“Forbidden Tears,” a collection of stories and other literary contributions written by Detroit Collegiate High School students on the topic of traumatic events, was released to the public at a premiere celebration April 24 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Students featured in the book, such as sophomores Micah Barnes and Kobi Sparks, pictured, were honored at the event.

“Forbidden Tears,” a collection of stories and other literary contributions written by Detroit Collegiate High School students on the topic of traumatic events, was released to the public at a premiere celebration April 24 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Students featured in the book, such as sophomores Micah Barnes and Kobi Sparks, pictured, were honored at the event.

Photo provided by Sirrita Darby


Detroit students publish book on confronting trauma

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published May 15, 2018

 Sophomore Caleb Paul was among the students who contributed.

Sophomore Caleb Paul was among the students who contributed.

Photo provided by Sirrita Darby

DETROIT — Several Detroit students worked together to publish a new book discussing a difficult topic for young people to confront: personal trauma.

Called “Forbidden Tears,” the book was written by ninth- and 10th-graders at Detroit Collegiate High School. The project was overseen and helped by the students’ English and social justice teacher, Sirrita Darby.

“The book was written about trauma and tries to bring power to their words to turn pain into power,” said Darby. “We would talk about our pain before we wrote anything, and sometimes they wouldn’t want to talk, but in our reading and writing class we took everything we discussed and turned it into a book.”

Traumatic events occur in a variety of ways and can include unhealthy home lives, surviving violence, losing a loved one, long exposure to threatening situations and more. Darby compiled the stories shared by her students on such topics after they began talking about them during discussion sessions that took place on Fridays between October and December 2017. They then made the decision to publish them so that others could have the courage to share the way they did.

“One student talks about overcoming a speech impediment and being bullied because of it,” said Darby. “Several students talk about growing up without a father. There are cases of being sexually assaulted by people they trusted when they were younger. Some of the stories get very heavy, but that makes it all the more important to address and try to heal what they went through.”

Darby said the goal of the project began with trying to help her students and show them how beneficial expressing themselves could be. She used her area of expertise, writing, as a means to do so.

“I am a public justice educator, and I saw a lot of students carried a lot of trauma with them,” Darby explained. “I knew that we could change their narrative, and since I am an English teacher, we thought the written word would be a good way to do that.”

Darby said she believes the book can have an important impact on young people. She said society often discourages talking about pain — particularly with teenagers.

“(Teenagers) often do not speak about their pain,” said Darby. “Talking about it is an important step in growing and healing from where they often aren’t allowed to do that. Just talking about pain in a world that doesn’t encourage that or often even allow that is a big thing. That’s why we call it ‘Forbidden Tears’; they are talking about parts of their lives that they often aren’t given an opportunity to do so.”

The stories that the students wrote about range from negative relationships to life-threatening events.

“Some traumatic experiences included me losing my father,” said sophomore Kobi Sparks, one of the students who contributed to the book. “I felt writing about it was helpful, because after you talk about it, you realize there are people who have been through the same thing and you can talk to them about it.”

“I wrote a poem about a time I got hurt during a shooting, while I was going home with a friend and her family. We were caught in a crossfire. I got metal fragments stuck in my arm,” said fellow sophomore and contributor Brianna Donald. “Talking about it made me realize I wasn’t really coping with it, and now I feel better talking about it and moving past it.”

“Forbidden Tears” was released to the public at an event at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History April 24. Darby said the students received a lot of support from the community, and she hopes they will be able to use the book as a means to help more young people in the city and around the country.

“We got a lot of feedback (at the event), and we got the idea to turn this into a nonprofit, and we hope to do that next,” said Darby. “We want to use this book as a centerpiece to help other Detroit students and, hopefully, eventually (students) across the country.”

Darby and her students agreed the book was a way to take the healing they had found in talking about those aspects of their lives and perhaps helping others to heal by understanding that they are not alone and that there are benefits to not keeping their thoughts and feelings bottled up.

“I think when other people hear these life experiences, they can better reflect on their own traumas and perhaps get the courage to talk about their own experiences. Also, as a teacher, I think this will open the eyes of a lot of educators about what their students are going through, and perhaps get them to form a stronger relationship with their students.”

The students said creating “Forbidden Tears” was a helpful experience for them, and they hope it helps others have the courage to also confront their trauma.

“It was a very emotional experience. It brought the class together, and we really understand each other,” said Donald. “I hope the book helps other people realize this isn’t just them going through this, and there are other people going through it who can help them make it through what they’re experiencing.”