“I guess there’s no point in not talking about it. Five years ago, I tried to take my own life. And it took a lot to work my way through that and fight back. And as a parent, her wanting to write that in an essay was like ‘wow, is that what I want out in the world?’ ”
Her voice cracked and shook as the tears flowed again, “But if that’s what it is, if that’s how it affected you, it made you know that you needed to chase every dream you have, then I know that everything I went through had a reason and a purpose and that I’m still here for her because there was a bigger plan.”
That plan was allowing Jamilah’s 15 year old daughter, Niani, to pursue her dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. I had the chance to speak with Niani today, and Dr. Perry was right. Her mother had taught to turn tragedy into triumph.
She said, “I have had struggle with residency issues in schools. I’ve had issues in my family that have really caused major obstacles in my life but I’ve overcome them. And that’s the main point of all of my struggles, I’ve overcome them all and any struggle I have in the future I know that I will overcome it.”
Niani decided she wanted to become a journalist in the seventh grade when she started writing poetry. ” I realized I want to talk in front of people about social injustice around the world, inequality, black people, women everything. “
Back in the parenting session, Dr. Perry told the parents that while they’re helping to nurture their child’s dream, they should also be about the business of making sure they’re achieving their own goals. One parent asked how to do this without neglecting their children.
Perry warned the parents not to use their devotion to their children as an excuse to abandon their own passions.
“You are meeting your moral obligations when you live a dream. Living a dream is a way to show them how to reach their goals. The challenge is not living the dream, it’s engaging your children while you do it.”
And in a sense, Jamilah’s struggles have engaged her daughter, Niani:
“My mother has gone through a lot of adversity in her life. Seeing her struggle makes me want to work harder. I don’t want to have to struggle like that and I don’t want to see my mom struggle like that. So I will work my butt off to make sure that she doesn’t struggle like that in the future.”
At 15 with the poise and drive of a woman nearly twice her age, Niani is on the right path to getting what she wants out of life. Jamilah has given her the tools. And so I asked her, what were the dreams that she had for herself.
“I would like to go back and finish school but I would ultimately like to start a non profit organization to work with young black girls. As a mom I’ve managed to get it right with her. But honestly, I don’t take credit for who she is. I know that I played a role in it but she is who she was designed to be. I think that I give her room to be that. And there’s so many black girls who, in their lives, aren’t given that room. There’s not a space for them in the world that allows them to develop that way. I want to find a way to provide that space.”
With each other as motivation, I have a feeling these are dreams this mother and daughter will one day see come true.