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A story of overcoming various traumas through developing a positive self-efficacy, education and faith. Discussing the affects of domestic violence, human trafficking, poverty in urban core communities and how to rebuild from all of that to become wholly successful and victorious.Share Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/MCCQt 0 views
|Biography & Memoir|
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The day that accepted that my life is my life and mine alone; I knew I'd overcome being a victim of Domestic Violence. I must tell you that this revelation did not come until the Summer of 2016. My first adult relationship was beyond toxic. I was a teen mom without a home to go to. My mother was ill; so was not able to help and my family well... we will leave that there as they had no clue of the life that I'd been living right under their noses. I was 17 years old. It took me until the age of 36 years old, losing just about everything around, going out of my mind and breaking inside for me to hit rock bottom and realize that even though I was no longer physically in the relationships but I was mentally and physically bound to those relationships. The memories were real, the pain in my body was definitely real... residue from being battered and abused at the hands of those who said that they cared for you. I was tortured and tormented by the past... I would run far away in my mind until I found a way to escape physically. I moved my kids and I to Rhode Island. I must say, that was the best thing that I'd ever done. I was able to better provide for my family and I learned that I really had what it took to stick it out. But success, education, etc was still not enough as I hadn't yet developed a positive self-efficacy. in 2016, the walls came tumbling down no degree, no drink, no club, no friend could console me. I had to reach within and face my truth... no matter how ugly it was. During that season, I really began to understand my worth. I started to love the woman within and to appreciate the woman without. I was able to forgive myself as well as all others that played a part in the drama. I became Victorious over Domestic Violence.
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THE CHRONICLES OF S.H.E. SURVIVING HUMILITY THROUGH EMPOWERMENT By Princess S. Booker
I sat down and took a deep breath; today is the day that I write my book. For so long I’d searched for help outside of myself. Due to distorted views of myself and misguided self- efficacy my life took several major twists and turns, each spiraling into dysfunctional behaviors of me trying to save myself by hiding myself. Should my memory serve me as correct, it was Walter Scott who stated, “O’ what a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive!” Ouch! That burns; the truth sure does hurt even when were unable to realize what truth really is. Life sure does go on. Life doesn’t take a break to allow you to catch up or realize reality or wait for you to reach an understanding... Life keeps moving. So, understanding that Life keeps moving we must also grasp the concept of as long as we allow ourselves to operate in a mindset of trauma we are deceiving ourselves and that deception grows as our lives and lives around us are moving forward. Ok, let’s expound on that a little. Operating in a traumatic state of mind, whether we know it or not most of us are on autopilot; our thoughts and actions are developed paradigms that were generated at the time of our conception formulated by our parents or household dynamics and honed as we became responsible for ourselves. With that understanding in mind we create our lives according to that structure; that example of living life. This design can either be a blessing or a curse or dare I say both; a blessing and a curse.
This is a story of Victory! My story speaks about the traumas that we created before our conception and thus born into. I walk through different phases of my experiences addressing the inability to cope with physical and psychological pain in healthy ways. This story isn’t for the squeamish or faint of heart. This is one bold revelation that must be told as we all shall live and not die!
I have been a person who loved to write; especially after being introduced to poetry forms such as Haiku in the seventh-grade. I remember my first poem vividly, The Way the Wind Blows.” While I will not recite it; I do remember the experience that I felt as I wrote it. I imagined a tree; an Oak tree to be exact swaying the wind. Who knew that my life would just that; a sway in the wind? I found myself in odd places doing strange things with a deep desire to live. To live?
Growing up I didn’t have a lot of positive role models. My life has been a great experiment of growth. I have had several inspirational teachers that poured bitter-sweet waters into my soul; because of them I am awake.
In my house there were no mirrors just images of faded, distorted dreams. In my house there was no laughter, just faint cries of bitterness and heartbreak. Screams and roars from drug addicted beasts. As the doors slam my body cringes for peace. My mind creates a place warm, and bright to escape to.
As I grew restless for a better existence, I began my experiment of joy and success by any means necessary. I traveled many miles as I was born to do. I explored the living and the things that the living do. Walking down dark, clouded paths I got lost in the streets. A young woman, not as big as flea, with hard as big as the sea... somebody had to rescue me.
There were no mirrors in my house just pictures of faded, distorted dreams. Broken glass releases the cold, chilling truth; you cannot recapture your youth and your present day sends you into dismay. Sighs, of what to do. Breaths of who to blame. Frowns of shame. And you lived thinking that life was a game.
