My mom and I have such a great relationship, she’s honestly my best friend. We talk about everything, she’s always given me advice to steer me in the right direction even though I don’t always want to or agree she ultimately always lets me make my own decisions and choices. My mom has had a hard life and it was nice to have the opportunity to understand how she views life and hear her talk about my godmother and grandmother the way I talk about her. This was a great experience that brought us closer together.
Thank you for this. Love you Momma Yo.
Who was your role model as a kid? Who is it today?
As a kid it was Mommy Grace; she was the person that I grew up with she was my cousin but more like a big sister we did everything together. She was three years older than me, extremely smart, she was an avid reader so whenever I went to her house she would reread books and push me to read as well. She was in high school at like 11-12 years old when she was 12 had already passed high school equivalency but her mother made her go to high school anyway. She had a full scholarship at Northwestern at 16. She was just wise beyond her years. Mainly she was there for me; we were kind of inseparable at that time when I was younger. My role model today … I don’t know Jesus?!
Is there anything in your childhood you wish you could have changed? Why?
There’s so much. I wish… I would’ve followed my dream to be a fashion designer I wish I never allowed someone tell me where I belong. I wish I never let life get into the way.
What do you admire most about your parents?
I love that my mom was strong, wasn’t a quitter, had amazing work ethic and she could do anything. I remember her making my clothes, reupholstering furniture and taking apart the washing machine and putting it back together. She was always reading, working and never in the streets, never had a bunch of men come into the house. She was adamant about integrity and I think that’s why honesty and trying to do the right thing is such a big part of my life. I always try and stand on the side of the right.
What do you feel like you inherited from your mom?
From my mom I inherited my integrity, fabulous hair, thirst for education, and inner strength, and her walk! My mom had this a walk that commanded everything, you could tell she was coming 2 blocks away and they’d see her coming and say “There goes Marlena.” She use to tell me not to “switch,” she’d say “You walk one front in front of the other & your body would naturally sway and keep your head high,” she was so cool and had this classic sexy style and she taught me that. The two things she taught me is one if a man hit you, you make him bleed, and two don’t talk like you have a mouth full of shit; annunciate.” Both very true but the second one helped so much because I talk really fast so I had to annunciate.
Do you feel like as a woman, you’ve made compromises in life to get where you are?
I think that, not just as a woman but as a mother, men who are true fathers would have the same compromises. I feel like the choices I made in life weren’t about being a woman, most of my sacrifices were from being a mother or being a position of nurture, from having kids at a young age along with having to take care of my brother and sister alone while still being a child myself. My compromises and sacrifices weren’t made because I’m a woman but because I had people to take care of.
What is your proudest moment as a mother?
I don’t like this question because I have three kids. I think the day you all tried to come in on Mother’s day looking a hot ass mess.
But when I got ready to move out here & I was worried about leaving Jojo behind he was like “Mom I look at you like a fish in a fishbowl and you’re only grow as big as your surroundings, you have to go.” I’m proud of how independent you all are from me, at times I miss you guys but I’m proud that you can stand on your own, When you went to Japan and got naked in the hot springs, I was so proud that even though you were a freshman, you chose to “dance,” to live in the moment and not be afraid and just dove into the culture.
And Keenan there’s so many for Keenan, he’s such a little man, we’ve gone through so much with him the running away, all the negative things he’s ever said to me, he always comes back being really protective of me like he’ll call me on holidays or random times and check in on me see what I’m doing seeing how I’m doing being alone. He always asks, since he was a little kid “Are you ok? Is the house ok?”
Just this past week he called me to see what I was doing for Mother’s day and wanted to set up a group skype with all of us since I’ll be alone. But when I saw this recent picture of him, his eyes were so clear and I just cried because I knew he was sober and happy and was able to conquer some his inner demons and I admire and love his inner strength. I’m so happy proud of all of you, especially since I don’t have any grandchildren right now.
What are some of your favorite smells, sights, sounds, places… do they remind you of a place or time or person?
I LOVE the botanical gardens in Chicago, it reminds me of just a secret garden like your own magical place. A place away from all the hustle and bustle of the world, just thinking back to reading as a child and reading about beautiful gardens it’s like a story for your eyes I guess.
When do you feel your best/most beautiful?
When my hair is fabulous and my Heels are high.
Did you ever have second thoughts about getting married?
Uhhh YEAH! But I had you after I got married and I think if I had the chance to go back and not get married and not have you I’d rather have the fucked up marriage. I mean I definitely have regrets, not about being married but just getting married so young. I got engaged at 16 and I regret not really getting the chance to grow together and take the time to learn enough about each other and if my behavior was different we’d probably not be divorced. I was always in the Alpha role and maybe if I would have been submissive at times things would’ve been different. He was a follower not a leader, no real ambition or drive and didn’t have desire to lead as the head of the house.
In retrospect I could’ve encouraged him more and not nagged as much or… I could’ve handled things better. Our marriage became a tit for tat and I got older and realized I deserved more and didn’t have to argue or fight or meet you at your level. I became comfortable with who I was and what I brought to the table and this strength that showed me no matter what I’m still standing and that’s something you learn with maturity and as you get older and you realize that every battle is not war. My philosophy is, at the end of the day, what is the absolute worst thing that can happen? After it happens what are you still walking away with? You have to remember a dream deferred is not a dream denied.
What was the most popular song when you were in high school? What kind of music did you like to listen to?
My favorite song in high school was “It takes two” by Rob Base and “Mona Lisa” by Slick Rick the Ruler. 80’s hip hop was MY EVERYTHING in high school, I also like the bangles so it was pretty eclectic over time.
Tell me about one day or event that you wish I could relive with you.
Oh my god I think if you were at the sugar water festival with Erkyah Badu, Jill Scott, Floetry and Queen Latifah, you would’ve loved it. It was one of my favorite days, plus we always go to concerts together so I’d have to say definitely that. Or maybe the Zoo in DC, it was really beautiful and i know how much you love the zoo and animals.