I met Raven while she was working at Eberjey NYC. I walked into the store just because of her. She doesn’t know this, but she will when she reads this. I was on severance, and I would wake up in the AM and go to Liftonic, this really sexy, Meat-Packing boutique workout class that I was addicted to. Eberjey is right next door. One day, I saw her and it was just something about her style and essence. So I went in and pretended I was going to buy something, sparked up a convo and got her business card.
Her story briefly journeys the self-care she sought through carefully choosing her environment and committing to working hard towards school after losing her mother to cancer. She’s a reminder that there are black girls in the world, maneuvering without their mothers. And we must remember them, and love on them. We as black and brown girls already suffer immensely from society’s pressure. But to think to have to move through this world without a matriarch is for some incomprehensible. For others, like Raven, it’s a daily experience. Read her story below.
I was born in Staten Island, NY. I lived in Staten Island most of my life but there was a short period of time where I lived in Brooklyn. It was so short I barely remember it.
My mother and my father lived in the projects and I was always made fun of about my complexion by other black kids. Black boys, black girls – children in the school making fun of me like I’m dark and this and that. It was always confusing to me because these kids are making fun of features that they have themselves. I don’t know, growing up my father only let me have black dolls. I feel like I never truly gave into the self-hate because I was encouraged to play with black dolls. It’s kind of interesting when I think about it.
Growing up, did you see real representations of yourself arou?
Not in mainstream media, no. When I was younger it was like Jennifer Lopez or Britney Spears and stuff. Or like Destiny’s Child. And that’s still the case today but it’s starting to get a little bit better.
It is hard because you’re walking down the street, or you’re turning on the TV, or you’re listening to a song and everywhere there is hatred of dark-skinned women or people of color. I was in such a good mood this morning and then that [harassment incident] happened and now I’m like at the edge of tears, this whole time, because of some men. So it’s hard for a lot of people of color to feel represented or beautiful or even safe. But I do my best to. Sometimes sexual harassment is at the forefront of these incidents, they can be jarring and scary to deal with, especially if they are by someone you know. Nowadays the shift is changing and more people can stand up and get the help they need, by finding a sexual harassment lawyer here or in their local area to help fight their case.
Let’s shift the energy to your story. Where does it begin?
I’m still figuring that out. When I started school my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died two years later. As soon as I hit the age where I was making decisions about my life, I had this super traumatic experience and I’m still dealing with that. I’m still recovering from it. I’ve just been like, trying to hold myself together without my mother. My little sister is thirteen now. She’s little and she’s not going to remember her mom.
In the wake of mourning do you feel like you’ve done a good job of taking care of yourself?
A little bit after my mom passed I moved out to my own apartment just because I was so sad being in the house when she wasn’t there. I really just stayed in school part-time and worked and tried to keep a normal routine. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job about taking care of myself without my mom. I don’t want to become sad and nonproductive with my life but it has been hard.
Is there anything your mom used to say about loving yourself?
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You know, my mom, I feel like wasn’t a big talker. But I always saw a great drive in my mom and work ethic. My mom came from a poor family and she has seven brothers and sisters, and my grandmother worked very hard. My grandmother passed away two or three years ago. My mom went from that [experience] and got an associates degree and then got a nice job. I always think about that. Anytime I think I’m having a hard time I think about my mom and what she did to provide for me. That’s honestly what keeps me loving myself and keeps me focused.