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Supporting the Mental Health of Black Male Youths and Challenging Public Perceptions

Photo: Courtesy of Siviwe Kapteyn

David C. Miller, a native of Baltimore, MD, is on a mission to improve the “life chances” of Black male youth through creating unique interventions.

What does mental health mean to you?

As a Black man in America, achieving optimal mental health requires me to manage my mind and spirit in a society where I am constantly under surveillance. 

What accomplishments have you been most proud of throughout your career?

One of my major accomplishments was creating a series of children’s books for young Black male readers focusing on cool, life-affirming characters with fantastic storylines. The lack of representation of positive Black male characters in children’s books has historically been a challenge. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress suggest Black male youth lag behind girls in reading. Much of this can be attributed to the lack of diversity in the children’s book industry. We find Black male youth exciting about picking up books where they see themselves on the pages of books. 

Another major accomplishment was developing and disseminating the 10 Rules of Survival If Stopped by the Police as a tool to discuss navigating encounters with the police. These 10 rules, along with the SALT project, created an emotional video called Get Home Safely, and have impacted how thousands of Black families have the “The Talk” with their children. 

Can you talk a little bit about your book Khalil’s Way and the critical role is plays as a children’s book to address the topic of bullying as it is one of the main factors leading to suicide among Black children and youth? 

Sadly, bullying has become a far more pervasive phenomenon in the lives of Black youth than most realize. I wrote Khalil’s Way as a coming-of-age story to help Black children internalize non-violent ways to address bullying. Data on youth suicide indicate bullying as a risk factor. In many instances, bullying and harassment have become so severe to the point where Black youth believe suicide is a realistic alternative.

In your opinion, what resources are lacking—particularly in the Black community—when it comes to mental health? 

The following are two strategies to address the lack of knowledge and access when it comes to mental health in the Black community:

  1. Increase community education around the importance of mental health support.
  2. Increase access to culturally sensitive mental health providers who understand and work with Black children and families.

Can you discuss the impact your curriculum for Black boys, Dare to Be King: What if the Prince Lives?, has had on the lives of those who have taken it?

Dare To Be King: What If the Prince Lives? has impacted thousands of Black male youth by challenging their notions of manhood and masculinity and providing realistic alternatives to violence when resolving conflicts.  

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