Meet Camika Shelby, a woman bringing the true meaning of Christmas to LGBTQ youth.
Shelby hosted an event at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Alabama over the weekend, which provided queer homeless youth with personal hygiene supplies and plenty of love and hugs for the holiday season. Shelby spearheaded the event in honor of her late son, Nigel, whom she lost to suicide in April.
Nigel had struggled in school as a gay 15-year-old, experiencing a great deal of bullying prior to his death. Camika has used her son’s passing as a call to action.
“I don’t want it to be, ‘the 15-year-old that committed suicide,’” Shelby told Black Magic Project. “I want it to be ‘the 15-year-old whose suicide changed the world.’”
Shelby organized the gathering over the weekend, which presented black LGBTQ teens with gift cards, personal care supplies, and offered LGBTQ mentors to discuss bullying and homelessness.
“Sometimes family can be your own worst enemy. If they don’t love you for who you are, they don’t deserve you,” she said in her remarks. “Don’t let people tear you down for who you are. God knows who you are, and he makes no mistakes.”
The Human Rights Campaign reports that about half of all African-American LGBTQ youth were bullied or cast out of their homes by family members for their queer status. Of those, 90% also report enduring racial discrimination.
“I’m to the point where I’m realizing that my baby had a purpose, regardless of whether it is here on this earth or not,” Shelby told Alabama.com. “So now, I’m his purpose. I am going to continue to speak out. I am going to continue to tell his story.”