An Open Letter to My Girls: For Sheila, Ericka, Risha, Karen and Shannon
Things have changed for all of us. Some are married. Some have children. Sadly, a few of us have lost siblings to street violence (Eric, Keisha and Junnie will never be forgotten). Some have moved away from our hometown. Still, we’re bound together in ways that distance will never fracture, even if I haven’t heard some of your voices in years.
It’s true what they say, it takes a village to raise a child and so often we were that village for each other. From grabbing food at Karen’s house, sleeping at Ericka’s place back in Atlgeld or using Shannon’s bus tokens to get to school, you have all supported me in many ways. And maybe I’ve never said this but thank you. For everything.
People often ask me how I “made it.” While I’m not exactly sure what that means, I imagine they want to know how a teenage mother and high school dropout survived Chicago’s Southside, earned a college degree, got accepted into one of the nation’s top law schools and ultimately became a writer and speaker. But long before the blogs and graduate school and national presentations of my research, you all already knew I was a writer. I’ve had many audiences since that time but none of them know the skinny girl they called “Tiny” who was writing and reciting violent rap lyrics that reflected our realities.
I hear my name, I head on out
BD what is this about
Loc on up
Grab the gauge
Somebody let Psycho out the cage
Get Sheila D and Shannon too
Bones and Tunes complete the crew
You all encouraged me to keep writing. Although we never put labels on how we felt about each other, you all loved me and I loved you back.
They write about it now. Maybe they wrote about it then but we were way too busy living it to read about it. They use terms like “murder capital” and call it “Chiraq” because we lose more of our soldiers to the streets than we do to military engagement. We don’t know numbers, we know names, and faces and spirits of our loved ones lost. New Jack City? We didn’t need movies. We had front row views of how crack cocaine affected the inner city every day. Some of us woke up every morning to that view. Somehow, six girls from the Southside lived through all of that. I guess that’s my point, we lived through it together. And I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have made it without any of you.
So when people ask me how I made it, I can give them one of a few answers depending on how much time I have but the short answer will always be, “my girls had my back and I love them for that.”