15-year-old Huntsville High freshman Nigel Shelby was a bright and creative young man who dreamed of becoming a performer. On April 18th, after facing relentless bullying by classmates for being gay, he took his own life.
Nigel’s mother, Camika Shelby, gave an emotional interview to WAFF Tuesday in which she remembered her only child’s desire to become a performer. “Nigel was the sweetest child. He was outgoing; he was always full of joy, full of light, he was always singing, always dancing. He wanted to be a performer so you could probably see that,” she said.
Camika said her son bravely came out to her two years ago and while he had a hard time dealing with the combination of bullying from other kids at school and bouts of depression, she doesn’t want him to be remembered as “a kid who was bullied for being gay and who took his own life,” Shelby said. “He was so much more than that. He was sunshine.”
The outpouring of love for Nigel has been both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Celebrities like Janelle Monáe, Justin Bieber and Kehlani posted messages honoring his memory. Messages of love and acceptance for the teen that he probably needed to see more of.
Now Nigel’s mother wants to see his death help his community come together. She believes it’s time to open a much-needed dialogue about acceptance and respect for those who are different from one another.
“We live in a world where now … well, it’s always been, everybody is different,” she said. “So to make someone feel less than because they are different, it’s not OK.”
Officials for the both the Huntsville City School district and Huntsville High claim they never received any complaints or reports of bullying or harassment from Nigel before his death. The school district also revealed that the administrators and counselors at the high school “had a close relationship with both Nigel and his mother” during his time there.
Christie Finley, the Huntsville City School Superintendent, told the school board Monday evening that the community needed to do more to teach children “the values of acceptance, generosity, kindness, helpfulness, and, simply put, the value of just being human.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255