Demetrius Harmon Speaks at 2022 CODE Event


Portrait of Demetrius Harmon by Belton Media Group

By Abhilasha Khatri, Investigative Editor


On March 4, 2022, the ASUU Diversity Board held its annual Conference on Diverse Excellence.

The event was held in the Alumni House and included workshops, food and addresses from the ASUU and University of Utah Presidents, as well as a presentation and question and answer session with keynote speaker Demetrius Harmon. The event was moderated by Maria Velasco, associate director of the Diversity Board.

In the caption written to accompany the Instagram post announcing the event, ASUU members discussed the purpose of CODE.

“The purpose of CODE is to cultivate an awareness of Diversity, Inclusion, and Advocacy. The intention of CODE is to create critical dialogues on different social justice and current world topics that impact the campus and the world around us,” the caption said.

The event is open to everybody, and has a history of inviting impactful keynote speakers, with the list of past speakers including Jesse Williams, Tan France and Angela Davis.

This year’s keynote speaker, Harmon, is a mental health awareness advocate who first gained popularity through his presence on YouTube and Vine and has gone on to pursue various creative endeavors, from producing a clothing line to writing a book.

During his presentation, Harmon shared his personal struggles with mental health. 

“I struggled a lot with knowing which voice in my head is actually mine,” Harmon said. “If you told me that I’m stupid … I’m not hearing that in your voice when I hear it in my head, I hear it in my voice. And so now I’m telling myself I’m stupid … but that’s not what I believe.”

He shared his own journey to discovering what he enjoys doing, and encourages other students to follow their passions. 

“I didn’t start making YouTube videos because I saw anything from it … I just needed a way to talk,” Harmon said. “If you focus on getting money … you are gonna be drawn into things that aren’t gonna serve your purpose. But if you follow your purpose, everything you need for that journey will be provided … it’s never too late to try something new, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.”

A question and answer period followed Harmon’s lecture, open for anybody in attendance to ask him questions. 

“My question is, as a Black person in the United States dealing with mental health issues, how has your race affected your mental health, because I know it has affected me for sure?” one student asked. 

Harmon responded by describing the unfortunate reality of being put into boxes by society and how this affects his outlook on everyday aspects of life such as raising children. 

“It’s hard to feel like your race or your color doesn’t define you when the world we live in reminds you of what it means to them every single day,” Harmon said. “If I have a kid and they come to me like ‘Dad, I identify as this,’ that’s fine with me, I support you. But then it’s like … how do I make the world a safe space for them?”


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