The death of Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old boy from Alabama who committed suicide over the hateful bullying he received because he was gay, still strikes to the core of anyone who has a heart.
According to TMZ, a group of Hollywood stars at the urging of producer Lena Waithe and restaurateur Pinky Cole, banned together to help Nigel’s mother Camika Shelby, offset the cost of the funeral. Among the group includes actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, former NBA superstar Dwayne Wade, singer Janelle Monáe and rapper Ludacris.
Services for Shelby were held over the weekend in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama at the Rock Family Worship Center. His coffin was dedicated to his memory, wrapped in rainbows and butterflies.
The total amount of contributions across the group has not been disclosed, however according to TMZ, the money covered the costs for a tombstone, Shelby’s funeral service and an additional fund to support Camika. The effort hopefully added to some sort of ease for his mother as she deals with the insurmountable loss of her son whose untimely death has been difficult to process.
Nigel took his life on April 18, reportedly after long and dark bouts of depression caused by incessant bullying he faced in his public life.
In an interview with ABC News, Camika shared that her son was a light that shined bright on everyone he touched, even through his own internal darkness.
“Nigel was a sweetheart. He loved everybody, he would help anybody. He was an angel,” Shelby said. “I just wish people could’ve seen how special he was while he was still here.”
Camika also said that Nigel was receiving counseling and was taking medication for his depression, but still struggled to share his feelings with his loved ones in fear of “bringing them down.”
His death points to the work that has to be done in the communities surrounding Black LGBTQ youth who serve as the most vulnerable population. While statistics are scarce in relation to the suicide rate for this sacred community, we know that LGBTQ youth experience overarching difficulties due to bullying which can quickly manifest into suicidal thoughts, and in Shelby’s case, death.
A 2015 Center for Disease Control study of more than 15,000 students showed that nearly 43 percent of LGBTQ high school students have seriously contemplated suicide, compared to 15 percent of heterosexual students surveyed.
Compounded with social stigmas, racism and economic hardships (because of the frequent excommunication and isolation from family members), Black LGBTQ youth are dying and suffering right in front of our eyes.
“When it comes to black LGBTQ students, the discrimination, the bullying and the stress they face is even greater,” Sarah McBride, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign to ABC News. “There’s not enough data out there for a clear picture of the full scope of the challenges they face, but from what we know, both anecdotally and from the data we have already, this is a significant crisis.”
May Nigel rest in eternity and find the peace he could not find here on earth.
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