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Meet B.J. Williams, teacher, mentor, and creator of Can I Be Vulnerable. Learn more about his story, his passion for teaching, and what makes him unstoppable.
Beyond his work running all over Los Angeles as a substitute Algebra and English teacher, football and track coach, Nevada native and Washington State graduate B.J. Williams’ unstoppable spirit doesn’t stop there. He’s also the creator of an inspirational new web series titled ‘Can I Be Vulnerable’, where men and boys of color are given an opportunity to share themselves and their vulnerabilities with the world. “Our goal is to simply break the stigma in our community that therapy, mental/emotional health are taboo topics that can’t be discussed and to know that we all need help, that its encouraged to get it.” Get inspired by B.J’s web series at https://youtu.be/_wOk84mM5gM and continue reading to hear B.J., in his own words!
What keeps you busy?
Everything keeps me busy! I am a substitute teacher by day and school goes around all the time. It’s 180 days a year, so I definitely have that going. I also have this web series called Can I Be Vulnerable, which was initially an opportunity for me to tell my story on what led me to go to therapy. I recorded a video and I called it Can I Be Vulnerable. The response to that video was astronomical. People were giving me their stories and I was like ‘I’m not a therapist myself, but thank you for sharing.’ The idea was that it would encourage you to seek out help yourself. Following the video, a couple of my friends wanted to keep it going. I was like ‘let’s do it’ so we recorded a few more of our friends and they made their own videos. When they posted their videos on social media, it blew up and the reaction was great. We figured that the more people we could get to record their own, the more it would spread. Now, Can I Be Vulnerable is a thing. I also have a bunch of old buddies that I played football with who are now retired NFL athletes. I’m recording about ten of them to just say that these are the issues that we also have in our lives. It’s to let other people know that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s just not okay to not do anything about it and so that’s what Can I Be Vulnerable is.
How does that help you with your teaching work?
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. And more Patience. And then after that, some understanding. With teaching, you have a bunch of different kids from different backgrounds, areas, and well, different everything. For example, you might have a kid that’s acting up and you think they’re just acting up. But, what you don’t understand is that kid might be starving, there might be some abuse at home, they might have to walk through a rough neighborhood, or there might even be some harassment happening. Patience and understanding both coincide. Teaching has taught me patience and understanding. Therapy has taught me even more patience and understanding. Now, before I blame something, I’m able to understand that it might not be what I think it is and that it could be coming from somewhere else.
What do you love about being a substitute teacher?
What I love about being a substitute teacher is the adventure. I experience something new everyday. I don’t know what I’m going to walk into. I’ve frequented a few classes and a few schools so I’m familiar with some of the staff and some of the students. But, when it’s somewhere new, it’s fun and it’s a new adventure. I might walk into a hostile environment and I have to adjust accordingly or I might walk into something pleasant and I will enjoy that. I love the adventure. I wouldn’t call it an adrenaline rush, but it’s fun.
How did Therapy Thursday’s begin for you?
It honestly just happened because I was going to therapy on Thursday. It’s ironic, I guess. With therapy, I always wanted to share the journey that led me there. It took me a while to figure out how to do it or what to say so I came up with Can I Be Vulnerable. It was a video that I started so I could share my own story with people. To be completely honest, it was really intended for black men because in our community, we have a stigma with therapy, counseling and that kind of stuff. We do not talk about it and going to therapy for the last four years has been the best thing I’ve done in my whole life. I advocate for it, I got my friend’s into it, and so specifically, it is for us. Everybody can benefit from it, but for me, it’s for my community to break that stigma down. When I did Can I Be Vulnerable, the response was astronomical. I got responses from everybody. I was going to leave it at that until my friend’s encouraged me to continue it. Can I Be Vulnerable is not whether or not you’ve gone to therapy, but it’s about being vulnerable with it. From there, a couple people approached us about expanding even more. Then, I called a bunch of retired NFL athletes who are some friends of mine and asked them if they would be willing to share their story with us. They were all on board and wanted to help break down that stigma that you do not have to be crazy to go to therapy. So, that’s what Can I Be Vulnerable is. Our slogan is “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s just not okay to not do anything about it.”
Can you give us an example of your craziest day as a substitute teacher?
There’s a few. I don’t allow kids to stress me out. I will not yell. I will be quiet until you are quiet. I can’t say I have had too many problems because I haven’t. But, I have had hectic days where I’ve had to start at one school, then go to another school and then come back. I’ve done everything.
Want to share your story? Tell us how you’re Unstoppable here!