Determination, Boldness, Courage and Faith

Dedication: I will make it no other choice than to give God thanks first for all the trials and tribulations that he continues to bring me through on my journey of life. -To my grandmother Mrs. Wright, You are an amazing phenomenal woman. You are the true definition of a Proverbs 31 woman. Your presence in my life is a gift that I don’t take for granted. Through my ups, my downs, my wrongs, my rights, my highs, and my lows you’ve been a pillar and an anchor. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for correcting me when i do wrong but doing it in love. -To my grandfather Mr. Wright, There was a time when I put you through a lot of hell. I was the child that arrived with no manual or instructions included. I would always get upset at your tough love you would show in response to my actions. Somehow everyday now I want to wake up and run downstairs to hug you so tight. Your wisdom, knowledge, tough truth and tough love prepared me for reality. I love you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. -To both of my grandparents. I thank you for being obedient to God’s assignment 23 years ago. -To my sister Tasharie, I thank you for being a constant in my life. Thank you for your support. Thank you for the heart that you have for me. Thank you for your presence even when you did not know what to say. Thank you for cherishing our connection. I appreciate and I love you

I was born Monday, July 27, 1987, at 10:39 AM in Pittsburg, California.
Mom and dad were together at the time of my birth.
I can only imagine the extraordinary pains of going through labor and hurting emotionally because the man who helped you create this child is not by your side.
I grew up in the outside of Oakland, California in the “RodeoProjects.”
Although very rough it was a small project community with a big heart.
As a child, I have had some exceptionally good memories and I have had some very bad memories that I’ve never wanted to look back on.
My mom Sharon Yvette Smith was a Nurse who worked exceptionally long hours to take care of us and keep things afloatat home.
My mother was full of so much life, love and she loved helping others.
Over the years my mother and my father’s relationship started deteriorating because my father eventually went from drinking to selling drugs to becoming his own client. (Drug user)
The heavier the drinking and drugs became the more physical arguing my siblings and I would witness.
At times, the physical beatings were so bad it would place my mother in the hospital.
I went to Hillcrest Elementary.
If you lived in Foxboro, Viewpoint or Rodeo you went to Hillcrest Elementary.
I enjoyed going to Elementary school.
I enjoyed the teachers and one of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Lehman.
Mrs. Lehman was my music teacher who taught me how to play the flute and she was a teacher who truly showed that she cared about her student’s future.
For a child experiencing so much trauma in my home that mattered to me.
Witnessing and experiencing undealt with trauma at home, I started showing out in school by fighting.
The fighting turned into stacks of referrals, referrals turned into suspensions and I suddenly payed less attention to my education.
I started focusing more on gossiping, what people thought about me and what things were popular around me.
With Mom working every day to keep a roof over our heads she could not always come to the principal meetings when I got in trouble.
Whenever mom and dad would fight or argue I would run next-door to my cousin’s house.
Her house became my safe space for me.
Dad was always in and out of prison.
I can remember my father going to prison so many times for domestic abuse I did not think that he would ever be back but the Criminal Justice System failed every time.
Mom even went so far as to change the locks.
While dad was in prison but it never worked.
Anytime my father was away mom would be happy, peaceful, focused on her career and full of life. You could physically see a difference in her and I loved seeing that side of her.
We went to church over the hill from our home.
My mom was highly active in the church.
She sang in the choir, helped with the offering, helped with Sunday school, we did Jehovah witness on Saturday mornings and at times on Sunday morning when there was no one to fill in she did the announcements.
No matter how much I did not want to attend church my mother had my siblings and I in church on Sundays.
Back then my generation did not have a choice.
We were in the choir, if we had a second service we would stay and help serve to the visiting church food. We were in Christmas plays, Easter plays, and helping if the church had block parties for the neighborhood. LOL
After being kicked out of my school district because of an huge altercation my mother placed me in a Christian Private School located not far from the house.
The environment was extremely strict and if you had destructive behavior you would receive a pop on the hand with a ruler.
A teacher tried to discipline me for disruptive class behavior once and I chastised her back.
That was the first and last incident they had out of me with mom paying money every month for me to be there she came to my school and whooped in front of everyone.
My mother rarely whooped me but I could see the look and hurt in her eyes of wanting better for me.
One day while home pastor J came down the hill looking for my father, so I allowed him to come inside and wait as he always did.
