It was on this day (November 28, 2012), three years ago, that Asya Maomi Patton died in the hands of free will. On this day, three years ago many people’s lives were turned upside down. I want to take the time to discuss a few things, the most important being Asya’s story. Following that I want to momentarily delve into Black girlhood/womanhood/sisterhood and depression. Please be patient with me. This is by far one of the most difficult posts I’ve had to write. Even though this is an extremely emotionally guided post, I owe this to myself, Asya and more importantly, to Black girls everywhere.
Thanks in advance for your attention.
Asya Patton, affectionately known as “Asya P the G” was a beautiful, bubbly 10th grader attending high school in Warren, Arkansas.
Asya’s mother, Amber Patton described her 15-year-old daughter, Asya, as an outgoing teenager, who loved connecting with her friends via social media. Amber knew her daughter had experienced bullying from girls at school, but she never realized the extent of the harrassment until it was too late.
When Asya took her own life one day after school in November of 2012, there were collective moments of disbelief, disdain, and denial. The hashtag #RIPAsyaP immediately began floating around the internet, eventually gaining attention nationwide. Due to the influx of support and people sharing very similar stoires, Amber Patton decided to team up with Shauntae Swinton to form the Asya Patton Project, a non-profit campaign dedicated to raising awareness about cyberbullying, teen depression and suicide. Shauntae’s son Braylon knew Asya and shared the story with his mom whom then felt compelled to take action. She began by reaching out to Amber Patton.
It is still unclear what exactly led to Asya’s death but many believe it all began in April, 7 months prior to her passing. Asya had gotten into a fight with some girls at school over a boy and had began being threatened by a group of girls. They bullied her on Twitter and Facebook. Her grades began dropping and she withdrew from her family and friends. Amber tried talking to Asya about it but said that Aysa would “brush it off”.
Asya had transferred high school for a fresh start and was beginning to do well at her new high school. When she died, Asya’s Twitter account contained over 40,000 messages.
These were the tweets that preceded a text to her cousin that said, “Call 911.” Shaken and confused, her cousin entered the home and witnessed the sound of the gunshot that took the life of 15 year old Asya M. Patton.
I remember receiving news of Asya’s passing. It was the most unbelievable, gut-wrenching feeling. I remember sitting and reflecting. I had so many questions. I was angry, I was confused and I felt alone. I never blamed Asya. I understood her and that’s why I was afraid. I often screamed out “Why?!” I was also 15 years old when this occurred and I was going through similar circumstances. I remember this time so vividly because I was also realizing that when situations like this occur involving Black girls, “someone, somewhere, somehow,” manages to place blame on the victim. However, I refused to place blame on Asya and I refuse to continuously refer to her/view her as a victim. She is a hero on her own terms.
Many people believe that suicide is a selfish move. They’re often quick to say that that the person couldn’t possibly care about the people they’re leaving behind. Yet, I know personally that once a person reaches that point where they contemplate taking their own life, they care for their families even more than they care for themselves; so much so that they believe their families will be better off without them. Depression is a mental illness. Depression is a disease and it is relentless. It eats away at your entire existence.
Many of us have been in that place. Maybe it was you or a family member or even friend. We’ve all lost loved one to mental illness. We all know someone battling depression, regardless of whether you know about their fight. Let’s commit to looking out for each other and ending the consistent ignoring of this issue.
When it comes to Asya, I think about her often: her smile, her personality and her ambitions. Asya is so loved and deeply missed. I reflect on that time period often and I remember spending so much time telling myself “That could’ve been me“. It didn’t take long before I became proactively introspective and therefore realized that it in fact was me… even now, it is me. When Asya passed, so did a part of me. The part of me that wanted to be a victim died. The part of me that couldn’t seek purpose died. After reconciling my personal indifferences at that time and praying for Asya’s soul, I was renewed. I saw so much of myself in her. In her death, she somehow managed to save my life. Losing my friend, I found a new beginning. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was going to help people because Asya helped me. I often think back to middle school. My best friend was a “cutter” while we were in the 7th grade. I knew about it of course and yes, I was afraid for her. Sadly, I didn’t know what to do. I was battling my own depression at the time and that seemed to be sending me on an endless downward spiral following the passing of my Grandmother. With my best friend, I saw how everyone blamed her for her problems and constantly told her things would be better if she 1) sought the Lord and 2) fixed her attitude. It didn’t make sense and it didn’t help her.
Recently, I’ve been studying, reading and watching how the world is working. Sisters: we out here trying to function while dealing with neocolony induced depression. Like my best friend, Black girl depression sometimes manifests itself in permanent marks, tribal reminders. However, typical adolescent depression isn’t afforded to Black girls. We don’t only stress about acne and sex. We are immediately stripped of our childhood, our innocence, our youth and given the status of a marginalized woman forced to carry the burdens of everyone around her. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders at the age of 12…13…14… and many times, it contributes to our death, whether it be by natural causes or free will. Now, the question is: Who will help the Black woman when the Black woman doesn’t believe she can help herself?
The depression Black people experience is often racialized amongst many other factors. Finding help and resources specific to depression compounded by the stresses of racism is not easily accessible because it usually goes misdiagnosed or even worse, undiagnosed altogether. We are not allowed to receive these diagnoses. We’re simply shrugged off and told that we have bad attitudes and our pastor is the only counselor we need.
“These bridges that we use for our backs are not granted reprieve or space to falter.”
To all Black girls: It’s never been your fault. You aren’t any less of a human being or a woman because of your skin, your beliefs, your morals… your identity. You are a queen. You are descendants of royalty. This is not an idealist, optimistic encouragement speech. I’m being real with you. Threats will come on every side because of who you are and what you’re capable of. Stay strong. Don’t internalize hatred as a sign of your inferiority. You are enough as you are. When your fellow sisters combat you, shut that shit down immediately. No one other than a Black woman can understand what it truly means when another sister says that she is just tired. Nothing should penetrate or compromise Black sisterhood. You may argue and you may disagree, but it damn sure better be out of love and a mutual desire for progression and understanding.
I decided to create the hashtag #Forever15 in honor of Asya. #Forever15 is for her: her spirit, her charisma and her light will be #Forever15. #Forever15 is all about immortalizing Asya and allowing her to actually live youthfully and truly in Heaven.
The Asya Patton Project operates as a motivational and support group for teens and parents. The Asya Patton Project launched nationally with an Inaugural Asya Patton Social Media Day, on Monday, December 17, 2012. As of 2015, The Asya Patton Project has hosted many successful events centered around Remembering Asya, Suicide Awareness, Ending Cyberbullying and support.
Visit The Asya Patton Project’s Facebook Page for more Information!