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Nick Martin, a senior economics major, will be performing his poem, "Honesty", live at the Let The Poets Speak 2022 Open Mic event this Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022 at the Black Resource Center from 3-5 p.m. Nick Martin, a senior economics major, will be performing his poem, "Honesty", live at the Let The Poets Speak 2022 Open Mic event this Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022 at the Black Resource Center from 3-5 p.m.
 


SDSU Student Pens Powerful Poem Aimed at Destigmatizing Therapy for Black Men

Nick Martin's critical work was recently featured in the global arts and culture publication, SOFT.
By Aaron Burgin
 

Nick Martin may be soft-spoken, but when he reads the words of his poem “Honesty,” the message comes across loud and clear. 

My therapist
Taught me that it’s not failure that I’m afraid of
But rather the potential of my success.
A Black man
Was able to speak through my firm exterior
And speak to my inner child.

In the 30-line narrative poem, Martin, a senior economics major at San Diego State University, speaks about how a visit with a therapist helped him find himself, giving him strength and liberation to be himself in the process. 

The poem has struck a chord with audiences: Soft Quarterly, an arts and culture publication, published the poem in its most recent edition, and he has performed the piece at several SDSU functions, including the Young Men of Color Alliance reception in November and the Brother to Brother Luncheon in December. 

Martin will perform it again at “Let the Poet Speak,” a spoken word event Feb. 27 at the Black Resource Center held in conjunction with the San Diego Association of Black Psychologists. 

“I feel blessed with the impact the poem has had so far,” Martin said. “I didn’t think it would spark the amount of dialogue it has so far, however, I’m pleased with it. My main intention is to relate so folks don’t feel alone. The poem is serving its purpose and that’s what matters most to me.”

Martin, who grew up in Spring Valley and San Diego’s Encanto neighborhood and graduated from Patrick Henry High School, said he started writing poetry when he was 14. He would post his words on the website powerpoetry.org.

By his junior and senior years, he was actively involved in the spoken word community and competed in his high school’s talent show. 

But poetry was more than just something he excelled at. It was his outlet to express his feelings of confusion, sadness, hope and humanity during a tumultuous time in his life. 

“I would just talk about the struggles I witnessed during high school in regards to my mother’s health and me being separated from her when I was 15,” Martin said. “It was a confusing time, especially during those teenage years when all we do as people is ‘figure ourselves out’ for the first time. My intentions, whenever writing poems surrounding the topic of mental health, was to relate as best as I could to people. People want to feel seen  and heard in their day-to-day life.”

We tango in philosophy and call it conversation.
He’d ask me who I am and what do I want?
I still grapple with this question.
As a Black man I feel the need to adjust in 
EVERY ENVIRONMENT.
Although my Black skin can not blend within Every 
environment,
I know how to camouflage my voice and
Mannerisms,
For any environment.

The inspiration for “Honesty,” Martin said, came from mental health therapy sessions he had during spring 2021 during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when mental health and well-being has been a major topic of discussion. A study by the National Institute of Health showed that minorities were disproportionately impacted by the mental health side effects of the pandemic. 

Martin said he wanted to let his audience, especially Black men, know it was OK to seek help for their mental health. 

“I felt it was important to highlight an area of the Black community that is still stigmatized in some settings,” Martin said. 

This constant game of charades, has left me
Unfamiliar with my own hue.
My therapist
Said that to find my own success I must know What
I value.
I told him honesty matters most.
And it has been one of the keys to my own
Freedom this whole time.

A person who has worked to fight that stigma of therapy within the Black community is Ricky J. Pope, a psychologist with the SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services who serves as a facilitator of the Young Men of Color Alliance.

He asked Martin to recite his poem at the reception in November, at which audience members were moved to tears and a heartfelt discussion.

“It touched me to see this work I’ve dedicated my life to have such an impact on someone like Nick,” Pope said. “The thought of being a black therapist and helping people like me has kept me going. Reading that poem in a way validated my persistence towards completing this degree so that I could help young men unlock their potential. 

“I am forever grateful for what he wrote in that poem,” Pope said. “It’s emotional.”

Martin, an economics major with an emphasis in policy and a minor in creative writing, wants to work as a policy analyst. 

But until then, and beyond, he wants to continue to inspire people with his words. 

In this coming of age story, growth is not linear.
Same way the grass and plants grow towards the
Sun is the same way I will grow towards my Values.
My honesty.
My own freedom.
Without the need to adjust for anyone.

“I want my work to accomplish healing, empathy and the use of acquired knowledge to improve our relationships with others,” Martin said. 
 

 
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Black Resource Center’s 4th Birthday
Monday, February 28 | Noon – 2 p.m.
Celebrate the fourth year of the establishment of the Black Resource Center and its impact and contribution to Black students at SDSU. For more information on Black History Month programming, visit the Black Resource Center website and follow the center on Instagram @sdsubrc.