Life as a Black Girl

Struggling to Defy the Odds: Overcoming Homelessness, Sexual Abuse, and Death

By: Cassandra Edwards

I am not sure what kind of joke was being played when I was created but the life I was dealt could not have been deliberate. Growing up black was one thing, something I thought I could handle with my hands tied behind my back. Growing up in St. Louis, Mo which was labeled the murder capital of the world was a task within itself. Coupled with my struggles of peer pressure, homelessness, and even childhood molestation was a recipe for disaster, unless you were me.

I took every pain and every struggle and used it for my motivation to excel beyond even my own desires. While my grandfather caressed my body, I fantasized of another world in which not even he existed in. I plunged into my poetry to release my pain. As gun shots rang out across my Northside neighborhood, I nestled myself in the local library propped against the bookshelves jotting every thought and every dream down on paper.

I would not be a victim of Lee and Newstead, just another graduate of Beaumont High School, or even a statistic of St. Louis Missouri. I pushed myself. I proudly held my head up as I marched past the gang members, some of whom were my own family members, daring to wear my school colors of Blue and Gold in a neighborhood of Bloods who frowned upon it. Although they guarded every corner with their pistols on their hips I was more afraid of not making it out of the neighborhood than I was of ever reaching my primary destination.

Like many young black children I had been shuffled among many addresses due to my mother’s inability to pay rent. Being evicted and having our belongings placed on the sidewalk no longer shamed me, it encouraged me to work harder. Many of nights I sat hungry in anticipation of our next meal as I prayed for a breakthrough. I laughed sometimes as the humor God showed when creating my journey of life.

My teenage hormones almost consumed me when entering high school but the fear of becoming a statistic, of being a teenage parent lingered in the back of my mind and saved me from my own youthful desires. In a world of so many teens dying I decided to fight to live. I was embarrassed that my mother did not have a job and my afternoons were spent riding the makeshift bomb pop truck my uncle owned. I was humiliated that we had to shop at the Veterans Village for someone who I didn’t even know and me down clothes.

I was infuriated at the fact that my bad attitude and quick temper kept people from believing in me. No one understood the pain I had bottled up inside. I was a teenage parent raising three kids and had never even had intercourse. I watched my mother hunched over so many nights in pain from her dialysis treatments three times a week and though I knew she needed my help, I regretted giving up my teenage years to chase after three kids I never even asked for. My anger had been handed to me because of my experiences.

I found refuge in the poetry club at my high school and then finally in the same gangs I had walked past for years. I fell victim to the thrill of the streets and craved to hang on the corners after school. The toughening of my interior emotions showed on the outside through my demeanor and attitude. To prove I was tough enough and worthy enough I allowed my work at school to subside. I began hanging out places unfit for a blossoming teenage girl with the body of a full grown woman. I longed to dive into the lifestyle of my older peers but my conscious would always snap me back to reality.

I began to use my mother’s sickness as an excuse to leave school to simply hang out and be considered cool. I wasted so many hours of instructional time for recreational activities now that I think about it. My friends at school and my friends in the neighborhood were from two different worlds though we only lived miles apart within the school zone.

I learned to successfully camouflage myself to fit the environment I had been succumbed to. It took teachers who taught beyond the classrooms and a year of being homeless to make me realize the importance of living beyond my circumstances. No one knew we lived in motels and sometimes were forced to sleep in my uncles van or my mother’s car. No one suspected that I had not had a meal since lunch the day before. And I thought no one cared.

I no longer cared what others wanted me to do or what they thought I should I put in my mind what I needed to do was escape. I had been gifted with intelligence so my grades were never an issue, but it was not until I decided that life beyond St. Louis was my goal that I began to seriously contemplate valuing my education. As time went on my mother got even sicklier and the doctors gave up hope that she would ever live without Dialysis again. My hope was activated that if I could make enough money I would pay for my mother the kidney that was stopping her from living life.

