Christopher LeMark is a community-passionate organizer and the founder of Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health (CHHAMH 6453 NFP), a Chicago-based 501(c)3 charitable organization. They provide free individual and group therapy to those facing financial barriers, particularly in Black neighborhoods. LeMark’s donation-based coffee shop model funds the program, builds community and is a space of refuge for those in need of support. Hip-hop is intentionally infused in everything they do, from the beverage menu to the creatively curated events they host throughout the city. Hip-hop was LeMark’s saving grace and his own personal therapy.
Christopher was born and raised on the south side of Chicago — an unforgettable city that is rich and full of culture, art, vibrance, and raw talent. There is also a duality to the city that those who live a privileged lifestyle will never be able to understand or fathom. Chicago’s beauty can be seemingly impossible to experience within the bounds of dangerously underfunded and oppressed neighborhoods like the one Chirstopher spent a great portion of his life in — the 6400 block of South Hermitage in Englewood. Without the presence of his own parents, and behind the confined walls of the various homes and shelters in which he grew up in, the true spirit and freedom of life was something Christopher couldn’t quite reach. Through the stories of abandonment, extreme abuse, and violent poverty that ultimately defined much his life, LeMark had to be the source of his own light, a heavy feat for any child to take on. By relying on faith, creativity, and the natural purity children embody, he dreamt his way out of the darkness and learned to protect his intrinsic goodness. LeMark spent the first thirty plus years of his life fighting to survive, as he navigated the rough terrains of emotionally, physically, and spiritually healing from trauma. As a Black man living in poverty, experiencing years of homelessness, multiple suicide attempts, and PTSD, one must rely on an already limited amount of strength and resilience to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Four years ago, Christopher made the courageous choice to begin therapy. It was there that he was able to do away with the false narrative that the pain inflicted upon him and the cards he was dealt, were his fault. Thus, Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health was born. In ’98, Christopher discovered his gift of musical talent. His journey began as a Christian hip-hop artist, and later evolved into a playwright, live concert producer and a public speaker. His unconventional music encourages everyone who listens to begin acknowledging their pain and embark on the necessary journey of healing. LeMark’s passion for hip-hop will be shared with the world in the first Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental health album debuting later this year. LeMark’s public vulnerability and integrity has led to trusting and long-lasting relationships with various news and media outlets, schools, organization, and reputable entities such as the W Hotel, AT&T, LULULEMON, The Obama Foundation, Oatly, Ben & Jerry’s, Walgreens, and more. From pain and transition to triumph, Christopher discovered his voice and the power of sharing his story. What once defined LeMark, became the thing that awakened him to rewrite history, seek help, and change the course of his life to become the better version of himself. He moves through fear, leads with integrity, and heals alongside his peers and the community. One of his greatest joys and accomplishments? The birth of his son and the cultivation of beautiful chosen family.