Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Not Our Girls...Why Are Our Girls Turning To The Streets?

Yesterday evening I was blessed with one of those 360 degree, full-circle moments in my life as a Mother and a Wombyn...

Nanii is now 12 years old, loves math and science, is good at writing and is extremely creative and gifted in sewing. "C'mon mom, you know I'm a fashionista! I can't let you wear that!" she announces whenever I wear something that does not agree with her fashion sense. My daughter is tall and beautiful. Sometimes, she catches me "scanning" her. "What now, mom?" she asks in frustration. Nanii thinks I'm being critical of her. Quite the contrary, I'm protecting my daughter; making sure she isn't wearing anything that would entice a pervert on the street. "You are beautiful," I always tell Nanii. I want to make sure she hears it from me because I never want her to "need" to hear it from someone on the street.

Nanii's father transitioned 10 years ago. As a single Mother, I triumph daily over mood swings, fear, frustration and worry about our financial and overall wellbeing. Everyday, I push to do what feels good instead of worrying about doing "the right thing." Many of us (single mothers) don't even know "what feels good to us" we only know how to follow the masses who are in the rat race, living just to pay bills. When I allow myself to wallow in worry, fear, frustration and doubt I disconnect from my higher self; I feel heavy and I do not say the right thing or have the right responses to situations. Wallowing in fear, frustration and doubt is equivalent to standing in a pitch dark room - you can not see yourself or anyone else for all that you(they) really are. Those of us who are truly seeking our higher selves know that the more you ascend; the more sensitive we become to external as well as internal negativity. In other words, we catch our negative thoughts faster. I am getting better at rebounding; at stabilizing internal turbulence.

Yesterday, I was really struggling. I was wallowing in worry which led me to having an angry outburst at Nanii. When my anger subsides which lately seems to be rather quickly, I feel guilty. Internally, I asked the Universe for help. Ask and you shall receive...

My homegirl Mo, sent me an invitation to attend a screening of Lisa Ling's documentary "Not Our Girls". Besides a few posts on facebook (which I barely go on anymore) I really knew nothing about the details of the human trafficking of our girls in DC (and all over the world). I just knew I didn't need reminders of how completely powerless it feels to be a little girl and have a man overpower and violate your spirit and body. So, I disengaged from those facebook posts under the guise of protecting myself from the never ending heartbreak of the sexual abuse of children.

I struggled with whether I should bring my daughter to "Not Our Girls", the one year anniversary documentary of Lisa Ling's undercover reporting: 3AM Girls, a show that chronicles the human trafficking of African-American females. "How much fear am I going to instill in my 12 year old daughter?" I asked myself remembering Dr. Joy Degruy's book: Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome where she discusses how people of the African Diaspora in America tend to cripple our children by making them fearful of the world they live in. Meanwhile, Americans of European descendance let their children "discover" their world freely. I am not perfect, but, I am proud to say I teach my daughter to be an explorer of her world. Having said that, something just wouldn't let me renege. I am so glad I pushed past the doubt. Once I arrived, to the Sankofa Books n Cafe, I knew I had made the right choice as a Mother and Wombyn.

Even though there were a few seats upfront, I quietly sat down in one of the back rows. My daughter was on her way and hadn't arrived. Ebony Wheeler, a pretty, delicately slim, sistuh with waist-length locks took the open-mic stage. Perched on a stool, she vividly remembered haunting memories of temporarily losing both her parents to drugs and prison. "My mother was one of the biggest drug addicts in DC." When my mother and father went to jail, I went to live with relatives. "How many of us know, our relatives will take us in but, no one will love you like your mother?" she asked rhetorically.  "I was teased by my cousins. I went to school with high-waters, my hair undone." 

 Low-self esteem is a lethal fume. No matter how much you mask it; every pedafile and predator can sniff it out. It's not the makeup or the clothes that attracts or empowers a predator; it's that invisible fume - low self-esteem. I remember how much I struggled in my self-esteem as a child, teenager and then young adult. How I was attracted to "bad boys" and how I was pursued and preyed upon by predators. I remember the shame I felt because no one in my family stood up for me; no one defended me. In fact, I was implicitly encouraged to 'shut up' about it.

"When my mom got out of prison; she got a job. Providing was the only thing she knew how to do. Our house was impeccable; we had a living room we couldn't sit in. If I got a "C" grade, my punishments were no less than three months," Ebony continued.  "I was physically abused and I had no one to turn to. My mother would call our relatives and turn them against me," she explained.  I sat motionless - speechless. With the exception of her mother's illegal substance abuse (my father was an abusive alcoholic) and their time in prison, our mother's sounded so similar. I remembered - the universe is always listening and responding.

Kristina Gilchrist, of Live Your Life On Purpose, an Wombyn of color owned organization missioned to develop girls and wombyn's highest potential and Ebony Wheeler, with Women Inspiring Strength and Empowerment W.I.S.E, used "Not Our Girls" to engage us in a deeper conversation; to unpack why girls turn to streets to begin with. I am not going to be hypocritical. Time and time again, I have seen young girls dressed in what I consider to be "inappropriate" clothing and makeup and had judgemental or disapproving thoughts. These sistuhs framed the conversation so that we could look beyond the makeup/attire these babies use to cover up their wounds and survive in what for them, is a ruthless world.

