Get to Know AExME Council Member Imani Jai Chisom

 

Faith-Based Activist

@imanijai 

 

A champion of social justice and racial healing, AExME Council member Imani uses her platform to address issues facing black women at predominantly white colleges.

 

“I fight for the little black girls who don’t think they’re going to go to college in Pittsburgh, who are written off because of their ZIP code,”

says Imani, who grew up in Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood.

“I represent the black women in college who don’t feel safe at their schools, who feel marginalized, and don’t feel like they’re enough because they’re told they’re small and voiceless.”

 

A junior at Duquesne University studying theology and writing, Imani aspires to become a pastor. She’s interned at the Friendship Community Church, works with youth programs at Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh, and believes that religion and faith are rooted in love—both a love of yourself and a love of your community. “When you have that group and that village, that’s where you can learn to be fearless,” Imani says.

@imanijai 

Imani writes about her experiences as a black women at a private, mostly white, Catholic university on her blog, Honestly Imani Jai. When she’s not writing, she reading everything she can get her hands on, from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

 

“The thing that I’m most passionate about is authentic storytelling and creating spaces for young women of color to authentically share their stories.”

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Gabby Frost

 

Buddy Project Founder

@gabbyfrost

 

At age 15, AExME Council member Gabby Frost noticed many of her friends were struggling with suicidal thoughts. So, she started a suicide prevention website, and within the first 12 hours, 3,000 people signed up.

 

Six years later, that site—Buddy Project—has turned into a movement that connects people with online friends to prevent all forms of self-harm and raise awareness around mental health, bullying, and negativity on social media. The Buddy Project matches people by age and regularly spreads messages of positivity and empathy online, including advice like, “Self-care doesn’t have to be glamorous,” and, “Block people who don’t benefit your mental health.”

 

“I want to help de-stigmatize mental health issues because 1 in 5 people may have a mental illness, but 5 in 5 people have mental health. And we all need to understand the importance of keeping in check with our mental health,”

says the Drexel University student whose nonprofit has, so far, paired 232,000 buddies.

@gabbyfrost

The Buddy Project is open to anyone 13 years or older who wants a new friend—you don’t need to be going through any type of mental illness to sign up! You just need to want to make friends, and support them with compassion and love.

 

“I can’t believe an idea I had as a 15-year-old laying in my bed at 1 in the morning is what it is today,”

says Gabby, who will soon be launching a Buddy Project app to further its reach and help even more young people.

“I hope I inspire more people to use their voice and not to be silent, because silence is so deadly.”

 

You can help celebrate Mental Health Month and support the Buddy Project by purchasing a limited edition hoodie online and at our SoHo store.

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

GUEST BLOGGER: AExME COUNCIL MEMBER GABBY FROST

Buddy Project

Inspired by the bold voices of people like YOU, we’ve introduced the AExME Council, our first-ever crew of young advocates and change makers. In this guest post, AExME Council member Gabby Frost shares why it’s so important to talk about mental health and how her organization, the Buddy Project, helps prevent suicide.

Want to show your love for Gabby and the Buddy Project? We’re proud to share 100% of sales of this limited-edition hoodie to support the Buddy Project this May, which is Mental Health Month!

SHOP NOW

AE MENTAL HEALTH GRAPHIC HOODIE

Mental health. It’s something we all have, whether or not we have a mental illness. And we all deserve to take care of our minds and our health in general. Mental health affects physical health, and vice versa.

It wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I began to understand why keeping our minds healthy is so vital. My best friend at the time told me she was self-harming and had suicidal ideation. The only other time I heard about mental health was through Demi Lovato speaking about going to rehab. My school didn’t really talk to us about mental health and suicide. The only time we discussed it was an assembly in 7th grade where a father who’d lost his son to suicide shared his story. Although that assembly was important, my school didn’t work hard enough to equip us with proper skills to help our peers who were going through mental health problems. I had to rely on the internet to learn more about being a supportive friend and the basics of mental illness, self-harm, addiction, and suicidal ideation.

At the time, I was a huge fangirl and was in love with One Direction and Justin Bieber. People in my area weren’t necessarily as passionate about them as I was, so I went on Twitter and Instagram to find the community I wished for and needed in my life. Most people think of fangirls as these hyper, passionate, and happy young girls, but through social media I was able to discover that a lot of my fellow fangirls were going through mental illness, just like my best friend. This is when my compassion and empathy grew the most, and I wanted to be a friend to these girls around the world who didn’t have friends or family to support them.

On April 8, 2013, in the early hours of the night, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed since I couldn’t fall asleep. I ended up stumbling upon Tweets from people I followed, and three of them were thinking of suicide. I immediately sent them supportive messages and encouraged others to do the same, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to actually do something instead of waiting for someone else to get an idea and make a change. In that moment, I had the idea to pair together people with a buddy based on their interests and ages, after thinking about my experiences of finding close friends through social media. I wanted to create a community where people could find people just like them, and openly talk about mental health. This simple yet effective idea is what led to the inception of Buddy Project.

That happened over six years ago, and since then I have learned a lot more about mental health and suicide. I’ve learned a lot about myself, too, and have grown into a more empathetic, compassionate person who I’m proud of. I’ve been able to analyze my own mental health, and realize that I’ve gone through mental health struggles since middle school. I’ve experienced anxiety, social anxiety, and extremely low points of my life. People always think that because I run Buddy Project, it means I don’t struggle myself. But that’s completely false. The most recent low point of my life happened just this past week. My life has been absolutely wonderful since starting college in the fall of 2016, but sometimes your mental health doesn’t care if you’re thriving. Waves of emptiness, boredom, and no motivation can hit you out of nowhere.

