One Day at a Time, Every Single Day

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My story is as big and blue as the deep blue sea. It is full of poverty, mental illness, abuse, rape, murder, and suicide. I am a former foster youth. The statistics against me tip the scale infinitely. In my life, I have had 18 social workers, 35 placements, four failed adoptions, and my first and last name changed twice before I was 15. I had nine aunts and uncles disown me, leaving me an orphan on the streets after the fourth failed adoption, and I was never reported homeless. Because of my ninth-grade theater teacher, who took me in several times, I found resources even though I was working three jobs, was the captain of the cheerleading team, and was sleeping in my car. I graduated high school on May 19, 2000. I was 19 years old.

When I was 15, I found six banker boxes of my foster care documents. They were the most horrible, yet incredible, pieces of paper that would guide me toward my life’s purpose. I started by teaching a social media class on compassion and change and doing an immersive art piece called “My Sky is Falling” in front of people on the street in front of The United Nations. At the end of the experience, each participant walked into a room where my files were spread across the ground to read, process, and talk about. It was amazing to see the shock on their faces after learning what it is like to be an orphan out of foster care and to become homeless, then later teaching at Columbia University. They struggled to process the system, and they had many questions. After hearing their questions and receiving their love and encouragement, I took my files and created Little Wild Thang, a Diary. In my childhood voice, I told my story through diary entries and my foster care files. There are hundreds of thousands of children and youth in foster care each year. I was one of them. I have something very important to say: I believe that change is possible. When the community and resources were available, I was able to climb out of the depths of crack cocaine and prostitution. I believe in change beyond the horizons of our environment. One day at a time is what I tell myself—every single day.

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