Why are our little girls so easily lured by strange men?

Girls who are verbally, physically, sexually or emotionally/mentally abused or neglected by their family have the highest tendency to seek approval, validation and affection from a total stranger. This was such a timely opportunity for my daughter and I. I have a tendency to blow up at my 12 year old. I had just blown up at my daughter two days before. As a single mother, I am always trying to keep every single ball in the air. And, if I drop one ball I mentally beat myself up by thinking I failed. Consequently, I end up transmitting that same (verbal and nonverbal) message to my daughter. After the screening, I decided to treat us to dinner at Sankofa Books & Cafe.  After dinner, we went for a walk. I asked what she thought about the movie. Nanii said "I felt powerless". It's not like I will ever be on the street at 3am, be able to say to one of these 12 year old girl "hey you can walk away from this life". Nani had a very valid point but, I knew I could help her dig deeper in herself to find her power to help - herself or another girl.

"What are some of the reasons girls turn to the streets?" I asked my baby girl. "Bad communication with their families?" she answered hesitantly. "Yes," I affirmed. "Abusive relationships between girls and their mothers, fathers, relatives." I expounded. This was our full circle 360 degree moment.

In the third grade, Nani and I were very new residents of Holyoke Massachusetts; she was very new at her school. That year, Nani made a friend and they became "besties". I was ecstatic. Despite being a year older than Nani, the little girl was smaller in stature; she was petite for her age. A beautiful little girl. I did everything I could to foster their friendship. I chaperoned play dates, sleepovers and baked brownies. The little girl's mom exuded the lethal fume. I made sure to stay connected to the child's mother (who was also a full-time healthcare worker and single mom).

One day, I arrive at the car pick-up line at my daughter's school. Nani jumped in the car but, there was a quiet, dullness about her demeanor. As mother's we know without a single syllable exchange when something is wrong with our child. "How was your day Nani?" I asked expecting the typical good!  Instead, Nanii nervously said "Mommy? There is something I have to tell you but, you have to promise me, you won't say anything."  This has to be in the top five terrifyingly conflicting statements for a parent to hear. On the one hand, it scares the living day lights out of us; on the other, our child is confiding crucial information we need to protect them.

I took a deep breath and measuring my response carefully I said "well, honey, that depends. If you or someone you know is in danger I can not make that promise," hoping she was just being a normally overly excited eight year old. "Now tell me, what happened honey. Are you okay?" I asked. "But, its just my friend made me pinky swear I wouldn't tell anyone, mommy." Nani pleaded. My panic was growing. I was fearing the worst. I thought maybe someone was sexually abusing her best friend. "Nani, please tell me honey. I need to know if your friend is in danger." 

Nani told me her best friend's mother pushed her down the stairs. My heart dropped and I parked my car. I had been in the little girl's home and knew the steps were steep and long. I felt sick in my stomach. I wanted to take the little girl and bring her to safety. I didn't know what to do. I had never been in that position. I went inside the school and spoke to the principal. Child protective services were contacted; they must have visited the home. I went to see the grandmother and told her what her grand-daughter told my daughter. The grandmother matter of factly confirmed the incident and said she was well aware of her daughter's temperament issues but, there was nothing she could do. That's when I really became frightened for the little girl. 

The mother put two and two together and figured out how child protective services found out. Three days, later the little girl came to school and would not even look at my daughter; her mother forbade her. A few weeks later, we went by the grandmother's house to try to patch things up. The mother had bought her daughter a puppy; a tactic men use on the women they beat. The little girl's mother took her out of the school and moved out of the state; only to return the next year. Regrettably, the girls were never able to recoup their beautiful friendship.

My daughter cried and was emotionally scarred by this ordeal because she lost her best friend. Nani felt guilty for telling the truth; for protecting her friend. Just days before our viewing of "Not Our Girls" Nani and I were sitting in our living room when she shared "I will always regret telling you what happened to Yarlin. One day, I had a best friend and the next Monday, I didn't." Nani blamed herself and me for the loss of her best friend; that broke my heart. I tried to explain that we did the right thing but, it still didn't take away the guilt and regret either of us felt. 

Last night, we received closure knowing without the shadow of a doubt that we did the right thing not just for the little girl but, for ourselves. When we hold up the standard of truth for another's safety; we inevitably secure it for ourselves. During our walk, discussing the causes of girls turning to the streets, Nani and I were released from regret, shame and guilt.  It is my firm belief, our truth telling was a 'wakeup call' for that mother and a lifeline for that little girl.  Perhaps, we saved a mother from the grief of causing her own daughter fatal injury or, losing her to the human sex traffic life girls who are abused turn to.  

This is dedicated to anyone who has overcome domestic violence and sexual abuse; tell your story - take back your power; save a life. 

Shout out to all my single parents holding it down.



  1. Your writing is very inspiring. It speaks truth in do many ways. Keep writing my sis.

  2. Greetings! My reply is probably long overdue or in divine timing. Thank you for attending. I sent an email to all of the attendees hoping that you all could make our Monthly "Shop Talk" series for women. Please keep in touch as we are committed to building a community/tribe of women that are willing to support each other in any way. I can be reached personally at 202.579.1310 or or @liveyourlifeonpurposeconsult (instagram) BLESSINGS, LIGHT & LOVE Sent your way!!