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The Fight Behind The Flashing Lights - Chris "Preach" Smith

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The last 48 hours for Kanye West have been a hurricane
of news flashes, each more incredulous than the next.
The latest news, which reportedly stated that ‘Ye had to
have Los Angeles Police Department members summoned
to his house and resulted in the producer/rapper being
placed under psychiatric watch and hospitaliztion, makes
this another high-profile look at what may very well be
the onset of a mental breakdown. All of this after two
highly publicized rants at his shows, and the abrupt
cancellation of the rest of his Saint Pablo tour. It confirms
the worst of what many have suspected, and for others
it has been a spur to heap nothing but more jokes and

One recent name that comes to mind, is why I am not
joining the latter group: Deborah Danner, of The Bronx.

For those who don’t recall the name off-hand, Deborah
was a woman who had been struggling with
crippling mental illness. On October 18th of this year,
NYPD officers arrived at her apartment as they had done
so many times in the past - she had been hospitalized 
before in a number of incidents since her 20’s, as recounted
by her family and in her own writings revealed after
her death. A death that occurred after she was shot
by the sergeant who responded to the call, after she
had swung a baseball bat in a state of agitation at him.
That tragedy is added to the rising number of those
afflicted with mental health issues losing their lives in
contact with the police. It has spurred the NYPD to ramp
up mental health training for their officers on duty for
future calls, and the City Of New York has now installed
a helpline for those struggling with such issues to reach
out and connect with professionals who can aid them
in times of need. Too late for Deborah Danner, but perhaps
not too late for others.

Which brings me back to Kanye. Personally, I’m glad that
he’s in a position to get the help he may need. I don’t
know what struggles he may be facing, I like many others,
can only ascertain a theory. It all goes back to the passing
of his mother, Donda West, in 2007 after undergoing a
elective surgical prodcedure. There still hangs a heavy cloud
over what led to her demise, and last year in an interview,
‘Ye blamed himself. That’s not a thing to overlook. Add 
that to the fact that he’s survived a car crash that could’ve
taken his life a few years prior to her passing, gone through
a torrent of rage & dislike directed at him for his comments
on then-President George W. Bush during a televised benefit
for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2004, and then the
wrestling villain-heel turns that he’s incorporated into his
persona since then. His wife, Kim Kardashian, getting robbed
at gunpoint in Paris, France this past summer. The fact that
her having any more children could mean she could lose her
life. And the publicity-hungry side of her family that he has
to swim through. Kanye has been working and rising in
the midst of dark clouds for over 10 years. Ten.Years. As I
write this, it’s the sixth anniversary of My Beautiful Dark
Twisted Fantasy, an album some consider West’s best recorded
work. In hindsight now, that album was somewhat of a
full-blown essay that unveiled a lot about Kanye at that
point. That’s not to say that ‘Ye hasn’t made it a point to
be open and confessional in his music overall.

Photo Credit: FACT Mag

I’ve written about the need to seriously examine, recognize and
deal with mental health issues in our communities of color before,
given recent examples being seen through our celebrities like Kid
Cudi’s recent struggle. It’s not a coincidence that when Cudi got
out, one of his most recent public appearances was with Kanye
onstage. We’ve now seen three high-profile instances of possible
struggles with personal issues come out from behind the flashing
lights - one of them being rapper and controversial figure Azealia
Banks. She and West will get a lot more scorn and jokes because
of the sharp and erratic turns in behavior both have made, with
race, politics and gender at the root of their actions. Do they have
to deal with the consequences of their actions? Yes. Will they?
They are and probably will continue to, Banks more than West
due to her positioning within the eyes of the industry. Can one
have empathy for both of them while highlighting their mistakes
and intentional bad choices? Absolutely. Some fans of Kanye who feel
he has and can’t do any wrong are faulty because they wanted
him to be extra brash and projected their own personality hopes
onto him need to heed that last point. Also, those who want to
excessively dump on him need to step back a bit. Should people
use more empathy towards those in their own lives who may be
afflicted the same way? Absolutely. When you sit and ponder that
these issues in the community are rising, it’s a necessity that we
try to find some empathy in order to better guide our actions
towards those afflicted - even ourselves if we feel we may be going
down that road. Especially now, given that the holiday season
heightens these issues and incidents related to them. 

The fight behind the flashing lights has once again proven to be
all too real. Get well soon, ‘Ye. 

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