When my heart was broken from harsh words spoken through time... I damn near lost my mind. Torn and broken, knee bent and hell bound, destined to where those shame frowns, I was low; low as the ground. When an Angel called my name, “Princess,” too lost to look up until I heard my name again, “Princess.” I looked up and there he was. He stood 5’11.5”, with warm brown eyes, chocolate skin, with a friendly grin. He reached for me with one hand and held a Bible in the other. He ministered to my broken spirit and kissed life into my heart. He walked a path that I followed which led me to today and opening up my tomorrow. I am awake.
I have mirrors in my house with prosperous dreams and laughter, no screams. I have colors in my house red, yellow, purple and green. There are flowers in my home, now there is
no reason for me to roam. I have Love in my Heart and I know... Love and I will never part. There is warmth and tranquility in my house as God lives there. I can sleep and a perfect sleep as I am safe with a peace that passes all understanding. I. Have. Mirrors. In. My. House. And they reflect Laughter and Smiles.
I wrote the poem Mirrors when I was in my early twenties. I would sit down in my room, turn on a nice tune by Erykah Badu; preferably Orange Moon. As Erykah bellowed the words, “I’m brighter than before...” I would imagine myself smiling and shining as the sun rays
bounced off of my ebony skin and feeling the vibrations. I would imagine myself happy. By
this time, I was already a single mother of two; without an education. Yep, no high school diploma; working dead-end job after job on welfare and Section 8...No hope for my future so I thought; unless GOD adhered to my prayers and sent me a man to take me away from my dismay. Searching outside of myself for all of the answers.
I found myself on a pattern I developed as a child; looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking back I never really had an understanding of how valuable I was. Being molested and silenced took away my power; took away my understanding of truth. My family had considered me to be liar; I later understood that calling me liar kept them from having to face their truths. My mom would pretty much lock me in our house; I could only go out for school, grocery and church. Occasionally, I was allowed to sit on my front porch. I’d made my bedroom my shell; my safe place.
Being molested is like murder and if you have never been molested or raped you'll never truly understand. It took me half my life to regain myself and to actually start to live my life after experiencing the traumas of molestation and rape. The most damaging thing was not having any one in my corner and nowhere to run. My grandmother told me one night when I was about 12 years old; "...if you ever want them to stop crawling in your room at night sleep with a butcher’s knife...and when they come show them that you got it." That let me know right there, that everyone knew what was happening to me and it was up to me to stop it. I did exactly that; I stopped it...but something inside of me changed.
Self-destruction was the spirit that I’d inhabited without knowing. I had hopes, dreams and aspirations but they were diminished by the tortures of all that I’d allowed myself to go through because I didn’t know any other way. My mental health was always mocked in my household. Throughout my childhood I was called names like crazy, wild, fast etc. I heard these things so often until I started to believe that I was crazy and wild. I was too afraid to be “fast” but I was promiscuous in a sense as I didn’t know how to say “NO.” Hmmm, what if I were told how beautifully intelligent I am, how graceful and loved I am... what a difference life may have been for us all.
My Aunt (Patricia) would always call me the prettiest black girl she’d seen. As I grew, she’d tell me that I should explore a career as a model. I didn’t know why she would such things to me as I had not a clue how delightfully sublime I was. I knew that I was kind of cute but pretty enough to model; yeah right. At any rate, just hearing my aunt say those words to me was a major confident changer; if only for a moment. The highlight of my days were getting out school and clocking into work- getting off from work and going to the club with my older girlfriends. I love music and I absolutely need to dance.
My momma called me Chrissy a few times; yes Chrissy from the television Three’s Company. I was tall for my age, socially awkward and quite clumsy. Ya know? I am still quite clumsy; I bump into everything. Hey, I get a good laugh out of it though and so do the on lookers. I’ve been called names like Olive Oyl-skinny with big breast, Torpedo-my mom bought me old lady bras and they my breasts stick out like missiles. I didn’t like those names but hey I didn’t take ownership of the name that I’d been given so it’s a free for all.
“What’s In a Name?” William Shakespeare asks in the timeless romance of Romeo and Juliet. I didn’t feel like a Princess...I didn’t feel like much of anything or anyone.
Before, I just jump right into the real life of young, gifted, economically challenged and black; let me tell you a story of a girl who cried tears that she never understood. A story of a girl who feared no-one but herself and her momma. A young lady developing into a menace to society with eyes wide shut. Yes, that is me.
