“I can talk about it. It’s still really painful…but if I keep talking about it, something will click…”
"Something always felt awkward or weird. It was like, this doesn't feel right, but I didn't know what to do."
"I just remember being really confused...If this could happen to me, does this mean I'm gay?"
"I just remember I was so afraid. I was crying. I was like, I don't want to get in trouble...and I told."
"I'd have so much sexual anxiety, and I'd be intimate with girlfriends, and I'd instantly lose interest in the middle of everything."
"I'd go to school—nobody at school knew what was going on. Nobody at home knew what was going on."
"That's kind of what I wanted to do with my art or with my story—like, if one person...says hey, that's kind of like me."
"Maybe if I continue to talk through some of these issues...I'll get to a point where they can give me a different perspective."
"She's like...I just kept thinking...How can something like this happen to my kid? It happened to me. How come I couldn't stop it?"
"I don't know what I'm gonna become once I get to the root of this—what's making me so angry...and I'm afraid."
At age eight, Mark was abused by an older male cousin. The abuse ended when Mark defied the abuser’s threats and told his parents.
Mark channeled his emotions into other pursuits. He excelled in track and field, earning a college scholarship and then a bachelor’s degree. Then he went on to graduate school and earned his master’s degree in animation. In graduate school Mark began to confront the legacies that had haunted him since childhood.
Mark still struggles with self blame, and he still contends with the anger. But Mark also has an arsenal to draw from as he pursues his path to healing. His sharp and fluid intellect, which allows him to observe his own reactions, and to understand his personal struggle in the context of the larger forces that influence him.
And he has his art. From early in his childhood Mark found an outlet for his emotions in his art. He drew incessantly and his talent emerged. Mark has used those talents to help his own healing process. He also draws on his talents to express his feelings about the killings of Black men and women by police officers. He is working on a series of portraits of victims, including one of Matthew Ajibade, the brother of Mark’s friend who was killed in Savannah, Georgia.
“That’s what I’ve done my whole life. I’ve just figured stuff out…I’m at the point where I can talk about it. It’s still really painful. I still get pissed off…But if I keep talking about it, something will click…”
And it is. Mark is speaking to high school students about his experience, simultaneously healing himself and opening a door to healing for other young men.