Kamilah: I wanted my mama there. I wanted my mama there. I wanted my mama and my dad to be together and I was hurt. I was going through school every day. I was hurt, you know. I wanted to cry about it at school, whatever but I just kind of held it inside so people would think, Oh, Kay's just got the perfect little life and I don't. I had it so hard. I mean, I grew up rough, a rough childhood. I mean, it was not easy for me with her. It was hard. I was there with my grandma, my dad's mom, my mama's mom, my cousins, aunts, uncles, just anywhere that people would take me in. I was staying with my grandma when people would threaten her, telling her that they were going to put us in a foster home and that's when we had to move to my grandma's house in Wrightsville and at that time my mama was like my dad was. We really didn't have a choice, you're going to stay with your mama or you're going to stay with your dad, just, you know, where ever people would take us.

Interviewer: Was this the first time?

Kamilah: No, this is actually this was all through my childhood. Just anywhere.

Interviewer: So, how old were you when it first started?

Kamilah: When I first started I was like eight, you know, anywhere between eight and seven.

Interviewer: So that was back and forth?

Kamilah: Back and forth, just different places.

Interviewer: Well, what did they tell you?

Kamilah: My grandma tried to keep it simple like, "Oh, everything's going to be okay. It's just your mama needs help right now. You know, she'll be back. When she gets back it'll be better. You know, she'll come get you and y'all go move somewhere, you and your brothers and your mom and it'll be okay" but it wasn't. I mean, it was like every time somebody told us it was going to be okay and things would get better, it only got worse. So, we just had to deal with it. I always had my brother, you know, "K, don't cry. It's going to be okay, you know. You've got to look forward. You know, look through, you know, look ahead in life and don't look back and just keep your head up. It was cool just having my brothers there for me and my grandma.

Interviewer: Was this the second time she had been in?

Kamilah: Uh-huh.

Interviewer: What happened when she got out?

Kamilah: When she got out she was, well when she was in there she was telling us how she wanted to come home and how she wanted us to stay with her, like things are going to get better. She was going to get this house and help us out and, you know, keep us in school and buy us stuff but when she got out it was just like she was out of control. I mean, we couldn't stop her. She had a stroke when I was 11 and that still didn't stop her. She was just wild. I mean, she would tell us stuff and she would make promises to us and, you know, as little as we were we looked up to her, you know, we expected her to do these things that she promised us. It was like, you know, she let us down because anytime it was time for her to live up to the promises she made, she wasn't no where to be found. We was just going through life with all of these promises people was making to us and we never seen them. The longest I stayed with my mama was for like possibly three months and for me I moved back with my grandma and she went back to jail. She was in and out of jail. She went to prison for like two or three times and from then on it was just jail and when I was 15, I think I stayed with her. That's the longest I stayed with her when I turned 15, I was with her for like three months and then I didn't see her.

Interviewer: You didn't see her?

Kamilah: She had left and went out the town. The excuse she told us was that she was going to look for her dad, which she has never seen her dad before and she was going to look for her dad which was in New York, but we don't know if she really went to New York. All we know is she left and we didn't see her again.

Interviewer: For how long?

Kamilah: I'd say for like three years.

Interviewer: What did you find out?

Kamilah: She was, that's when I first found she was on drugs, you know, just using drugs or whatever. For using drugs, for possession of drugs, I mean, and right before she went back in she was raped and it was like, for us it was like a tragedy because we didn't know what to do and to her it was nothing, you know, she was like, it was like it didn't really happen to her. So, I mean, we was going through this like, well, she'll calm down now because she sees what she's going through and maybe she'll realize she don't want to go through that no more and she would just settle down and that didn't even stop her. She's like an express train. She keeps going.

Interviewer: So, then she was back in prison?

Kamilah: This time I think it was for possession of drugs and she knew something and she wouldn't tell what it was and they kept her in and they told her that she was going to have to do 10 to 20 and she didn't end up doing it but they sent her to boot camp and she spent, I think two or three months in boot camp and they released her and the next thing you know she was right back in there. It was just hard for me because I couldn't concentrate on school. My grades was falling and with my mom being locked up and whatever and me unable to talk to her, it was like so hard for me and my daddy wouldn't listen to me. I mean, it was just so hard to get attention. So, my grades were falling and I was doing real bad in school and that's when I was like, okay, I've got to do something about this. When I heard my mama was getting out, when I heard she was being released from boot camp, I was like, whoa, you know. She was making all of these promises like she's going to change. And I was like, Oh, God, I'm going to see what she's going to do. I was, you know, waiting whatever for the day to get out we went to graduation at boot camp and she was crying and everybody were boo-hooing or whatever. And I was in the car, I was like okay, mom, what are the plans? I mean, what's going on? What are you going to do? And she was like, well, I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that. I 'm going to do this and the whole time my grandma was like, I mean, everybody said, don't listen, she's going to hurt your feelings, you know. You put your trust in her but don't put all of your trust in her and so, I was like okay. Let me see what's going to happen. I put a little bit of trust in her. I'm not going to put all of my trust in her like grandma said. I'm like I'm going to see, so. I mean, and I was talking to her and whatever and she was telling me how she's going to do this but she never did do any of it. She was back on the same road she was going down.

