2008 Coburn Place graduate, Tamika, was this year’s Blue Breakfast speaker. She may have fled 1602 miles from her abuser but that was just the beginning. She traveled even further to create the life she knew she was going to live.
Tamika is an intelligent, strong and determined woman. She not only sets high goals for herself, but she attains them. She fully admits that she couldn’t have done it on her own, though. Luckily, with your support she was able to stop running away, slow down and start taking steps toward her dreams. Thank you for giving her the ultimate time-out.
Here is Tamika’s story, filled with tears, pride and deep gratitude:
“At 3 o’clock this morning, I was finally figuring out what I was going to say. First of all, thank you to anyone who felt that I was worthy enough to stand up here and tell my small story. <Tears start.> Good morning, I want to take the opportunity to personally thank each and every staff member, board member, volunteer and donor, past and present, of Coburn Place. <Rafael brings Kleenex.> I truly don’t take lightly this opportunity because I know I could’ve been another sister who didn’t make it out alive. 50-75% of domestic violence homicides happen at the point of escape. 4,000 of my sisters die each year at the hands of their abusers. Every 9 seconds one of my sisters is assaulted or beaten.”
“But I survived and that never escapes my memory.”
“I heard them say 1700 women have been helped by Coburn Place. (Note: 1700 adults and children) And I wrote down the number of miles I traveled to get away from my abuser. It was 1602 miles. So it doesn’t take a lot for me to understand how many women have been helped in a situation, just like mine, not far from the number of miles that I ran to get away from him. And by the time I made it to the steps of Coburn Place, I was tired. And I was trying to escape this terror. I slept for more than 3 days before the first knock came, Shawnta <Transitional Services Director> – that was Deb <former Advocate>, and it was at that point that my journey began.”
“I was strong but beaten. I was smart but torn down. I was angry, ashamed, frustrated, and I believed that I would always be running. But everything changed the moment I walked into that small, completely furnished apartment. I remember looking around and without thinking I laid across the bed crying as my son kicked inside me, and he’s right there <points to son, Mericko>. Was I finally going to get the rest not just for my body but for my weary mind? My mind was tired of having to out think, out wit and out run him.”
“It took only a little time to adapt to all that Coburn Place offered. But it wasn’t the adapting that my case manager, Deb, worked on. I knew how to adapt. It was trusting in her guidance, believing that I deserved freedom mentally. Retaking control of my destiny, that took the most time. But she was patient, knocking on my door, every day. Not always smiling, me not her, I was emotional and pregnant. But she kept knocking and she kept encouraging me. She even redecorated my apartment while I was at the hospital giving birth.”
“I remember Keith <Maintenance and Facilities Coordinator>. He was so sweet. He would bring toys to my apartment for my son. And I remember I didn’t have to ask for much because everything that I needed for my baby was already there when we came home.”
“And yes, Coburn Place became my home. They had the plan, services and resources and it was up to me to take the steps. At first it was slow and they were patient. But as I began to overcome, I began to reshape my mind and believe there was a woman named Tamika who had a life to live and finally decided I was going to live it.”
“Completely free, I had dreams that I would one day achieve. God definitely had a plan for me here, living out His plan. Coburn supported every effort of my journey. From the trips for custody battles for my older children, which I did finally get back, to my decision to finish and get my Bachelor’s degree and helping me to obtain a scholarship from the Sunshine Lady, created by Doris Buffet. The therapy, family counseling, financial literacy and so much more shaped the woman standing before you today. And everything they summoned to me continues to breathe life into every thing in my life.
I did graduate, of course, with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and in May I will have my Master’s degree in higher education. I started my own non-profit organization two years ago called, Restore the Role. We advocate for parental advocacy within schools and community. I also support parents utilizing their VPV – their voice their presence and their vote – to fight for educational equality. I’m working full-time for an amazing school, the Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship. I also recently as the president of IOTA Sweethearts, Inc. had the opportunity to go back where it all began to bring household items and food to support my sisters and all those women in Coburn Place.”
“But what about love? Yes, I found that too. I’m happily married to my best friend. My life has come full circle and it all started with a phone call for help. Sometimes people say they can’t imagine but I don’t have to say can’t because I know. I stand here self-assured, confident, successful, crying, loved and free because of the work of Coburn Place (Deb, Thakena <former Therapist>, Arlene <Mentor>, Shawnta, Keith, Dolly <Mentor>, and so many others, Lisa <Information & Technology Coordinator>) and what they put into me to make me sure that my life was worth living.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to come and just express my gratitude. Yes, 20 years, it’s been almost 10 for me – 10 years of surviving, 10 years of overcoming, 10 years of persevering but 10 years of living. As they ask for the money, don’t think that it’s in vain because women like me get to stand up and live free in our minds and in our lives, able to give back to those in our community that don’t have the opportunity to make that phone call. So when I walk away from this podium, just remember that those 1700 women almost equal the 1600 miles I traveled to get to safety, and I’m forever grateful.” <Standing ovation from the crowd.>