My mother and I did a workshop together at Creative Arts High School in Camden for a beautiful group of young ladies called “Girl Talk.” When we walked into the room, there was a lavish spread of tacos, chicken, garden salad, fruit salad, juice, bottles of water, salsa etc… and after we spoke, they presented us with flowers and awesome gifts. We really felt special!
My mother spoke first. She talked about her childhood and early adulthood. She described the beatings she used to get from her parents and how she would pretend she was deathly afraid of the switch. She demonstrated how she would shake and look as crazy as she possibly could to avoid getting hit. Next, she explained how difficult it was for her being a teenage mom who was in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend. She told them to run as far away as they could from any guy who is possessive and controlling. Then, she explained how she was book smart, but not street smart, and as a result would end up in some awful situations, asking herself, “How did I get into this, and how am I going to get out it?”
My Mother in the early 70s
The last issue my mother covered concerning her private life was her mother’s death. She explained that her mother was murdered by a man she had only known for seven months. “Just seven months,” she repeated. “He shot her three times before killing himself.” The girls looked at her in disbelief. My mother continued, ” You know…I was living in my mother’s house, depending on her to a great degree, and then, she was murdered. I was all alone. I had to take care of my three year old, and I had a younger sister.”
At that moment, my mother got really serious. She pointed at the group, squinted, and twisted her mouth slightly before she spoke. I knew that she was about to get real with them. She said, “You know, I was twenty-one when my mother died. And when she was murdered, I didn’t have anybody to really help me out. My mother was gone and I had this little girl to take care of. It was like the rug was just pulled up from under me. You know, before you know it, all of you are going to be grown. You don’t have as long as you think you have before you turn eighteen. You need to start preparing. By the time you’re 18, you’re either going to do one of two things. You are either going to sink or swim. You have to have a plan.”
She further explained that they have people who care about them. “You have a support system today that I did not have when I was your age, so you can make it through.” She said she knew they could make it through since she had made it through with very little support, other than a welfare check that she was really grateful for. She described how, in spite of all she had gone through, she graduated from community college and then from Rutgers-Camden with honors. She encouraged them to stay in school and told them whenever they have problems, communicate with the adults who truly care about them–adults like counselors and volunteers who lead Girl Talk.
I spoke next. I talked to them about supporting each other instead of judging one another. I explained that I have been guilty of judging people more often than I would like to admit. “We don’t know what people walk up out of every morning or return home to every evening. We just don’t know, ” I explained, “so keep that in mind when you are dealing with people.” I continued, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through, and my mom doesn’t look like what she’s been through. You can’t look at people and see their story, so just be there for each other.”
We love you, Girl Talk!
You have blessed our lives!!!
My Mother : )