Monday, January 4, 2010

My Prince, My Hero, My Love...

Recently, I've been stressing about being financially tight, but today I took a big breath and released.  I began to think about the journey, and I am truly too blessed to be stressed.  I began to reflect on the last sixteen years of my life and I was inspired to write the following piece about my prince, my hero, my love....and the new journey we may have to face in 2010...I also Decided to submit this piece to for this months writing contest entitled, "Something New"...and guess what???  I won...

My Prince, My Hero, My Love...
In late December, we visited an Orthopedic who was actually able to give us some direction in helping my husband deal with the pain that he endures daily. This direction could mean a major surgery and a year of rehab, but could have a tremendous positive impact in the years to come. Being young, black, and uninsured sixteen years ago has led us to a major fork in the road.

Each morning I watch him slowly make his way to the bathroom, as the clinks and clanks in his ankle start to warm up after resting from the night. I watch him take one step and one foot at a time down the stairs. My heart hurts thinking about the daily pain he lives with, even though he doesn’t complain or whimper. In fact he goes above and beyond not only at work, but at home, and in everything he does. Every now and then he retreats to what we call the “male box”, where he is quiet, watches sports, and doesn’t talk much. Although I know he doesn’t want to talk during these times, I do still try and check in just to assure myself that alone time is what he needs. During these times I wonder if Mr. Cherry knows how he changed my husband’s life all because an insignificant, insecure young brother in the group called a girl a “bitch”. I wonder if Mr. Cherry is alive, and if that night also changed his life. It definitely changed ours…

It is something how one singular event can change the course of your life. Sixteen years ago my husband was shot in the ankle leaving a bachelor party. At the time our relationship was in its infancy. Little did we know that our life together would be solidified by one call. Prior to that fretful night, I was starting to have my doubts about this brother who was so intense and clear that friendship was not what he wanted. At the time, I had been hurt a number of times, and I just did not trust that he was the person he was claiming to be. He asked me to attend a wedding with him and we were to meet in Atlantic City. To make a long story short, he never showed up at our meeting place. The bachelor party turned into a brawl and shooting. He was shot in the ankle where his tibia and fibula bones were shattered. Upon going into the first of many surgeries, he overheard someone say, “He’ll never walk again.” With no insurance, and several surgeries, they patched him up as best they could, and he did and does walk…albeit in pain, but he is walking. The care he received at the time was the bare minimum and because of that, his ankle  and leg is deformed, which is causing back and hip pain. In order to be able to sustain any replacement therapy in the future, the deformity must be fixed…amazing what having insurance can do…This is the fork I mentioned earlier…

He was 24, unemployed, not able to walk, and recovering at his brother’s home in Absecon (a small town outside of Atlantic City). Learning to walk again would take at least a year. Looking from the outside in, he seemed to be in quite a hopeless situation, and at times hopeless is what he felt. However, those times were far and few between, because though tragic as it was, so many blessings were birthed during that year of recovery. When I finally found him after being stood up at our meeting place, I called the hospital and found his room. As soon as he heard my voice he said, “I was so worried about you”. Little did he know he had me at that point, but I didn’t tell him that because I still felt he had to work a little harder. He often jokes and says he had to get shot to earn my love. That is so not true, but it is after this shooting that our relationship grew to new levels. He took care of me from the hospital bed and made sure that I had a place to stay, and he has been taking care of me ever since. I drove two hours every Friday after work to see him at his brother’s house. We spent the first six months of our relationship in a 12’ x 12’ guest room. He endured several surgeries, several casts, and months of physical therapy, but he had me and an amazing family by his side the whole way. His relationship with his brother, 11 years his senior, wasn’t always the closest, but while recovering in his home, something magical began to take place. They began to get to know each other and a new kind of friendship began to develop. His brother had three children who were bright, curious, loving, and amazing to be around. A relationship and bond was formed between all of us that is tucked away in our hearts and one that we all carry in a safe place. Those kids became a piece of our world, and those times and memories have helped to shape us as we parent our own three children.  The sisterhood and brotherhood that was formed between us is always present. Even though many miles separate us, the bond is strong, and may not have ever happened had he not been shot.

