• Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

The Sonrise Project Podcast is a support group for black parents

Eight years ago, Kelli Richardson Lawson stood in front of a crowd at the I Am Woman conference in Atlanta, ready to deliver a speech on the theme of abundance. Then the computer crashed, along with its slides. She had to improvise.

What Lawson did next surprised her. For the first time, Lawson, CEO of marketing agency JOY Collective, spoke openly about the event that recently devastated his family. Lawson’s oldest son, Kyle, had attempted suicide the year after graduating from high school.

“All of these things came out of me,” Lawson says. Looking back, Lawson identifies this unintentional outpouring as the start of her mission to share her story and, in doing so, to empower other parents facing similar situations. “In that moment of significant vulnerability, I felt like a weight had been released. And I knew I was connecting with so many people,” she says.

In 2020 Lawson started The SonRise project create a space for other black parents whose children struggled with mental health and addiction issues. Every Sunday morning parents call The SonRise projectweekly call to hear an expert talk, then talk to each other in a safe space. “Much of our learning comes from listening to the stories of others,” Lawson says.

With The SonRise podcast project, even more people can listen. Launch on September 27, the weekly podcast, which is part of OWN’s podcast network, will broadcast edited versions of these calls. “My hope is that listeners know that they are not alone. We are a village,” Lawson says. Normally between 50 and 80 people call The SonRise projectSunday sessions; now, Lawson is hoping that number will grow to the thousands. “Millions, one day.”

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Lawson created The SonRise project because she couldn’t find a place to connect with other black parents about the things her family was going through. While Kyle was staying at a therapy facility in Connecticut, Lawson and her husband visited him every other weekend and participated in guided therapy sessions with a small group of other parents whose children were in treatment.

“One Saturday we realized we were the only black parents in the room,” Lawson recalls. Lawson found that the group discussion missed a crucial part of his family’s experiences. “While our experiences were very similar with our children, there was a whole different dynamic of having a black son in this world in 2020. There is an added dimension to raising a black man in a state of systemic racism.”

When she went to find a support group for black parents of mentally ill children, she couldn’t, so she had to start one on her own. Lawson suspected that there would be others interested in such a group. “I believe everyone is going through something, but we don’t openly talk about it because we’re ashamed or have that guilt or that pressure to be perfect. It’s good to have a little crack in the back. armor and then talk about it with other people, ”she said.

With the SonRise Project calls and podcast, Lawson also hopes to address the stigma of mental illness that exists within the black community. Black adults are 20% more likely to report psychological distress than white adults, according to a 2019 study, but only one in three will receive treatment. As Lawson pointed out, mental health problems are compounded by the psychological burden of living under systemic racism.

“It’s good to have a little crack in the armor and then talk about it with other people.”

“My goal is to silence the shame and eliminate it. It is so deeply ingrained in black communities, including my family,” Lawson said. “It aims to help people not have that stigma and feel good about opening up to a space that only has love and compassion, and like-minded people with similar issues. people have a space to be vulnerable. ”

When starting the SonRise project, Lawson encountered skepticism within his family. “It’s not a shadow for my mother, I love her. But she said to me: When I started this, I think you say a lot. However, Kyle, who also shared his story on Instagram, allows Lawson to document their trip.

And it was a journey. Over the past three years, through hard work and reflection, Lawson says she and her husband have grown as parents.

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“We always thought we had to fix our child. The reality is we have to fix ourselves. Teenagers are really looking for spaces where they can be free, where they can explore, that’s okay. We don’t. We didn’t. To be able to step back and say, okay, well, what was our role in all of this? Our role was that we were super strict and full of fear, “she said.

Now Lawson says the phrase “I love you” is spoken often and easily in his house and is not tied to any accomplishment. “We love you for who you are, not for you as a swimmer or for you as what. We just love you period,” she says. “Children need to hear this and know it deeply and really feel it.”

Recently, Lawson and her husband had Kyle moved into an apartment in Atlanta. When they said goodbye, Kyle cried on his shoulder. “He said, ‘I love you. I will really miss you.’ I hadn’t heard that in years, ”Lawson says.

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