Back in late October, I wrote a story about 17 photos of black Victorians who showed how history really looked.

I scoured various online archives, historical records, and so forth to dig up what I could about the subjects of these stunning photographs, which I hoped would challenge people's historical perceptions of race, fashion, and social norms.

The reader response was tremendous.

Hundreds of thousands of people read and shared the story. People love to warn you not to read the comments (and sometimes rightly so), but in this case, the comments were downright inspiring.


The most remarkable comments came from readers who shared photos and stories of their own relatives who lived through that same era.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to some of those folks.

Photo via Ruth Cadenhead, used with permission.

1. Isabelle Norris's great-grandparents emigrated from Africa to the United States by way of Haiti.

Her great-grandmother came from Guinea while her great-grandfather was Egyptian. They encountered many obstacles on their journey, but they made it after all. To this day, their descendants maintain strong familial roots across the U.S., the Caribbean, and Europe.

Photo via Isabella Norris, used with permission.

"I hesitated before posting [this photo], and I was pleased to see that there were only positive responses," Norris said, "I find the idea of sharing part of our history interesting in that it could maybe help solve some of the mystery surrounding it and others involved in it, who knows?"

2. Rev. Cicero Chambers was born a slave in Texas and worked tirelessly to free himself and his wife, Jerlene.

According to his great-great-granddaughter Kim Guillaume, Chambers served for 22 years as moderator of the Cypress Baptist Association and helped to found several Baptist churches across eastern Texas as well as the historically black Bishop College, originally located in Marshall, Texas.

Photo via Kimberly Guillaume, used with permission.

3. Andria Thomas has researched her family all the way back to 1825, including her great-great grandmother, Linny Ellis Roberts.

Roberts was born in Colorado in the late 1800s and attended the historically black Oakwood College in Alabama. In fact, her descendants still have copies of all her notes from school. Her father owned a farm in New Mexico, and Roberts herself later owned and operated a grocery store along with her husband, Fred Douglas Roberts.

Photo via Andria Thomas, used with permission.

"Most of this ancestral line I have researched lived in the deep South, specifically Tennessee and Georgia," Thomas added about her family history. "In the census, they were recorded as either mulatto or black, but they almost always owned their property free and clear. Their neighbors were also mostly white. Not only that, but they were all literate, even though some of them were born before slavery ended."

Thomas also admitted that it was hard to know the exact context of her ancestors' lives. Still, the records she found were further evidence of the other untold stories of black lives throughout U.S. history.

4. Angela Brazil's family research led to the discovery of her oldest living relative, her great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Curry.

Brazil's journey into her ancestry took her on an actual trip from St. Louis, Missouri, to Cleveland, Ohio, where she had the opportunity to meet members of her family that she didn't even know existed until then.

In the photo, Curry's hair is wrapped in an updo, but according to family lore, Brazil's great-great-grandmother's beautiful locks fell all the way down to the floor.

Photo via Angela Brazil, used with permission.

5. Amy Noel Longmire shared a photo of her great-great grandma, Louise Burroughs Grandison of West Virginia, born in 1860.

According to family lore, Great-Great Grandma Grandison was an excellent seamstress, and the outfit she's wearing in the photograph was made entirely by her own hands. Her second-born son, Dr. Joseph Meredith Grandison, was one of the first black doctors in the state of West Virginia.

Photo via Amy Noel Longmire, used with permission.

"I wonder how perceptions inside and outside our culture would have changed if the narrative was more robust (and accurate) than poverty, slavery, and civil rights?" Longmire said about her dive into her family history. "We owned businesses, held advanced degrees, and succeeded in the face of real tyranny. Ours is a story of more than survival, but one of success. To see these stories ignored is frustrating."

Remarkably, after sharing the photo on Facebook, Longmire ended up connecting with another commenter who was also a Grandison from West Virginia, and the two are now trying to figure out if they're related.

6. Booker T. Brooks was born in Jackson County, Tennessee, in 1864.

His great-great-great-granddaughter Sarah Mason shared that he married a woman named Daisy Chappin and passed away in the same county around the turn of the century. There was little else known about him — but he sure knew how to dress.

Photo via Sarah Mason, used with permission.

Why did these photos resonate with all of us so much? Because the truth has been erased from history for far too long, and these people deserve to be a part of the narrative.

As one commenter so perfectly put it, "I'm standing in the Union Square subway station in NYC bawling my eyes out. This world has tried so hard to erase us from existence — hide our accomplishments, sweep our ancestors into closets, pretend we've only been slaves and maids. Those people lived life! I'm living life!"

That's the power of seeing yourself reflected in stories, in history, and in the world around you. What else is there to say?

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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