As a teenager, I thought I’d my life all figure out. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen and just knew I had what it took to make it in this world. I was mature enough to attend school without my mother having to wake me. I was mature enough to care for a house full of kids; almost better than any adult that I knew. I worked a full-time job and I bought my own clothes. Yep, I was ready for the world. Huh, the joke was on whom; me, that’s who.
By time I was thirteen; nothing really interesting happened in my life. Things started to shift a bit once my mother married my stepfather. My stepfather was in the U.S. Navy; I am not sure of his rank, but what I do know is our lives changed drastically. My mom was no longer a single-mother; although she was still married to my dad. (That’s another topic in itself.) There was more than one income coming into our home so of course life had gotten better for us. My now parents decided that the family needed a change and my stepdad was up for relocation. There was a choice between Scotland and Beltsville, Maryland. My parents chose the latter.
Moving to Maryland was a total game-changer for a girl like me. I mean back then I wasn’t quite girly; I was more tom-boy, a little dainty and a lot rugged. The women in family are women in every sense of the word but they’re ruthless. The young men in family are highly intelligent but they’re quite dangerous. The men in my family were just that men; country salt to the earth; men.
It was a bit difficult coming to terms with our new residence and way of life. I was never good at making friends; my younger brother was the more charismatic of the two of us. My mom was so over the top... hindsight I can understand why. My mother was finally happy to be able to give her children a safe environment to learn discover and grow. She’d enrolled us both into our respective schools; me being in the 8th grade, had to attend Buck Lodge Middle School located in Prince Georges County (PG County). My goodness; what a culture shock!
I’d attended school with different races but for the most part we were all from the same neighborhood. I was still socially awkward. Buck Lodge was truly a Mecca of culture for me at that time. I was exposed to different ethnic groups, real hip-hop, and real Latina/Latino culture. I was faced with the understanding of “Northern” urban cultural dynamics as oppose to my Florida Southern swag. I meet peers from Africa... yesssss AFRICA. Now, I’d friends from Africa living in my neighborhood in Jacksonville, but they were more American than I was. I heard languages that set my ears on fire. I heard music that resonated with my soul... I just didn’t understand how it all would play a part in my life.
I remember the first time I entered a classroom at Buck Lodge. Oh boy, what a mess. I felt like I was dressed to the nines. I went to the Gateway Flea Market and had a pair of shorts engraved with my name on them before we left Florida. I’d bought me fresh Charlotte Hornets shirts and a fresh pair of Charles Barkley’s. I put my hair up in the tightest ponytail and my edges were laid honey. Needless to say, I was ready...so I’d thought. Honey, we I got to the school I knew that I was not dressed “right.” Nevertheless, I stepped foot into my first class; and from there it was a real shit show.
First, the teacher didn’t even greet me; he just motioned for me to find a seat. I stood at the door looking around the trying to find the nearest yet most secluded seat in the room. Just then, a young boy name Erin (Earl) screamed across the room; “Why you carrying me YO?!” I had no idea who he was talking to nor did I understand his meaning. I continued to stand there looking for a seat...awkward because now everyone in class was looking at me including the damn teacher. By this time, Erin (Earl) made his way to his feet and walking in my direction shouting; “Why you carrying me YO?” I responded, “What are talking about I haven’t even picked you up Dawg?” The class was like, “Ooooooo she called you a dog.” I was oh ok here we go. I guess Erin (Earl) was like the head honcho at the school. At this point, he was close to me and shouting, “wait until class is over Imma get my girl Vanessa (Voncille) to beat your ass.” Now like I said, I was a bit rugged. I flat out told; “Dawg, don’t wait for your girl let’s get it nigga!” He started shouting, “You lucky I don’t hit girls.” Now that’s funny, back then I didn’t consider myself to be a girl; I was just Princess.
By now, the bell had sound to end class and here I am walking through the hallway searching for my next class and all I hear is female voices chattering about the new girl and what type of ass whooping I was about to catch. I was a bit nervous to be honest but my momma told me to stay ready for whatever and that’s what I did. I turned around and asked the group; “Now, who gone beat my ass.” They started talking about my outfit; of course. My hair was not up to their standard and that became the focal point... yet no one stepped to me in any way. I asked again, “Now who gonna beat my ass, again?” By this time, Erin (Earl) walked up grabbed Vanessa’s hand and guided her to her next class. I stood there; still ready for whatever. This cool chick walked up to me and said, “Hey! My name Suehail...I’m from Florida too...Broward County-Overtown.” I had no clue what Broward County and Overtown was but I was like what’s up Dawg. We chilled and then she introduced me to a few other real cool chicks and we just all vibed. Needless to say, I went home and vowed that I would never step foot back into that school again. My parents questioned why and emotionally explained to them that I had to change my dress code ASAP. Boy, the issues of drama teen. My stepdad looked at my momma and said; “Cynt, let’s take these kids shopping. I told you they were going to need new clothes.” My momma laughed... she was a bit old fashioned, yet she agreed. The next day at school was a bit better. I still never understood why Erin came at me so hard... but I am glad that I reciprocated his energy or else I would have been bullied the remainder of the school year.
