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― Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith. For those of us who consider ourselves educated and of the intellectual variety, the idea of having faith, particularly in a higher, supernatural being, may seem counterintuitive. The idea that human beings should place their hope in a being that they cannot perceive, touch or access using the five senses may seem illogical and ludicrous for some. Yet here I am, a person who considers herself not unintelligent, choosing to believe and hold on to my faith.

My faith has shepherded me through some of the most trying experiences of my life, and it continues to do so. And to be clear, I didn’t just limp across the finish line, gutted and half-dead at the culmination of these trials; I have been able to thrive, grow and soar as I navigated, and continue to navigate, life’s various hurdles. And I have observed the same in others who have chosen to access their faith.

When difficulties present themselves in our lives, it is human nature to question why we are being faced with a particular problem. A litany of questions may run through our heads. Why me? What have I done to deserve this? Will there ever be a way out of this? Why can’t this experience just be over already? What if this experience breaks me?

We humans like our comfort. We like our status quo. We enjoy pleasure. So when we are faced with an experience that is uncomfortable, novel or painful, we want out. We want to avoid it at all costs and often our first response is to search for a way around it.

I can acknowledge that up until the past several years, I spent the majority of my life expectantly waiting for the dissipation of certain challenges and issues. I had conditioned myself to believe that once I achieved a certain status or hit certain benchmarks, the overwhelming majority of challenges would cease to exist. That oppression, discrimination, isolation and disparate treatment would become things of the past. That, somehow, through my ascension, I would be able to avoid conflict, maintain emotional equilibrium at all times, and move through life nonplussed. As I’m sure you have surmised, as I've been entrusted with more responsibility and opportunities, various challenges have not gone away. In fact, in many ways they have proportionately grown. However, the ongoing presence of these challenges notwithstanding, I am so grateful that I can remain in a place of peace and gratitude; and that is wholly due to my faith.

Even though I do not know how each trial will resolve, I choose to believe that I will not only survive life’s challenges, but that I will thrive through them. I choose to believe I will come through each difficulty better, stronger and more equipped to face future obstacles. I choose to believe that the hurdles are more substantial because my ability to navigate them is better developed.

I choose to have faith. And no matter your position on the issue of faith, if you are struggling with life’s challenges and difficulties, and you feel that you can barely keep your head above water, I encourage you to try faith. Even the scientific community has had to acknowledge the positive impact faith has not only on mental health, but on prognosis and recovery after serious illness, trauma and surgery. Moreover, a correlation even exists between faith and healing from terminal illness. Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.

If you desperately need tomorrow to be a brighter day, I encourage you to try faith.

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997 in the Swat District of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, to parents Ziauddin Yousafzai and Toor Pekai Yousafzai.

She was given her first name Malala (meaning "grief-stricken") after Malalai of Maiwand, a famous Pashtun poet and warrior woman from southern Afghanistan.

Fluent in Pashto, Urdu and English, Yousafzai was educated mostly by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet, educational activist and director of a girls’ school. In an interview, Yousafzai once said that she aspired to become a doctor, though later her father encouraged her to become a politician instead. Ziauddin referred to his daughter as “something entirely special.”

When the Islamic Taliban movement took control of the area where Yousafzai and her family lived in 2008, girls’ schools were burned down. Yousafzai kept a diary of the events where she spoke out against the Taliban’s terrorist regime.

On January 3, 2009, her first entry was posted to the BBC Urdu blog. She hand-wrote notes and passed them to a reporter who scanned and emailed them. The blog recorded Yousafzai's thoughts during the First Battle of Swat as military operations took place. The following is excerpted from one of her early entries:

I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 out of 27 pupils attended the class because the number decreased because of the Pakistani Taliban's edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.

The Pakistani Taliban issued an edict that no girls could attend school after January 15, 2009, and Yousafzai's school was shut down. By that time, more than 100 girls’ schools had been destroyed. The night before the ban took effect was filled with the noise of artillery fire, waking Yousafzai several times. The following day, she also read for the first time excerpts from her blog that had been published in a local newspaper. Soon thereafter, an American documentary film was made featuring Yousafzai, making her internationally famous.

