Spotlight on Kangol Kid
Shaun Shiller Fequiere—known to fans as Kangol Kid—was a history-making rapper who broke into the 1980s hip hop scene with legendary group, UTFO. But this pioneering songwriter, producer, performer, and businessman made an impact far beyond the music world. He was also a leading advocate for more health screenings and preventative care in the Black community as well as being a devoted dad to his four children: sons, T. Shaun, AJ, and Giovanni, and daughter, Amancia.
Tragically, Kangol Kid passed away at the age of 55, after less than a year of battling colon cancer. During the end of his life, he talked openly about the symptoms that led him to seek treatment in the hopes that his experience could help save others’ lives. “The new look for hip hop and cancer is to go get yourself checked out before it happens,” Fequiere told the Colorectal Cancer Alliance before his death.
As we recognize Black History Month and reflect on this year’s theme of “Black Health and Wellness,” we honor the incredible legacy of Kangol Kid. In our special spotlight, we take a closer look at how he raised awareness in his community about the need for routine health check-ups and became the first rapper to be honored by the American Cancer Society for shining a light on this important topic.
“One of the things you think of immediately is family. That’s the first place your head goes. I have a 5-year-old little girl. I have three grown men, you know, boys, but my 5-year-old is the one that made me say I gotta go take care of this.”
~ Kangol Kid
Honoring Black History Month 2022
This year, Black History Month focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness. The 2022 theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine. It also highlights the importance of other types of healers and wellness practitioners such as doulas, midwives, naturopaths, and herbalists.
At Children’s Home and Aid, we understand that health and wellness go far beyond the professional sense of the word. It encompasses every aspect of a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health as well as the many external factors that contribute to their sense of wellbeing and ability to thrive in the short- and long-term. These past two years have had an incredible impact on the health and wellness of our family partners, especially in Black and Brown communities. That’s why this year’s theme of Black health and wellness is particularly poignant.
As we reflect on Black health and wellness throughout February, we cannot ignore the widespread disparity of access to quality healthcare for Black Americans. The pandemic once again illuminated this glaring truth in our nation, shedding light on a problem with roots that run deep. First slavery and later segregation and other unjust practices led to a lack of economic opportunity for Black Americans, often putting medical care out of reach. It wasn’t until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that hospitals were desegregated. Still today, medical facilities in many Black and Brown communities are often understaffed, underfunded, or severely lacking.
Of course, this isn’t news to the frontline staff at our agency. Every day, they witness firsthand the ineffective, racist, and unfair systems that make it nearly impossible for families to gain steady footing and success. The foundation is fundamentally flawed. We know this. Our families know this. Communities know this. It’s time to break down the racist barriers that diminish the chance for everyone in our nation to experience a healthy, whole life. Our Blueprint for Impact is guiding us in this transformational journey.
Throughout February we will examine the past, present and future of the Black experience in America as it relates to the topic of health and wellness. Check back often to read about some of the individuals who have helped to advance this conversation–from public figures who are increasing awareness about Black mental health issues to everyday dads and father figures who are strengthening their families and healing their communities.
We hope that you’ll find the many resources, readings, and videos on this page to be helpful as you do your own reflecting during this month of acknowledgement and celebration. We’ll also uplift the stories of entertainers Juice WRLD and Kangol Kid, as well as accomplished athlete and devoted dad Kobe Bryant, to see how their voices have empowered America’s communities of color and inspired those of the next generation. It’s going to be an incredible month.
Thank you for being committed to disrupting old institutions and outdated, harmful thinking with us. It’s not easy work. Sometimes it requires leaning in and having uncomfortable conversations. At Children’s Home and Aid, we’re doing just that. And together, we can leverage our growing knowledge and depth of understanding to tackle the many obstacles we still face on the way to creating a brighter, more equitable future for Americans of all races, abilities, communities, and identities.
Spotlight on Kobe Bryant
Legendary Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant lived a life of incredible discipline and focus. To become one of the world’s best athletes––and all that comes with that title––Kobe remained transparent about his own anxiety and mental health. He was incredibly involved in campaigns, like ‘Why We Rise,’ a Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health campaign to stamp out the stigma around depression and anxiety. He also encouraged young people to be active while promoting the need for access to sports facilities for youth.
But, arguably, this incredibly gifted athlete’s greatest achievement will be as a loving father to his four daughters. Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. These four girls meant more to sports legend Kobe Bryant than any basketball championship he ever earned. His daughters with his wife Vanessa, were the center of his world before his life was cut tragically short in a helicopter crash that also took the life of daughter Gianna and seven other people.
We honor his legacy during Black History Month as we take a deeper look at how dads everywhere have the potential to strengthen their families and communities in profound ways. Learn more about Kobe’s impact as a #GirlDad, father, leader in his community, and role model for countless men and dads.
“I’d rather be with my daughters than doing anything else.”
~ Kobe Bryant
Spotlight on Juice WRLD
“We are trying to hide our feelings, but we forgot that our eyes speak.” You may know the name Juice WRLD, but many do not know the real Jarad Anthony Higgins. The man behind some of the chart-topping hits like “Lucid Dreams,” “Lean Wit Me,” and “Legends.” Despite the catchy beats and his unique, raspy voice, the lyrics gave us a clearer look at the challenges he faced in a life cut way too short. By openly addressing mental health––and its stigmas––he made it easier for other young people to relate and recognize when they need help––an important part of the conversation this month surrounding health and wellness in the Black community. We honor Jarad’s vulnerability and willingness to share his experiences using his platform. Read our full article about this talented entertainer from Chicago’s south suburbs.
“Anxiety is something I feel a lot of people neglect, which is completely and utterly wrong. And me speaking from an African American man, I know that stuff is neglected in our community…that’s not how it should be, but that’s how it is. And that needs to change.”
~ Juice WRLD
Resources related to Black health and wellness:
- 12 Black American Pioneers that Changed the Course of Global Health
- Podcasts, readings, and videos on Black Mental Health from Mental Health America
- NAMI talks about the importance of Black Mental Health
- Overview of the history of Black health and wellness in the U.S. from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History
Additional resources to further your learning and engagement:
- Daughters of Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcom X in conversation
- Anti-Racist Books for Kids
- Short three-minute video about the history of Black History Month
- NPR article that shares the story behind Black History Month
- Teaching the Complete History (article examining the liberation, civic engagement, creativity, and intersecting identities of Black people)
- The Black Family: United by History, Restored by Storytelling (free, self-guided certificate program that centers the legacy of Black family reunions while encouraging families of all backgrounds to build and renew their own traditions and stories.