Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ending The Stigmas and Showing Empathy

by Bryant Lopez “The Black Poster Project fills a huge void in my life because I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this.” The Black Poster Project was created by Dee Gillen after losing her son Scott to an overdose.  

On March 31, a day of remembrance took place at Bergen. The Black Poster Project Silent Memorial’s mission is to spread awareness by paying tribute to the people that lost their lives to addiction. All over the campus, black posters with the story of the people that have lost their lives to addiction were presented.

“When we bring all these posters, these posters are the way we want people to remember our children, our loved ones. Not the way they were their last couple of years in their fight with addiction. We want them to remember our kids the way there are on these posters,” said Gillen.

One of the Black Poster Project’s goals is to end the stigma. Addiction is given a negative stigma and some people believe that victims “did it to themselves” rather than viewing it as a disease. Gillen said, “I think that is where stigma would break down if they would understand it.” Gillen believes the negative stigma needs to be replaced with human empathy. 

Gillen recalls a time when she was faced with these stigmas when she was setting up the poster at one of the events“ I was setting up these posters with my daughter and this man came up and said these are some real nice pictures who are these people? Me and my daughter explained that it is an overdose awareness event and everyone you see lose their lives to an overdose so we are honoring them today.” 

The response that man gave Gillen was “why are you honoring them, they don’t deserve to be honored, that’s ridiculous.” 

“My daughter and I just had buried my son a couple of years prior, our hearts just dropped. We said to ourselves gosh, it’s amazing how people just don’t understand.” 

       Gillen spoke along with people that had been affected by addiction. They spoke about their experiences from a person’s perspective of addiction and as well as a loved one seeing someone with an addiction.

         The Project also works with We Are Alumn In Recovery, AinR. AinR has a school-based program that allows young people to feel safe sharing their stories to identify with the feeling and emotions they were experiencing at that age in school. The Project as well as a Parent Program where parents can share their stories and experience with having their loved ones dealing with addiction. 

 They combined both of these programs to have community-based events where they share their stories in public forums. The Project travels to New Jersey and New York to spread its message. “It is a really nice environment for people like us because usually, nobody has the courage to approach a mother that has buried their son.”

For more information, you can go to

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: