Shanti Das discusses her nonprofit organization Silence the Shame on a live podcast with TecLeimert co-founder Rashidi Jones and Microsoft’s Darrell Booker. (Kimberly Shelby)

At Taste of Soul’s dynamic, new Microsoft-sponsored Digital World this year, founders of the tech- and entertainment-centered non-profit TecLeimert recorded live podcasts that featured interviews with a host of thought leaders and industry experts, among them changemakers creating significant impacts in the critical areas of wellness and education. 

Big fun at the 360 photo booth. (Kimberly Shelby)

 One such panelist present on at the festival on October 15 was former record executive Shanti Das, an entrepreneur with an impactful story that led to the launch of the mental health nonprofit Silence the Shame. Amid the boisterousness literally bubbling at the 360 photo booth, and the virtual reality and gaming stations book-ending the Digital World, she sat in discussion with TecLeimert co-founder Rashidi Jones and Corporate Affairs Specialist/NTA Lead at Microsoft, Darrell Booker—an integral partner in bringing this presentation into fruition—sharing her personal journey. 

“I’d been promoted to Vice President of Marketing. I walked away from my career at the end of 2009,” Das recalled the period when she decided to return home to take care of her mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time. It was around then that she realized she’d been suffering as well. 

“I didn’t know how to articulate it or what to call it,” she said. “I later realized I was suffering from depression. There was a lot of anxiety. I’d been sleeping a lot in the office, and I just wasn’t happy anymore, like my normal happy-go-lucky spirit; I was really down. My energy level was really low. I was kind of having a meltdown.” 

Das, whose father died by suicide when she was 7 months old, discovered there was a lot of unresolved trauma to contend with. While on this journey, her best friend succumbed to suicide as well. It was overwhelming, and she remembers feeling like she’d entered a downward spiral. 

“I really started not wanting to get up in the morning,” Das reflected. “I would go to functions but not really be participating. I strongly considered taking my own life, but thankfully, I got the help that I needed.”  

2 – James Fauntleroy and Larrance “Rance” Dopson of 1500 or Nothin’ founded 1500 Sound Academy to provide music education to the local community. (Kimberly Shelby)

This is when Das created the hashtag “Silence the Shame” and made May 5th a National Day of awareness around mental health. When the hashtag received 90 million social media impressions in one day in 2017, Das knew she was on to something. With the goal of empowering those suffering with mental health issues, Silence the Shame offers information and resources through podcasts, seminars, their website, and various programs that include leadership groups for youth. 

Uplifting others through technology and entertainment is also a focus of 1500 or Nothin’ member James Fauntleroy, another panelist and interviewee at Taste of Soul’s Digital World. The Grammy-winning songwriter, who has worked with a slew of recognizable names such as Drake, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, and Justin Timberlake, has established a music academy with co-founder Larrance Dopson that is designed to change the culture of education and empower the next generation. 

At the Inglewood-based music production school, state-of-the-art tools are employed to optimize the edification of students. Scholarships, student sponsorships and other philanthropic and community-focused opportunities are available. 

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