A person. A Photo. A Story.
This Week: Sarita on Moving on
“I grew up a strong woman. My brothers made me that way. See, I come from a big family and am the baby. On my father’s side, I have thirteen brothers. On my Mom’s side, I have four brothers and three sisters. When I was growing up, I struggled a lot because I didn’t have a father figure around. My brothers, especially my older brother, Michael, were like fathers to me. When I got older, I had two men come into my life who both claimed to be my father. It was just too much confusion for me, and sometimes I wish that both of them had never come out and said anything. I went from being unwanted to being confused. Sometimes, that confusion is worse for a child.
“Thing is that despite all of that, I was a good kid growing up. I was a tomboy and into playing basketball, so I missed out on a lot of that nonsense that girls get into. You know, how some women get pregnant at 14 or try to find a man who is going to pay their bills. Yeah, I never did none of that. I focused on playing ball and got a scholarship to play at Georgetown.
“When I was 20, my brother Michael was sent to jail. He had some unfinished business on the street and his family needed to be taken care of. Since he took care of me when I was just a kid, I felt like I owed him and his five kids. I stepped in to help him and eventually got caught by the police at a checkpoint with PCP in my car. I lost everything that day. The judge wanted to make an example out of the smart, college girl who got caught with drugs and sent me away for 18 months. That stripped me of everything I had and turned my life upside down. My brother felt so responsible, even though he never asked me to help. I did it because I have unconditional love for him and he needed me.
“After I got out, I was settling back into life when my grandmother died. I was driving with her, and I looked over and saw this bright light, seems like it was from Heaven, and then she passed. I raced to the hospital, breaking every driving code, but still couldn’t save her. I spent most of my life blaming myself for her death and started using drugs to feel numb about her and the other mistakes I made. I would go off to motel rooms and hide out by myself getting high. Things started to get worse and I started coming up with schemes to get money to support my habit. I don’t like to talk about what I did, but let’s just say that after that, it took me two years to remember my real birthday and social security number.
“That last lock up was a real trip. You would not believe who my roommate was? Martha Stewart! I was in West Virginia and they walked her into my room. I was, like, why are gotta bring her in here? I don’t have anything against her personally, but I didn’t want nothing to do with her. Once you cross into prison, you are in our world. We’re not all prim and proper and stuff.
“She came over to me, and I was laying on the bottom bunk and said, ‘I am older than you. Can you move to the top bunk?’ I looked at her and said, you can take your ass up that cold steal ladder just like I had to do when I first got here. She did and slept above me for months. We never had a relationship because I can read people, and I knew that she wasn’t real. She would promise other women things, but I never believed it. I know better. Man, I just wish I had a camera down there to show you how they made her ass work landscaping. I tell you, that shit was hilarious.
“In prison that time, I made a commitment that I wasn’t going to go back, and I haven’t. I got myself clean and worked at the Hilton on Connecticut Avenue for almost five years, even became our Union rep. Just about two years ago they laid everyone off due to the reconstruction. Just like that, they fired us all. Now, I sit everyday with my computer, coffee, and cigarettes looking for work. Being an ex-offender, everyone is going to judge you when you look for work. I am a great people person and I interview well, but many people can’t get past my crimes. If I were a business owner, it would be hard for me, too, but I don’t give up.
“My brothers taught me to be a survivor and to fight for things in life. I made some mistakes – I didn’t kill anybody – but I did wrong and have done my time. I am ready to move on. Society should be ready to move on, too, and accept me as a hard worker who wants to succeed. I have learned my lesson and want to show people that I can break the cycle and fulfill my dreams. I just need an opportunity.”
“Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. Every Thursday he’ll share a favorite story with us”