Photo Credit: Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health
Coffee, Hip-Hop and Mental Health: The Chicago Shop Serving Therapy With Each Cup
In Chicago, there’s a new Black-owned coffee shop that’s serving therapy with each cup. Coffee, Hip-Hop, and Mental Health was founded by Christopher LeMark after struggling with his home childhood trauma. He started crying uncontrollably at a Starbucks on the city’s southside.
“I just couldn’t stop … So I went to therapy,” LeMarkt told NBC News. “After some challenging sessions, my therapist sat up in his seat and he said, ‘It wasn’t your fault you were abused.’ And now, for the first time, I heard it. I had been feeling like it was my fault because that’s what happens. It’s so much shame that comes with being abused.”
His journey is what inspired him to help others. After one of his sessions, he went home and wrote down three phases: coffee, mental health, and hip hop. These phrases symbolized healing.
“I wrote down ‘coffee’ because of the mental and emotional breakdown that happened inside of a coffee shop,” says LeMark. “Hip-hop saved my life from committing suicide. I always had a chance to write. It was my first form of therapy. And ‘mental health,’ because in my community we’re taught to survive, and we weren’t talking about it, so I wanted to normalize this conversation.”
He opened “Coffee, Hip-Hop, and Mental Health,” a non-profit organization where every hip-hop-inspired drink sold helps fund free therapy sessions for individuals in need. He is also trying to eliminate the stigma of going to therapy.
“When you think about going to therapy, it’s almost like an uncomfortable thing,” LeMark said. “I want to tell people that it’s probably one of the most beautiful things you can do for yourself, and it’s actually very strong to be vulnerable, to own your emotions. … I tell people all the time, ‘Healing is the new cool.’ That is the new cool. And we just have to keep saying that over and over again. And that’s how you re-change the narrative.”