As a child, I watched as my mother get beat up on a daily basis by my father, even though she did everything in her power to please him. On some days he would come home drunk and beat her up for no good reason, not that he needed a reason to beat her, he shouldn’t even be laying a finger on her. He called my mother a witch and that she was the reason he was not progressing. He was too blind to see she was nothing but a saint and a blessing to him. On other days he would come home with another woman and act like it was his God given right. And when we the children protested, my four sisters, one brother and I, he would beat us too. Thinking about it now, if we were a little older we would have ganged up against and possibly beaten the living daylight out of the man. Being the first child, though still very little, I tried to be the source of joy for my mother. Whenever she cried and I couldn’t do anything about it, I just cried with her.
I remember when I was ten years, one day my father got tired of beating my mother and us up so he threw us out on the streets and said he wasn’t interested in the marriage and us anymore. No relation of my mom or close family friend was ready to take us in, a woman with five children, who would want to bear that responsibility? It’s funny how people have no compassion for anyone, even for blood.
My mom’s closet friend at that time took us and we stayed in their BQ while my mom tried to figure things out and put everything together. She said she was going to talk to her husband to assist mom to start something so she can afford to take care of us. While waiting for her to talk to her husband, mom started doing menial jobs, going to houses to clean, frying akara (bean cake), yam, potatoes and bread at the junction in the evenings. She did anything just to make ends meet, put food in our mouths and send us to school, but it never seemed to be enough. I started hawking sachet water in traffic after school because she never wanted me to stop schooling even though I was willing to just to assist her in taking care of my siblings. She always said I was the first and if I finish schooling and have a degree I would be able to assist her better then with taking care of my brother and sisters. This only gave me the encouragement to struggle and keep up good grades, I was quick in understanding things so it wasn’t hard for me to excel in school. On weekends and holidays that I didn’t go to school, I did other things like wash the neighbors’ cars and run errands and assist mom in cleaning the houses she cleaned.
We went on for a few years living like this, from hand to mouth, but we were always contented with what we had. My mom’s friend was so helpful, if only with the accommodation, we were really grateful, that why my mom never asked her if she had spoken to her husband and if there was anything he could help with. When she finally did, her husband said he would see what he can do. A few days later, while my mom was home alone, the man can back from work and his wife wasn’t around too. He had a conversation with my mom and said he was ready to help her start something she can use to take care of us but at a price. My mom was ready to do anything and thought he would ask for a percentage of the business earnings that he would set up but instead he said he wanted to have sex with her in return for his assistance. When my mom refused bluntly, he tried forcing himself on her and while they were struggling she hit him with her knee on his penis. That day, we came back from school and met our mom outside with our things, she had been thrown out by her friend’s husband. No matter how much my siblings and I asked what happened, my mom just kept reassuring us that it would be fine. It wasn’t until I was older, I got to know what really happened.
This was when all hell broke loose. We didn’t have any where else to go. So we found an uncompleted building and stayed there. After months of sleeping on a mat on the hard cold floor, it seemed like things were only getting worse. We were on our mid-term break and I went out to hawk with two of my sisters, my little brother, as we have been doing after school and on weekends, but this day my little brother got hit by a car and died on the spot. The car didn’t stop and I watched it speed off as I held my brother’s body trying to shake life back into him, crying and screaming his name. People just stood and watched us crying, until someone picked up my brother and rushed him to a nearby hospital, I knew it was too late, I can’t really explain it but I felt the life leave his body that day. This was a really down time for my mother and it seemed like her cry was never going to stop.
On one fateful day while my mom was selling her fried akara, yam and potatoes, she ran into her childhood friend, who was one of the nicest persons I’ve met, this I got to know later. We moved in with her and she was really helpful. She was soft spoken, cherished us like her own kids and she never stopped encouraging my mother. I can honestly tell you that she was God sent. She kept on assisting mom in taking care of us, she set up a business for my mom where she sold clothing wears and things finally started looking up for us. It wasn’t the dream life but we got by, day in day out with what we had.
I had just finished high school and my results were outstanding. My mom’s friend told mom that it would be better if I go abroad to attend college and completely my education, that there’s a higher chance of getting a job afterwards and start assisting her with training my siblings, that she would assist in my school fees and whatever I would need. At first, mom was reluctant but she later got on board with the idea and that was how I left for the United States of America to further, not before the ‘don’t forget the family you are from’ talk mothers usually give. That day I swore I was going to make my mom proud and get her and my siblings the very best life could possibly offer.
I kept on communicating with mom and my siblings, she never lost a chance to remind me of where am from and who was paying my tuition fees, how I got there and I shouldn’t disappoint her. After four years of hard work and a lot of sleepless nights, I graduated with a first class and got five job offers. I did the interviews and got three out of them. I settled for best out of them and they gave me some time off to come to travel to Nigeria. That night I called mom and told her, I could have sworn she was the happiest person on earth at that very moment.
My graduation party went well and I was going to leave for Nigeria in two days time to see my family after which I would return after a month to start my new job. I was all set and ready to go. That night, I was cross checking my list and gifts I got for them and found out I had missed a few gifts I wanted to get for my sisters, so I strolled out to the nearby store to get them. I got what I wanted and as I was leaving the store, I bumped into a white dude. I apologized but he didn’t seem to take it lightly, I tried walking away but he kept on screaming all sorts of names at me, blocking my way. He called me a monkey and told me to go back to the zoo. I didn’t utter a word, tried to remain calm and turned to walk away, he pulled me back, pulled out a gun from under his shirt and I heard a loud sound. I felt myself falling to the floor with so much pain passing through my body. He came over to my body on the floor and shot me two more times before running off.
My whole life flashed across my face when the first bullet made impact and all through the images I saw, my struggling mother trying to make ends meet was the most constant one.
As I stand here, looking at my lifeless body on the floor, blood gushing out from the three bullet wounds, I can’t help but wonder how my mother would take it when she finds out. Lord, give my mother and siblings the strength to bear this loss…
*I am not a racist and I am against every form of racism and discrimination. I believe all human beings should be respected and treated equally regardless of their skin color and hope that someday we would have racial equality all over the world.
This goes out to the family of Trayvon Martin and every other family or persons that have lost a relation or friend or have been abused due to racial discrimination and segregation. My heart goes out to you and may our God strengthen you to bear your loss.