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Essay: 'A “Motherless Child” Bullied By Her Along The Way

"HBCU White House" Executive Producer Alvin J. Woods details his traumatic experience with his mother and his thoughts on committing suicide.

Alvin Woods

I’m a product of young teenage parents – my mother was 15 years old and my father was 14 years old at the time of my birth. As a toddler in Louisiana, I dealt with physical abuse from the maternal side of my family that left me with scars – including a permanent burn mark on the palm of my right hand. The scar was caused by a member of my biological mother’s family forcibly holding my hand on a stove burner. I now look at the hideous mark every day as a sign of survival.

It would appear that my mother intentionally got pregnant for a chance at a more stable life, through marriage or a committed relationship, with my father and his family. Once it became clear to her that my birth would not secure a better future for her in the short term, she hastily moved the two of us to Southern California as a way to hurt my father and his family. Some of my earliest childhood memories include being alone in a sketchy apartment for extended periods of time – literal days would go by before I’d see my biological mom or an adult. It became normal to figure out how to feed myself because no one else took on the responsibility.

While most kids were outside playing in community areas of the apartment complex, I was being forced by my biological mother to take X-rated Polaroid pictures of her in suggestive positions so that she could send them to her male suitors. While most kids were enjoying family time, I dealt with random unprovoked abusive outbursts from the only adult in my life at the time.

One day, my biological mom pops up with a husband and a new baby on the way – and tells me that we’re going to visit his family in Chicago and other areas of the Midwest region. Little did I know…her plan was to leave me there – while she began to build a life with her new husband and new baby. There I was…approximately six years old; now living with members of my step-father’s family with no familiar faces around me. At one point, no one even cared that I wasn’t enrolled in school.

Once my biological dad became aware of my situation, he did his best to ensure that I was sent back to Louisiana to live with him. Moving back to Louisiana at seven years old was a complete shock. Not only was I unfamiliar with the culture and faces of the people (paternal family) that I would be living with, but I also had to quickly learn how to “be a child.” They had no clue that I was consistently exposed to sexual situations and drugs and that I was hyper-independent due to ongoing stretches of abandonment and trauma.

Those early days with my father’s family triggered anxiety. I was constantly burdened by the reality that they would find out that I wasn’t such an “innocent kid.” The only person I really “knew” was my biological mother, and as the days passed I heard from her less and less. Time passed and a legal battle ensued as my biological mother found the audacity to fight for sole

custody following an extended period. After a court deemed that it was in my best interest to be raised by my father, my biological mother did her best to make sure that I felt like “a mistake.”

As my birthdays began to pass with no word from her, my biological mother had become a

stranger. My birthday was always the worst for me, a time period that was “so loud and embarrassing.” All I ever wanted on my birthday was peace and to hear “I love you.” Every year, I wouldn’t receive either. After a while, my circumstances led me to believe that I didn’t deserve to be (physically) here. I wanted “peace” and to me that meant quiet; no longer being here…committing suicide.

One of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood came about when my last name changed from my biological mother’s last name to my father’s surname. Trying to explain on the first day of the school year (in front of an entire class) why my last name is now ‘Woods’ and no longer ‘Friday’ could’ve been my last day on earth. I experienced a lot of pain in my early life and a lot of suffering from depression which led to an addiction to food. It became a joke within my family that I gained weight between the ages of 9 to 13, because of my love for my paternal grandmother’s cooking, but in reality, I was masking my pain in plain sight by over-eating as a cry for help.

The abuse and trauma that I faced during my childhood caused long-lasting mental health struggles, which ultimately affected every relationship around me. There is an epidemic of depression and suicide among Black males, and I’m thankful every day that I chose to pull myself out of a dark headspace that could have ended me.

I had to learn how to let my biological mother go. I’m a “motherless child.” Even though my mother is still alive, I had to mourn her and her role in my life to survive. Letting her go gave me the strength to stay here...physically.

I recently turned 40 and transparently shared with my loved ones that I never thought that I’d make it. I didn’t think that I would grow old. For so long, all I ever wanted was “peace” and to me that meant quiet; no longer being here…committing suicide. Today, “peace” means something totally different.

It means that I have conquered internal demons and the seeds that were planted with the intent to malnourish my developmental years. I am now content with who I am. I am content with my past. I’m supposed to be here! All the great things (outside of the childhood abuse and trauma) that have happened in my life are affirmations that I am supposed to be here.

988 is a three-digit dialing code connecting people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where compassionate, accessible care and support is available for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. “National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” “Lifeline” or “988 Lifeline” is used interchangeably to refer to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which was built upon the existing National SuicidePrevention Lifeline (NSPL) network. The Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal, mental health and substance use crises or emotional distress — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “SAMHSA” is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the federal agency in charge of overseeing the Lifeline. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

1 Comment

Pamela Hart
Pamela Hart
Sep 30, 2023

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