I Am Nigel's Keeper


On April 18, 2019, 15-year-old Nigel Shelby died by suicide after constant homophobic bullying for being gay. Nigel Shelby’s mother Camika Shelby has retained nationally renowned civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump, Esquire and Jasmine Rand, Esquire, to investigate the circumstances involving her son’s death, the bullying he experienced at Huntsville High School, and his school administrators’ role in his decision to take his life. Crump and Rand are best known for their work as nationally renowned civil rights attorneys who represented the family of Trayvon Martin. Camika Shelby is working with the National Black Justice Coalition to raise awareness about the often unmet mental health needs of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) students in schools and to disrupt the stigma that too often prevents Black people from discussing the beautiful diversity that has always existed within Black communities.

You can learn more about NBJC’s efforts to ensure that schools are safe, more inclusive, and respond to the diverse needs of students by visiting HERE:

Over the coming weeks you may notice ordinary people doing the extraordinary work of helping to raise awareness about Nigel Shelby by posting across social platforms using #IAmNigelShelby and #MyBrothersKeeperMeansNigelShelbyToo.  Two important goals for this campaign is to raise awareness about the unique challenges Black LGBTQ/SGL students face in schools and to remind everyone that in the same way we care about our brother Trayvon Martin we should care about Nigel Shelby too.  We encourage you to post a video and images raising awareness, disrupting stigma, and encouraging other young people to talk about the challenges they sometimes face alone and in silence.  To purchase your own #IAmNigel shirt visit @LongLiveNigelShelby via Instagram.


CBCF Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth, Mental Health and Suicide

According to a 2008 JAMA Pediatrics article on Black Boys and Suicide, suicide rates in the United States have traditionally been higher among white than black individuals across all age groups. However, in the last 25 years, suicide rates have increased among black children aged 5 to 11 years and decreased among white children of the same age.  This is an overlooked national emergency, according to a taskforce recently established by the Congressional Black Caucus on the eve of Mental Health Awareness Month. Chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), the CBC Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health brought together experts, including Executive Director David J. Johns, in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness among members of Congress and staff, and to identify legislative recommendations to address this mental health crisis.

NBJC is leading the policy workgroup to ensure that the report provided to the CBC includes the perspectives of and recommendations from Black LGBTQ/SGL students and from LGBTQ/SGL students of color more generally.  You can read Executive Director Johns’ Congressional Testimony here and learn more about the taskforce here.


National Working Group to Respond to the Needs of
LGBTQ/SGL students of color

What does it mean to be young, gifted, and Black — when you’re also queer? This question continues to guide the work of a national working group focused on improving schools, so they better meet the needs of LGBTQ/SGL students of color.  The working group includes Ed Trust, led by John B. King, Former U.S. Secretary of Education, GLSEN, Education Leaders of Color, the American Psychological Association and the American Association of School Counselors. The working group launched their efforts at a student led forum at Duke Ellington High School for the performing arts in Washington, DC.  You can read more about this event here.

Collectively, we advocate for and are working to support advocates, educators, administrators, and school and district leaders in providing safe, engaging, and inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ youth of color, in the following three ways:

  1. Develop and teach curricula that is all-encompassing and responsive — representing positive contributions that diverse members of the LGBTQ community have made. Representation matters.
  2. Provide and ensure LGBTQ students have access to appropriate mental and social supports. Access to school counselors and mental health and socioemotional services are vital to ensure students thrive in and outside of school.
  3. Affirm the place of organizations that serve LGBTQ people as partners in the fight toward justice for students. These are organizations that have a demonstrated history of effectiveness at increasing cultural competency by providing professional development support to adults in the school setting as well as other caring and concerned adults. Community engagement and connection to schools are critical to student success.
Stay tuned as we share more about our collective efforts
during the upcoming school year.
David-Johns-Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health-Testimony.pdf117.3 KB