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Englewood, Chatham

After Losing A Friend To Suicide, Englewood Woman Starts Company To Get Black Chicagoans Talking About Mental Health

BreAnna Moss believes music and poetry can get her friends and neighbors talking about mental health.

BreAnna Moss will host her company's first event at Kusanya Cafe Saturday.
Andrea Watson for DNAinfo / Provided
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ENGLEWOOD — Three years ago, Englewood native and marketing professional BreAnna Moss lost a close friend to suicide. 

While grieving, she wondered what she could do to get communities of color to open up about mental health issues. 

“He was one of those people who lit up a room no matter where he was and he was one of those people you could lean on and dump all of your stuff on,” Moss said of her friend. “He would give you great advice, wonderful advice, and we just thought he had really thick skin and didn’t know he was going through so much with PTSD and other traumas that may have happened both in the military and before because he grew up in Chicago.”

The stigma surrounding mental health runs deep in her neighborhood, Moss said, and she knew there needed to be a new approach to speaking with communities of color about these issues. Her idea? Use music and poetry to get people talking. 

“Mental health and mental wellness is stigmatized in Black and Brown communities,” she said. “We don’t talk about it. We push folks to go to church. I’m not saying church is not a place you can go but we kind of push people to go to church first when sometimes you need an approach that includes praying, an approach that includes a physician — a doctor — someone who is objective about the situation that can speak to you and talk you through some things.”

Moss, 25, officially launched her marketing and consulting firm, Fresh Kulture, in March. She said her goal is to connect clients with Millennial audiences and create events centered around music, poetry and collective healing. 

Fresh Kulture’s first mental health awareness event, “An Ode to Mental Health Panel Discussion & Cypher” will be held from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Kusanya Cafe, 825 W. 69th St. All are welcome to attend.

The panelists scheduled to appear are Camesha L. Jones, founder of Sista Afya which connects black women with mental health services; Ben Frank, education coordinator with the National Association of Mental Health Chicago; and Bryan “Omega” McBride, creative, performing artist and producer.

There will also be spoken word poetry and other performances. Ths will be Fresh Kulture’s first event, and Moss said she chose Kusanya Cafe because it has such a devoted customer base and is a community hub.

“The goal is to grow to a place where it becomes a monthly thing and it’s used as a tool to talk about mental health,” she said. “If you put [your feelings] it in a poem, if you put it in a rap, then you’re more likely to hear that information and receive it no matter who [is talking].”

Moss, a graduate of Roosevelt University’s marketing program, works as the national marketing coordinator at the Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She’ll also be participating in “Black Mental Wellness Weekend” hosted by Sista Afya from Nov. 9 – 11.

To register for Black Mental Wellness Weekend visit: http://bit.ly/chibmww. You can RSVP for Saturday’s event here.

This story was produced by Block Club Chicago in partnership with Chicago Ideas, which is working to highlight organizations and individuals making a positive impact in all of Chicago’s 77 community areas. Follow The 77 Project here.