Boston-born and bred rapper and lyricist Theresa Sophia wants to bring your attention to a serious matter. While she is known for her rhymes and for being Boston’s Millennial Lauryn Hill, it’s not her latest single that’s in discussion here. It’s her new mental health documentary What’s On Your Mind? Giving Voice to Residents of Roxbury and Harlem. The 30-min self-produced, and self-directed production is her first leap into filmmaking, but judging on how articulate the work is, it hopefully won’t be her last.
Women in hip-hop aren’t supposed to show vulnerability, or so says popular wisdom. They’re supposed to be unbreakable walls, pillows to assuage their men’s troubles. Theresa Sophia has wiggled out of that mold, and wants to tell the whole world that being conscious of your mental health, and managing your own self-care…now that’s strength.
Kreyolicious: You mentioned how your own journey to mental health inspired this work?
Through getting a therapist and especially a life coach I got the opportunity to verbalize different things I had been thinking. I had the opportunity to really dig deep and find ways to articulate how I was feeling. This felt really good. It felt good to continuously challenge myself to find the root causes as to why I was experiencing anxiety attacks and be empowered with tools to help me cope outside of medication. Expressing yourself without fear or judgement just feels really good, and I know not everyone can afford a life coach or has someone in their life that they can be open with so I just felt maybe I could be that person to some.
Kreyolicious: Do you think that women in hip-hop feel compelled and pressured to portray this image of this unbreakable and unbothered woman?
Yes, and not just in hip-hop. I come from a long line of really strong women that have to hold it down for their spouses and their children. They have to support multiple people, emotionally and financially, work long hours and never really get time for themselves. I see a lot of women lose themselves caring for everyone else and it’s like they feel they always have to be good for everyone else. The narrative of black women is that they have to be strong, that’s in Hip Hop, Haiti, everywhere.
Kreyolicious: What obstacles did you run into as you prepared this doc?
I got kicked out of Dudley [train] station the last time I filmed there. It was funny because the officer said I was soliciting and I replied with “I am helping the people” then began explaining what I was doing in detail and I could see in his face he was taken aback at what I was doing and maybe how articulate I was, but he kicked me out anyway. [Laughter]
I also spoke to tons of amazing people that did not want to be on camera.
I’m nowhere near rich, so having a small budget and limited resources and prevented a few things, but I think we made it work.
Kreyolicious: People don’t want to hear that they’re depressed…they might resent being told that they need to see a therapist or counselor. How to best reach someone who needs help?
In the past I have told people they need to see a therapist in a malicious tone and no one wants that. I think approach is key. I think if it is in a calm manner, in a way where the person knows it comes from a place of love, thats’s the first step. Also prepare some first steps for them like getting a website for them to explore, or a number to call it makes things a little less overwhelming and allows people to do some of their own research at the same time.
Kreyolicious: Any books you’d recommend to those trying to find their way to mental health fitness?
Just finished Your Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Start Living an Awesome Life. So good!
Kreyolicious: Were you reticent at all about this project?
The project not really, but going out there and doing what I was doing at first yes. I remember telling my mom and her saying it was a good idea, but then being really nervous to tell my close friends so I didn’t even really tell many people until a week in when I posted a picture on Facebook.
Kreyolicious: What has the response been so far?
So far, people are loving it and connecting with it. We are making huge strides in mental health in general, and I think this documentary coincides with that movement.
Kreyolicious: What are your plans for this doc?
I want to seek out additional funding in the form of grants, maybe even enter some film festivals and see where things lead. Ideally, I would like to travel the country with my sign, train up some people and continue to hit the streets in different cities.
You can watch the video below! If you’d like to support Theresa Sophia and her work, contact her directly here!