During this time, we talked about his dreams, and what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Many times when events such as this happen, people get a new lease on life, but sometimes it fades as the injuries begin to heal. Not in his case…He told me that he wanted to make a difference in young black boys/men’s’ lives. He was a Finance/Real Estate major in college, but he wanted something different for himself and for his community. The young man who shot him was 17 or 18 years old, and he received 18 months for shooting a human being…a black human being. Because it was a black on black crime, Mr. Cherry was able to plea bargain. The court decided that the cost of bringing out of state witnesses back for trial was not an expense they wanted to incur. So Mr. Cherry received 18 months for disfiguring my husband’s leg for life. Once we were past the trial, my husband decided that he needed to forgive Mr. Cherry and that he needed to make a difference. Somehow he had to be an agent of change in young black lives. Once he could walk again, he got a job substitute teaching for the East Orange School System. Simultaneously, he began studying for the Teachers Exam and enrolled in Graduate School. Upon passing the teachers exam, he was hired as a permanent substitute teacher, and then gained employment as a 5th grade social studies teacher. During this time, he also spoke about starting a basketball team at his church. He figured the team would have about 10 players and they would play other community teams. He got clearance from the pastor and held tryouts one Saturday morning. Over 90 kids showed up for the tryouts, and he looked at me and told me he could not turn any of them away. Some kids came with their mothers and grandmothers who looked to him with hope in their eyes. Needless to say, instead of a team, he now had a league. Instead of just him he had his friends and family from the same community help out as coaches, score keepers, and referees. It was truly amazing and a life changing opportunity for all of us. It was something bigger than ourselves and it impacted all that were involved in this project. There were times when I looked to him frustrated, and flabbergasted at how we were to pull it all off, but he never wavered and always came through. He had end of season banquets and even took the entire league to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He never did it alone, but it was his vision and leadership that made Harambee Basketball League such a success.  During this time, we got married, bought our first home, had our first baby and his career was accelerating faster than either of us could have imagined. Upon graduating with his Master of Arts in Administration, he was soon hired as an Assistant Principal, and then the youngest Principal in the history of the East Orange School District. All of the dreams and aspirations that we discussed in that little room in Absecon, were all coming to fruition, and he was truly making a difference. At the height of his career, tragedy struck again, and his mother, his biggest fan (besides me of course), was taken from us unexpectedly. Again, one tragic event would change the course of our life…

We didn’t realize how much our life changed at the absence of our matriarch. All the accolades and accomplishments just weren’t the same without her here to share them. The stress and bureaucracy of being an administrator in an urban setting was beginning to take its toll. Each day was becoming harder than the last, and I could feel things changing, but I really did not know how to help him or us. We decided that a fresh start would be best especially since the real estate market was at its height. He always planned to go back to Atlanta, and now seemed like the right time to do it. He got a job as a principal in another urban setting, we bought a house, and we moved south. All was fine, but the joy that once came from being an administrator was replaced with an overwhelming doom. I watched as he got up in pain both physically and mentally, and began to realize he wasn’t happy doing what he was doing. In fact, he was miserable. At the time I was a stay home mom and he felt that he had no other choice but to do what he had to do to support his family. Again, God had a different plan. He was put in a situation where he had no choice but to find a different line of work. And again, scared of what the future would bring, we were covered. Kevin gained employment at his Alma Mata, Morehouse College, and became a college administrator. We took a substantial pay cut, but I was also blessed with employment. He continues to do what he set out to do and that is helping to mold our black boys into young black men. He continues to make a difference in the community, in our home, and in the lives of all who know him.

