One person refusing to quit
Published: Thursday, February 5, 2009
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 17:11
by Alexis Scheel
Times Editor-in-Chief Any person who states being robbed at gun point just days after having emergency surgery, only to have that day end with her apartment catching on fire and losing everything, is just the tip of their life story, is an interesting person. Meet Chawona Jackson.
Jackson was born in Chicago to "a drug-addicted mother and an alcoholic father," she said. Jackson explained that although she is in school now, studying anesthesia technology, and is the Vice President of the Student Senate at the West Allis Campus, it has been a long journey that has gotten her to this place.
Jackson said that her parents were not married, and she spent the first nine years of her life primarily with her mom. She also stated that although her mother had a job as a legal secretary, she continued to use drugs regularly.
However, Jackson stated her mom signed away her rights after the school reported abuse, explaining that her mom beat her. She tells of her mom "whipping" her hand with a flat-heeled shoe to the point of it looking like a "baseball glove." Someone told her that "one more hit, and my hand would have been broken," she said.
Jackson stated that she went to live with her father. Although she said she witnessed her father beating her mother, she still "was excited to live with him." Jackson explained she thought it would be "fun" because she was an only child with her mother, and her father's girlfriend had three children. But it "ended up being a nightmare," she said.
Jackson said her father was abusive to her, adding he would take his anger out on her by calling her names, never letting her forget past mistakes and even beating her. She expressed that if the other kids did something wrong "he wasn't allowed to whip them, so he took it out on me."
Although she tried to run away to her grandmother's house, she would only get sent back because her mom was living there and had given up her rights, she stated.
Jackson explained that the cost of running away was for her to remove her clothing and be beaten with a brown extension cord.
Her father abused her often, including making her stand on one leg and hold her arms out "like an airplane and bend my leg." Jackson stated if her arms fell or her leg drooped, her father would beat her with an extension cord - wherever it would land. "Being a kid was not an option," she said. She still has scars on her body from when her father threw her into a wall and hit her with the cord.
Not too long after this, her cousin molested her, Jackson said. Even though she told, "Everybody said I was lying," she said. After walking in on her mom "tooting" cocaine, which hurt her, it all became too much for her, and she joined a gang, she said.
As a member of the gang, Black Gangsters Disciples (or BGD), she sold drugs, she said. However, it wasn't until she stole drugs from a gang member that her mother made any attempts to get her out of the gang lifestyle, Jackson said. Jackson was attracted to this guy, but he pointed her out to get a beating during "gang initiation week," she said. So she stole $1,500 worth of drugs, selling them for only $300 because she "wanted to hurt him," she added.
Jackson's mother moved her to Milwaukee, she said, and into the Hope House, a family shelter on 2nd and Orchard Streets. About a month later she and her mom moved into their own place, she stated. Adding that on that day, Jackson's mom bought her McDonald's, told her to stay in her room, and giving her a bucket to use, her mom closed the door, Jackson explained.
However, Jackson snuck out of her room, only to find her mom "smoking crack, playing cards, and drinking beer," she said. The attempt at a better life didn't work for either of them, Jackson said.
During her teenage years, she spent time in and out of detention, as well as many group homes, including New Beginnings and Pathfinders, Jackson said. However, it wasn't until she was pregnant with her first child that Jackson tried to make changes in her life, she explained. Although she was sick and had to stay with her mom for some of time, because of her mom's drug use, she did move out, Jackson said. She eventually got her own place after staying at the Hope House, Jackson stated.
Jackson explained that she did live with her boyfriend, and the father of her baby, for a little while, but he became abusive. She did get her GED by age 20, and then worked a few odd jobs, she said.
However, life wasn't done with her yet. Jackson said she had gotten pregnant again by the same guy. Sadly, during the ultrasound she was told her little boy was missing his kidneys and bladder, she sighed. Jackson explained she was afraid of getting an infection, so she decided to have labor induced during her fifth month of pregnancy. She said this was a "tough decision" but she was concerned she could die, leaving no one to raise her daughter the "right way," so she did what she felt she had to do.
Her little boy was born still alive, and was so small that he fit right in her hand, she said. She said she prayed and told him "Mommy will never forget you." Jackson expressed she held him as he breathed his last breath, and refused to let him go until she was leaving the hospital.
Jackson said she had a small funeral for her son. Carrying a casket only ten inches long, she laid it "flat on the ground, then laid the casket in the ground myself," she explained. "It was the worst hurt experienced throughout my life." Even to this day, she still has the hat and blanket, and his little hand and foot prints that she got from the hospital.
Jackson said she soon returned to running with gangs, and dealing drugs because she had no support from family. Jackson stated that she had spent time in shelters, and had another child, which was planned. However, everything was getting "out of control," she said.