“‘Freeze Miss Piggy, spread your legs and put your hands up.’ Those were the words I heard my brother Patrick say to me before the gun goes off. The bullet shot past my right ear, barely missing my eye by centimeters. We were playing cops and robbers and did not know the gun was real. It was my mother’s gun. This was the first memory I have of God having favor over my life. I was 5 years old hiding under the covers thinking we (brothers and sisters) were playing hiding and seek.
I can hear a man’s voice asking, ‘Where the money at?’ Then I felt a gun to my head as I was still hiding under the covers. My mother gave the man what she had, and he left. I remember my brothers, sisters and me running down the road to the police station in our pajamas. This was my second memory of God having favor over my life.
I’m the youngest of 5 kids. I have two sisters, Bridgette and Latisha, and two brothers, Raymond and Patrick. My mother was a single mother who worked two jobs to provide for us. I remember my oldest sister, Bridgette, telling me stories of how my dad would beat my mother and even pushed her down a flight of stairs when she was pregnant with me. My mother ran away shortly after I was born to get away from him. Most people think I hated my dad. True. I hated the fact that his actions made me feel lost and unwanted. There were days I hated looking in the mirror because my sister said I looked just like him.
By the time I was in the second grade we moved into another projects called Palmetto. Everyone knew this place as PPU, Poor People University. Shortly after we moved out there, I walked in the house and saw my mother crying. I said, ‘Mommy what’s wrong?’
My mother replied, ‘Oh, nothing Kimmi, mommy will be okay.’ Days later I overheard her telling my sister that my dad wrote her a letter from prison that included divorce papers. This was a major turning point that change our life forever. My dad divorcing my mother made her fall into depression and she became addicted to drugs. I started noticing Christmas and birthdays were just another day, and we had to be happy we were even alive.
My two oldest sisters eventually moved out. My brothers and I are a year apart and we were extremely close. We had to learn how to fend for ourselves. We learned how to cook, clean and wash clothes before the ages of 10. Some night all three of us would go to separate neighbor houses and ask for food to make ourselves one meal. Sometimes we went without lights because the bills weren’t getting paid. I remember one winter we were in the house with coats on laying in front of the stove with the oven door open. Another time we couldn’t get the oven to turn on, so we decided to get a lighter and rolled up some newspaper and lit it. Of course I was the one would got chosen to light the water heater. When I was trying to light it, there was a big gulf of flame that shot out at me and burned all the hairs on my arms and even some of my hair on my head. My brothers and I were so scared that mommy was going to beat us, but we later laughed about it. We did anything to help us survive.
We would take turns stomping our clothes in a bath tub half full of water and dish detergent and ringing them out with a towel to hang out to dry. Kids and even some of their parents would bully us because we didn’t get Christmas presents or new school clothes.
School became my escape from all the pain, but it was basketball that helped me cope with most of it. When I was in the 3rd grade we had to write a story about our Christmas vacation. I read my story in front of the class. ‘There is no Christmas in the projects because we have no chimneys, but I did hope for a bicycle.’ The next week, my third grade teacher Mrs. Vaughn said, ‘Santa Clause brought you something to school.’
After class we went to her car and it was a brand new Beach Cruiser.
My mother was not the type of addict that stayed out in the streets for days or weeks at a time. She would go get her fix, come home and lock herself in the room. There were times she would yell at us, but she was never physically abusive. She would always tell me how much she loved me. She would say, ‘Kimmi, no matter what you go through in life, always stay true to yourself, love yourself and never allow anyone to treat you differently.’ My mother instilled love and humbleness in me. But at the time I didn’t understand why she didn’t love herself enough to follow the same things she would tell me to do. Even though I was confused and torn mentally and emotionally, my mother was all we had. Through it all, I didn’t resent my mother. I grew to understand she was battling something bigger than us and in due time, change would come.
My mother met this guy named H. He was always calm, but very dark. I remember waking up in the middle of the nights hearing my mother scream for me to help her. I was 9 years old running in my mother’s room to save her from the beating of H. As soon as I would make it in her room, he would say, ‘We were just playing.’ My mother would grab me and squeeze me tight and whisper in my ear, ‘You keep me alive, I love you so much, Kimmi.’ I used to sit in my room talking to someone, not knowing who it was. ‘I know there’s a better life than this, I know it’s going to get better, so please protect my mommy.’ Some nights I never thought this life would ever end. I never thought going to bed and waking up hungry would end. I never thought seeing my mother fight her demons would end. I never thought late nights crying in my room would end. But yet, I still held onto a small piece of faith.
The abuse went on for years, and one random night my mother said to me, ‘I’m running away to get myself together.’ For some reason, I felt she was running away from another abusive attack from H.
New Life With My Sister
In sixth grade I moved with my oldest sister to Sanford, Florida. I did not like it there because it was as if I was supposed to forget about my mother. I hated living with my sister because I was getting bullied by the same girl every day. Finally I had enough and fought back, but I ended up in the Juvenile Detention Center for 15 days.
I was up one night dripping in sweat and yelling, ‘Something is wrong with my mother, God please help.’ Everyone yelled at me to lay down. But I felt it in my spirit – my mother was not safe. The next morning I found out that the man H found my mother and tried to murder her. He stabbed her really badly all over her body and even her face.
Around this time, I realized the person I use to talked to at night in my room was God. I also learned that I had faith way before I understood what faith was. This is the foundation of my brand, HolyWater. HolyWater is the power to speak life and prosperity over your own life.
After a year of staying with my sister, my mother was drug free and I moved back to Daytona Beach with her. When I got in high school I started taking basketball more seriously because I understood that this will be my key to the life I always prayed for. I was a freshman starting on Varsity. The assistant coach Herman Perry became a major gift in my life. He treated me like I was his daughter. Made sure I ate, brought me school clothes, took me to WNBA games, and bought me my first cell phone. He told me I had a gift that was bigger than basketball, but I had to believe that. My mother has always been my biggest fan. My mother has now been clean for 14 years.
My mother would yell while the other team was shooting free throws, ‘Voodoo on that rim, Call Ms. Cleo the psychic lady.’ She would run up and down the sidelines as if she was the referee. I remember passing her the basketball thinking she was my teammate at one of my games. I was named Central Florida’s MVP for three years in a row. I earned a full athletic scholarship to Stetson University where I graduated with my bachelors. Before I went to earn my Masters, I set out to complete another mission God had set in stone for me. I was the first person out of all generations to go to college and graduate. I inspired my mother to go back and finish college.
I started going back to the project I grew up in and personally spending time with those kids, tutoring them, and ultimately instilling that wisdom and knowledge in them that no one did for me. My passion is giving back to the children of our communities because I know and have seen what your environment can do to you. God granted me with a pure spirit and humble mind. But I also know a lot of people are not strong enough to go through trials by themselves.
I am also involved with an organization, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, the Deland, Florida chapter, run by Tammy Bruner. We take donations and sponsors to build beds and deliver them to kids who are sleeping on their floors.
My purpose in life is to serve people, uplift and show them we are greater than who we believe we are. We do NOT have to be a product of our environment. If I can help at least one child a day in our community, I am one step closer to completing my mission. I use my brand HolyWater as a foundation to give back to our communities. I raise funds by making and selling t shirts to help with things like groceries, personal items and clothing. My ultimate vision is to write a book about my life and speak at different events for our children, so I can tell my story to inspire them to seek better life through every trial and tribulation because we are not a product of our environment – we are much greater.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kimberly Manning. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more inspiring stories of people overcoming childhood traumas to thrive:
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