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STORIES

Our Mothers: Newark

Latoya, 28

Tristan, 2

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"Growing up, it was always just me and her.  My mom worked a lot as a corrections officer. She bought me a lot of things but we didn't really spend much time together. I didn't really feel the love because we didn't have many experiences. One day I remember her showing affection to me and it was weird 'cause I never really saw that side of her. She was leaving out the house and she was like 'give me a kiss.' I was like, 'no,' 'cause we never did that. That's just how it was. It felt really good though, but strange at the same time. I don't know what made her say that to me that day. With her, it was more about material things, which is why I now try to do something, literally every Saturday, with him. I felt like my mom didn't really know me, and I don't want him to feel that way."

"When she had my brother, that's when we started to get close, but then two months later she died, so it was really short lived. My mother committed suicide in 2009. My last good memory with her is we were all in her room and we were holding hands, playing Ring-Around-the Rosie. That's gonna stick with me forever. Our relationship was getting so dope. I just wish I could've seen more of that."

 

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"When she died, it was crazy. That night, she was in a domestic dispute with her boyfriend that turned violent. My brother was only a couple months old, and he was in the room. Because she was a corrections officer, she had a gun, and she tried to shoot her boyfriend, but she accidentally shot my baby brother. She called me, and she was saying how she was sorry for the way she raised me, and that she only knew how to show me love the way my grandmother showed her. She said she knew she could've done better as far as showing me more love and affection. Right after that, she committed suicide. Her and my brother died the same night."

"I really didn't process that situation. It honestly took me until now. Really, until now. I was in a deep depression after that happened. I don't think I'll ever be fully healed, just because I don't know what made her go as far as she went. The story was so big, it was on the news, and people couldn't make sense of it, so they started making up crazy rumors about why it happened. That really hurt me because people were looking at me crazy like I did something wrong, and I was already feeling crazy 'cause I just lost two people that meant everything to me. I don't even think my friends knew what I was really going through. I went to college and I worked a lot, 'cause I needed to keep my mind off of it. A couple of times, I even tried to commit suicide myself. Going through that is actually what made me decide to start my nonprofit. It's called GEMS: Girls Embracing Mental Health and Self Esteem. I feel like in our communities most people deny mental illness and the reality of suicide, so I want to get girls of all ages from Newark and just have workshops where we talk about building self esteem and embracing who we are." 

 

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"When I had my son, it was excitement. I literally felt, like, a rebirth of myself. A healing of mysellf. And it was instant. It felt like something I was missing out on forever. It was like my own birthday, like I was being born again. I felt automatically whole again and I haven't felt whole in a long time. It was like, this is my kid. This is my creation. I'm about to take this journey and be the teacher of an actual human."

"To be a mother is to have a little best friend that you mold and shape. I joke and say he's my roommate. To see the day-to-day growth of someone and know that youare responsible for it. I know for a fact that he loves me unconditionally. I feel it in everything that he does. Even if I'm playing with him and pretend to cry, he's like, 'What hurts? What hurts?' And I point to something on my body and he just kisses it. And to see him learning new things, that's the most exciting part. When he learns something new, or does something that I've never seen him do. It's so cool to me. A lot of people say they don't want kids, but I don't think they know the joy of it. Seeing that growth and having that love..."

"Sometimes it can be challenging to keep it all together. I used to put on this facade like I was always strong but then once I got him it would all hit me. The other day was my brother's birthday. I woke up with a positive mindset. I posted some positive stuff on my nonprofit's page. But, as soon as I started brushing my teeth it all came out. I was like, 'Okay, you gotta' get yourself together now. You gotta' get your son awake and you don't want him to see you crying.' He can see me sad sometimes, 'cause that's just a part of being human. I don't want him to ever feel like he can't show me his emotions. A lot of guys grow up with that problem. They don't wanna' let you see them in their feelings and it ends up making them too cold. He can see me sad sometimes, but not all the time, where it's excessive, like 'Whoa, what is my mom going through?' Like I used to go to the cemetery on my lunch break every day for a good five years. Literally, every single day. So it's like, I can't do that and still be fully engaged as a mother to my son. Aside from anything, I need to be his mother. If I wasn't I don't know who I would be."

 

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"I fear that he'll end up like the kids we see on the news all the time. Like, not even a kid in a gang but just a kid at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or someone fearing him and doing something to harm him. What will they do? I don't want my son to end up... I want to die before I see my kid die. I can't witness another kid death. I won't be able to take it. Literally. So that's my fear. People fearing him and the consequences that would come from that."

 

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"I fear that he'll end up like the kids we see on the news all the time. Like, not even a kid in a gang but just a kid at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or someone fearing him and doing something to harm him. What will they do? I don't want my son to end up... I want to die before I see my kid die. I can't witness another kid death. I won't be able to take it. Literally. So that's my fear. People fearing him and the consequences that would come from that."

 

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Jean Masseroux

High School Teacher. Photographer. Founder of @thehuemanjournal.

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