“What always runs through my mind when we go places with participants is they’re stigmatized. They’re looked at side-eyed,” he says. “It runs through my mind that there but for the grace of God go I. Any illness can fall on any of us. That keeps me grounded. It helps me realize that I am blessed and can pass it on to other people.”
As a Black man who grew up in Bridgeport, Porter is no stranger to these kinds of glances or even comments. “When you’re the only Black person in class or in college as an English major I was the only Black person in class,” he says, “you’d get comments like ‘You write really well for coming out of the inner city.’” Porter went on to teach middle school English for 31 years in addition to his part-time MHC job.
“Everybody goes through some type of stigma, especially growing up,” he says. “I worked with children. Children can be kind of mean. If you’re a little bit different, if you don’t fit in, if you’re not athletic or more on the quiet side—as a kid growing up, I fell into all those categories.”
His challenging home life had an impact as well. “My father was an alcoholic. That plays a part in your growth and personality,” he says. “Because he was so loud and boisterous, that made me more on the quieter side. One of the things that has helped me is my Christian faith. That pulls me out of dark places.” Doing well in school also helped him, as did studying martial arts.
Porter was hired first as an activities coordinator at MHC. Now he thinks of himself as more of a life coach. “As a life coach, I do similar activities with participants but it’s more individualized for their needs,” says Porter, who is also a facilitator of the various Write On! programs at MHC. “Everything I love doing, I can share with the participants. That really brings joy to my life.”
And to those who are quick to judge without full knowledge, Porter offers this suggestion: “Don’t put down someone who may not be where you are, whether they look or act differently or have different skin color.”
Each day in May, you will meet a new face and a new lived experience, because #LetsFaceIt there is no one-sized fits all when it comes to our wellbeing. View past posts here.
Looking for resources or support in CT but don’t know where to start? Contact MHC’s free Information & Referral line: https://www.mhconn.org/education/information.