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Rosalie, Ashantay & Other Children Of Color Who Committed Suicide Because Of Bullying

Girls of color are less likely to commit suicide, but the stories of Ashawnty Davis and Rosalie Avila have proved otherwise.

When it comes to children of color, the racial divide among suicide rates have tragically increased.

Studies from the American Association of Suicidology show more adolescent black males have killed themselves. A total of 36.8 percent of black children make up the 11.6 percent group of lives lost, with suicide rates between the ages of 5 to 11 doubling in the past 20 years.

Girls of color are less likely to commit suicide, but the stories of Ashawnty Davis and Rosalie Avila have proved otherwise. The girls passed away within weeks of each other; Davis, 10 died by hanging on Nov. 29, while it is unknown how Avalia took her life. Her parents said their official goodbye on Dec. 4.

But what links the precious girls aren’t their suicides– both children were victims of bullying. Davis’ family explained the fifth-grader fell into a depression after a fight with a classmate was uploaded to the app Musical.ly. Avalia kept a journal, where she shared harrowing details about her tormentors and their jokes about her features. " 'They told me I was ugly today,' " her father Freddie recalled reading to CBS News earlier this month. " 'They were making fun of me today about my teeth.' "

With social media controlling viral content, Keaton Jones’ bullying story dominated various channels over the weekend when his mother Kimberly Jones recorded her son recalling the moments he was teased in school. Like wildfire, the post caught the attention of millions, while GoFundMe pages for Ashawnty and Rosalie went unnoticed.

After it was revealed that everything wasn't what it seemed with Keaton’s mother, those who followed the stories of Ashawnty and Rosalie were somewhat vindicated as the girls finally found their stories in the public conversation.

The GoFundMe pages to cover burial costs and medical expenses have raised totals of $42,000 and $63,000 respectively.

The elements of bullying and suicide are twofold, creating conversations about prevention and peanut gallery-like chatter related to the “weakening” of children of color. With trauma in and out the home adding to motives behind suicide, awareness is needed now more than ever.

The stories Ashawnty and Rosalie prove this, as well as more children of color who decided to end their lives when support never arrived.

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Markeice “Mari” Brown and Mercedes "Shaday" Smith (18-year-olds)

Just days after Mercedes Smith committed suicide, her longtime boyfriend Markeice Brown did the same after he was bullied online and blamed for his girlfriend's death. The Ohio natives died in April, with Smith pregnant with her first child. The teen was found unresponsive at her dorm at Lindsey Wilson College, where she studied communication and was a member of the track and field team.

Reports indicate Smith suffered from depression which led to her suicide. After Smith's passing, Brown was struck with grief and posted to Facebook his shock of her death. "Today I lost my wife I should say I lost my life, can’t put in words how I feel, we just talked last night why you ain’t tell me?" he said in a Facebook post. "Even tho we knew we ain’t have nobody we knew we had each other, you was really a reflection of me you knew how I felt knew when I was feeling and you though it was crazy how I knew something was wrong even when you would fake a smile , it feels like my life just ended it we just talked Tho why you ain’t say nothing man why????"

Before ending his life, Brown posted a video crying and saying his goodbyes to his family. "I don’t know what else to say. I’m trying to get all my words out before I go," he said in a Facebook live video. "I can’t do this no more, brah. I tried. Everybody knew I loved Mercedes, brah. Y’all sound dumb if y’all think I didn’t."

Gabriel Taye (8 years-old)

The Cincinnati native hung himself with a necktie on Jan. 26 after a bullying incident at his school. His mother, Cornelia Reynolds, was unaware of the bullying because the school allegedly covered up the incident. Surveillance footage from Carson Elementary School dated on Jan. 24 showed a presumably older child walking up to Taye and knocking him unconscious. Reynolds claims she was told her son fainted at school and that she should take him to the hospital to get checked out. It wasn't until the footage was made public that Reynolds and other parents discovered that their children were bullied.

Investigators began to notice the conflicting accounts after speaking to administrators at the school. The investigation into Taye's death is closed, but Reynolds filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school. "I am my son's voice and it will be heard," Reynolds said in a statement. "As Gabe's mother, it is my obligation to make sure that this will never happen again."

Naika Venant (14 years-old)

As people watched on Facebook Live, Nakia Venant turned her headscarf into a noose and used it to hang herself from a shower stall. The 14-year-old was living at a foster home in Miami, after years of conflict between her mother Gina Caze. Comments on the stream were divided as some believed her suicide was a stunt, others were pleading for her to reconsider and several bullying her into going through with it.

