Zeke Thomas has led a privileged life, with a famous dad, a loving family, private schools and even a basketball court in his home. But nothing shielded him from serious trauma - and he now hopes to help others with his music and his message.
Thomas is the son of Chicago native and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Zeke Thomas is a DJ, an artist and now, an activist - sharing his deeply personal story on a very public platform to bring awareness to a taboo subject: men and rape.
"I was first raped when I was 13 years old," Zeke Thomas said, "and again when I was 27 years old here in Chicago, out at a bar in Boystown, and was taken back home and then woke up and I was drugged and raped."
Zeke Thomas said dealing with that trauma was even more difficult to navigate as a black, gay man.
"As a man, and albeit, as a black man, being in our community, you’re supposed to be the strong black man, nothing can happen to you, nothing can break you. But things happen," he said.
"Being raped, being assaulted, is basically murder of the brain," he continued. "Putting it inside of them that they are not worthy, they are worthless and you’re taking all their power and strength away."
Zeke Thomas said through it all, music gave him strength and helped him regain power - and that it always has.
"Even when I was shooting around on a basketball court with my father, I was always so much more concerned with what we were listening to," he said. "I would literally stop shooting in the middle of the game and say, 'Look, we gotta change this song.'"
After years of therapy, Zeke Thomas said he's now found his voice and his own song "Dealing With It" has helped heal his pain.
Now, his song has a new purpose in a remix with his friend and Chicago artist Sonta.
Sonta found the lyrics reflected her own loss and her hope for healing after her boyfriend was gunned down in front of her.
"After that, it was just like, you know, I kind of spiraled out of control, trying to control my emotions," Sonta said.
"Love myself, I’m the one I like," she said, quoting the song. "Imagine the battles I fight."
"I had to learn to learn everybody's fighting a battle," Sonta reflected. "It’s just everybody's battle is different."
"I’ve been to so many funerals, I've seen so many mothers crying," she said. "After a while, it’s like, when will it stop?"
For Zeke Thomas and Sonta, the song is universal, applying to all trauma, whether it's rape, gun violence, or other suffering.
"For the people of Chicago, for the people of Florida, Vegas, it feels like the entire world is just in a state of shock," Zeke Thomas said, adding that he wants their song to "wake people up that we are a people of love."
"That’s what we are, that’s what a human being is," he continued. "When we are born into this world, we don’t know hate, we know love."
"Dealing With It" is available to stream on Spotify and Deezer, as well as to download on iTunes.