Two young ladies in theVillage’s residential program graduated from high school this May. One plans to become an Emergency Medical Technician while the other would like to study Forensic Science. TheVillage held a graduation celebration for these girls and invited Huriyyah Debra Bey, a former resident, to speak. Here is the text for her address.
Good Afternoon…. I am honored to be asked to speak with you at this graduation ceremony. I am honored because the VILLAGE was the single most important experience in my life that got me on my way to who I really am and who I could really be. In addition to that, I look at all of you as my extended family thus, my sisters from another mother. WILL YOU FIGHT or WILL YOU JUST LET THE WORLD WALK ALL OVER TOP OF YOU and STEAL YOUR GIFTS.
Now at this moment you are probably saying, “What the heck is she talking about”. “Oh lawd they done went and got a crazy woman to come talk to us.” Ok, this is what I’m talking about. I’m talking about YOU. I don’t know you and you don’t know me yet I’m talking about you. Because you do know me; and I do know you. Living at theVillage says several things about you. It says that you came from a place that was broken. It says that you have dealt with some trauma and pain. And, the fact that you are sitting here, it says that you are stronger than nails. So what I have to say to you today is in the form of a question. Given this information that I just mentioned, trauma, pain, broken, stronger than nails what are you going to do. If you have no accidents or severe health problems you are looking at about at least 50 years. What are you planning to do with 50 years? Fifty years is a long time. What I want to say to you today is to think about what you are going to do with your 50 years. Now it may be 60 years, it may be 70 years. But the main point is you can do and have whatever you want with this 50 or more years. What are you going to do with it? Given the trauma, the pain, the broken, the tougher than nails; what are you going to do with your 50 years. Let me ask you this again. Will you fight for what you want or will you lay down and let the world walk all over top of you and steal your gifts. You have choices; you have power! The pain, the trauma, the broken tried to take your power from you but your tough as nails gift didn’t let it happen.
When I say fight, I don’t mean fight your roommate, fight your counselor; fight the staff. Those are hissy fits. Those are battles for cowards. I mean fight the pain, fight the trauma, fight the broken, and use the tough as nails to fight. Now that’s a real fight. When you go inside your mind and your heart and tell the pain, tell the broken, tell the trauma “nice try but you are not going to steal my life from me”. When I say steal your gifts and you say what gifts? I don’t have anything. I mean your gift of being tough as nails, your gift of surviving pain, your gift of 50 years or more. The fact that you woke up this morning washed up, put your clothes on and are sitting here in this audience is one of your gifts. Yes!. Don’t take that for granted. Look in the mirror every morning you wake up and put your clothes on and say I am something else…I am strong….I am a survivor. Your gift of standing up. What do I mean? Something happened in your life, something tried to knock you down. But here you are today sitting up in a chair when you get up your standing on your two legs. Now if you were lying down on the ground that would be one thing but you are sitting up and standing up. That means that something tried to knock you down but it couldn’t, it didn’t because you got up. Is anyone holding you up in that chair? When you stand up is anyone holding you up? No! You are holding your own self up. Even me on these crutches. I let these crutches go, they fall to the ground. I’m holding me up. Your gift of planning, dreaming of what you are going to do with your 50 years. Will you buy a big house so you can have the family that you never had and always wanted? Will you get lots of education so that you can bring home a $2,000 per week or more paycheck? Or, will you open a business around something you love doing? Will you find a nice partner and travel the world? Right now as I talk to you I am a person who came to the Village broken. I have fought the pain and the trauma to get educated, travel the world, build a business. Right now as I speak to you I have a daughter who owns her own restaurant, another daughter who is in China, a granddaughter who rode camels across the dessert. That’s some of the things I have done with my 50 years. And I’m not finished yet. You have choices; you have power. Because we are on Facebook Live, I will refer to the graduates by first letter only. So Ms. N. and Ms. S. hear me clearly, you have choices, you have power, you have gifts. Will you use your tough as nails to fight the pain, the trauma, the broken or will you just lay down and let the world walk over you and steal your gifts?
During my journey at theVillage I did not waste time fighting my roommate, fighting my counselor, fighting the staff or fighting those trying to help me. Well at first I did. We all do. Because we are angry, angry at the world. We don’t care because we didn’t get the love we needed and we don’t care about anybody or anything. See, I told you; I know you and you know me. I’m here to tell you Ms. S and Ms. N and all my little sisters in here you have no time for the anger. There is a world waiting for you to give you anything and everything you fight to achieve. Even the love that you want that you never got. But the only way you can get to that is to push the anger out the way. It blinds you. So you have to FIGHT. You have to get into a real fight. This fight takes courage. Use your anger to fight the anger, fight the pain fight the trauma; fight the broken. Remember your fighting words “you almost got me, but I’m still standing”. “I’m tough as nails.” And being tough as nails doesn’t mean you don’t cry. Oh you cry. And let yourself cry. That’s one of your gifts. Crying brings the angels. Crying releases the anger. And then the angels stand beside you and they help you to fight.
Ok, I’m about to wind this down. I don’t want to talk too long. Focus on your future. Ms. S and Ms N take a breathier…. look your self in the mirror and slap yourself of the back and say I just completed 12 years. GOOD JOB. Don’t rest too long.. get back up and hit the ground running. You have choices; you have power. Caution, all the good things that have happened to you here and over the last couple of years, you are going to be inclined to share with those back at home. Maybe siblings or friends. Understand this. They are not going to be able to understand where you have been what you have achieved and what you want to do. When you go back to your old environment, you may not be accepted. They may mock you. You talk too proper; you think you’re better than us and other hurtful words. Understand that in order for them to understand you at this point they would have had to go through all the counseling you have had and live in the environment that you have lived in to be able to see the hope that you see. So, do not get upset with them. Those that you want to help you will have to spoon-feed them little by little. It will take years to get them to the point that you are at. In the meantime, set the example for them. Be the role model for them. But don’t expect that they will be able to appreciate right away the improvements you have made. Some you will be able to help and others you may have to leave behind. I’m going to share one short story with you and then I will close. I found myself at one point looking around wishing I could be like this person or wishing that I had what this person had. So I started using my energy to try to be better than them. I found myself being jealous. I found myself tearing the progress of others down. Then one day after praying the thought came to me. Did you hear what I said, after praying? No matter where you go, no matter what you do, pray and pray some more. You don’t have to go to church to pray, you don’t have to become Muslim to pray…it helps…but GOD will always hear you and GOD will always answer. So, after praying, the thought came to me. What if there is a staircase and I’m on step number two and the person that I’m jealous of or that I’m dying to be like is on step number 4? Now, suppose I spend all my energy breaking my neck trying to get to step number 5. Wow! I look up and now I’m on step number 5. I did it! I got better than that person who was on step number 4. Then someone comes along and tells me that my talents and skills qualify me to be on step number 12. Dag, I spent all my energy trying to get to step number 5. Moral of the story. Focus on YOU. Be happy for others and their achievements and learn to say ‘that’s their gift’ I wonder what my gift will be. Stay focused on you. Strive always to be the best you that you can be. Strive each day to be better than you were the day before. Baby steps. Little bit at a time. Each day do something a little tiny bit better than what you did yesterday. Lastly, Ms. S. and Ms. N. CONGRATULATIONS!