Interviewer: Well, tell us what the situation is now.

Kamilah: Now, it's more about that she want to stop but she can't cause when she hang with like the wrong crowd. She'll go to hang with the wrong crowd and we'll tell her, like now, I stay with her and her friend but she don't ever be there. So, I'd be there with her friend by myself and it's scary sometimes when, you know, you think about it. I'd just stay in the room most time and listen to the radio. Now, she would call every now and then, like How are you doing? Y'all got food to eat? Or whatever. And I'm like, Are you planning on coming home? She was like, I'm going to be home. I'm going to be home later and the later gets here, you don't see her.

Interviewer: So, how often do you see her?

Kamilah: Like, I don't know. Like when the food stamps come out. That's the only time I see her and that's probably like every month on the 15th.

Interviewer: When ever your mom is there, I mean, what kind, what do you talk about? What's the interaction?

Kamilah: When my mom, when I see mom, she walks in the door, it's kind of like, I see her, she's like a spirit. She just walks right past me. I mean, there's no Hi, how you doing or nothing. It's just like I'm a visitor, a guest in her house. Like she don't know me or nothing but it's just like she don't see me there. It's like a spirit just walking straight through the house. We don't have no conversation. It's like, you know, she see people and they ask about me, I mean, we won't talk. So, I guess people just ask about me for her to talk to me but she won't talk to me unless she wants something or people ask about me.

Interviewer: It's just like you're not there?

Kamilah: Uh-huh.

Interviewer: Well, how you feel about her?

Kamilah: Well, I mean, it hurts me a lot but I try not to, you know, let her know that it hurts me cause I know if I let her know, with her being all drugged, she probably ain't do nothing but just try to target me and it will hurt me more. The difference for me is I learned from everybody else's mistake. I see what they going through now and what I've lived through in the past and I just basically, you know, saying I don't want to live this life. I mean, I'm tired of this life. I need to do something if I help Kamilah keep Kamilah out of trouble. So, I basically, I narrowed myself down so that I don't need friends. I learned, you know, my dad always told me, you know, you say you have friends but your friends ain't always your friends and, you know, I learned from my brother's mistakes and, you know, I just see, you know. So, I don't have friends. My only friend is my grandma, my grandma and my auntie. My friends are basically my family. So, I mean, I really don't too have friends. I don't believe I should , you know, lay out or hang out. I don't do parties. I don't do clubs. I mean, I'm just Kay. I like to stay in the house.

Interviewer: Did you quit school because you couldn't get a ride?

Kamilah: I couldn't go really because I didn't have transportation and then another reason I didn't want to go knowing that I was under all of this stress and I didn't want to go to school being under all of this stress and then my grades just dropped down to the bottom because I wasn't really, you know, playing attention to my school like I had other things on my mind that I was, you know, trying to deal with. I just kind of lay low for a while and I wanted to go back but I wanted to make sure everything was going to be okay for me.

Interviewer: If you were talking to a kid going through the same things you're going through, what would you say?

Kamilah: If I was talking to a kid that was in the same position as me, I would just basically tell you, you know, just find somebody that you can trust or whatever and just talk to them, let them know what you're going through, tell them all about it. You know, just try to keep in contact with them and at the same time keep your head up and, I mean, it's going to be tough when you're talking to them because it helped me out a lot when I was, you know, little, whatever, growing up. I had counseling and when I was going to Hall High I had depression counseling. It's like by talking to them I just learned, you know, that it would help me by talking that I can trust, you know, just telling what I'm going through that I won't be scared, you know, I'll just go out and to talk to people, like to let them know what I'm going through trying to help me out a little bit than just trying to hold it inside and crying about it every day.

Interviewer: What would you want your mother to know?

Kamilah: Well, if I could get my mama to sit still, I'd like, okay, mama, this is what is going to happen. We're going to start today going through life, you know, starting over, getting to know each other really, you know. You know, you tell me a little bit about you, stuff I don't know about you. I'll tell you stuff you don't know about me. We'll do mother and daughter things, you know, and we'll just, from there keep like a close bond. You don't let nobody get to you and I won't let nobody get to you, you know, and nobody get to me and I won't let anybody get to me. I'd tell her that I love her. She already know I love her, you know. I'd tell her I'm there for her when she needed, she knows that too. And I'd just tell her to just get it together.

