Category Archives: Update

Mental illness – The Elephant in the Room

Last month I sent an email newsletter titled “I’m done shooting”. The thought that I accomplished something new and different than I’ve ever experienced was exciting to me. Filming is the easy part (in my opinion). Production, distribution, the legalities and everything else that goes with filmmaking is the challenging part.

I was well on my way in the right direction!

The very next day, I received a call from a voice, unfamiliar to me. She sound distraught and left a message asking that I return the call ASAP. I returned the call immediately.

She began to tell me that a participant in my documentary “wasn’t honest” and in fact “doesn’t have cancer”, “never lost her hair” and was “never diagnosed with MS” (Multiple Sclerosis). Her voice was sad and regretful, telling me she apologizes that I spent my time filming and photographing “her” (the participant) not knowing that she wasn’t being honest.

She continued stating that “she” (the participant) suffered from mental illness and anorexia, and created a make-believe story. Fooling not just me, but also all of her family members and friends. NO ONE knew.

I could have been upset, frustrated and full of resentment, but those thoughts never crossed my mind. She apologized for “her” behavior but I sympathized for “her”.

What the caller didn’t know, is that I’ve been directly affected by mental illness and understand the seriousness of it. Including that fact that most people cannot fathom the severity of the experience. I admit I don’t completely comprehend it, because I am not mentally ill, but the experiences with my loved ones has influenced my thoughts.

Almost 5 years have passed since my Sis committed suicide. I remember having conversations with family members trying to convince them that a lot of her behavior didn’t seem normal. And mentioned that getting upset with her wasn’t going to help her situation because I felt that she couldn’t help her thoughts and at times, her actions.

In turn, she decided she no longer wanted to suffer and took her life.

Several of my close family members, who’ve experienced trauma in their childhood, have also been affected by mental illness. Some have been diagnosed while others are in denial. As a child I had a gut feeling that certain actions were’t normal. Especially when it came to communication.

Going back, the phone call I received a few weeks ago didn’t get me upset, as one may think it should.

I must admit, I would have thought differently a few years ago, but my experience with mental illness has taught me otherwise. Instead of being in a frenzied, I’ve learned to be patient, not take things as personal and move on.

In the end, I deeply sympathized with this young lady and her family.

Unfortunately, I do have to spend more time to find another participant (with a hair story as unique as hers) as well as invest more time and money to re-film, re-shoot and edit. Not an easy task but it is something that I will get done.

“1 in 5 adults are affected by mental illness”.

Regrettably there is still much shame and guilt attached to it when brought up. It’s one of those topics that is still “the elephant in the room”.

Discuss it. Try to understand it. Be sympathetic but aware. Give your loved ones the love and support when they need it. Sometimes it can’t heal so you must also be prepared to let go when necessary.

Be well,

~Alyscia

ACT WITHOUT EXPECTATION

We live in a society where the cultural norm is to give with the expectation of receiving.

I call it the “what’s in it for me?” syndrome.

Although this doesn’t change my mind about moving there, as much as I love California, that attitude was one that I noticed to be most prominent of many during my visits. I know that it’s not just Cali but worldwide. Especially in America, unfortunately.

In these situations I  can’t help but to wonder what happen to “giving to give”? Whether it be information, referrals, advice or monetary support.

I often meet people that respond to my candidness of sharing information as unbelievable and even questioning my “expertise”, as if to think there’s no way I can have knowledge in so many different areas (thankfully I live outside the box). Going deeper, when I volunteer my time to help children and those less fortunate that I, I’m simply helping just to help. I can care less about what looks good on my resume, or capturing images of me volunteering… I just want to make a difference in the lives of others.

When I launched a campaign for Keep a Child Alive, I did just that. Despite the fact that my initial introduction to the organization was a result of my research for Alicia Keys contact information in order to interview her about her “No-Makeup Movement“, I saw the significance and wanted to be involved.

I said all that to say, please consider giving to my campaign without the expectation of getting something in return. Knowing that you’re helping to make a difference in the lives of children and families affected by HIV is life transforming for those on the receiving end.

So I ask that, for a moment, we maneuver out of our bubbles and give to those in need. I hope that you will join me in successfully funding my campaign for Keep a Child Alive and other organizations you feel most passionate about. Please show your support (with a little as $5) here. My campaign ends approximately at 11:59pm on World AIDS Day, Thursday December 1, 2016.

Thank you,
Alyscia Cunningham

MISSED THE MOST RECENT VIDEOS? CLICK BELOW TO VIEW

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MoCo Grantee Awards

Last week I attended Montgomery County’s 15th Annual County Executive Awards for Excellence for the Arts & Humanities (#ExecAwards2016). This event recognizes the individual artist, art organizations and art projects awarded grants for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

It includes the grant I was awarded to cover production cost of I Am More Than My Hair. Seeing my name on the screen at the ceremony, as an individual artist grantee award recipient, was confirmation that I’m headed in the right direction.

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In that moment, I felt an immense amount of gratification as I thought back to all of the hard work and time I’ve invested, and continue to invest, into my art. Not only has it opened a new door and path for me but also also proven that passion and dedication makes dreams come true.

