Their Vows

Rosa-Lyn, or Rose as they called her, was beautiful.  Her hazel eyes, golden skin and radiant smile trademarked her.  She had two children, reveled in motherhood and worked hard, and was about to begin Temple University.

However, there was one loose end:  a relationship she wanted out of.

Three years later her mother is adamant that nothing in that relationship predicted that Rose’s life would end with a slit throat and her profusely stabbed body laid bleeding, and her house set ablaze. Fortunately, the children were in Florida.

He didn’t want to lose her, he had said.

Rose was twenty-seven.

* * *

Andrea stands a little over five feet tall, but she is a powerhouse.  Soft-spoken with a gentle spirit, she speaks courageously about being a woman who compromised too much and said nothing when something needed to be said.  A woman who tamed her ambition because, according to her  husband, she was too strong, too independent.  Even some close to her had agreed.

Before long she was something she had never expected to become: a battered woman.  That is, until the day she was hurled against a wall.  She fought back. Hard.  He was severely injured and hospitalized.  She was jailed.

* * *

These ladies refuse to allow their stories to become mere numbers in domestic violence and criminal reports.  There are just too many casualties, they say, including 3.3 million children in the United States alone.

Rose’s mother, Rafeeqah Sanders, is intimately familiar with the trauma suffered by children who lose a parent to domestic violence – she was left to care for her two grandchildren, ages six and three.  Determined to make a significant difference  not only in her grandchildren’s lives, but in the lives of other children affected by domestic violence, Rafeeqah founded Rose’s Journey, a non-profit organization whose primary goal is to provide therapeutic and educational services to children impacted by domestic violence.   “Stopping domestic violence starts with teaching children that violence is wrong.”

* * *

The charges against Andrea were later dismissed, and her abuser is serving time for his offenses.  However, that wasn’t nearly enough.  Her life, her liberty and her health had been compromised by her silence, and Andrea vowed not to sit by and watch other women endure what she had.

She’s kept her word.

Through educational and social awareness programs, Andrea’s non-profit organization, Girl U Can Do It, Inc., empowers youths and young adults.  Tirelessly she advocates for AIDS/HIV awareness and domestic violence prevention, and every Saturday, she hosts the Real R.A.P.P. radio talk show, which brings awareness to issues that disproportionately affect the African-American community.

* * *

I watched these amazing women, along with two others, sit with straight backs and in unwavering voices share their poignant experiences with the world. They are not victims but victors who have made the conscious decision to rehash every gory detail until laws are changed, until men and women are properly educated, until each child is healed. They refuse to be still or be quiet because as they all agree:  silence equals death.

I salute them

Truly yours,


P.S.:  To find out more about Rose’s Journey, go to, or contact Rafeeqah Sanders at (215) 767-5258.

            Check out Andrea Johnson , Torrance Young and Walil Archer on Real R.A.P.P. Radio at every Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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My Truth About Motherhood

I wish that I could declare that I’m a great mother.

I wish that I could boldly affirm that every sacrifice was unselfish, that every decision was solely in the best interest of my son, that strategic planning was always implemented, and that I took advantage of every grand opportunity. I really wish that I could.  But I can’t.

To be clear, I am not a bad mother.  As a matter of fact, my son and I are very close.

At fifteen, I became his mother.  Even with tremendous support, my foundation for motherhood was molded by fear:  fear of disappointing people who believed in me; fear of confirming stereotypes; fear of raising an African-American male in the inner city. So every “A” earned, every achieved accomplishment, and all three relocations, were steeped in dispelling any of those fears at any given time.

He’s twenty-seven now, and from birth I’ve loved him deeply and unconditionally.  However, for far too long, my fear for him felt greater than my love. I still fear some, but I no longer dwell or move or plan in that space because neither his greatness nor mine can thrive in such an irrational environment. He gets that, so much so that during his roughest times – especially during his roughest times — he has vehemently refused to allow me to deflect my fears onto him.

“Come home, just to rebound,” I have pleaded in my moments of panic.

“Okay, Mom,” he’s responded .

Yet, he’s never shown up.

Maybe one day he will, maybe not. I’m learning that he’ll be fine either way.  For that, I am grateful.

For over two decades, I have allowed senseless fears to deprive me from appreciating the fullness of motherhood. Yes, my pregnancy was a disappointment to those who cared about me, and yes, I increased the teenage pregnancy rate by one that year. Years later I would learn  that raising an African-American male anywhere in America – that raising a  child period – is challenging.  But none of that truly mattered anyway.  The disappointments were short lived, and  my hard work from then until now has paid off greatly.

My son is building his life brick by brick.  He has fumbled, even  fallen, but pure grit – the same grit possessed by countless of seldom acknowledged and productive African-American men throughout many inner cities of America – has kept him from showing up on my familiar doorstep and walking through my open door.  And, although so many years ago he opted for warmer climates, he proudly answers to a nickname that’s inked in his heart and represented on his arm – Philly.

There’s really nothing to fear. I get it now. 

I know better, so I’m obligated to do better.  And I will.  Hopefully, some years from now during the rewrite, I will have earned the right to audaciously declare, “I am a great mother!”

Until then, love hard and fear less.

Truly yours,


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