Not Your Average “Basketball Wife”: Tracey Mourning’s Honey Shine Mentoring Program Helps South Florida’s Girls

March 19, 2014  |  

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“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. This phrase coined by Shirley Anita Chisholm is exemplified by few individuals, and even fewer celebrities. Tracey Mourning however, is an anomaly. As the wife of former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, she doesn’t paint the portrait of your typical “basketball wife.” Her time is well spent helping and serving underprivileged girls in her community.

Spearheading the Honey Shine Mentoring Program (a division of the Mourning Family Foundation), the Howard University graduate provides an opportunity for positive experiences that nurture the mind, body and soul of young women in at-risk situations. Built on core values of knowledge, responsibility, community and faith, the Honey Shine Mentoring program helps develop an “Aspire to Shine” mindset through mentorship, journaling, sisterhood and empowerment.

In this interview with MadameNoire, Tracey Mourning talks about critical issues facing young girls, her inspiration behind starting the mentoring program, and offers advice to her younger self about pursuing your passion.

MadameNoire: What inspired you to create the Honey Shine Mentoring Program?

Tracey Mourning: It started about 12 years ago, in 2002. I used to live here in South Florida when I was a little girl, and this amazing woman, Ms. Aimee Lou Johnson, used to take care of me while my mom worked. I would go back and visit her when my husband’s job brought us back to South Florida. In visiting her I saw groups of girls running around, babies in the street, no place to go and I would just wonder, “Which one am I out of that group?” That’s when God placed it on my heart that this is something we were supposed to do. Of course I didn’t listen right away and it took a couple of years for that voice to be quiet. I gathered a group of girlfriends around my dining room table, and here we are 12 years later with the Honey Shine Mentoring Program.

MN: The Honey Shine Mentoring Program right now is specific to girls in the Miami area. Are you looking to expand to other cities?

TM: We have a waiting list of girls that would like to get in the program. We’re working on raising funds to expand the program throughout South Florida and eventually around the country. I’m from Cincinnati but also grew up in Las Vegas, so Vegas is heavy on my heart. We also get a lot of requests from DC since that’s our heart and Howard University there. Our timeline is a matter of how our funds go and how we are able to raise funds. The reason we’ve been so successful in South Florida is because of our volunteers. In each of those locations we need individuals that want to give back and make a difference and able to volunteer their time.

MN: What are the most critical topics that young girls say they are facing?

TM: It always goes back to boys. It’s about relationships, and a lot of our young girls are dealing with questioning their sexuality, with the images they see on television. They are not sure what they’re supposed to be doing, what they’re feeling, how they’re feeling, or how to describe it.

Grades, writing and South Florida when it comes to our schools here, they are just OK. A lot of our girls need help with just the basics. Those are a lot of things that we have to supplement and support.

As well as abuse, which includes physical, sexual and mental. For a lot of our girls it’s a transitional space in their lives (ages 8-18). We go through a lot of things during that time period. It’s interesting watching them go throughout the years as some of the topics are becoming heavier.

MN: As a real life “basketball wife” what is your perception of reality shows that have an impact on our young girls?

TM: I’ve been approached by several shows to participate but my spirit wouldn’t let me agree to it. I refuse to allow someone outside of myself to define me or to tell the story of who I am. It’s been a great example to our Honeybugs to let them know you can’t let someone else define who you are.

According to the titles of a lot of those shows, I could fit in those categories according to the title (Basketball Wives, Real Housewives). But as it pertains to my life and how I live it and how I get with my girls and how we share time, that’s not what happens. It’s unfortunate that’s what people see across the world. This is what they think and see of us. …There’s nothing else that shows the reality of women who get together and have a great time and support each other. We may not agree all the time, but we’re still girls and we’re going to have each other’s back. Unfortunately our society may not want to see all of that, but it’s sad that there is no balance.

MN: Because of these shows, do you feel as though people misjudge you?

TM: No, I don’t experience the backlash. I’m sure people have their judgments and their opinion but my experience a long time ago was learning you can’t worry about what people say about you. Yes, I’m human and you want people to think good things, but life has taught me that’s such a waste of time trying to control what other people think of you. You have to know your truth and be able to stand in it. Those that know me and love me and that’s the only thing that matters.

MN: What advice would you go back and give your 18-year-old self?

TM: Girl, I’d be a dangerous soul. Just to continue to follow your passion and live your purpose. Really follow it. Not just talk about it, but to actually be about it. The only limitations are the ones we place on ourselves with doubt and fear.

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