I’m feeling thankful!

Keeping it Simple: Keep a Child Alive Week #3

I’m moving into week 3 of my campaign to raise funds for Keep a Child Alive (KCA). In order to help keep things simple I’ve pointed out the highlights of my campaign.

1. What is a campaign? Work in an organized and active way toward a particular goal.
2. 100% of the proceeds from my campaign fund the youth-led peer support groups (the support groups simply help build confidence and empower the youth of KCA)
2. I DO NOT make $ from this. I’m volunteering.
3. Your donation will make a huge difference and positive impact for the children of KCA, who are all affected by HIV/AIDS.
4. The videos ARE MY CAMPAIGN. The individuals in the videos volunteer their time to say a message of encouragement for the youth of KCA.
5. Only $5 from multiple individuals is enough to successfully fund my campaign. Please make your $5 donation here.

I hope this helps to simplify my mission and gives you sufficient information to support the youth of Keep a Child Alive. I appreciate you!

My Campaign for Keep a Child Alive is Live!

As of today, my campaign for Keep a Child Alive (KCA) is live! I’ve been busy planning, scheduling and filming individual session and editing away. If it were for the generous time of people who’ve volunteered to send a message, the idea for my campaign would not be possible. I can’t thank these folks enough for your support.

Here’s the intro video to my campaign.

Here are the first round of videos. Please donate to my campaign here.

Remember, $1,000 covers a year’s worth of programming for a youth peer support group. With that in mind, I decided to launch a campaign that focuses on positive message for the youth in the youth-led support groups. My goal is to raise $3,000, which will cover programming for about 3 youth groups.

Here’s how you can help make this campaign a success…

  • Donate to the campaign. Instead of charging a fee to be filmed and edited, I ask that you please help fund the campaign and make it a success. No amount is too little.
  • Share, share, share! The more you can share on your social media platforms, email and word-of-mouth the more it will gain more attention and go viral (that’s the goal).

I truly appreciate your support!

My KCA Campaign Launches in 1 Week!

My KCA Campaign Launches in 1 Week!

Next Wednesday October 12, 2016 at I will launch my campaign for Keep a Child Alive (KCA). Here’s a recap of my first newsletter and goal…

$1,000 covers a year’s worth of programming for a youth peer support group. With that in mind, I decided to launch a campaign that focuses on positive message for the youth in the youth-led support groups. My goal is to raise $3,000, which will cover programming for about 3 youth groups.

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I will film 30-60 second videos of individuals voicing their message of encouragement for the children. Something similar to the recent video I filmed about beauty.

Here’s how you can help make this campaign a success…

  • I need 20 individuals willing to volunteer a short amount of time (literally 5 minutes) to be filmed for the videos. Family members and friends…I really need you here. If anyone else is interested in participating please contact me to schedule a time to film. The children in KCA peer youth support groups will have access to the videos. I have no doubt that your words of wisdom will be appreciated.
  • Donate to the campaign once I launch it. Instead of charging a fee to be filmed and edited, I ask that you please help fund the campaign and make it a success.
  • Share, share, share! The more you can share on your platforms, the most it will gain more attention and go viral (that’s the goal).

It’s that simple!

KCA’s Black Ball will take place on Wednesday October 19, 2016, a week after my campaign launch. If happen to live or plan on visiting the New York City area, please considering purchasing a ticket for KCA’s Black Ball.

My campaign will end on World Aids Day, December 1, 2016 at approximately 11:59pm. No amount is too small and anything you can give is appreciated. Please keep in mind that the children in KCA peer youth support groups will have access to the videos. I know your words of wisdom will be appreciated.

Please be on the lookout for my newsletter about my campaign going live. I sincerely appreciate your support!

May Their Souls Rest In Peace

This week I received news that I wasn’t expecting. Ms. Yvonne Johnson, a participant in my first book, Feminine Transitions, passed away. On the same day, I received an email for a link to a blog post about the passing of Debbie Osarere, a participant in my upcoming book, I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me.

Images from Feminine Transitions
Sunrise February 10, 1941 – Sunset April 5, 2016
I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me
Sunrise August 1, 1984 – Sunset April 1, 2016

The culprit? Cancer.

For privacy purposes I won’t get into the details of their diagnosis, but I will say Cancer is an epidemic and it is taking the lives of too many of our loved ones.

We Can Stop the Cancer Epidemic, by educating ourselves, our families and knowing what to avoid. Although it’s hard to completely avoid all chemicals such as chem trails sprayed in the air by our government and pesticides in our foods, we can reduce our rate of cancer diagnosis by eating healthy (try growing your own food), exercising daily and doing your best to have a piece of mind (no stress).

I’m not a doctor, neither is this a diagnosis. Just like everyone else I’m fed  up of the epidemic taking the lives of family and friends.

I ask to please keep Ms. Yvonne Johnson and Debbie Osarere’s family, any of your loved ones that have passed or holding on for dear life and those that are alive and well, in your thoughts and prayers. May these two beautiful souls continue to rest in peace.

~Be well… Alyscia