Name: Quentin Vennie
Profession: Entrepreneur| Wellness Expert | Speaker | Author
One Word That Describes You: Passionate
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
To be recognized by Black Enterprise as one of the 2017 Modern Men of Distinction is humbling to say the least. It is an honor to be recognized by an organization that I have sought knowledge, inspiration, and motivation from for years. This opportunity pushes me to work harder and to continue my efforts in expanding the conversation about mental health and overall well-being in schools and within our communities.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
As an author and mental health advocate, one of my main objectives has been to get my message into schools, corporations, HBCUs, rehab facilities, and prisons across the country. I’ve had the privilege of speaking and teaching meditation to a group of African American high school boys from the inner city of Baltimore. I’ve coached young black aspiring entrepreneurs on the importance of addressing mental health concerns, financial literacy, and understanding their own traumas. I’ve talked about nutrition and taught meditation in rehab facilities, and worked on an initiative to get meditation in a few prisons across the country.
My aim has always been to expand the conversation about mental health in the black community. There are too many of us suffering in silence, and it’s time to put a voice to the issues we’re facing and bring that to a close. As men, we’re often made to feel like our emotions are invalid or we’re weak if we show any kind of vulnerability. As a result, we’re left without an outlet to share or express our feelings, which sometimes culminates in negative or self-destructive behaviors. We’ve been hiding behind a mask of masculinity for so long that we’ve neglected our own mental health as a result. So every black man, young or old, that I get to speak with, I’m working to change that dialogue, thus changing the outcome.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
I was born and raised in a single-parent household on the west side of Baltimore. My father was a heroin addict, and by the time I was 12 I had been shot at and spent more time visiting prisons than most of the people I was close to. Despite spending a lot of time in my old neighborhood in West Baltimore, I went to predominantly white schools in the suburbs of Baltimore County. I experienced racism, discrimination, prejudice, you name it. I was diagnosed with acute anxiety and mild depression when I was 14, and then diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety and panic disorder, and mild to severe major depressive disorder, at 26. I endured a two-year addiction to my anxiety medication, survived an accidental overdose and two failed suicide attempts, but was fortunate to discover a wellness system that saved my life (yoga, meditation, and fruit/vegetable juicing). Not only did it help me get off all medications, but it also made my anxiety and depression easier to manage.
I started telling my story of my battles with anxiety, depression, and addiction in 2012 when I first started my journey into sobriety, and on May 30th of this year, my first book, Strong in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Addiction and Redemption Through Wellness was published in the U.S. and Canada, and published in Australia and the U.K. on July 1st. I was able to successfully turn my trial into a triumph that has positively impacted people worldwide.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
Currently I’m working with a few organizations in Baltimore, New York City, and New Jersey that teach mindfulness in the public schools. We’re working together to expand their offerings and continue bringing these practices to communities that don’t ordinarily have access to them. I’m also in the developmental stages of a new five-tier wellness initiative I’m co-creating for a few rehab facilities, that we will also introduce to a few prisons once finalized.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
When I first started telling my story, I told myself, if I could inspire one person every day to not quit, whether through a conversation, a social media post, or a personal interaction, then my day was not in vain. I believe we are all put here to be of service—to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be global, it could be breaking the generational curse of a family issue. Whatever it is, communication and conversation is vital in the fight for progression, and having the freedom to be and express who we truly are is a gift that we can’t take for granted.
What is the best advice you ever received?
“Your reaction to pain or discomfort doesn’t change the fact that it exists; your reaction determines the impact it’ll have in your life.”
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
The best advice I could give other men that want to make a difference is pray often, know that God is real and because of both, you are capable.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
How I prepare for an important meeting or event is the same way I prepare for my day, with prayer and meditation. I never talk about things I don’t know about, so prayer and meditation keeps me grounded and in the present moment, which is exactly where I need to be.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
I’ve struggled for years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I sold cars, worked in finance, sold real estate, owned a few businesses, etc. Then I went through a damaging mental health crisis and a life-threatening addiction that stole everything that I worked hard for. Since then, I have been in a rebuilding phase. I have more experience, more exposure, and a greater context of what I want my life to look like and the impact I am looking to make. As a result, I have not taken a vacation— ever! I do try to sneak in a day or two of private time when I travel for business, and I am planning a five-day getaway later this year for my girlfriend and I, so hopefully I’ll know what vacationing feels like at that point.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to travel to Africa. I want to visit the pyramids of Egypt and the culture of Cape Town. There’s a magic about Africa that I’ve always been interested in.
Anything else you’d like to say?
We are all more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. We have the ability to overcome immeasurable odds, and it has been proven time and time again. Whoever is reading this, I want you to recognize your power and know, regardless of your current circumstances you are in control. Trust God, trust the process, and trust yourself. We don’t have to just accept the life we have, we can create the life we want.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.