My senior year in high school came and though we were no longer living in motels we still struggled day to day. I was vying for the title of Valedictorian of my class, had been offered a full scholarship to every school I applied to besides Harvard, and was well on my way to becoming more than what I was ever expected to be. I was at peace in my mind and for once I felt stability.

Just twelve months after accomplishing my first goal, my life again spiraled out of control. I watched as they lowered my mother’s body into the ground and felt a piece of me die. After attempting suicide on my own life I finally got the revelation that I had defied the odds.

All my life I had been faced with struggles and issues that many never overcame. I did not become a statistic of my neighborhood, my city or my circumstances. My mother’s death was the final blow meant to take me out and though it almost did I was victorious. It may have seemed bad growing up a black teenage girl and being faced with the statistic of becoming a teenage parent. It may have been assumed to be bad growing up in St. Louis attending an inner city high school. Growing up homeless and enduring the pain of molestation was a terrible thing, but it was not so bad growing up as a black girl destined to make it.

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16 Comments on "Struggling to Defy the Odds: Overcoming Homelessness, Sexual Abuse, and Death"

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Anonymous
2 years 3 days ago

I am sooooo proud of you!!!! Reading your story makes me even more proud!!!

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Arnette Mondaine
2 years 3 days ago

What am AWESOME testimony. This gives me hope in the many challenges in my life. Continue to be victorious despite your trials because you never know who watching & gaining motivation. Love ya

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Anonymous
2 years 3 days ago

Cassie you are a winner! Love you Girl

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Anonymous
2 years 3 days ago

Takeshia P

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Jamaka
2 years 3 days ago

I am so proud of you big cuzz. Your testimony gives me hope and motivation. I love you❤

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Marya
2 years 3 days ago

What an amazing testimony. You’ve accomplished so much in your life. You’re a blessing to so many, including me. You have a beautiful spirit and a beautiful way with words. Can’t wait to read your first book. Continue to be you ( as I know you will). I love you. BFF’s for life.

Guest
2 years 3 days ago

Cassandra. ….phenomenal woman you are sista!!!! It is my hope that this was only an excerpt from the book!!!! Loved it sooo… It’s a must read…. Job well done my sista!!!!

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Cassandra Edwards
2 years 3 days ago

Thank you all for the encouraging words and comments!! It is my prayer that my story gives hope to the hopeless and they pressed forward in every way. I wrote this with no intention of including it in a book only to share my story. I may reconsider and use this as my forward.

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Erica
2 years 3 days ago

Wow!!! You truly are a brave and victorious black woman! I have mad respect for you sis! Keep telling your story, there is someone that is in need of a breakthrough and this alone can be motivation to push them the same way you pushed yourself. God is working in your life and it SHOWS! I love you!!!!

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Anonymous
2 years 3 days ago

WOW although I can’t imagine a lot of what your early life was like I truly identify with the feelings of hopelessness homelessness this was such a heart felt testimony continue to SHINE and be a beacon of hope for others

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Anonymous
2 years 3 days ago

I luv your story. You kept me on my toes in high school and i thank you for that, your story is inspirational for our youth today.
Perseverance is the 🔑.

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Anonymous
2 years 3 days ago

E Weston 😘

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Shala Taylor
2 years 2 days ago

This is a true example of the saying “You see my glory, but you don’t know my story. ” Cassandra this is so awesome and your transparency is greatly appreciated. Knowing your story helps me to understand you and all of your intricacies a lot better. I look forward to hearing more from you.

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Anonymous
2 years 23 hours ago

You are my SHERO!! Through it all u came out on top…you proved that you were more than just some little black girl from the hood….I rejoice with you for victory!

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Anonymous
2 years 16 hours ago

Beautiful lady and may GOD continue to open up doors for you…it really touch my heart and the tears I dropped was tears of joy known that you survived🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

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Shanita
1 year 7 months ago

Awesome how you share your pain and success. So many people need that!!

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