One comment that caught the attention of investigators was reportedly linked to her mother. “#ADHD games played u sad little DCF custody jit that’s why u where u at for this dumb sh*t n more u keep crying wolf u dead u will get buried life goes on after a jit that doesn’t listen to there parents trying to be grown seeking boys and girls attention instead of her books,” the post read by a woman named Gina Alexis, believed to be her mother.

Caze has denied being online at the time of her daughter's hanging, but did believe that it could've been a stunt. She also expressed to the Miami Herald that Nakia's constant movements in the system caused her to become disrespectful and rebellious.

Nakia spent a total of three stints in foster care after being placed in 14 different foster homes. There were several reported incidents between her and her mother, with failed interventions from case workers. In the months leading up to her suicide, Nakia pleased with her mother to find common ground. “Naika often reported that she missed her mother greatly and really wanted to go back home,” timeline documents from the agency reported. “Naika reported that she was feeling a bit sad because her mother didn’t want her back, and wanted her to age out of the foster care system.”

“I just felt like they switched up the morals and values I put in place raising my daughter,” Alexis said about her situation. “My daughter went back and forth in the system and used that to manipulate me. She knew that, as a parent, I could not hit my child anymore. She came back and knew Mommy can’t get a belt. She knew that.”

FDCF Secretary Mike Carroll released a statement about the teen and his disappointment that the agency couldn't save her.

“There is little we can say that adequately describes the sorrow we still feel today from the loss of Naika,” Carroll said in the statement. “It is even more exacerbated by the information that was learned during the course of the [agency’s] investigation — that this is a child who endured great trauma in her life and despite many service interventions, we were not able to put the pieces back together to prevent her from taking her own life in such a public forum.”

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Signage is seen at the 2020 Billboard Power List Event at NeueHouse Hollywood on January 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Timothy Norris/Getty Images for Billboard

Billboard’s 2020 Power List Event Pins Leadership As The Music Industry’s Most Lucrative Tool

The start of a new decade inspired a change of plans for Billboard’s annual Power List. In previous years, the publication ranked 100 music industry professionals for their strides in the business by creating strategies that have propelled artists to the top of the charts and proved that the senior practices of the business can sometimes benefit from a fresh makeover. For 2020’s edition, the brand opted to not rank those chosen professionals but instead gathered and produced a list of honorees including Lyor Cohen (YouTube’s Global Head of Music), Roc Nation’s Jay-Z (Chairman), Desiree Perez (CEO), and Jay Brown (Vice Chairman) to Quality Control’s CEO Pierre “P” Thomas and COO Kevin “Coach K” Lee.

To a resounding applause inside the event’s NeueHouse location on a balmy Thursday evening (Jan. 23) in Los Angeles, Hannah Karp, Editorial Director of Billboard Media Group, explained the reason for the change and the company’s hope that next year will produce another list of futuristic innovators. “For one thing it’s always been hard to compare the power of executives in different sectors,” Karp said. “We also wanted to inspire a new generation of music business executives that honor leadership instead of just leverage.”

The first award of the night, which was named in honor of Jay Frank, a beloved music industry veteran who worked as senior vice president at Universal Music Group (UMG) before he passed away from cancer in 2019, was given to Mitchell Shymanskly, vice president of data and analytics at UMG, for his strides in digital music leadership.

“Jay was a visionary in our field, he saw things differently which is the true definition of an innovator,” he said. “He was looking constantly for an edge and it was a great privilege of mine to have the opportunity to work alongside him.” Shymanskly learned the mantra, “We don’t succeed alone.” That quote was echoed by Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry, who received the Breakthrough Award. He gave praise to his team for their work and success, especially after a year of witnessing Lil Nas X’s breakneck speed to pop stardom.

While future pioneers both in front and behind the mic filled the room, a living legend who helped shape some of music’s most fortified models also made a special guest appearance. The Clive Davis Visionary Award was presented to Atlantic Records’ Craig Kallman (CEO) and Julie Greenwald (COO) by the man himself, Clive Davis.

Greenwald shared the duo’s singular vision that allows Atlantic Records the ability to remain one of the music industry's pillars of success. “Build and maintain a music company that we love, we surrounded ourselves with an extraordinary team of people and then we signed artists that both Ahmet and Lyor would truly be proud of,” Greenwald said. For women in the music industry, being able to take that stage and receive these awards was a major feat for Jody Gerson, UMG’s CEO, who received the Executive of the Year award. The Executive of the Decade award was given to UMG's chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge. “To me, what is most meaningful is that this is a recognition without qualifications,” she said. “I am being honored not as a female executive, but as an executive. It is my hope that this award will help pave the road for more exceptional and diverse leaders to come. We all deserve to be judged for our merits regardless of who you are or how you identify.”

