This story includes content that may be difficult for some readers. Please consider your own well-being before reading.
Madison Carter ’16 has never been a person to keep quiet about the things that matter.
“I was a table flipper in Buffalo,” Carter says with a laugh. “I just came in and started doing things that weren’t necessarily acceptable at the time, but were very necessary. You could see in the response from the community, how necessary it was.”
She’s talking about the work she did at WKBW in Buffalo, covering Black stories for the Black community from a Black perspective. It was that ground-breaking work that opened the doors to her current position as an investigative journalist at TEGNA, a communications company that owns 64 news stations across the country.
Carter loves her new job.
“It’s like a pretend job,” she says. “I lead a national investigative team based in Atlanta. We work on the stories we want to work on, and we tell them how we want to tell them, and there aren’t time constraints and there aren’t rules about what you can put in and what you can’t put in. It’s just a team of people who really want to get it right. This is a unicorn job in this business.”
One of those stories the team wanted to tell was about the rising rate of suicide in young Black children. In 2018, the Congressional Black Caucus convened an emergency task force to address the fact that, adjusted for population size, young Black children were committing suicide at twice the rate of white children.
“No one had [picked up the story],” Carter says. “I was like, ‘If not us, the story’s not going to get told.’ So we did it.”
The result, “A Different Cry,” is available for streaming now from 11Alive, the TEGNA station in Atlanta. On Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, Carter will hold a live event to talk about the stories she covered in the series, which included two families of Black children who killed themselves. One child, named Seven Bridges, was 10 years old.
The other, a child named Jeffery Taylor, was seven.
“It was a hard call to make, you know, as a journalist,” says Carter. “‘Hello, can I talk to you about the worst day of your life, please?’ I had long conversations with both of these moms, and I was able to ask for their trust to tell this story.”
While the docuseries covers the tragedies, it also offers hope. Carter flew to Maryland to interview three young women just entering the ninth grade who are part of a team helping Baltimore psychologists develop suicide prevention programming specifically designed to help young Black people.
“We went to Baltimore because it’s 62% Black and it’s one of the only cities in America that has not seen a rise in Black youth suicide,” Carter says. “It’s because they’re using Black youth to develop this programming.”
Both Seven Bridges and Jeffery Taylor killed themselves as a direct result of bullying they suffered at school. Every kid who is different gets bullied at school, Carter says, and in the age of social media, that doesn’t end when a child gets off the bus. But for Black children, that bullying is compounded by racism, which they often first encounter upon going to school.
When asked what the white community can do to help prevent suicide in Black youth, Carter didn’t hesitate with her answer.
“Teach your kids how to identify racist incidents, what racist language is, what to do in that situation,” Carter says. “We need more understanding from the kids that are in the classrooms with our kids. I think that the number one thing I can say is to make sure your kids are well educated.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please visit the Suicide Prevention Center of New York.