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Dissecting Zino (A Character From Stay by Ivy Symone) & Young Black Boys Like Him

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

I hated Zino from the time the book started, which is odd for me because I love a man with a hint of toxicity to him—not too much, but you know, enough to keep you entertained. Don’t act like you don’t love you a bad boy.

But Zino, nah, he was too toxic. Too controlling, too flashy, just too much. As I kept reading, I realized what it was. He had the telltale signs. Narcissist. Homeboy was a devout narcissist. The grandiosity about him. The way he looked down and mistreated those he felt were “under” him. His obsession with success, control, brilliance, and idyllic love. His sense of entitlement. It was all there on the pages.

Then as the story unfolded, and his mother told Zino’s story, it started to make more sense. Zino had a troubled past. As a child, he, like many young black boys, belonged to the system. Luckily, Yasmine and Tunde took him under their wing, but even they were unable to give Zino what he needed. Yasmine expressed that she recognized the signs of some sort of disorder, but she assumed that as he got older, the signs would diminish...

...but they didn’t. And the older Zino got, the more people he hurt. Emotionally and physically.

This story is all too familiar within our community. Black people are known for “not wanting people in their business”, “keeping it under our roof”, and “giving it to God”. We’re often times willing to go on about our business and ignore signs and symptoms just so that our children don’t have to go through life with a “label” attached to their name. But how does that help?

Black people, we are a strong people, a proud people, a resilient people, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need help sometimes, even if it’s just someone to talk to. I understand the importance of cultural competence and representation. If you need a therapist but are hesitant because you’d prefer one who looks like you, here are a couple resources to get you started:

You matter!

Your mental health matters!

Black mental health matters!

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