Mom shares story of son's life before his suicide death: He was considered 'different' and he was bullied
Monique Davis strives to spread positivity through her son's foundation because that's what he would want her to do.
Editor's note: This story contains graphic descriptions of death by suicide involving children. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.
Early fall through winter months are usually a time of joy and excitement for families. From football season, to spending quality time with loved ones, to holiday festivities -- it's a time that brings people together.
But for Monique Davis, these months represent the grief she feels after losing her 10-year-old son, Jamari Terrell Williams, to suicide on Oct 11, 2017.
"I raised Jamari and his brother to love others as God loves you. I feel I taught my son to love others but some individuals didn't love him back," said Davis.
The Alabama native's story is one of dozens that a team of investigative journalists with 11Alive found during its investigation into why young Black children are dying by suicide at rates two-times higher than their white peers in America.
They saw him as 'different':
Jamari was talented and gifted. The 10-year-old was active in his church and community, he excelled in school as an Honor Roll student and his one true passion in life was dancing.
But his love for performing on stage ended up being the source of some of the bullying he endured, according to his mother.
"Jamari was a positive child who loved everyone regardless. Jamari was targeted for many different reasons. He was bullied because he was a boy and a dancer," she said.
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In the weeks leading up to his death, Davis said she noticed Jamari wasn't himself.
"Unfortunately Jamari was considered different to many and was bullied," she said. "He mentioned wanting to change his appearance and was more quiet than usual."
The 10-year-old's mother said she was prepared to go to the school to address her concerns but never had the chance. Davis said Jamari died by suicide a day before that opportunity arrived.
"In the weeks leading up to Jamari's death, he would ask me why he was darker than his brother and me. He wanted to know if I loved him because his classmates would say his head was big or he was dark-skinned," she said.
Turning tragedy into positive action:
After Jamari died, Davis said she was determined to turn her tragedy into positive action.
"He was bullied because he loved others no matter what," she said. "[I want] America to understand there is no particular type of person that is a target for bullying. It is not just racism. It is not just sexual orientation. It is not just religious affiliation."
Since her son's death, Jamari's mother created the Jamari Terrell Williams Foundation, which has also created an 1-800 number for children and young adults to call if they need to speak with someone.
She also said she has spoken at several events, including seminars with students and faculty at schools. She has also gone on to work with various agencies in Montgomery, Alabama to spread awareness about bullying.
Four years ago, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey also signed the Jamari Terrell Williams Student Bullying Prevention Act into law. It went into effect in the state as of June 1, 2018.
"If you're feeling lonely, depressed or sad, it's OK to talk about it. Share your feelings with someone you trust. There are resources to help you," Davis said. "One quick decision can be a lifetime of hurt and pain for those you have left behind."
'Love others as you love yourself':
Oct. 11, 2022 will mark five years since Monique said goodbye to her child. It is an anniversary no parent should ever have to mark.
Jamari's mother said she continues to spread awareness about the deep impact bullying has on children and their families, through her son's foundation and more.
But despite the family's tragic loss, Davis said the world still can and should "love others as you would love yourself."
That's what her son would've wanted.
"[I continue] to spread Jamari's legacy and love all over the United States," she said. "[I want] everyone to know that they are loved, no matter how differently they may feel."