It was the Summer of ’94, 8th grade graduation time. I was glad to be entering high school but not in Maryland. I still had no friends in my neighborhood and my little brother was starting to make me jealous of his social life. How pathetic is that? Not as pathetic as your mom going out making friends for you and then bringing them to the house for you to meet. OMG!
After getting pregnant at seventeen years old and having my baby girl at the age of eighteen years old; life became sort of a blur. I moved in with her father who really didn’t want me there but I was what they called “In House Pussy.” Yes, I said it...It distinctly meant that my daughter’s father had access to my body at his will since we lived in the same home. I felt like I was being raped every time he touched me; but where would I go? I couldn’t go home; nobody wanted me there; at least that’s the way it seemed at the time.
While I’d just had my eighteenth birthday, Perry; my daughter’s father was twenty-three years old. I was always told that I should date men older than I; my family considered me to be quite “mature” for my age. I later found out what they meant by that. I physically developed earlier than my peers and I’d been what they considered “exposed,” “touched,” to say it blatantly raped. So, I dated Perry, made a child with Perry and later moved in with Perry. People always made fun of how Ike Turner beat Tina Turner but no one would have guessed that Ike couldn’t hold a candle to Perry. He’d beat me for overcooking the food. “He’d hit me because I was too smart. He’d hit me because I... was me. I couldn’t go home at this point if I’d wanted to. My mother was hospitalized for a brain aneurysm. She’d had surgery and survived but she was on the road to recovery. My family pretty much banished me from coming home... my aunt lied to my stepfather about my daughter’s dad staying over to the house which simply wasn’t true. No one asked me the truth so my stepdad kicked me out. Phase-three of self-destruction...
This question would always linger in the back of my sub-conscious; “Who can I run to?” Seriously, who could I turn to in my desperate hour? Once my mother was released from the hospital from having recovered from a Neurological surgery that removed an aneurysm, she sent for me. I was little relieved but I was also nervous as I didn’t quite know what to expect. I would guess that I chose to move back as that trauma was more familiar than what I was currently experiencing. While I definitely didn’t realize that I was traumatized then; I knew that I wouldn’t have to fight or be beaten like that if I went back to my momma house who was then living in my grandmother’s house.
Perry and I lived on the Northside of Jacksonville just off of Moncrief Road and Myrtle Avenue. I was sitting on the bed in our room watching some random show thinking about how scared I was going to be when it got dark while Perry was at work and I would be in the house alone. As I was contemplating how I would escape the apartment if someone broke in; I heard a knock at the front door. It was still daylight so I shimmied myself out of bed; by this time I was about five months into my pregnancy. I walked slowly to the door shouting, “Who is it?” The voice coming from the other side of the door was quite refreshing. It was my cousin, Kamryn. Happy to hear her voice, I put a little rush in my steps towards the door. As I opened the door, I could smell her perfume as usual it hid the faint smells of marijuana. Be that as it may, I was happy to see my cousin.
As I opened the door, Kamryn pushed her way through the front door while greeting me as well as assessing my living conditions. Kamryn asked, “What you doing in here?” “Why is it so dark in here,” she asked. I passively responded, “Nothing, just sitting here watching t.v.” She says to me, “Get dressed your momma is out of the hospital and she wants to see you.” Inside I cried on the outside I was a little apprehensive as I didn’t know what to expect. I was no longer her little girl any more as there I stood bare foot, nappy headed and five months pregnant. I went into my room and started to dress myself; however, nothing seemed suitable to wear. I decided to put on a grey Tommy Hilfiger dress that Perry had stolen during one of his many smash and grab escapades in Georgia. I’d combed my short hair down to be as styled as it could be as it had not been properly treated in months. We walked out of the door; I was unable to lock the door as I didn’t have a key... Kamryn asked, “Why you ain’t lock the door, Princess?” I told her that I didn’t have a key to lock the door; that Perry just assumes that I am not going anywhere. Perry’s assumption was typically correct as I was somewhat afraid to leave out of the house due to the nature of the neighborhood and I didn’t have my own money.
