friends, my name is tonya ingram. i have dealt with depression for most of my life. i have allowed suicide to be a consideration. i have been hospitalized for my thoughts. as a poet, i believe my responsibility is to allow my story to be a source. sometimes the story is heavy. sometimes the story is an anchor. sometimes the story is a call to those in the distance. we recently lost our friend, MarShawn McCarrel. i dedicate this one to him. i dedicate this to those of us who ache in the dark.
to be black and depressed is sometimes dealt to be a contradiction. as if vulnerability will be compromised, yet vulnerability is our greatest strength. and how can we not be depressed when the names continue to pile. when the #justicefor_____ continues to trend. when we chant “black lives matter” and someone begins to growl. growing up, i felt the burden of my loneliness. i wept into my tired pillow and kept the sadness close as i wanted to delete the black. i did not want to alarm. to be “crazy.” the stigma of mental illness plagues our community. it keeps our heaviness in the dark and disregards expression in its truest form, when it is difficult and muddy. i am currently listening to nina simone’s “i wish i knew how it would feel to be free” and i am reminded of stigma. how if we come to understand what depression is, how it rattles, how it scolds, how it is a leech, we can begin to understand ourselves and how dynamic we are in being a support system for each other. we begin to understand what it means to free.
for those who feel the distance, the quiet, the stigma. know you are not alone. i am your keeper. i am the hymn to the moment of chaos. there is much to be celebrated in our skin. there is much to love about the resilience of our kin. and yet, there is room to be the flood. to feel everything and not define ourselves as the outcast. oh friend, find me when the ridicule glistens. find me when they tell you to get over it. find me when they name depression to be a false space. find me.
you are not crazy. you are the glow. you are the story of our ancestors and the glory of our future. you are a brilliant storm. you are a body made of magic. you are a well of love. be an unapology for your presence. be the entire novel of your excellence, even if it is difficult and muddy. especially when it is difficult and muddy. you are en route, friend. take courage. the road is patient. the sky is open. feel everything and do not apologize for any of it. you are the formation and in the necessary words of kendrick lamar, “we gon’ be alright.”
Tonya Ingram is the 2011 New York Knicks Poetry Slam champion, a member and co-founder of NYU’s poetry slam team, and a member of the 2011 Urban Word-NYC team, the 2013 Nuyorican Grand Slam team, and the 2015 Da Poetry Lounge Slam team. She is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of Growl and Snare. Her work has traveled throughout the United States, Ghana, The Literary Bohemian, To Write Love on Her Arms, UROK, Afropunk, Huffington Post, LupusChick.com, For Harriet, BuzzFeed, Rude Magazine, Cultural Weekly, The WILD, Upworthy, Youtube and season four of Lexus Verses and Flow. She has shared the stage with Hill Harper, Soledad O’ Brien, President Clinton, Anthony Hamilton, Lynn Whitfield, and others. She is a New York University alumna, a Cincinnati native, a Bronx-bred introvert currently residing in Los Angeles where she is pursuing her MFA in Public Practice at Otis College of Art & Design and working on her second book of poetry.