More than a few CREC educators could be found decked out in Adidas apparel during their staff development and mental health day Wednesday at Ana Grace Academy in Bloomfield.
It was part of their tribute to the hip hop legend Darryl DMC McDaniels who came to pay them a visit.
But the glory days of hip hop weren’t the focus - Wednesday was all about helping educators, help students, by helping themselves and being more mindful about their own mental wellbeing.
McDaniels is the author of “10 Ways Not to Commit Suicide,” a memoir of his struggle with depression, substance misuse and suicidal thoughts, despite being one-third of a group that revolutionized how the world thinks of hip hop.
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He got candid about some of his darkest moments, knowing that everyone – regardless of fame or fortune – is fighting something.
“I was an alcoholic, suicidal metaphysical wreck who was about to commit suicide and I’m just leaving rehab and in therapy now,” said McDaniels, reflecting on his challenges during some of his darkest hours.
But he encouraged the group to share their struggles with others and seek the assistance they need because those steps help their students in the long run.
Nelba Marquez-Greene is mother of the school’s namesake Ana Grace who passed away in the Sandy Hook tragedy. She’s also a mental health professional and says days like these are essential for educators and need to happen more often.
“We want to remind people that they’re not alone, that there’s no shame and guilt in talking about mental health. We focus a lot on the kids, we need something for educators and staff and people working with them," Marquez-Greene said.
The Ana Grace Project, which Marquez-Greene founded, sponsored the event.
During his remarks, McDaniels shared that “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan was a song that got him through some of his darkest hours.
Unbeknownst to him, the team at CREC previously made plans to sing the special song in his honor and they performed it before McDaniels took pictures with and signed the books of nearly every educator in attendance.
The hip hop legend donated his time for the event, saying the trip and the chance to help those who are shaping our next generation is the kind of thing that keeps him going.
“Out of all the things that they have doubts about, they have the strength and ability to beat and defeat whatever it is that they’re struggling with. And especially with educators, a lot of the things that we go through, stress, strife, obstacles adversity and anxiety - it begins in the schoolyard, in the classroom. So if we don’t address those issues as we are growing human beings, than it will be more difficulty when we get older,” McDaniels said.