Week of the Unsung focuses on minority issues, mental health

GVL / Kasey Garvelink - At the beginning of the event, students participated in an ice breaker to help get to know everyone on Apr. 7, 2016 in Allendale.

Kasey Garvelink

GVL / Kasey Garvelink – At the beginning of the event, students participated in an ice breaker to help get to know everyone on Apr. 7, 2016 in Allendale.

Sanda Vazgec

There are a lot of topics that are difficult or uncomfortable to talk about, and for many different reasons. Grand Valley State University student LaShawntelle Carson-Pops created the Week of the Unsung to unmask the difficult topics in order to help find solutions to their underlying problems.

Carson-Pops prepared the Week of the Unsung after having great success with a previous event she organized called “My Life Matters.” With the goal of helping those whose voices have been silenced, she decided to think bigger and put on a series of events focusing on topics that are seriously affecting people, but are not often vocalized.

The inspiration for the events stemmed from her personal experience as a survivor of domestic violence.

“I know what I went through was hurtful and I’m taking this opportunity to share what I’ve learned from that experience,” Carson-Pops said. “I just really want the people who are going through or have gone through difficult situations to know they aren’t alone.”

Carson-Pops teamed up with various student organizations to put on a new event each day focusing on a significant topic.

On April 4, Carson-Pops teamed up with Eyes Wide Open to spread awareness about domestic violence by exhibiting an informational table in the Kirkhof Center. Later that day, an event called “Let’s Talk About Sex” partnered with the Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority to provide education on sexually transmitted diseases.

The second annual “My Life Matters” event was held on April 5 and partnered with You Beautiful Black Woman to educate students on suicide prevention and the severity of the issue. The event offered support for those affected by suicide and provided information for how to help someone who is struggling with the issue.

Alicia Fleming, a member of You Beautiful Black Woman, said it was a great opportunity for people to get involved and incorporate their own role into the subject.

Partnering with the NAACP and iSalute on April 6, the event “Where’s the Justice?” shed light on the issue of police brutality. Attendees were able to ask a Grand Rapids attorney questions about their rights and what to do when encountering a situation with authorities.

On April 7 the event “50 Shades of Black,” co-sponsored by iPromise, focused on the empowerment of black women. The event discussed topics regarding the beauty standards Black women face when it comes to skin shade, body image and societal influences.

The week wrapped up on April 10 with a banquet honoring survivors and showcasing their stories.

The events were dedicated to not only helping those who have been through hard situations, but it also aimed to educate people on how to help those experiencing tough times.

In the near future, Carson-Pops hopes to create a student organization that will provide a safe haven for students who have experienced challenging situations. She hopes the organization will be a place where students can share their stories to those who can empathize with them.

“It’s different when you talk to someone who has gone through what you’ve gone through,” Carson-Pops said. “It’s easier and more comfortable to share your story to someone who you know will understand it.”