‘I didn’t know if I would be able to do it on my own, but I knew I had to. I had this little child dependent upon me.’
“My whole purpose and passion is helping young and adult men of color. I raised my son as a single mother. I’ve gone through over 10 years in the family court system. I fought through a lot of narcissism, pain and stress. I went through so much as a single mom, but I was holding on to my support system and holding on to God, which pulled me through.
“I kept pushing forward, but it was a hard journey. I got full legal and physical custody immediately, but my son’s father had a lot of money and made it difficult for me. He used the court system to manipulate and bully me as a way to control me. This is a man who I used to love, who I had expectations of building a family with, and all of a sudden, he wanted to take our son away from me. It was gut-wrenching. As much of a battle as it was, he provided me with a great young man, and I am forever grateful for that.
“I didn’t know if I would be able to do it on my own, but I knew I had to. I had this little child dependent upon me. The challenging part was money. I just didn’t have it. I was scuffling to make ends meet, and even though my son had child support, it just wasn’t enough. For a time, the only thing I could afford was the dollar menu on McDonald’s. I did what I had to in order to feed my son.
“I remember getting on my knees one day to my mother, and I said, ‘I can’t do it anymore. I’m tired.’ I was crying like a baby. She said to me, ‘You already won.’ She was right. I had my son, and he wasn’t going to be taken away from me. I was being dragged through the court system, but I had custody. My mother, father, grandmother, sister and my son, those are my rocks. They stood by me through the incredibly difficult times. Even though I am a huge advocate for single strong parents, it would have been so much easier if I did have a partner. I am thankful for my support system.
“It took me about seven years to reestablish my sense of self. I work with single parents, and I always tell them to take their time. Don’t rush life. Get to know who you are and reestablish that again, and then you will find your purpose. My son is 22 now. He’s a college student and works full time, and I am so proud of him.”
When we strengthen our boys and men, we stabilize our girls and women.
“I’ve always been a very active community leader, and years ago, I started a nonprofit in southeast Queens called Millennium Minds. Doing community service has always been very powerful in my soul. As I was raising my son, I went back to school and received my master’s degree in mental health counseling. Most of my clients are single mothers who are raising sons. I help them navigate the challenges associated with raising a young man, especially a young man of color in today’s world.
“After the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, I felt it in my soul that I wanted to do more. I created a quarterly publication, “Thoughts Magazine,” that is double-sided – one side for men and the other for women. The purpose of this magazine is to help restore the family nucleus and reduce the single-parent household rate, as well as the divorce rate, in our communities. Reading both sides of the publication can help someone build a better relationship around empathy and compassion.
“I want young men to be strong mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially. When we strengthen our boys and men, we stabilize our girls and women. I created Young Men Strong in 2013. It’s centered around providing education and wellness to adult and young men of color. The organization provides many classes, including financial literacy, defensive driving and first aid. We have so many resources available to help build their personal and professional development. We are currently partnering up with mental health facilities to provide mental health support services. We have men aged from 16 to 80 years old. It’s a mentoring program for the young man who is currently growing up in a single-parent household, as well as the adult man who grew up in one and never received the resources he needed to grow.
“I have written three self-help books that encourage single mothers and fathers to find that sense of self even when it feels like everything is crumbling down. We have to create space to allow our sons to mature and grow, as well as give ourselves, the single parents, time to find our purpose and sense of self. No one person is an island.”