Kamryn and I drove silently to my grandmother’s house which is where I would find my momma waiting for me. I slowly exited the vehicle due to my state of being as well as apprehension. As I walked through the door my heart hit the floor as soon as my eyes met the eyes of my mother. My momma was not her best self but she stood up to greet and embrace me with tears in her eyes. The hug she gave me was one asking, “What has happened to my baby?” I embraced her but I felt an enormous amount of anger brewing in my soul as she asked me where I’d been and why I’d left home. I didn’t want to hurt her so I kept the truth to myself.
The truth is, when I became pregnant I was still living at home. After my mom was admitted into the hospital for the aneurysm, I’d invited my baby’s daddy sister, Jessica, over to braid my hair since I was still considered a child and could not make the decision to stay out late. Jessica came over and braided my hair into Mircobraids; it took forever. Hours had gone by and just as she finished I noticed that Jessica was too tired to drive home; it was already 1:00AM. I’d called my momma’s hospital room and asked her if Jessica could stay; my mom said yes. Later that morning, my Aunt Pamela stopped by for whatever reason and saw that Jessica was asleep on the sofa. I guess her seeing that, she assumed whatever...I can’t tell you what she was thinking but I can tell you what she did. She waited until my stepdad came home from work and told him that I’d had my baby’s daddy sleeping over and that it was time for me to go since I was the one that was stressing my momma out which ultimately put my momma in the hospital with the aneurysm. Wow, how awful is that? My stepdad listened to her and put me out. That twisted deed turned my life upside down. I dropped out of school being a child and pregnant, I was not prepared for the hardships that I was facing and about to face.
Nevertheless, after visiting with my mom and family, I was convinced to move back home; into my grandmother’s home. It was cool at first as my grandparents had turned the den area of the home into my bedroom. The atmosphere was very familiar as that was the house that I’d grew up in as a child, yet things were very different. My little brother, who was just two years younger than I, was now selling and doing drugs with a baby on the way too. The effects of substance abuse lingered heavily in the atmosphere, but it was home... the lesser of two evils.
Catching the evening bus from school was always refreshing as it meant that I was only few moments of indulging in my chocolate donuts my grandmother would stop and get me from Dunkin Donuts; they were my absolute favorite. I can taste them now. One particular ride home with always stand out in my mind, the late afternoon of October 9, 1998, it was a Friday. School had just let out and I’d made my way to my bus. I sat in the front seat to the right as it was required considering my “condition.” The ride started off as our typical ride home; one bus stop after the next and a group of kids would make their way down the stairs existing the bus. Well, our driver got distracted and almost missed someone’s stop; the bus driver slammed on breaks.
Reformation of a Queen
Man, I can remember waking up in bed with two thousand and one thoughts racing in my head. So much to do in so little time, I just knew I was losing my mind.
Each day I approached as if I had died the day before. I knew what I wanted and knew how to get it...but where would I obtain it?
My mission; I had made too complexed, you see. Dang! What was sometimes obvious to you was a mystery to me. And the funny thing is; this is me. I made a statement once, “I never travel through one thought.” It’s true.
My mind is so open and free, there are no boundaries within me. I think about many things on many different levels. I focus. Because I focus on three different subjects and other objects, do you think I am losing my mind?
Life tried to ball me up, chew me up, and spit me out...but I just wouldn’t crumble. My father abandoned a flower to be raped and abused, at other times missed used. My Mother with God’s help reformed a Queen.
I was born with the thunder and lightning; Sounds descending loud and proud...The sun kissed my tears...The moon healed my hurts...The stars held my opportunities...I reached for them and now I am redeemed.
Through many of life’s adversities I have stood, I am standing, I will stand.
Strong is my spirit, complex is my mental...misunderstood by those who approach me with a carnal mind. Yet, I have risen above troubled waters just to face the plight of another day. Still I look forward to it. Hope is what my heart is made of.
Today I am born. My eyes are open to where they once were shut. I can see the road clear. I know exactly where I am headed. People and their issues seem so different now...Since my head is above the water; Conscious!
I am awake...I can no longer sleep. I have been saved from “The Destruction of the African-American Civilization.” I have built my house on the highest hill in the village near the horizon. I have begun the birth of a tribe. A tribe of myself...Love!