This past week, I had little motivation to get out of my bed or do anything. All I did was go to class and then come right back to my room and lay in bed just to do nothing. Everything I tried to do instantly made me bored, and I had no idea what to do. I laid there feeling empty and like there was nothing to do to make my life exciting. I felt hopeless and my mind made me think I had nothing to look forward to whatsoever. I also had no appetite, and had to force myself to eat meals because I knew it was what my body needed. It’s been really hard for me to talk about these points when they’re happening, especially because I don’t always understand what’s going on in the moment.

This is exactly why we need a more genuine and open discussion when it comes to mental health. No one should be ashamed to say they’re struggling or need help. You don’t need a mental illness in order to go through hard times. We need to normalize therapy, medication, and other coping mechanisms, techniques, and ways that people manage their mental health. Mental health is normal and we need to embrace the fact that we all have it. It shouldn’t be seen as a taboo subject, and the longer we stay silent about it the stronger the stigma surrounding it will grow.

I encourage everyone to have a real, genuine conversation about mental health, whether it’s with your friends, family, or strangers that you met on the internet. Speaking up will save lives.

AE MENTAL HEALTH GRAPHIC HOODIE

Advice from Buddy Project’s Youth Advisory Board

 

AJ DeLeon

Life can get pretty tough, things may not go your way, or you might just not be feeling your best. In moments like those, never be afraid to reach out for help. People care and love you more than you may think.

 

Reilly Brady

My daily mantra is “this too shall pass” and it helps me a lot.

 

Leah Snelling

Love and empathy are two of the most powerful emotions I believe a human can feel. If someone you know is hurting, or if you are hurting, reach out. Hearing that you are not alone and that someone does care can change your life.

 

Ana Cecilia Chavez

Patience, love, and support.

 

Breeanne DiGiacomo

I believe education is the key to erasing the stigma of mental illness.

 

 

 

Introducing the #AExMECouncil

Self-expression. Individuality. The power to change the world. Introducing the #AExMECouncil!

Inspired by the bold voices of young people like YOU, we’re introducing our first-ever advisory council of nine leaders from around the country, each a fearless champion for a better future.

AE will be supporting the advocacy work of each #AExMECouncil member AND learning from them, working hand-in-hand on every aspect of our business to make sure our practices and product are as game-changing as customers like you.

Over the next year, look for updates about our work together. We’ll be collaborating on ideas for Pride, mental health, sustainability, getting out the vote, charitable giving, and more.

 

 

Samuel Getachew

Award-Winning Poet

@samuelgd 

16-year-old Oakland, CA resident Samuel believes “the biggest misconception about our generation is that we’re monolithic. We are so, so incredibly multifaceted and diverse.” He is passionate about using art to create change and uplift the voices of marginalized people. 

 

Delaney Tarr

March for Our Lives Co-Founder

@delaneytarr

March for Our Lives co-founder Delaney uses storytelling to end hate and violence. “If we carry these stories, people might actually listen.”

 

Saaneah Jamison

R&B Artist & Body Positive Activist

@saaneah

“Bloom where you are.” Rising R&B artist and body-positive activist is Saaneah is creating a self-love movement called Curvy Confidence through music and dance.

 

Joseph Touma

Bridge the Divide Co-Founder

@josephmtouma

Listening. Engaging. Building bridges across political lines. West Virginia native and Bridge the Divide co-founder Joseph Touma believes respect and understanding are the way forward.

 

Tim Johnson Jr.

Actor & Musician

@cityboyjr  

Actor. Musician. Bringer of joy. The Philly native is ready to make his mark in entertainment and on the world. “Soul is everything to me.”

 

Gabby Frost

Buddy Project Founder

@gabbyfrost

Gabby founded the Buddy Project to help promote mental health and prevent suicide. “A lot of young people feel alone. There are people out there who understand and want to help.” Her app launches soon!

 

Peyton Klein

Global Minds Founder

@peytonklein

“Diversity is a fact. Inclusivity is a choice.” Pittsburgh high school student Peyton founded Global Minds, a for-youth, by-youth organization that inspires students to build intercultural friendships and support immigrant rights.

 

Imani Jai Chisom

Faith-Based Activist

@imanijai 

Theology and writing student. Aspiring minister. “I fight for the little black girls who don’t think they’re going to go to college, who are told they’re small and voiceless.” Pittsburgh native Imani uses her platform to address issues facing black women at predominantly white colleges.

 

Edith Cruz

Immigrant Rights Activist

@thatweirdchild__

Sí, se puede. A journalism/broadcasting student at Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Edith has lived in Kentucky since she was 6 years old. Originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico, she’s passionate about education equity and immigrant rights.

 

These #AExMECouncil members are changing the world, and so are YOU. Tag #AExME @americaneagle to share how you’re using your voice to inspire change.

 

 

Meet the new #AExME cast: get to know BRINDA

polaroid of @brindanotbrenda

 

 

 

handwritten bio of @brindanotbrenda

 

I drove across the country and it was like just super exhilarating to be out on the road alone. I love driving so I was like, I’m in my element right now and I’m doing this by myself. I’m a small person and I’m doing a really big thing.