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Escaping An Abusive Relationship Led To My Success

Thankfully, even when in pain, the hustle in me was never affected.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Cherisse Jamison's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I found out I was adopted when I was 12 years old—which sucked.

But my parents never treated me any differently from my siblings. I lived in a two-parent home, something not very common were I'm from. My dad has six kids, none of which graduated from high school. Because of this, people expected me to fail, or get pregnant early, and drop out of school. It was crazy.

When I turned 21, my curiosity got the best of me and I made the decision to look into obtaining my adoption records. I always had the urge to find out who I was, and was met with road blocks when searching before. One day out of the blue, while at home for the summer, I randomly received my adoption records in the mail. Oh my goodness, I remember being so excited.

I'm finally going to be able to meet my biological family!

I literally could not open it fast enough. Once I finished ripping open the envelope, I was instantly devastated to see the agency literally marked out all names, all addresses. Basically, all the important information that could lead me to finding my biological family.

Heartbroken.

I immediately began scrambling to find my original birth certificate, which listed my biological name before it was changed. I also found small details that had descriptions of my parents and grandparents, my two siblings which I learned both lived in my same state. And...a church.

First, I decided to call the hospital. The hospital no longer had any record, being that it was many years ago, so I decided to switch my attention to the church. I came across a YouTube channel, which belonged to a young musician who was also a member of this church. I eventually found him on Facebook, sent him a message, and he responded almost immediately. Initially, he thought it was a joke or a scam, but I ended up convincing him to give me a call.

His name was J—we were only four years apart. He told me that we, biologically, had the same last name and that 90% of that church would be my family if this were true. We all hopped on a call with his grandmother, where he explained the situation as she listened to the same details I gave J. Hesitant, she told him to reach out to his mom, which he did.

Moments later, it was confirmed. He called me back crying, and saying that his mom admitted to him being my brother.

The crazy part of all of this is the fact that this all happened in the same day. Me receiving a letter from the agency, and by 10:00 that night, finding my birth mother.

I met them in person and as time passed, we kept in contact until I graduated college. I decided to move closer to them for what was supposed to be only a summer, permanently. Admittedly, during this time, I was warned from my other siblings about my mom. But me, desperately wanting to foster a relationship with that side of my identity, didn't listen.

This is my biological mother. Nothing is going to stop me from being near her.

I decided to move in with her. And it wasn't long after that, that everything changed.

She became very narcissistic. A scammer. Neglectful to my younger brother. I witnessed multiple men come in and out in a week. And as a grown ass woman, it was a lot for me to take in. I never witnessed a "mother" move in the matter she did. Every attempt I made to get closer to her, she denied. There were times where I would get off work around 10pm every night and she would let me walk from the store to her house. Never bothered to come get me or even made sure I made it home. One day, I overheard a phone conversation she was having and during the call she was discussing me:

"I never came looking for her, she was looking for me."

"I wish she would go back to the people she came from."

I don't think there's a word for how hurt I was. I moved away from everything that I ever knew to build a relationship with her, and I was rejected in every way.

Soon, I ended up meeting a guy named [redacted] at work (for the sake of the story, let's call him Abusive Andy). Like a fragile child, that in hindsight I truly was, I instantly fell for his charm basically due to me being insecure, depressed, and now, homesick. I spent about two weeks with him, going back and forth. I would literally only go to my mom's house to get clothes and leave. He would pick me up and take me to work and treated me what seemed, at the time, like royalty. One day, while I was at Abusive Andy's house, I received a message from my biological mom saying I had three days to packs my things and return her key. She never gave me an explanation, nor did she bother to care where I would go. I spent a week living in a hotel while I figured out what I would do. Returning home was no longer an option, and my parents had no idea what was even going on.

Andy suggested I move in with him. And after only a month of knowing him, I moved in.

At first, everything was great and I felt protected. But like my mother, a couple weeks later, everything changed. He became very controlling, loud, and angry. It seemed like everything I did, or didn't do, made him upset. He once slapped me for not folding clothes the way he liked, which, of course, he apologized for and I brushed it off as him having a bad day. But still, we would fight every single day. He made me cut off all my friends and I became very isolated from everyone. I became even more depressed, very quiet, I gained a lot of weight as well.

And the thing about it is, Abusive Andy knew I had no family or anyone that I could call on for help. He preyed on it.

I kept protecting him because I loved him and I knew I had nowhere else to go. But the final straw came when I witnessed him fight his mother in front of me. Who would put their hands on their own mother?

He then turned and started beating me, and his mom did nothing and said nothing.

It was time to go. After a final fight, I picked myself up, filed a retraining order, and got the hell away from it all.

--

Thankfully, even through the pain, the hustle in me was never affected. I began to throw myself into work. In college, I would write songs for local artists, blog, and more. One day, I received a message on Instagram from Party Hardly, over at Hip Hop Weekly. He said he heard a lot about me and wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing for the platform, which of course, I was. My reputation and personal brand took off and eventually, I began receiving media invites for award shows, movie premieres, and all things red carpet. I revamped my brand to 'Keeping Up With Kells', opening myself to more diverse markets. Soon after, I covered the VMAs, The Grammys, Black Girls Rock, BET Hip Hop Awards, Soul Train, and more.

And now, I represent and work with multiple celebrities, independent artists, and entrepreneurs as a publicist. Everything I learned over the years was self-taught. I had no role models, I had no internships, or mentors. I did, however, have a lot of heartache, a lot of pain.

And so many of us are walking around with the same. So many of us create paths, while simultaneously carrying around our brokenness. But God is keeping us, ladies. He's not allowing us to be broken, He didn't allow me to be broken. I succeeded anyway.

So often, I sit back a reflect on my journey. How I'm where I am in life, why I'm where I am in life. Even now, this very story I'm telling, is a highlight for me, because I'm always in the game of pleasing my clients and making sure their stories are told, never mine.

Even currently, I'm writing a self-discovery book to unpack my thoughts (which I don't have a title yet, but I can say it's going to give complete transparency of my life from childhood to womanhood) and also, I'll drop a few tips that helped me become successful--you know, the do's and the don'ts of the industry; the secrets we won't say out loud. In the meantime, I will continue my journey, in my happiness.

My skin is clear, I'm not frustrated, and I feel genuinely loved by my partner. Just being completely comfortable and confident in me.

Cherisse is currently working on a few projects, with creating a resource for aspiring publicists being one. Follow her in Instagram @keepingupwithkellsonline for more information.

Feature image courtesy of KZW Capturing Essence

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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