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STORIES

Our Mothers: Newark

Christina, 29

Justin, 8

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"I knew I was pregnant before I found out. I just felt it in my soul. Before I even missed my period, I just felt something. My mom had me at 16. She could've easily been like I'm not dealing with this, and got an abortion, but she didn't do that. So it was never a period in time where I questioned whether I was gonna' have Justin or not. I was in my boyfriend's dorm when I took the pregnancy test. He was watching a basketball game, and was like 'Oh shit, what you wanna' do?' And I was like 'I'm having the baby.' He never ran away. He was always right there."

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"My pregnancy was tumultuous because I was dealing with abuse at the time, and I was in still a full-time college student, and an English major at that, so I was writing hella' papers. It was tough but I didn't have the option to quit. I remember when my son was about 3 months old, I was still breastfeeding and I had 3 jobs. Some days I just wouldn't sleep. I would go from one job to the next, while his dad or my mom would have him. You don't think about how you're gonna' do it, you just do it, 'cause it gotta' be done. It was rough emotionally, but Justin was my light. Even when you're in chaos, there's this tranquility and peacefulness when you look at your child, that keeps you going."

"Dealing with an abusive relationship was tough. I wasn't getting beat on every day but it was like Russian Roulette. You never know when it's gonna' happen. You don't know what's gonna' spark him. I made sure that when it wasn't happening, I was trying to be present and happy. I really don't know how I did it, especially when I was pregnant. It's crazy, 'cause I didn't see signs of it before it started. The first time it happened was a surprise 'cause it was uncharacteristic of him. He just had these moments of rage where it was like he was seeing red, and then he would come back to life, like Oh wow. I was wildin'. The fights weren't one-sided 'cause I would fight back but he was always the one to initiate. After a while it became a feeling of, I know you're about to do some shit so I'm gonna' hook off on you first. And that's when it got really unhealthy. I hate when people say, 'Oh you were abusive too.' No, I was defending myself. I was in an abusive relationship that forced me to be fearful, and do whatever to physically defend myself.

At the time I also wasn't coming from a clear perspective because I was in survival mode. In those kinds of toxic situations, you don't have the energy or the clarity to make fully sane decisions. I finally decided to leave when I almost died. He choked me until I passed out. I woke up and I didn't know how long I was passed out for. That's when I put the plan to get my own apartment into full effect. I just started working like crazy, stacking my bread, and keeping my plan to myself. For me, it was about finding a safe space. A place that could guarantee me staying alive and being a mom to my kid. I'm not gonna' die for you."

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"Being a mom is lit as fuck. I feel like a lot of people try to get their kids to be different from them. They're like, 'Do as I say, not as I do. Be better than me.' I never agreed with that, personally. For me, being a mom is about being the best person I can be. It's really about self discovery and looking within myself to find what I can fix, and be transparent about those things. For example, sometimes I have a little temper. I'll say something aggressively to him, and he'll look at me like, you didn't have to speak to me in that tone. That shows me that I have to work on how I speak to him when I'm upset, because it's not healthy.

So, being a mom is like having a mirror in front of you all the time. If I see my son behaving in a way that I don't like, it's more of a question of what I can do differently to be a better example. Being a mom has made me the person that I am because I want my son to know that he is loved. I want him to know that he is capable and I want him to know that he is respected, so that he can respect other people. But in order for me to teach him those things I have to be those things myself, too."

 

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"I've been an entrepreneur for about 5 years, and it can have it's challenges but there was one time where I was really in the struggle. Justin was about 3 or 4. I had about $15 in my account, and almost no gas in my car. Whenever it was done I would just have to get on the bus. With homeless people, no matter what, I always give them money, 'cause it's like, you need it more than I do, regardless of what they need it for.

At this point, we were in the car, getting off the highway and this homeless man approached us. I had about 3 singles in my cupholder, but that was it. In my head I'm like, nah I'm about to be homeless too, so I'ma keep this. But something in me in that moment was like, fuck it. I hesitated, but right when the light was turning green I rolled the window down and gave him the $3. As I turned, he goes, 'That's the mommy I love,' and I just started bawling. I didn't realize he was paying attention to me, or that he picked up on stuff like that. Now he gives to homeless people too, and he points them out to me when we're outside."

 

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"I just want him to know that he's important. To the world. He's very aware of Black men's state in America. I'm really open with him about those kinds of things, and I tell him about his temper too. You cant have a temper. You just can't. You have to do something about that 'cause they will kill you. And he's big too. Tamir Rice was 12. Justin at 12 could look very well look like he's 18 'cause he's growing fast. And that's my biggest fear. That a cop would pull him over and kill him.

Him being a Black boy in America is very scary. So, I just want him to know that he's loved , he's important, and that whatever he says, does, or wants to be is in his control. Teach him self respect. I just want him to be super rooted, 'cause I know that he's gonna' make mistakes. We all do. Things happen. I know that there's gonna' be certain things that I can't protect him from, just like my mom couldn't really protect me from an abusive relationship. It's my job to protect him as much as I can, but it's also my job to give him the tools so that when he's weathering his own storms, he's grounded and he knows that he will be okay."

 

"I also want him to know how much I love him even if I'm not here. Like my grandfather passed away and even though it's sad, we had such a dope relationship that sometimes I feel like even in death, I still feel him. There's certain things I feel like I picked up from him, so he lives on. I want my son to feel the same way. For me to live on through him based on what I taught him. My son is super fearless cause I'm fearless. Like, one time in front of the mayor, he raised his hand and asked him a question that he really had to think about. It was like, 'What are your thoughts on God? Who is God in your life?' The mayor was like 'What? How old are you?' So, I can already see a lot of my spirit in him. You can't separate a mother from their child. Obviously I'd rather die before he does. My duty is to make sure he's good before I go."

 

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JEAN MASSEROUX

HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER. PHOTOGRAPHER. FOUNDER OF @THEHUEMANJOURNAL.

 WEBSITE  INSTAGRAM

JULY 1, 2018

 

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