Gerson also sits on the board of directors for She Is The Music (SITM), a program that promotes inclusivity in the music industry. Gerson revealed that UMG will donate $50,000 to the organization, which aims to provide resources for gender diversity in songwriting, producing, executive positions and more. In 2018, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a study on the lack of women representation in the music sector. The research, which was published in 2018, concluded that for the year of 2017 out of 651 producers only two percent were women while men dominated at 98 percent. In the songwriting world, out of 2,767 credited songwriters, 12.3 percent were women while 87.7 percent were men.

Now, with new sights and plans set to change the makeup of the industry, Gerson reiterated that there's no better time than the present to implement new practices. “The moment of change is here.”

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Allen Berezovsky

Lauren London Debuts The Marathon Clothing x Puma Collection

The Marathon Clothing and PUMA are teaming up once again. The brands will be collaborating in honor of the late Nipsey Hussle. His wife, Lauren London, debuted the Marathon Clothing x Puma’s “Hussle and Motivate” collection on social media on Thursday (Jan. 23).

London is featured in the line's campaign shoot with Hussle's close friends, YG, J. Stone, and Pacman Da Gunman. Per a press release: "After first releasing in September 2019, PUMA will re-issue key pieces from the collection for fans and supporters including co-branded tracksuits and t-shirts featuring checkered patterns and TMC motifs, as well as PUMA’s signature California sneakers in black and white iterations."

 

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#HussleAndMotivate

A post shared by Lauren London (@laurenlondon) on Jan 23, 2020 at 5:56pm PST

Another image from the clothing collaboration shows London wearing a white sweatshirt with a message that reads, “We (The Marathon Clothing) honor the unwavering faith of those that never quit. Our products represent their testimony. Life is a marathon.”

A portion of the net proceeds from PUMA’s sales of the PUMA x TMC Collection will go directly to the Neighborhood “Nip” Foundation. Beginning February 1st, the collection will be available again in select retailers and on PUMA's official website.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#HussleAndMotivate

A post shared by Lauren London (@laurenlondon) on Jan 23, 2020 at 5:58pm PST

London previously linked with Puma for a viral video campaign paying tribute to her longtime love. Hustle, whose Victory Lap recently went platinum, will be celebrated at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards with a tribute featuring YG, Roddy Ricch, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, and John Legend.

The 2020 Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Lil Wayne performs at the 2019 Outside Lands music festival at Golden Gate Park on August 09, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Lil Wayne Reveals Release Date For ‘Funeral’ Album

Four years after initially announcing the project, Lil Wayne took to Twitter on Thursday (Jan. 23) to reveal that his  Funeral album will drop next week.

“Welcome to the funeral, closed casket as usual,” Tunechi says in the album teaser. The Grammy winner also tweeted a link for fans to pre-order physical and digital copies of the album as a CD, vinyl or “digital cassette.” The online shop features album merchandise, including long-sleeved shirts, hoodies and beanies.

In a recent interview with VIBE, Lil Wayne said that even though his recording process has drastically changed since his prolific mixtape days, he still finds enjoyment in going to the studio to create.

“I love the difficulty of trying to fit in with what’s going on today, making sure I sound likable to the ears today and having to remind myself that it’s not about what it was back then. Going to the studio now, for me, is awesome. I used to go to that muf***a and do 12 songs a night. Cut a beat on, I’m going to go and you let me know when to stop,” Wayne said.

“...I can’t wait to get in the studio now every night, just to see what I can come up with. [Before] it was just me going to the studio and saying, let me kill ten more songs and then I’m going to go home or do whatever I was doing. Now, it’s let me see what I come up with. Self-discovery, rebirth – call it whatever you want to call it but it feels awesome, I swear to God.”

The New Orleans native’s last studio LP, Tha Carter V, dropped in 2018 after years of delays. In 2019, the 37-year-old rapper embarked on a joint summer tour with Blink-182, but the jaunt was marred by difficulty as Wayne walked off stage during one show and threatened to quit. He changed his mind hours later.

Even with all the tour trouble, Blink-182 had nothing but good things to say about Weezy. “The one day where he walked off stage, he had said, ‘I just felt like they didn’t like me,’ so he walked off stage,” drummer Travis Barker explained in an interview last year.

Funeral drops on Jan. 31. Check out the album teaser below.

1/31 https://t.co/7VtPC39vT6 pic.twitter.com/FQrLNA8ptn

— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) January 23, 2020

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