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A Complicated Life: Lessons in love

Born Dec. 16, 1975, Yolanda lived with her mother and two sisters on  Chicago’s Southside. As a young girl, she remembers frequent altercations with her mother that grew worse as she grew older. Yolanda finally decided to leave home as a young teenager.

“I emancipated myself when I was 14 from my mom’s care,” she said. “She used to beat me for no apparent reason. I would never leave my kids with her if she was alive. I loved her because that was my mom. But me calling her mom, I could never do that. I would call her by her name or her nickname. That was not my mother. That couldn’t have been the woman that put me on this earth.”


Yolanda feels a special connection to children who suffer abuse because of her childhood experiences.

“I swear for the kids that are out there if I could do anything about it I would because I’ve been there. I understand. When you been accused of something or just getting the crap beat out of you for no apparent reason, that’s not love.”


Yolanda is determined to shield her children from the type of abuse she suffered as a child.

“I tell my kids I may discipline you, I may scream at you, but I will never beat you. That is so cruel and your kids have to grow up with that … telling your kids that they will never amount to anything and they will grow up believing that.”

Yolanda said that she struggles from time to time with her confidence because she constantly received negative criticism and putdowns from her mother, who died in 2001.

“She would never buy me new clothes,” Yolanda said of her mother. “My older sisters got to wear new clothes but not me. I had to wear hand-me-downs.”

When relatives bought Yolanda clothes her mother would give them to her sisters to wear, she said. Convinced that things would not change, she moved out.

Yolanda went to live with an uncle in Evanston, Ill., and for several months she hid her whereabouts from her mother. She was not able to enroll in school because her mother refused to sign to have her records released. While other kids were at school, Yolanda said she read books and magazines to occupy her time.

 Yolanda befriended Wanda Terry, a girl close to her own age, who lived in the same apartment complex. Soon she began spending a lot of time in Terry’s apartment where she felt welcomed.

Wanda’s mother, Yolanda said, “used do my hair, feed me and put clothes on my back. She treated me like I was her own daughter.”

By Will Atwater/ For CU-Citizen Access

¨ Copyright 2011 CU-CitizenAccess.