As Yousafzai became more recognized, the dangers facing her increased. Death threats against her were published in newspapers, slipped under her door and posted via social media. Eventually, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman said they were “forced” to act. In a meeting held in the summer of 2012, Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her.

Yousafzai envisioned a confrontation with the Taliban, writing, “I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”

On the afternoon of October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman boarded the school bus that Yousafzai was riding with her schoolmates. Just 15 years old at the time, Yousafzai was on her way home after taking an exam. According to reports, the masked gunman shouted, “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all.” Upon being identified, Yousafzai was shot in the head with one bullet, which traveled 18 inches from the side of her left eye, through her neck and landed in her shoulder.

Yousafzai was rushed to the hospital for life-saving procedures. After months of surgeries and rehabilitation, Yousafzai was able to join her family in the United Kingdom. The family had to relocate to England and live in exile there due to ongoing threats to Yousafzai’s life.

In 2013, TIME magazine named Yousafzai one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” On her 16th birthday she gave an address before the United Nations. In her speech Yousafzai called for the equal right to education for girls all over the world, and became an international symbol of this cause.

In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for the right of every child to receive an education, becoming the youngest-ever Nobel laureate.

Yousafzai and her father established the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve the future she chooses. In 2017, she began studying at the University of Oxford. In 2020, she completed the Philosophy, Politics and Economy degree, one of the university’s most prestigious.

Yousafzai continues her activism. Upon her release from the hospital in 2014, she wrote: “It was then I knew I had a choice: I could live a quiet life or I could make the most of this new life I had been given. I determined to continue my fight until every girl could go to school.”

This text is excerpted from:,

  • Kimberley Guillemet

Bebe Moore Campbell

We have all heard the saying, “It’s okay not to be okay.” And while this is a true statement, it is often difficult for women and people of color, in particular, to accept and internalize its truth. This is because we are keenly aware that we live in a society where our color, our gender, and other aspects of our beings are often viewed as deficits. As such, it is not surprising that when we feel stressed and mentally burdened, we are reluctant to admit it. We do not want to say it out loud.

There have been recent reports in the media about the increasing number of young women in mental health crisis. And for women of color, more mainstream mental health challenges are compounded by the additional stressors of systemic racism, social exclusion, cultural norms, and higher levels of self-criticism and judgment. It is undoubtedly the case that women of color weather more psychological and social burdens than their counterparts who do not identify as people of color. Decades of research support this.

However, I believe that one of the most important factors impacting our mental wellness is how we view ourselves and what standards or value systems we use to gauge our own worth. All of this hinges on our mindset.

I would posit that a healthy mindset must be anchored in the truth of who we are.

So who are we?

We are overcomers, conquerors, innovators, intellectuals, creators, storytellers, trailblazers, history-makers, arbiters of justice, nurturers, healers, champions of light and love, and so much more.

And please understand, being all of these things does not preclude us from needing to attend to our mental health. In fact, the most successful and well-known trailblazers of current and past generations have openly acknowledged that they regularly engage in mental wellness practices. Many have also shared the sad reality of what has transpired when they have neglected to do so.

Our World Changer of the Month, Bebe Moore Campbell, a world-renowned author, was also a staunch mental health advocate. She became a champion of mental health awareness after weathering the challenges of mothering and caring for her immensely talented daughter, actress Maia Campbell, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The elder Campbell, who was quoted as saying, “Knowing who you are begins in the mind,” also publicly and regularly reiterated that there should be no shame in a person’s acknowledgment of their struggles with mental illness. In other words, needing or seeking out mental health support does not detract from our genius or our exceptionalism. Our mental health is one component among many that comprise who we are. While the state of our mental health does not define us, it should not be ignored or neglected.

As we begin Mental Health Awareness Month, we should celebrate the life of Bebe Moore Campbell and allow her legacy to ignite a fire within all of us to prioritize our own wellbeing.

Monthly Words of Encouragement

World Changers of the Month Archive

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