Born May 23, 1980, in Jacksonville, Florida in University Hospital to Cynthia Brown and Billy Booker; a bald-headed chocolate baby girl. My parents weren’t married at the time so I inherited my mother’s surname last name Brown; which she obtained from a previous marriage. At the time of my birth, my father was deployed as he was a fairly new Navy Sergeant. The story told is that my father was on the phone during my birth and named me Princess after a girl that he’d grown up with. I do not recall my adolescent years prior to four years old; so growing up in a two parent household is not memory. My father abandoned our family when I was four years old. He’d left my mom, my brother and me in a small town in Texas. My grandmother says that my great-grandparents had to drive from Florida to Texas to rescue us from despair. Like I said, I really do not recall much prior to moving to Florida; yet the Chronicles of S.H.E. was formed that year.
Growing up in Silver Creek Apartments wasn’t so bad. I was able to roam the neighborhood freely. My friends and I would play dodge ball, hop scotch and make mud pies. My favorite activity was break-dancing with my cousin Mouse and doing random weird stuff around the projects with my cousin Snookie. Wait, like the time it’s was pouring down raining outside and Snookie had gotten soaked. He knew that he couldn’t enter his momma’s house wet; so he asked me to walk over to the community laundromat with him. I did as asked; I mean he was my big cousin and he always had all of the best snacks and came up with the best outdoor games. We walked to the laundromat and we found ourselves standing in front of the dryers. I had no idea why we were standing there. Snookie looked over at me and said, “Cuz, I have two quarters. When I get in the dryer, put one quarter in that lil’ slot and then push the start button right there. When I knock on the glass hurry up and open the door so I can get out.” I replied, “Okay.” Snookie climbed inside of the dryer and I performed as instructed. He knocked on the door from the inside of the dryer but I had a tough time opening the door due to the pressure and I was so small; however, I finally got the door open, Snookie jumped out. I remember thinking, “My cousin is a genius.” Snookie turned and asked me, “Why didn’t you hurry up and open the door?” I replied, “I was trying but the door was stuck.” He then asks, “Am I dry enough?” To which I replied, “Not all the way.” He responded, “At least it’s not as bad as it was. Now let’s go in the house before momma get off from work.” We left the laundromat as if what we’d done was completely normal.
How about the time when I visited my friend who lived adjacent to a grumpy old white man and I parked my brand new Strawberry Shortcake bike on their shared porch? As I knocked on my friend’s door hoping that she was able to come out and play, the grumpy old white man opened his door and yelled, “Get your damn bike off of my porch” and threw my bicycle in the dirt. I was very angry and I responded, “Imma go get my cousin Snookie and we gonna beat your ass.” Now the language I used would not have been approved by my mom but my cousins taught me to be tough. It was hell growing up in the projects without a backbone. I picked up my bike and rode around until I found my cousin. Now Snookie was only a few years older than I. We went back around there and stormed that man’s door with our fist screaming out all sorts of obscene words. Looking back, the man was only frustrated because were so rude and the once quiet neighborhood had turned into “The Hood” if you know what I mean.
It was the early 1980s; crack cocaine had hit the streets all across America. The city of Jacksonville was no exception. The influx of cocaine powder caused approximately an 80% drop in street value. Drug dealers being faced with the issue of losing profit, came up with the idea to convert the cocaine powder into crack, a solid form of cocaine that could be smoked versus snorted. Crack was a street hustler’s dream as it produces an instant high and its users become addicted in a very short time. I’ve heard some crack addicts say that the first smoke got them hooked as they are always chasing that initial “high”/feeling.
The biggest surge in the use of the drug occurred during the “crack epidemic,” between 1984 and 1990, when the drug spread across American cities. The crack epidemic dramatically increased the number of Americans addicted to cocaine. In 1985, the number of people who admitted using cocaine on a routine basis increased from 4.2 million to 5.8 million. Unfortunately, my mother as well as so many others in my family was amongst that 5.8 million. When my mom first started smoking crack cocaine, my brother and I were completely oblivious. Life was life and all we knew was mom was a having a bit of a hard time being a single mom and all. However, in the projects 95% of the households consisted of single mothers having a hard time; we were all struggling and didn’t know it. Hell, the 5% of the homes with fathers/boyfriends/live-ins were struggling too.
“Your momma’s on crack rock.” “No, not my momma.” As my mother’s addiction grew beyond her control our home started to crumble. It’s funny the things that you member, like the time Ms. Sheila came to our house to confront my mom about a drug deal gone wrong or what have you. I was sitting on the stairs attempting to play jackstones; I was horrible at the game.
