When Najee was 5 years old, children started teasing him about his complexion. In kindergarten, he says a female classmate, who was also African-American, made a hurtful remark that he remembers to this day. "The negative comment was, 'Oh, you're so black," he says.
As Najee grew older, the insults continued. "I've been called names like darkie, dark chocolate, blackie," he says. "Most of my negative comments do come from other blacks, and it's extremely painful."
Najee says he tries to hide his deep-seated insecurities from his friends and family by pretending to be happy. But deep down, a lifetime of low self-esteem is starting to take a toll on him. "Sometimes I have felt that I didn't even want to be on this earth," he says. "Sometimes I wish that God didn't make me this way."
His mother says her biggest regret is not understanding how much pain Najee has been feeling over the years. Tangela says she tried asking Najee if anyone teased him, but he never wanted to discuss it.
"I tried to give him books and encouragement and let him know he was beautiful. He had beautiful teeth," she says. "It almost didn't matter how much I told him because I didn't know what was going on."