AND BABY MAKES THREE
I stayed single for several months. That’s when I met Brian. Brian and I became friends and stayed in contact with each other, though I didn’t think we would ever end up as a couple. After his father died, he contacted me to let me know and we became close and began seeing each other on a regular basis. A few years older than me, Brian was a nice guy who worked full-time, respected his family, and didn’t hang out in the streets. However, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to get involved in another relationship.
Nevertheless, within five months, I was pregnant.
Mom was not happy at all! To say she was angry would be putting it mildly. After I shared the news with her, she basically told me not only was I an embarrassment and disappointment to her, but that she also wanted me out of her house.
This was devastating to me. Here I was making life sacrifices to stay in the city with her when I could have left and joined the military, and now when I needed her help, she was kicking me out.
As I didn’t believe in abortion, I felt I was left with no other choices. So, Brian and I moved into a one bedroom in the Mid-Wilshire area of L.A. and we had our daughter, Jazmine on June 16, 1994 with Brian’s family at the hospital to support me. And, much to my surprise, my mother showed up as well.
Jazmine was 8 pounds and 3 ounces; one of the most beautiful babies that I have ever seen. And I’m not just saying that just because I’m her mother either. With her father’s lighter complexion, which I was secretly happy about, due to all of the hateful names that I had been called as a child due to my darker skin color, I knew she would not have to deal with any of that mess.
As a young mom, it took me some time to actually adjust to motherhood. I was in love with my beautiful baby girl, but I would have preferred not having given birth to her in this situation. So, it became my mission in life to give her everything that I had prior to my brother’s death. Over the next decade I would bust my butt to provide her with the best private schools, clothes, toys and living conditions I could afford. But, for that moment, I found myself struggling with post-partum depression for approximately three months.
After having Jazmine, my weight increased by more than a hundred pounds and it was necessary for me to drop out of college. Added to the issue was the fact that I didn’t have any real way to financially care for her.
Taking on several low-paying jobs from working in retail stores, doing homecare jobs, and driving part-time for the public bus system, I was depressed. This wasn’t the life I wanted for myself or any child that I brought into this world. I felt unloved and lost. It was in this state of mind that I made the decision at just 21 years of age to have a tubal ligation in order to prevent having any more pregnancies.
A decision I would regret some years later.
Brian was kind through all of this and we tried hard to make our relationship work; staying together for a little more than ten years before we agreed to call it quits and focus on raising Jazmine. I was desperately looking for love and a family and it just seemed as if I was failing miserably.
MOM’S LAST MOVE
I was adjusting to being by myself after my break up with Brian. Jazmine was settling in without having the benefit of being able to see her dad daily. I also made a decision to move into a better unit within our same apartment complex. I figured that this would be a symbol and celebration of a new start.
I also started a new job at HealthNet, a health care company in Glendale, working in the claims department verifying membership eligibility; later receiving a promotion to assisting doctors with their claims. That job was a blessing from God!
Meanwhile, I went back to school so that I could add more classes towards my degree in Business Administration.
So, after many years of working various jobs with horrible hours and pay, I was finally able to fully support myself and my daughter, as well as buy a better car; a 1997 white Mitsubishi Protégé. Things were starting to look better for Jaz and me. I may not have been making a lot of money, but I could at least swing the monthly rent and keep a roof over our heads.
By 1999, mom had moved with her cat Morris from Ridgeley Drive to the Ardmore Apartments on Ardmore Avenue, which was right around the corner from me; a comfortable one bedroom. Although she tried hard to stop drinking and being so dependent on pain pills, the damage to her health had already seriously impacted her already failing health.
As usual, our relationship was a rocky one, but somehow we found a way to put our differences aside and come together for Jazmine. Now five years old, mom helped me by watching her while I went to work at one of my many jobs, because she had a caregiver to assist her.
Still not one to show much emotion, I knew in my heart she cared, due to the fact that she would occasionally ask me how I was doing after work; buying Jazmine school supplies and clothes, and sometimes offering to buy additional groceries when she knew I was running low on food.
She was an awesome grandmother and had a huge impact on my daughter. The relationship between the two of them was definitely mutually beneficial as Jazmine kept her going and feeling needed.
Along with wanting me to have a better job that would allow me to be comfortable and not struggle so much, my mother also expressed a desire that I be happy with myself and meet someone who would love both me and my daughter. She used to always say that she “regretted being alone, because there was no one to be by her side and care for her in her older years”; so, being alone was not something she wished for me.
Notwithstanding the fact that I wanted to know my dad and my five half-sisters better, this was not something she felt she could support. She couldn’t get beyond her personal belief that since he hadn’t done much for me in my life, he didn’t deserve to know me.
In 2002, after living at the Ardmore in relative peace and quiet for just over two years, a Real-Estate tycoon named Donald Sterling acquired my mother’s building and it appeared that from that moment forward all hell broke loose for her.
Born in Chicago to immigrant parents in the early 1930’s as Donald Tokowitz, Sterling had been living in the Los Angeles area from the time he was just two or three years old; growing up in Boyle Heights, which was in East L.A., known as a tough, low income neighborhood.
A successful businessman and attorney, he legally changed his last name to aid in pronunciation and acceptance. In several news media, including TheNation.com, he was also quoted as saying, “You have to name yourself after something that’s really good; that people have confidence in.”
At the time, still in his twenties and recently graduated from law school, he began to build an independent practice as a divorce and personal injury attorney; parlaying his financial success into real estate ventures and developments, such as the purchase of a 26-unit apartment building in Beverly Hills.
Later, he obtained the Lesser Towers, which was a pair of apartments located in Westwood and renamed them Sterling Towers. Over time, he owned more than 160 properties around Los Angeles and became owner of the San Diego Clippers, a professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association (NBA) until 2014; moving them to L.A. within five years of acquiring the franchise.
With a net worth in the billions, Sterling eventually became ranked #219 on Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America, which includes Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and media queen Oprah Winfrey.
Long before Sterling had purchased the apartment building my mom lived in, it was well known that he was considered a miserly character, who thought little of those who rented from him; purposefully choosing some of his properties to be located in areas where there were those who would not have much resources to do differently or go anywhere else. The Nation.com also noted that some even hailed him as the ‘slumlord billionaire.’
It wasn’t that my mother personally chose to live in one of his buildings; she was already there when he purchased the property. By now, mom was legally blind, so considering her declining health and how much we had moved over the previous years, she felt as if she was in a place where she could be comfortable. Moving wasn’t on her mind; nor should it have been.
But, things started going downhill fast.
Maintenance started becoming extremely lax and when things would break, it was near impossible to get anything fixed. As building management was changing, overt cruelty to both African-American and Latino tenants began to be undeniable.
News websites, like Sports.espn.go.com, Huffingtonpost.com, and latimes.com, later shared that when Sterling had first purchased the complex, he made mention of an odor, stating that it was “because of all the blacks in the building; they smell, they’re not clean… and, it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” After this, he said, “So, we have to get them out of here.”
His dislike for minority races didn’t just extend to Black and Brown peoples as residents; it also presented itself in his hiring practices as well. Sterling was exceptionally demeaning to females as well, demonstrated in his EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) filings for the state of California during that period, which showed that his business had zero African-Americans and just four Latino employees, while employing 74 white and 30 Asian employees; only 26 of them being women.
However, Sterling had no problem sharing that he preferred to rent to Korean residents, since he believed that “they will pay the rent and live in whatever conditions I give them.”
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