Photo and thumbnail photo from MarShawn McCarrel's Facebook
MarShawn McCarrel, a Black Lives Matter activist and homelessness advocate, died by a self-inflicted gunshot Monday on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the local authorities were initially unsure why he chose to commit suicide. He was 23.
His final Facebook post was from the day before his death. It read, "My demons won today. I'm sorry." His final tweet, posted hours before he died, said, "Let the record show that I pissed on the state house before i left."
McCarrel got involved with Black Lives Matter in 2014, helping to organize Ohio protests after the police fatally shot unarmed Missouri teenager Michael Brown, sparking that year's unrest in the town of Ferguson. McCarrel posted frequently on social media about his involvement in the recent civil rights struggle, and among these posts were examples of apparent abuse from racists. It's unclear whether his activism or responses to it had anything to do with the problems he was obviously suffering from.
He told the blog Columbus Alive in 2014, "People who look like me are one breath away from being an Eric Garner," referring to the notorious choking death of another black man killed by police that year in New York City.
Prior to his involvement with Black Lives Matter, according to a 2014 interview on the blog 614 Columbus, McCarrel had been among the young homeless in Ohio for three months shortly after graduating from high school. During that time, he told the blog, he "realized an important thing: I don't need anything to be happy. I mean, it changed everything; I had to be broken to see what genuine happiness is."
YouTube user Adam Little captured McCarrel reciting poetry under the name "MC Carrel" in 2013.
In October of 2013, after McCarrel's experience with homelessness, he founded Pursuing Our Dreams, an organization that gave out lunches to the homeless in Columbus. "We don't believe in heroes. We believe in neighbors," he told the site Columbus Underground in an interview during one of their Feed the Streets (FTS) events.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Pursuing Our Dreams was still planning to hold one of its Feed the Streets events on Saturday, February 20 at 10 AM at Franklinton Square in Columbus. Bahirah Malik, who runs the organization's Facebook page, and identified herself as McCarrel's sister, told VICE that the event would not be changed.
Malik said the group still plans to "make it the FTS that Shawn always dreamed of."
If you are struggling with depression or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.