(8/24/2014) Carefree Black Girl: The Life And Death Of Karyn Washington

The 22-year-old old creator of the For Brown Girls blog and the #DarkSkinRedLip project epitomized the Tumblr-popularized image of a Carefree Black Girl. After news of her suicide spread this spring, many were left asking: How could a woman whose mission was to uplift others take her own life?

In the preceding days, a grid of photos of a young black woman rippled across the web. The woman, wearing a black tank top, smiled in various poses on a white background. Her hair was piled high atop her head in a mass of braids and everything about her seemed to glow. Her name was Karyn Washington. She was stunning, she was slim, and, at 22, she had just committed suicide.

I hadn’t heard of Karyn before then, but I quickly wished I had. She was the founder of For Brown Girls and, later, the #DarkSkinRedLip Project, online movements for black women that fought against colorism — discrimination based on how dark the particular shade of one’s skin is…

Karyn was found in her car with a plastic bag over her head — tubing running underneath — and a helium tank, at 5:38 p.m. on a residential road 10 miles north of Baltimore. Five minutes later, she was pronounced dead. The police didn’t find a note…

At the end of the ceremony, Shalea Moser, a childhood friend, steps up to the podium… She begins singing what was No. 1 on a playlist Karyn posted on For Brown Girls: India Arie’s “I Am Light.”

I’m not the mistakes that I have made
Or any of the things that caused me pain
I am not the pieces of the dream I left behind
I am light
I am light

2 thoughts on “Thinking of you, Karyn Washington

    • In this case, perhaps it had a lot to do with her age. It’s hard to envision very much of a future when you’re only 22 years old. And unless you can adequately manage your pain — whether mental, physical, or both — the future exists from moment-to-moment. When you’re older, experience tells you that the good and bad things in life tend to balance each other out.

      And I guess it’s about fear, too. Fear that things will get worse. But maybe, mostly, it’s about isolation. And all these feelings seem to exist whether you have support or not, but obviously support gives better outcomes. It depends on the person and what kind of support they need. Doctors are supposed to figure this out, but lack of access to quality health care creates these gaps where so many people fall through.

      Obviously, you know all this. I’m just sitting here thinking about this woman and what could have saved her. Even those with a lot of support do not survive, so I don’t know what the answer is.

      Liked by 1 person

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