Interviewer: I see that you have written this wonderful piece

Kamilah: I wrote it when I was baby sitting. I wrote it because I thought that, you know, if everybody read it and it gets out and I make more copies of it, that I could pass it out to the kids that's going through basically the same thing I'm going through and if they read it and let them, you know, it'll let them know things, that you can do other things besides worry about your mom or your dad. It's like, you know, you can write a life story about it. I mean, you know, write poems about it. You know, express your feelings about it or write. Don't cry about it all the time. If you can't talk to nobody, just express it by writing. So, when I was writing that I was thinking about some of the things that I was going through when I was little and well, I was like just let me put it on paper and just have it like writing your thoughts out on paper cause this is how – I do this because, at the time I didn't have a diary and now I do. So, instead of just writing in the diary, I wrote it out, you know. It's just basically, you know, just don't talk all the time, just let them know, just let them read. Maybe if they read it, even though they'll understand it better than by you talking about it.When I go through stuff like, I write about it like when basically people when break my heart, I wrote poem about it or I'm going through something and I think nobody can help me with it, I write about it and then when I, you know, sometimes I don't fold it up and put it in a drawer and then when I go through the same thing I'll read it again and I just fold it up and put it back in the drawer and I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to be all right."

Interviewer: Would you read it?

Kamilah: Sure. This is the story of my life. It's called Entering the Life of Kamila Hayes. And the first thing I put in here was a poem I wrote and it's called Heartbreak. It says: What is heartbreak? Could it be possible? Is it possible? Well, only the ones whose heart has been broken knows the answer to the question. You see, to me it's a big issue because it's an every once in a while thing in my life. See, most people tend to find small people with big hearts and target them with powerful things. People like to think of it as a dart game. Everyone gets a dart. Well, sometimes I compare myself to their game because you see, it's like my heart is target and the darts are the people. I let them know when they enter my heart as if there is an open door with Free written all over me. As I tried to brush them off, they begin to grow deeper and deeper inside of me until my heart just crumbles into small pieces. As these pieces begin to form into little end that are so hard to find, it is then I realize I don't want this type of life any more. I then searched for those little ends and begin to put them together until there is a big red heart formed in to my hand and it is then that I put in the right place and begin to walk forward, never to look back again. Today I finish strong.

Growing up wasn't exactly easy for me especially when both of your parents wasn't there for you. My parents have been in and out of jail or prison mostly my whole life but it was always someone there to watch over me and guide me in the right direction. That special someone was my grandmother,Ms. Estella Jones Brown. She was not only my grandmother, in her I found a friend, a shoulder to lean on and a mother. I guess she was what you call The Hero because she was always there for me when I needed her most. Of course there were other people like aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. but I was mainly a granny's baby, as some people would say. There were times when I often wished that things would get better but it seemed like the more I wanted things to get better they always got worse. Starting school was harder for me than anything in the world. I had to go to school knowing that when I came home from school I wasn't going to see my mother's face. I knew she wasn't going to be there to ask me how my day went at school. So, every day I cried myself to sleep hoping that just one day out of my life my mother was going to be at home when I came home from school and then it happened. I had to move away from my grandmother. People were talking about sending us to a foster home but there was no way my grandmother was going to let that happen. Some how my mother and I split up for a little while sending us different places, me and my brothers to my grandmother's house in Wrightsville. My brothers to their dad's house and my big brother to his dad's house in southwest. From there we spent the majority of our lives in those places. That was until my mother got out of prison and thought she could take care of us. That was when she wanted us back but she was out of luck because no one wanted to give us back to her knowing she was fresh out of prison and that was when it happened. She got help. You would think after being with these people for long that you would never have to go back to them for anything but she was determined to have her children back in her life. So, she called the police out to my grandmother's house to get us, to get me and my brother back. The only one failed on was my younger brother. For him it was too late. His father had already gotten custody over him before my mother had gotten released. Getting us back wasn't the only thing my mother had gone through. She suffered a stroke when I was 11 years old. After being hospitalized there was no way that she could take care of us. So, again we had to move. This time it was up to us. We had a choice. We had to decide to go back to our mother's mother's house seeing how she was the one we adored. Everyone knew that that wasn't going to last long . Years have passed and my mother is back in prison. It seems like nothing can stop her. Before we knew it she had gotten out of hand. She went from being on drugs to going back to jail, to a stroke, being raped, to on drugs all over again. Sad, isn't it? But guess what? That still didn't slow her down. It seemed like it wasn't affecting her not one bit, maybe because it was affecting me the most. I was the only girl. I guess you could say it was because no one wants to see their mom going through what she was putting herself through. It had gotten up to the point where I was having multiple bad dreams and had to get counseling and that's when I learned to talk about, that talking about my problems to other people really helped. I am now 18 years old and I'm still going through the same problems as I was when I was a little girl and, yes, it is still hard for me. I still think that one day it will get better. Maybe not for my mother although I do believe she can change but maybe it will work out for the best way possible for me. Instead of counseling I try to get rid of my problems by writing poems or just crying myself to sleep. I try not to cry about them, so I just write about them in poems which is easier for me. My advice to other children would be just to find someone you can trust and talk to them. Let them know how you feel about what you are going through and tell them a little bit about it. If you feel that no one is listening to you, find someone who will. There is a very special in my life that listens to me all the time. I will be more than happy to share him with you. His name is God. Just call on him if you need him and he'll be right there.

Kamilah Hayes
Child of a formerly incarcerated woman Granddaughter of a formerly incarcerated woman