The chains are broken. You broke them. I broke them. We broke them together.
Born to a teenage mother, perpetuating the troublesome cycle, at 17, I too became a teenage mother. Yet, MY truth be told, I became way more than that. I became your mother, I became me.
Your birth altered the course of my life and altered the course of my reality. Your birth placed me in a position to have to fight the greatest battle of all time (well in my mind); it placed me in a position to RISE up, rise up out of all the woes condemned for a teenage mother and rise up out of all the woes condemned for a child of a teenage mother.
Your birth was revolutionary, it changed my life, which universally, has and will continue to change the lives of many.
I remember living in the "projects" (as they call them, we call them "pyramids") in Irvington, New Jersey with no food to eat. All I had was spaghetti noodles and sauce, and even the sauce we were running out of. I calculated my money and I had enough to get back and forth to work, but not enough for the both of us to eat, so I didn't. I didn't eat for three days so you could. I went to work and drank coffee to keep me going, I added half a cup of creamer and eight packs of sugar to make it filling. Gross, right? I know. On the last day of the three, I picked you up from work, you were sick and threw up on the bus.
The author pictured with her daughterCourtesy of Dr. Malachi
Hungered, and frustrated, I said, "Oh nooo Sareen, maaaan come on." Another passenger said to me, "It's not her fault," and I responded, "I know, I'm sorry, I'm so very sorry, I'm just exhausted." By that time, we were already on our fourth bus, one hour into our two-hour journey home. When we got home, I had nothing to feed you that would soothe your aching belly, all I had was those spaghetti noodles and sauce. So, I boiled water, boiled the noodles and put a hell of a lot of spices in it and called it soup. You ate it and you felt better. I was still hungry, but I didn't care, all that mattered was you felt better. On this very day, I said NO MORE.
Teenage mother or not, I refused to allow my child to experience these circumstances.
I refused to allow you to live in the "projects", a home filled with roaches, where bloods were tagging up the building, and drug transactions were taking place in the stairwells.
I refused to allow you to live in a neighborhood where victims of the crack epidemic roamed freely in the streets, looking for their next hit, pipe in hand. I refused to allow YOU to become another statistic, a "fatherless", "born to a teenage mother", raised in the "ghetto" (as they call it, others call it "home") statistic.
On this day, I became a warrior, a fighter, I became sister Betty Shabazz. I became Queen of Sheba. I became Oshun's daughter. I became courage, strength, fortitude, destiny. I became the best version of your mother I could possibly be. I dropped to my knees in plight and rose to my feet in strength and I began to fight!
I fought EVERY SINGLE destructive thing that would get in my path. I balled up my fist, I stuck out my chest, and I fought.
I fought as you watched. You watched me rise. You watched me scream out when I felt like I would break and could no longer endure. You watched me cry out when I had a broken heart, you watched me in fury, you watched me in rage, you watched me roar like a lioness in the jungle watching over her cub. You watched me come up against oppressors, you watched me in elation, you watched me praise. You watched me rise. You watched me become a Social Psychologist (of all things), the President and Chairman of Determined to Obtain Pure Excellence youth development program, an author, and a woman of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Innnnnnncorporated. You watched. You watched me win the war, the battle I fought with all my strength so that you could win.
Lord God, I still have no idea what that rise looked like from your eyes and still, I may be too sensitive to hear it, to hear your truth. But in my sensitivity, I will never shield you from telling it, as I've always taught you to speak your mind and to SPEAK YOUR TRUTH.
The author's newly graduated daughterCourtesy of Dr. Malachi
This morning, I woke up and realized that I can finally put my weapons down, that the battle is over and I no longer have to fight for you to live.
Graduating from high school with a 4.1 weighted GPA, I no longer have to fight. Graduating from high school with approximately $1,000,000 in scholarship offers, I no longer have to fight. Attending a top performing arts school in the fall, I no longer have to fight. Selected to speak at Kenwood Academy's high school graduation, I no longer have to fight. The war is won man, it's over! Statistically, we were slated to fell, yet, we won! We fucking won! We rose above our circumstances, no we soared above our circumstances.
Battle scars, bruises to our egos, bruises to our spirit, bruises to our hearts, bruises to our soul, bruises that will heal and fade in time, bruised but victorious -- we are victorious!
Now that we've won, I've taken off my armor, my shield is down and I can be vulnerable once again. Vulnerable and soft; a feminine-energy-that-can-heal-a-nation kind of soft. The kindest, most loving, most giving version of myself that I can be for you, your sister, the world and most importantly for me. However, this does not mean I will ever stop fighting for you; I will tear up the concrete from the road with my bare hands should something happen to you. It sounds impossible, but I am certain I possess this kind of strength. For because of you, I know where the strength of a mother lies. I know where my strength lies.
The chains are broken. We broke them. Together, united as mother and daughter, in a single solitary queendom, we broke them. The chains are broken.
Be Blessed my Daughter,
Dr. Niama T. Malachi is a Social Psychologist, Author, and President and Chairman of D.O.P.E., Inc. (Determined to Obtain Pure Excellence).
Featured image courtesy of Dr. Malachi