As walked back into the living room Pastor J began to try and forcefully touch me under my dress.
After yelling and pushing him away to stop pastor J then proceeded to ask me “who’s going to believe you if you try and tell? Not your parents, not your family, not my wife, and not my nephew whom I was dating at the time.
I was in disbelief that this was the actions of a man who stood up every Sunday and preached God’s word.
I kept quiet because I did not believe my voice would be loud enough to be heard over all the commotion already surrounding my life.
I thought I would be called a fast child or that i was a child trying to seek attention.
March of 2001 my mother and my aunt decided to plan a girl’s trip to get away and somehow my father became part of the trip plans.
Friday afternoon March 23, 2001 would be my last time hearing my mom’s beautiful voice.
Mom, dad, and my aunt were tragically killed in a car accident.
They say that it is a tradition for only African American families where the oldest is left to watch the youngest while the parents work or go have a good time.
Growing up in the projects I have witnessed it not only in African American families but in all families of color who work hard to make ends meet and keep a roof over their families head.
The night of the tragic car accident my eldest sibling who was under 18 was left to watch my sister and I.
As soon as the police were notified that three minors were left home alone in a project community social services came out immediately to take us away.
Amid a tragic storm God was already working.
One of the neighbors had my grandparents contact information and instantly called to relay the tragic news.
At that time grandpa was traveling on tour with Ms. Gladys Knight. My grandmother was home sleep in Los Angeles.
Grandpa instantly took a flight back to Los Angeles to pick up my grandmother and they both flew into Oakland to come to pick us up.
My siblings and I wanted to have the funerals in the Bay Area.
A week before the funeral my grandmother cooked breakfast every morning.
15 to 20 kids would come to eat every morning before getting on the school bus.
On the day of the funeral there was tremendous sadness and as I looked at my siblings all I could think is where does our life go from here?
After my first summer in Los Angeles,
My freshman year of high school was very rough because I wasn’t physically, emotionally or educationally prepared.
Academically I was always challenged because I never took the time to excel in any of my classes especially reading or math.
As I began to run from school I started missing 43 days of class at a time and receiving truancy tickets which led to court.
During the holidays and the summers my grandmother would pack everyone in the Ford Excursion to take us back to the bay area where we would visit with our friends in the projects. We even started building relationships with our aunts, uncles and cousins throughout Oakland.
By that time, I was already kicked out of my first high school and onto my second high school.
The summer going into my 11th grade year at school grandma took us on our usual trip back to Oakland.
Whenever I went to visit my friends in the projects it was the same individuals on the same corner doing the same thing.
Sitting on the stop sign sagging with guns, doing drugs, selling drugs or pimping.
God was revealing things to me right before my eyes and I knew I had to make a decision about my life. I then made a conscious decision to no longer be a product of my environment.
Towards the middle of my junior year in high school I was able to make up any credits that were needed. As I continued applying myself I passed my reading, science, and math classes. on June 29, 2005 I graduated on stage with my diploma in my hand.
After graduating high school,
I eventually started hanging around the wrong crowd again.
A crowd of fraud living, hang banging, dope dealing, escort businesses and hustling, which led me to do a lot of things that hurt people who trusted me, who believed in me, who loved me and who supported me.
After running the streets for so long there was nothing left to do. I started running from my own self when no one was physically chasing me.
Guilt had a big holdover on my life for so long because of so many lives that I ruined.
July 31, 2010 I completed my A+ certification in computers.
I began to have a fresh start on a new life which if it had not been for the lord on my side and my grandparents, starting over from rock-bottom would have been hell on wheels.
Picking up the pieces to my life was not easy.
I eventually went on to work for the criminal justice department in Texas as a case manager in a maximum-security prison where God allowed me to start sharing my life story to give others faith and hope.
All of my life events through my journey of life especially the dark places has taught me to trust God, believe in myself and to have hope.
I have since graduated with my Science degree and I am now a Trauma Nurse in Texas where God has his assignment set for my life.
I plan to continue sharing my life story to help others walk in God’s will and allow them to see that no matter where you come from or what you go through in life God has the final say on your life. You can do it. You can be it. Dream big!

Photo credit: Images provided by the storyteller.

Story shared by...

Tenika Kenyonda Smith

I am a strong resilient young woman determined and pressed to continue pushing towards my goals in life!