Kenytta Brown (left) helped welcome Mayor-elect Chokwe A. Lumumba (right) to the YMP for an interview soon after he won the 2017 Democratic primary. JPS school board member Jed Oppenheim is in the center.
Photo above by Donna Ladd

[gdlr_frame type=”border” align=”left” caption=”Photo Courtesy Imani Khayyam”][gdlr_image_link type=”image” image_url=”×300.jpg” link_url=” alt=””][/gdlr_frame]

by Kenytta Brown

When I was 15, I went through so much pain and suffering that I didn’t want to live life anymore. I had people accusing me of being gay because of my fashion and my style. I liked to wear nerdy space t-shirt and a floral V-neck I really loved. People wanted to fight me because they thought I was weak. They oppressed me for being smart and wanting to be successful. They even oppressed me for the music I listened to such as Teddy Pendergass and Luther Vandross. I wanted to be perfect, and I wanted society to accept me.

So I would try to dress like everybody else and have hairstyles like the other guys and say the same jokes like them. I just kept flip-flopping from being a nerd to being a popular guy.

When they started to call me gay, I knew I had to start changing my image. I started speaking differently and wearing more of these ugly T-shirts and Adidas pants. and having a low haircut because people said I didn’t look good with long hair. Even in class, I didn’t wanted to answer questions or even ask questions; being popular was all about impressing the girls. Just telling jokes, and everybody laughs while the teacher tells me they are disappointed in you. So I was back where I started.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ] We have to live life to the fullest and forget what society says and be the greatest. [/gdlr_quote]

I starting asking myself why do I change for acceptance? Or why do I stress so much over somebody else’s opinion? I literally think I was going crazy in my head because I lost who I really am. I destroyed myself completely for society to look at me and say, “Kenytta is a really cool dude; you are accepted to be with us.” I acted like I wanted it all—the girls, the money, the popularity.

As a result, I built up so much anger and hit a dark spot of my life. I couldn’t live how I wanted to live. I gave up on life and started to regret all the changes I’d done to myself. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. All I could think about was that I would never be able to make my friends or peers happy.

So I pushed people away, being close-minded and not caring for anything. People came to me and asked, “Kenytta, are you OK?” I replied, “No, you wouldn’t understand what I’m going through.” I realize I pushed the people who actually cared about me away.

I needed to find my inner peace, to find out what I could do to change and express who I really am. I did much research from Google to the dictionary. I tried to read the Bible, but I told myself I couldn’t read all that. Instead, I watched my favorite anime, Naruto, and saw this symbol called the Yin Yang.

I looked it up and started reading the basic stuff. Sooner or later, I got so interested and started applying it to my life. Basically, in Chinese philosophy, the yin (darkness) and yang (light) are inter-connected forces in one’s life. These opposing forces balance each other out if we allow them to.

So I told myself, “Kenytta, you’re human, just accept it.” Thinking about the yin-yang taught me so much about life and how I can make the best of. I learned that in life we should embrace the good and bad moments, our talents and flaws, and the victory and challenges. We have to live life to the fullest and forget what society says and be the greatest. I realize I have to be myself and continue the great things I was doing before. And the great part was I started to earn people’s respect and got my friends back. So embrace the mystery you are.

Kenytta Brown is a rising senior at Lanier High School and in his second summer at the Mississippi Youth Media Project.