By Annette Visor (photo courtesy of medium.com)
This article first appeared on medium.com.
I went to live in Houston, Texas in June, 1977, and I stayed four years and came back to San Francisco. I went there to get my life established because my son was young and I wanted to make a future for him. I used to work at a convalescent home taking care of elderly people.
I came back to San Francisco to see about my mom. She was living door to door and I put her in my house until she got on her feet. Now she has her own house. I helped her apply for apartments, because she had a 6th or 7th grade education — she’s smart but she can’t read too well.
I moved to the Chinatown Projects, and I stayed there for nine years. Then I moved to Oakland because I had a nervous breakdown because I had a friend who was in jail. I moved out of my place because I couldn’t handle it, and I moved to 98th St in Oakland. Then I moved to 61st Avenue, and then to Fruitvale with my play-niece. I still talk to her today; she says I’ll always have a place with her. After that, I got tired of living with people so I moved to the shelter for two years. That’s where I’m at now.
I wanted to get myself together, because I’m not a person who doesn’t care about life. I moved there so I can get on my feet and be happier. And I wanted to give the people who live at the shelter hope, and show them strength. They’re so proud of me now. I go visit them still.
I moved so much because I wanted to be in a spot where I’m comfortable. I want to have a bigger place so I can have my grandbabies visit me. I want to have a place where my family can come visit me.
My son got married and he has a four-year-old who loves the heck out of me. His name is Perry. I’m going to take him to the pancake house tomorrow over in Serramonte Shopping Center. I want to spend time with him and be a part of his life. His mom works, my son works, so I want to spend time with him over the summer. I’ve got to watch his back, though, because you know how kids run.
My mom sleeps a lot. I want to be with my mom, too, and that hurts my heart a lot. My sister says let her rest. We used to kick it together but we don’t do that no more. At least I get to talk to her on the phone, but I like to eat with her and talk about how we’re doing and stuff.
My whole family is here too. I lost my baby brother, and my sister just two months ago. One was a lifeguard, and he drowned. I’ve lost a lot of my family but you’ve got to be strong. They’re looking at you from Heaven, so.
I moved into the Projects on Eddy St when I was 16 years old, two years after my son was born. I was doing a lot of struggling. I was young, but my baby never got taken from me. He’s 39 years old now. He works at a partnership, helping singles and people with families get places to live, and he’s doing great. He helps shelter and feed them. I’ve told him be your own follower; be your own leader. And now he sees what I’m talking about. You keep that job!
The people who are getting up in the morning and always looking for a better future: they should have more attention paid to them, because they’re looking for something. You get to a certain age, you need to see something happy. You need something better. I want to help the people who don’t know how to help themselves, too. It’s good to have good leadership.
The guy I’m working with now, he says he’s going to adopt us a park. I hope it’ll be somewhere we like, like Dolores Park. I used to live over there.
I like to adventure! I like to explore, and to go places.
If you give people a way to help themselves without being stressed or pushed — because they already have a lot of anxiety in them; they’ve been through a lot — they will help themselves. You’ve got to help them so they can do it. I would like to see the ladies in my neighborhood do something with themselves because they’re beautiful. I think they’re really beautiful. But they need a push.
There are so many empty apartments. They’re not filled with the people who are doing something for themselves. It could be their foundation to grow. Instead they’re filled with people who are just going to be there for a couple of months, or washed out in a couple of weeks. That’s what I’ve been seeing. They don’t fill them with the people who want to keep it going on, who want to be paying rent.
I think they should go to the shelters and ask who really wants to pay rent, and who really wants to stay. People really want to help you. If you take a step in front of you, you’ll have one behind you. I see a lot of people in those shelters who have potential and they make them wait. I had to complain and complain before they started helping me. My money went so fast when I was in the shelter. I used to have to call my family and get them to bring me food. My son, bless him, brought me some food the other day. It’s so expensive out here.
Whatever I do, I want to be happy and have a smile on my face. I want to make sure I smile and be happy. When you wake up in the morning, it’s not so happy. But me? I want to be happy. I like helping people, and I’ve been like that all my life.
I study math, social studies, art and computers at Five Keyes. I just did a reading test, and went from 1.1 to 5.5. On my math test, I went from 3.0 to 4.4. I’ve still got all my grades! I gave Brandon, the supervisor at Downtown Streets Team, one of my cubic art pieces. He says it looks good, you should come and see it! I said, I know it does!
I miss my teacher at Five Keys. She taught me so much. She brought so much art out of me that I didn’t even know I could do. I want a studio where I can put all my art, and I want to have a little art gallery. I want to be able to pay the rent on it. I don’t care what it is: even if it’s $200 or $300 a month, I want it. I’ve had this dream since I was 17. I want to start again, and I want to be famous in my art.
My sister, Angel, is still on my mind, and I can’t let it go. Every day I feel like crying but I don’t let it out. I hope God will come to me and tell me it’s going to be alright. She’s in Heaven and I love her. I miss my baby brother Rocky, too. I hope my mom gets stronger so we can kick it and go places. Have a fish fry or something.
I’ve got a sister called Peaches who lives in the Valencia Projects. I miss her and I want to spend time with her. She’s still grieving over my sister Angel. I want to get together with my whole family and have a reunion. That will probably make it better too. On my dad’s side, in Midway, Texas, we always used to have family reunions, but since my dad passed away I haven’t been there.
I feel like this is the time to do something. My head used to be like a freeway, with thoughts going this way and that, and now it’s not like that. So this is the time to do something. If I don’t do it, it’s not going to happen.