Tatiana Mitchell: Changing the game by being resilient

Cherri Gregg
February 21, 2019 - 6:00 am
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CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — For Tatiana Mitchell, helping others is personal.

"I've been through the fire," she said.

Mitchell founded the #NoBrakes organization, which fosters resilience and a "keep-going-despite-the-odds" spirit in her native city of Camden.

" 'No brakes' means no matter the trials and tribulations you face, keep going," she explained.

A certified therapist, Mitchell admitted she hit rock bottom in 2014. At the time, she was working, raising her two boys and finishing up her graduate education. She suffered a work injury and was eventually fired. 

She soon lost her place in school and her relationship. The downturn sent Mitchell into a spiral of depression that resulted in an attempted suicide. 

The act ended with a wake-up call.

"My son literally found me on the floor in blood," Mitchell recalled. "I realized there are a lot of 'me's' in the world."

Mitchell, who suffered sexual abuse as a child, was forced to deal with her own trauma. In an effort to find happiness and purpose in the pain, she decided to break the cycle of depression and mental health challenges present in her life.

"I never talked about it — ever — and it's generational," she said. "Parents who experience trauma do not have the motivation to make sure their kids do better."

Mitchell launched #NoBrakes in the schools where she volunteered to do book readings with young children. She brought in authors of color and gave away books and school supplies, while opening a dialogue with children about their individual traumas.

"So many services are not available in urban communities," said Mitchell, who noticed a gap in services for kids in Camden. "We help bridge that gap."

The project eventually grew into what it is now. Mitchell hosts parenting and empowerment events, where she shares her stories. She also talks to kids about bullying. 

Tatiana Mitchell
Courtesy of No Brakes Organization

Mitchell's two sons each have their own struggles — one has Asperger’s; the other suffers from medical challenges as well. The kids work with her, getting empowered and seeing how helping others can result in healing.

"Sometimes around Christmas, I'll pick another family to pay their highest bill," said Mitchell, who raises money for her nonprofit by selling Touched By Ta' Empowerment Apparel. Roughly 20 percent of the proceeds from the clothing goes to the nonprofit.

Her efforts, she noted, change the game for communities because she is the person she needed years ago.

"It's bigger than likes. It's bigger than social media," she said. "It's personal."

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GameChangers is led by KYW Newsradio's community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg and recognizes 10 individuals or organizations that are making a positive impact on communities of color. For a full list of 2019's GameChangers, visit kywnewsradio.com/gamechangers.