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26 Oct

Family And Friends Remember Arlana Miller – Essence

Arlana Millerু

Arlana Miller

Janice Tappin-Miller is warm, however, the undercurrent of grief is powerful. As she welcomes me into her home in Waxahachie, Texas, I pass the dining room. It’s crammed with photos of Arlana Miller, Janice’s late daughter. “I actually miss my baby,” Janice tells ESSENCE. “That was my baby.”

Arlana, who died by suicide this past spring, began her first yr at Baton Rouge’s Southern University and A&M in the autumn of 2021. She was a talented cheerleader majoring in Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences. Southern awarded her the David Scott/JAG STARS scholarship—a full ride. She selected the main because she was trying to turn out to be a psychiatrist and desired to help others.

“She never made you are feeling alone,” says Mya Mingo, certainly one of Arlana’s cheer mates at Southern. “After practice, everyone can be gone; me and her would still be within the car parking zone, talking and talking. She knew encourage, just lift people’s spirits up.”

On May 4, days before her summer break began, the 19-year-old posted a since-removed suicide note to Instagram. She detailed her ongoing struggle with mental health and the impact contracting COVID-19 and tearing her anterior cruciate ligament had on her. “Once she got the injury, it felt like things took a turn,” says Floyd Sias, Southern University’s head cheerleading coach. “I feel she felt like she didn’t have a spot anymore because she was hurt and he or she couldn’t check out [for the next year]. But we had a conversation. I had assured her that she was superb, that she had a spot on the team. I could tell that was really getting her down.”

Arlana also voiced concern about her grades, in her public letter and through a conversation along with her mother on the day of her passing. She texted her mom that she was failing a math class, which prompted a phone call from Janice. ”I said, ‘It’s okay, baby. Just drop the category.’”

Arlana then revealed she was taking six classes, two greater than she had throughout the first half of the yr. It was too late within the semester to let go of any.

“She got quiet on the phone,” Janice says about their final call. “I think she had a moment where she just thought she was going to fail us, but she could never fail me.”

Family And Friends Remember Arlana Miller

Arlana Miller and her mother, Janice Tappin-Miller.

“She was an incredible person. I feel just like the world needs more people like Arlana.”


Arlana Janell Miller was born in 2002 to Janice, an educator, and Pastor Arthur Miller II. She began dancing at age three when her mother enrolled her in dance classes. By the primary grade, Arlana was cheering, too. She was a straight A-student, shy yet bubbly while you got to know her and often received awards at the top of every academic yr.

The family, which incorporates Arlana’s older brother, Raylon, relocated to Texas when Janice took a teaching position in 2016. (The relocation didn’t have Arthur, because the couple divorced in 2010.) Arlana was the brand new girl at A.W. Brown Leadership Academy, a K-8 school in Dallas. She made the cheerleading team and fit right in.

“She went to A.W. Brown and didn’t hardly know anybody. Then she made cheer there, ran for homecoming court and was first-runner up,” Janice says.

Cheerleading was the teenager’s joy. She ran track as well and was talented, but in middle school decided to stop splitting her time between multiple physical undertakings. At first of her senior yr at DeSoto High School, she was rewarded for specializing in one sport.

“I all the time hinted at her like, ‘Girl, I feel you’re going to be cheer captain,’” says Whitney Walton, certainly one of Arlana’s closest friends. Walton’s gut feeling proved to be right. During certainly one of the 2019 home games, the team took a break; moments later, the cheer coach got here out with a sash for Arlana that read ‘cheer captain.’ Janice smiles as she retells the story, recalling her daughter’s tears, gratitude and shock. “They filmed it and the whole lot, and he or she was crying. I used to be crying.” It was a dream come true.

Now, Janice has a latest outlook on her daughter’s relationship with the game, saying it helped her cope. “It was her strategy to not be by herself, to be doing something and never in her dorm room. I learned through my grief counselor, people who find themselves sometimes depressed, they cope with their depression by helping other people or doing things for other people.”

