I’ve been manifesting miracles since I was a little girl, on the streets eating out of trash cans and sleeping in piss and beer.
My mother, a user and a rage-aholic, had put me out of her home many times. But the last time, at 16, actually I put myself out because I could no longer guarantee that I would not act out the violence that had been acted out on me.
I grew up on the streets of Baltimore (mostly). Police. Prostitutes. Pimps. Drugs. Street life is like Old Testament law! My mother was a very hurt person. My father, not in the picture, was a hustler. Even after his jail time, he didn’t come find me.
I was never homeless, because on the streets, “homeless” is when you have given up hope. The streets are about strategy. I am fundamentally a strategist. My homes were condemned buildings.
I slept wherever I could, just never in a bed of my own. As far as I knew, beds were for rich white people on TV.
Anyhow, in 9th grade, I was hungry, tired, cold and sleeping in an alley. I prayed, “God please help me.”
The answer to my prayers was Nanna. She was the miracle that began to change my life.
Nanna was a teacher at my high school that I hardly ever attended. School was just a place where I could get food. But she saw me in the hallway when all the other kids were saying bad things about me because I looked awful and smelled bad. Nanna took me into her class and said,
“If any of you say anything about Venus,
I’m going to give you a zero.”
I felt protected. She didn’t make me go to my other classes and then after school, she took me to McDonald’s. I ordered a Filet-O-Fish, Sprite, and fries. I’ll never forget that because I had never dreamed I’d have such a wonderful meal!
“Come back to school tomorrow. I’ll have
something for you,” she urged.
Back I went the next day. This time Nanna had a bag with new underwear and sanitary supplies waiting for me. It was the first time I had clothes that were still in the original plastic. Nanna kept repeating this process of tempting me back to school with gifts of necessity and food. I’d wipe down her chalkboards, trying to pay her back. Eventually she even gave me a place to sleep at her apartment.
I hadn’t opened up to Nanna yet, hadn’t told the truth, even though she was an angel. I was scared to open up because I didn’t want to get in trouble with foster care, or juvie, and I didn’t want to get my mother in trouble. So I didn’t say anything.
So one day Nanna said to me, “Okay, if you’re not going to talk, then write.” She gave me a pencil and a notepad. Well, I didn’t want to make her mad and I didn’t want to lose the food or place to sleep, so I wrote down my thoughts.
I never imagined she’d read them—but she did! And then she typed them and submitted them to the NAACP A.C.T.S.O. competition. I don’t know how she found this poetry contest, she’s a math teacher! But she sent them in—and I won! And that’s when everything changed.
First off, I’d never known kindness before Nanna. Nanna giving me food was good, and giving me a place to sleep was good. But when she submitted my writing, she had to go out of her way to find something that would empower me to see myself differently. This help was beyond functional help. She thought enough of me to find some shit that I could participate in, given how f-d up I was! And she loved me with no ask for repayment.
It was unconditional love.
After this miracle and turning point in my life, Nanna got me declared independent so that I could get welfare. She helped me get into college at Adelphi. Then Ohio State. Then Stanford where I got my second Master’s and PhD. Today, my business is a love note to Nanna. And I live to be a Nanna for other people. Nanna gave me the tools and the courage to have a voice and today I use it in service of other people living their worth, their truth and their authentic self out loud.
She’s now a successful self-made Black Woman multimillionaire who (for years) has enjoyed a thriving business guiding other Black Women in healing their money wounds and claiming their financial power. Now she is expanding to include women of all races (and the men who love us!), turning pain into profit by becoming a category of one.