The Don Cornelius Foundation, Inc. (DCF) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization formed by the family of Don Cornelius, creator of “Soul Train”, who ended his life by suicide on February 1, 2012.
Renaissance man, Don Cornelius’ entrepreneurial spirit and vast contribution to television, music, the arts and popular culture is unparalleled. In the tradition of Don Cornelius’ visionary spirit, DCF was established to identify and support programs that provide awareness, prevention and support for those contemplating suicide and survivors who have lost loved ones due to suicide; assisting those who are in need of healing.
The financial support given to organizations regionally and nationally will increase their capacities within the African American community by assisting in the creation of a culturally competent network of awareness, prevention and treatment services.
Born on September 27, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois, Donald “Don” Cortec Cornelius became an American television icon, having created Soul Train, a music show made for African-Americans by African-Americans, which spent more than 37 years on the air.
The young man from Chicago was a natural salesman, Cornelius started out in the insurance business in the 1950s. He went to broadcasting school in 1966, looking to break into the field. To realize his dream, he worked as a substitute DJ, filling in for other on-air personalities, and in the news department of WVON radio in Chicago.
Switching to television, Cornelius became a sports anchor and the host of A Black’s View of the News on WCIU in 1968. He got to know the station owners and pitched them his idea for a music television program. Using $400 of his own money, Cornelius created a pilot for Soul Train, which was named after a promotional event he put together in 1969.
Premiering on August 17, 1970, Soul Train quickly became popular. It aired on Saturday mornings, attracting youthful viewership. An early supporter, businessman George Johnson of the Johnson Products Company, helped Cornelius make Soul Train a national television program.
Soul Train was syndicated in 1971, however, initially it was difficult getting stations pick up the show. In time, in addition to Chicago, stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco were among the first to air Soul Train.
With his deep voice and distinguished good looks, Cornelius was the ideal host. Over the years, he presented many famous performers to his television audience, including Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Lou Rawls and Aretha Franklin, among others. The show was not always wedded to its soul and R&B focus. Rock acts, such as David Bowie, Robert Palmer, and Duran Duran, made appearances on the show, as did jazz and reggae stars.
In 1987, Cornelius started the Soul Train Music Awards. Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross served as hosts of the first ceremony, which honored Stevie Wonder with the Heritage Award for outstanding career achievements. Whitney Houston, LL Cool J, and Run DMC were among the night’s performers. Over the years, Soul Train became where the biggest stars appeared and performed, with acts like Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Usher and Ciara setting precedent.
The eldest of Don Cornelius’ two sons, Tony Cornelius is a 25-year veteran in television production which includes network television, first-run syndication and cable. Committed to working closely with his father, Don Cornelius, creator of Soul Train, Tony received an all-around, hands-on extensive learning experience from the ground up. He rose to Producer, Executive in Charge of Production, Executive Producer, Sr. Vice President & General Manager of Don Cornelius Productions, Inc. overseeing all aspects of the awards shows, weekly series and specials within the Soul Train franchise for over 20 years. His responsibilities also included overseeing of marketing and distribution which included (4) decades of original content stored throughout the Western United States.
As founder of The Don Cornelius Foundation as well as a National Board member for the America Foundation of Suicide Prevention - AFSP, both organizations focus on suicide awareness and prevention, helping those who have lost loved ones and supporting those in transition. As host of the Soul Train Cruise which is in its 7th year, Tony is currently in development of the Soul Train musical-on Broadway and Executive producer of American Soul, a dramatic (10) episode series that has premiered in February of 2019 on BET Networks.
"I am the face" is a truth, a witness, a badge of honor worn by those who want to let people know, let the world know, let their friends, family, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, lover or other know that they're not afraid to stand up and live regardless of the circumstances. We all have fears of the truth, afraid of letting someone know you we're hurting inside. This sacred badge sends a message that you're not alone and you're a disciple of a cause, a cause for awareness. You're sacrificing your own face for sake of others who can't or who won't talk to someone about their circumstances.
"I am the face" removes the veil of shame many of us experience when our mind tells us that there are no more options, no more outlets and no more will to live. If one person can save one person, just imagine how many families will be spared.
- Tony Cornelius
ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH & SUICIDE PREVENTION
WHAT IS MENTAL ILLNESS?
Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.
Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.
Don’t be afraid to have a conversation about mental health and suicide prevention. It doesn’t increase the risk or plant the idea in someone’s head, but it is helpful to invite conversations about feelings, thoughts and perspectives.
Peers are often the first to note early signs of mental health issues, and when young people do seek support, an estimated 75% will turn to a peer.
It isn’t always easy to reach out to someone who may be struggling with mental health, but just having a conversation can make a life-changing difference.
There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create a feeling of hopelessness or despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide and it is often underdiagnosed or undertreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, especially when left unaddressed, can increase risk of suicide.
Look out for possible warnings signs of increased suicide risk:
Changes in or new behavior related to a painful event, loss or major change
Talking about harming or killing oneself
Expressing feelings of hopelessness, feeling like a burden
Increased alcohol or drug use
Withdrawing from activities, isolating from family and friends
Feelings of depression, anxiety, loss of interest, humiliation or rage
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.
It’s important to encourage open dialogue about mental health. Mental health challenges are commonplace and often start to affect people in their teen or young adult years.
Depression is the most common mental health condition. It can be a serious illness that causes symptoms that can interfere with one’s ability to study, work, sleep, eat and enjoy life.
While depression has many symptoms and can feel different in different people, you can look for these possible signs:
Persistent sadness, decreased energy, overwhelming fatigue, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, feeling trapped or like a burden to others, withdrawing from activities one usually loves, isolating from friends and family, changing appearance in a dramatic fashion, increased drug or alcohol abuse, constant mood shifts, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleeping patterns.
If you think someone you know may be suffering from depression, anxiety or addiction, it’s okay to ask how they are feeling or how you can help. You can also encourage them to talk to a parent, a school counselor or to call or text a helpline that will point them to helpful resources and services.
HOW DO MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS AFFECT THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY?
Although anyone can develop a mental health problem, African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to unmet needs and other barriers. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Common mental health disorders among African Americans include:
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because African Americans are more likely to be victims of violent crime African Americans are also more likely to experience certain factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition:
Homelessness. People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of developing a mental health condition. African Americans make up 40% of the homeless population.
Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. African American children are more likely to be exposed to violence than other children.
CRISIS RESOURCES MESSAGE
If you or a loved one is in crisis, please reach out to the Crisis Text Line (Text TALK to 741741) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK to talk to someone who can help.
The Soul Train Cruise is set to take sail January 18th –25th, 2020. The cruise sailing from Ft. Lauderdale will make stops in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Bahamas including St. Maarten, St. Croix and Half Moon Cay. Hosted by Tony Cornelius, the Soul Train Cruise presented by Sirius XM will feature performances by The Jacksons, Johnny Gill, Isley Brothers, Cameo, WAR, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Peabo Bryson, Karyn White, Regina Belle, Atlantic Starr, Urban Guerilla Orchestra and more.
Now is your time to book the vacation of a lifetime for a week of Love, Peace and Soul. Experience over 50 LIVE performances and 25 interactive events, dance down the Soul Train line, enjoy theme nights and poolside parties all while sailing the high seas! Cabins are filling up quickly, don't miss the boat!