As I started to get frustrated I saw Ms. Sheila walking towards our house. She made her way up the stairs, walked pass me without even speaking. In a sarcastic voice, I mumbled, “Hey Ms. Sheila.” She knocked at our door with frustration. My mom opened the door and kindly asked her to leave. While the conversation they were having is a blur, I can recall the angry hand gestures. Ms. Sheila was pointing her finger at mom and yelling loudly. My momma said, “Sheila as long as you don’t touch me we alright; so gon’ and leave.” Ms. Sheila’s index finger touched my momma’s shoulder and from there it was all she wrote. My mom picked Ms. Sheila up and body slammed her. See what Ms. Sheila did not know, my momma used to be a welterweight female boxer in Bethstuy, New York. My mom beat Ms. Sheila something terrible. I even got a few licks in, which I regretted later because my mom got on my behind for doing so.
After the fight was over, Ms. Sheila gathered her bearings and made her way back to her mother’s house in Caravan Apartments that were adjacent from our apartment complex, Silver Creek. It was on from there. You see Ms. Sheila was the sister of a well-known crime family. Less than 20 minutes had gone by from the time Ms. Sheila had left our house, two car loads of men drove up and jumped out from their cars. They ran up our stairs and banged at our door. My mother was adamant about keeping the door locked. My cousin Mouse, who was 15 years old at the time, had come over for a visit. My granddaddy Allen had stopped by as well. As the men were knocking at our door, my mother was explaining to my granddaddy that the men had come for her because she’d just been in a fight with Ms. Sheila. My granddaddy wanted to reason with the angry mob of men. My mother pleaded with him to not open the door; he opened the door anyway.
The violent men came rushing through the door. My mother fought them as best she as she could. There were at least five men attacking my mom at one time. My momma had a mean left hook and she was using every ounce of it. My cousin Michael was fighting about three men himself until an older gentleman pulled out what seemed to be the biggest knife I’d ever seen and put to my cousin’s throat while ordering my momma to stop fighting or he would kill my cousin. I saw the look of defeat in my momma’s eyes. She stopped fighting and the angry mob beat my mother something fierce. That day, I swore that no one would ever hurt my mom again... No one!
Dear momma, why’d it have to be so rough? As time went by, the crack epidemic had taken its toll on much of the neighborhood. From drug dealers, to addicts, to violence...it all became life for us. Escaping was never a thought for me; I just wanted to know to use the Game to my advantage and make my family better. It never occurred to me that there was another way to live for you brown skinned girl like ME. You see, what life was for some other girl at that time was different from mine. I never thought about what it would be like to live like the other side. I just wanted to come up so that the other kids in the neighborhood would stop picking on me and my brother. I wanted all the adults to stop putting their mouths on my mother. Yeah, our female neighbors had a lot to say about my mom at the time. Yeah Cynt; my momma, was on crack and it had become quite apparent that she was losing a grip. Needless to say, those same women were coming to see my mom for help; as they’d gone through all of their food stamps/welfare for the month and their Sugar-Daddies were nowhere to be found which left them wanting... yeah, they needed food. However, I digress as I get a little bitter about this part.
I can’t remember my exact age but I remember my mom having company over. It was a classmate that she’d known more than half her life; Melvin or “Mr. Melvin” is what we called him. That night my mom and Mr. Melvin shared a few laughs, smoked a little weed; they chatted about old times. The night came upon them and mom had asked Mr. Melvin to leave. He bellowed a chuckle that was a weird awkward sound and I could hear the shakiness in my mom’s voice as she repeated herself asking Mr. Melvin to leave. I heard Mr. Melvin begin to sing, “Eb, Ebenezer...” I hear this song in my nightmares. By this time my mother was crying and begging him to stop. “Come on now Melvin. Don’t do this. My kids are in the other room; please Melvin no don’t do this to me.” I just remember her crying all night long.
My brother and I were in my bedroom which sat adjacent to our living room. I could see and hear everything. We were devastated. As our mother lay on our sofa crying tears of despair; my brother and I were in my room balling our eyes out. We were too young to fully understand what had happened yet we understood exactly what had happened. Trauma...never discussed; never acknowledged. Yet, it festers inside of each us, torturing us.
As time progressed, my mother decided to check herself into a drug rehabilitation facility. My goodness, a child without a mother in the hands of a dysfunctional family is bad; let alone two children. Once my momma decided to check herself into the rehabilitation facility she’d entrusted us with our Aunt Birdie. At the time, Aunt Birdie was a pretty cool person, so we thought. She had one child, my cousin Ariel. I can’t quite remember how old Ariel was when all of this took place but she’s 3 years younger than me. My Aunt needed a place to stay so she and my mom agreed that my aunt would move into our place and care for us during her stint in rehab. What my mother didn’t know was that my Aunt Birdie was battling an addiction of her own. Yep, she was addicted to crack cocaine too. So, the saga continues.
