “Step Into My Shoes: Memoirs From the Other Side of America," a collection of his memoirs of life as a Black man.

His book describes issues that affect the Black community. Mental health is one of them.

Being a target of racism can really hurt someone's mental health. Micah Dawanyi wants to help other Black people heal from that trauma.

He's a 20-year-old health science and psychology student at Nova Southeastern University. Over the summer, he self-published a book describing his personal experiences with issues that affect the Black community, including race-related trauma. It's called, “Step Into My Shoes: Memoirs From the Other Side of America."

After Dawanyi released the book, young readers reached out to him and he started sharing resources with them in group chats using an app.

He recently spoke with WLRN’s Alejandra Marquez Janse about his memoir:

DAWANYI: I remember, enrolling at Nova in the fall of 2018, I was 17 at the time and one of my very first school assignments was to give a speech on the issues relating to your community. And so I picked Black struggle issues. And for some context, I was the only Black kid in that class. And so giving that speech and giving additional speeches throughout the year, I really found that people just had no idea what was going on in our country. And so, I wanted people to step into my shoes, literally. I remember a girl coming up to me after a speech and saying, “I’m sorry, you have to deal with police brutality and racism and prejudice and economic disadvantage," and stuff like that. And, I do not need a pity party. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I want change. That's what I want.

WLRN: Can you explain what a race-related trauma could entail, like maybe an example for someone who may have never experienced it?

I think one thing that all Black people can relate to is, in February 2012, there was the brutal killing of Trayvon Martin and he was a young Black kid walking, I think, to his house. And he was targeted and made out to be a suspect when he wasn't even doing anything. And he was killed because he was, quote unquote, suspicious. And so, I know speaking with a lot of people after this book came out, a lot of kids said that they had to have a conversation with their parents about, hey, you can't wear hoodies when you leave the house because this is the stuff that happens. And so, I think an example of race-related trauma relating to that is worrying about fitting a description in terms of looking [like you’re doing] something wrong.

You said that you’ve tried to help young Black kids.

Yes. So, I have a chapter in my book that's about mental health. And in the Black community, sometimes mental health is not taken as seriously, or we don't have the resources sometimes to access mental health facilities. And after I published the book and I was getting like, private messages from people, a lot of young Black kids, teenagers, were just saying, like, I really resonated with the mental health chapter. And for me, I didn't want to just say, OK, thank you and just keep it moving. So, what I tried to do was share mental health resources and be of assistance as best I could to some of these people that were reaching out to me.

What specific examples or things do you think can be done for Black kids and teenagers?

Well, I think starting these conversations is a very good place to start. Even when those conversations are uncomfortable. But when you have the conversation about mental health, it kind of gives you the opportunity to clearly define and express how you feel. And human expression is something that's very important, especially for Black people who, you know, oftentimes our voices are not heard. One thing that I've been trying to do is, is speak on the importance of seeking out different forms of therapy. Oftentimes we look at therapy as, “Oh, well, I'm not crazy, so I would never want to go into therapy.” But one of the things I've been encouraging people to do is try talk therapy. When you go through race-related trauma and when you're in a country where, you know, a lot of bad things happen to people who look like you, you know, we see the killings on TV and a lot builds up inside of you. And so, I've been trying to mend the relationship between some of the Black community and forms of therapy.
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Alejandra Marquez Janse