I want to begin by thanking you, Congresswoman Watson Coleman, for your leadership and vision in establishing the Congressional Black Caucus Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health.

I am humbled and honored to be on this panel and to lead the work of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). NBJC is the nation’s only civil rights organization uniquely and unapologetically focused on the intersections of racial justice and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) equality.

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“Students who do not feel safe and affirmed cannot be expected to demonstrate what they know and learn. This is not new news. We know that when students are not supported they disengage and dropout, which can impact life opportunities and future ability to earn money,” said David Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition. “In honor of Nigel, Jamel, Carl and so many other babies whose names we may never know, we need to act urgently to address the trauma, stress, and mental health needs of children, youth and young adults, especially those from racial and sexual minority communities.”

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WASHINGTON, DC – Over the weekend it was reported that Nigel Shelby, a high schooler in Huntsville, Alabama, died by suicide. In response to the tragic news, National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director David Johns released the following statement:

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WASHINGTON, DC – Every student has a right to an educational experience where they feel safe, engaged, and supported. However, the fact remains, that for too many students, especially Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving students (LGBTQ/SGL) find college campuses and K-12 schools to be hostile and unsafe spaces, which makes it challenging to learn and develop the skills, experiences, and credentials needed to succeed in the global 21st century labor market. Black transgender and gender nonconforming people face unique and sometimes disproportionate challenges, including hate crimes that make it harder for them to succeed in school and in life.

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The image of rural America is often white, working class, and socially conservative — and most definitely not where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same-gender loving people live.  This mental picture is largely reflected in the media and in popular depictions of rural America, but the reality is that millions of people of color — including Black, Latinx, Native, Asian, Middle Eastern, and multiracial people — live in rural United States, and many of them are LGBTQ/SGL. 

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