There are days I am sure, that he must feel, “why me”. Why can’t I run and play basketball like I used to? Why am I in pain every day of my life? Why do I have to make the decision to have or not to have corrective surgery which will take a year from my life? Why did Mr. Cherry have so little respect for human life? But then again, what would our story be had it not happened. Do the blessings outweigh the downfalls? Could we have had the same outcome without the tragedy? We will never know…What we do know is that everything happens for a reason…the reasons are not always clear, but the outcome always brings clarity. I wish I could take the pain away.  I certainly would if I could…I only pray that the joy and the blessings of the journey will give him the strength needed to get through this next hurdle.


  1. WOW, Alicia...what a testimony. I hope Kevin realizes how very blessed he is to have you by his side.

  2. Leesha's Eboni Joy :-)06 January, 2010 are truly a sweet spirit and I am blessed to have you in my life. I know that my cousin Kevin counts his blessings everyday for having you in his life. You have always inspired me, and you always will. Love Always, Eboni Joy :-)

  3. Rhonda Waller, PhD06 January, 2010

    Alicia, thank you for sharing this personal journey. Obviously I haven't seen Kevin in a long time (in person) because I never knew. I remember him as that basketball player at Benedicts running up and down the court and him from our years in the AUC. I hope the surgery is possible, I know the downtime can be discouraging but look at the long term benefits. All the best to you guys! I look forward to your next blog post.

  4. Leesha, you never cease to amaze me with your powers of unconditional love. I have seen you metamorphosis into the beautiful butterfly that you are. I've been here throughout you and Kevins' journey from the beginning so I have more than just a birds eye view. Your story is truely dynamic. It is only because of where you guys came from that you have accomplished so much (together). Always be one in heart, soul & spirit because you will continue to grow together in lifes' journey. There is no place to go but up. With a strong foundation your house will be strong. God continues to bless you everyday because of the wonderful, loving, caring, giving people that you are. I'm honored to have The Bookers' South in my life). Thank You

  5. I have such a big lump in my throat after reading your post about Kevin. Love is a beautiful thing and I could feel it in every line! I think knowing you, Kevin, and your story makes it even more special to me. I just want to pull you and Kevin into a big 'ol group hug. He is a sweet soul, a good man, and an inspiration.

    Look at you writing your heart out in 2010!

  6. Alicia,
    Thank you for sharing this personal and passionate testimony with us. I knew Kevin and the Booker family, unfortunately, I didn't get to know you very well. Of course you were Kevin's beautiful wife and the mother of Kevin's children, but I didn't know Alicia. Wow, what an amazing woman you are. You are not only, beautiful but talented as well. I'll keep you, Kevin and the children in my prayers. I know that God will come through.

  7. Aunt Alicia,

    Words can't express how much this passage resonates with me. Namely because it's centered around one of my biggest heroes and role models, and written by another one. I am all too familiar with the intricate details of this beautiful story, and they have certainly impacted my life in more ways than I can count.

    I remember the day Mommy came into my room to tell me about what happened to Uncle Kevin. I was in the third grade and couldn't stop crying when I heard the news. Little did I know that he would not only be okay, but that we'd have the opportunity to spend so much time with him following the tragedy. Nor did I know the wonderful young lady who began to visit our home every weekend would turn into a beloved aunt, confidant, mentor, and friend to me and my siblings.

    I pray that this next chapter has a happy ending as well. I know the pain isn't easy, but Uncle Kevin is one of the strongest, and has an endless support network of family and friends. I'm here if you need anything at all. In the meantime, just know that I'm sending you peace, blessings, and love all the time.


  8. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! This post is the winner of the MyBrownBaby Beautiful Minds January 2010 Contest! Write on!!!

  9. Malaka Grant26 January, 2010

    This is amazing! What a powerful story. May God continue to bless you and your family. Awesome.

  10. Your story is such a stirring testimony to true love. Way to stand by your man through sickness and in health! I applaud both of you for turning a negative into a positive by reaching out to the black male youths in your community. I know in my heart that you are saving a lot of brothers from going down the Mr. Cherry path.
    Congrats on winning the contest!

  11. Wow, thanks for sharing. Glad I came across your blog. He is lucky to have you. It is amazing how God works & brings/keeps people together!