The appointment as captain got here a number of months after an event that rocked Arlana—the death of her maternal grandfather, John Tappin Sr. The 2 were inseparable during his life. “Her Pawpaw was like her dad. That was her the whole lot,” Janice says. Arlana would spend time in Louisiana with him, along along with her cousins, riding four-wheelers and horses. John Tappin III, Arlana’s first cousin and the son of Janice’s twin brother, reminisced on the connection between Arlana and her grandfather. “They were a match made in heaven, literally,” he says. “In the event that they could hold hands every single day, they’d.”

After her daughter’s death, Janice also contemplated how Arlana could have felt after her grandfather’s passing.

“I’m wondering, did she ever really grieve her Pawpaw dying?”


The COVID-19 pandemic, which began towards the top of Arlana’s junior yr of highschool, profoundly impacted young people’s mental health. The isolation, and witnessing mass sickness and death, was so much to bear. In 2022, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported greater than 25% of teens struggle with mental health. In 2020, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (leaning on CDC data) also shared that in Louisiana, suicide is the third-leading explanation for death for those between the ages of 10 and 24.

Black women and girls still don’t feel comfortable fully opening up about their trials, regardless that they’ve been feeling the load of the past 2.5 years—and beyond.

“Intergenerational transmission of trauma and ideologies is prevalent amongst African-American families and contributes to cultural norms across the diaspora,” Xonjenese Jacobs, Associate Director of Program Performance for Pace Center for Girls, an advocacy program, writes ESSENCE in an email. “For Black girls, there’s an added layer to incorporate the standards by which they’re expected to behave and the way they’re perceived in society. Each of those interpersonal level interactions have an influence on the experience of Black girls and their mental health outcomes.”

Jacobs also writes that girls make up a big percentage of the mental health-related emergency room visits which have taken place for the reason that pandemic began.


“She walked within the Mississippi River,” Janice painfully explains. Captain Keith Kibby, the Baton Rouge sheriff who found Arlana’s body, told her mother that in the event that they had arrived two or three minutes earlier, they may need been able to save lots of her.

“All I remember is just screaming and hollering until I just couldn’t breathe anymore. I felt like any individual took the air out of my chest,” she says of the night of Arlana’s death. She fell asleep in her daughter’s room, aching to carry her over again.

Tears roll down Janice’s face as she gives me the small print of a previous grief counseling session. She told the therapist, “I’ll never get to see her graduate from college. I’ll never get to see her get married. I’ll never get to see her have any kids.”

I cry, too.


“I need people to know she was the perfect person ever,” says Denim Hill, certainly one of Arlana’s childhood friends and fellow Southern Jaguar. “I ain’t never had that style of bond.”

A cheer mate, Jada Taylor, shares an analogous thought.

“She was an incredible person. I feel just like the world needs more people like Arlana.”

Since Arlana’s passing, Southern has launched the Arlana J. Miller Memorial Scholarship Fund, a monetary award that may profit two cheerleaders. It’s consistent with Arlana’s compassion: in 2020 she began her own scholarship that top school seniors can be eligible for. Janice is now maintaining it in her daughter’s stead, telling ESSENCE this yr’s bursary will go towards a Louisiana State University freshman.

A non-profit organization, the Arlana Janell Miller ‘Check on Your Strong Friends’ Foundation, can be within the works. “We just wish to help anyone we are able to. We’re just teaching strategies with coping with anxiety, depression, stress, Janice says. “I didn’t realize so many individuals were going through depression.”

The community has been there within the wake of the tragedy. For weeks after Arlana’s passing, neighbors cooked and sent flowers to the family. One other had customized ‘Mom’ cookies made for Janice. Arlana died the Wednesday before Mother’s Day.

Towards the top of the afternoon, Janice walks me to Arlana’s pristine bedroom. On the wall, there are photos of the young woman. I also see a blanket with a portrait of her on it. Her mother hasn’t fully sorted through her belongings yet.

“Sometimes I don’t are available in here and sometimes I do. I just wish she was in here,” she says.

When you or someone is in crisis, please call 988 to succeed in the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You may also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for extra resources.

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