During my mom’s stint in Rehab things were beginning to be revealed. Stories were starting to be shared through verbal as well as non-verbal communication all while my brother and I were in the midst. It was like they didn’t care how we felt as they discussed my mother in such a negative light. I once heard my Aunt Pat ridicule my mom for smoking crack; she was made a statement that went something like this, “Cynt, gon’ tell me that ‘Gain took her in the woods and at gunpoint raped and her forced her to hit the pipe.” Now my mom had confided in her sister and look what she did. Now imagine hearing that your mom had been raped at gunpoint by your uncle and forced to smoke crack before you could even understand what all of that meant. Conversations such as this were only one of many.
My mom was away for a quite a while; my brother and I were left in the care of our maternal relatives, those related through our mother's side of the family. While we knew and loved everyone; it never felt quite right being there. We were provided with food made with soulful Southern flare. We would play games with our cousins and friends. And boy, we would sing and dance...those were the good times. Then there were those dark days; when physical abuse took command of the atmosphere and tears would flow and dreams would become shattered. Further dismay, that there was no way out, I’d stop believing so. My family’s expression of love was often tied to food. For example, my grandfather would say things like, “You gotta know that we love ya’ll; we clothed and feed ya!” Statements such as that were spoken so often, I’d started to believe that and associate love with food and what someone does for me...tangible. Miseducation can be damning.
My face is no longer familiar; my eyes do not show the passion they once inspired; I am not what you remember. I am forgotten...my face is no longer familiar.
Your touch makes me nervous. Your gaze is not sexy, it’s frightening. Your love making molests me, I’m tired! You are a stranger...You are no longer familiar.
My sun no longer rises northeast; the moon no longer lights my night. I am alone. This house has made me blue, I’m so sick of you; in my heart I have a home and it’s always with me. This place is no longer familiar.
Open my eyes, open my eyes, o’pen my eyes and to my surprise standing there in your miraculous glory, Moon light shining brightening my night; enhancing my soul. Words of love flowed from your mouth to my inner most emotions. Spirits within yelling intercourse! You’re now a part of me and this is so familiar.
In my mind, like yesterday, recurrences of you, these beautiful feelings, hurt and despair...I am reminded of you, but...with a different voice.
O’ how I long to reach you, to show you I understand you, to give you peace; to allow you sweet release...no struggle no pain. Why can’t you see I am you! I love me loving you.
After the age of 19 years old, I decided to move out on my own; again. What an
experience; to say the least? I moved into an apartment complex on Bert Road in Jacksonville, Florida. Let’s just say the neighborhood was just a half a step above from my environment when living with Perry. I'd gotten myself set-up rather nicely. I’d rented an upstairs one bedroom apartment; it was cute and quaint just enough for myself and my little girl. I’d found a telemarketing position not far from the complex it paid well enough for the time. I was able to pay my bills and secure my rent payments on-time; so to me that was good. Here comes that old dog sniffing around again... yep, my baby daddy needed a place to live. He’d gotten himself evicted. He came to me and said these exact words, “Hey, I need somewhere to go. I helped you when you was pregnant with nowhere to go.” He was right... so I allowed him to move-in which re-kindled our relationship of horror. Oh gosh, whhhhyy did I allow him to do this? I would ask myself this question daily and never had an answer.
It didn’t take long for the abuse to start. Perry worked nights and was often gone. The nights were quite peaceful but the days were too long. The weekends belong to me and my baby girl as Perry would hang out with his friends along with his cousin DJ. Perry cheated on me often with some wretched women and would bring back to my body curable sexually transmitted diseases. I would get treated and move on. I mean, what was I going to do? How do you leave your own home again? He was a good father to our daughter even though he despised me. I could take the foolishness as long as my daughter has her dad in her life; I would suffer through it. My life is no longer my own... my life...what life?
This nightmare lasted for almost 2 years. Soon after moving into my home; Perry’s family followed suite. His mom and two aunts had both move into my apartment along with a cousin and great-cousin of his. Picture it... this is a one bedroom apartment on Bert Road in Jacksonville, Florida that now occupied nine (9) people. Lord, have mercy the apartment was just over 700sq ft. I’d started working at First Union National Bank in their Collections Department and I also took on a second job at the Family Dollar which sat adjacent to my apartment complex. I was the only person out of nine people that paid the bills. Yes, rent, lights, water and grocery. I was also starting to notice that I am becoming the sole caretaker for our daughter.
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