My Testimony-Marek Allen
Growing up in the 80’s as a kid was not easy, especially if you were raised by a single parent like I was. My mother was a steady drug user, and my father who was an army vet, was nowhere to be found. I may have seen him once or twice in my lifetime, and from what I could remember it may have been no more than about a half hour each time. I was raised in Richard Allen projects where drugs, money, and violence were a common practice. My mother who felt she ran out of options when caring for me, decided to turn our home into a place for folks to use and distribute. The money she made to host these people hardly ever went to care for me, but more so for her habits. Being so young and being exposed to so much of that one would think it should be traumatizing, but it was a way of life. We had so much traffic coming through our house a lot of nights I didn’t get any sleep, wondering what was going on from all the noise downstairs. I remember going to school and getting there early so I can get breakfast and lunch. As far as dinner went, forget it. I had to go over other people’s homes to eat or if the public assistance food we had was around I would eat. As my mother’s drug habit increased, the care for me decreased. It had got to the point where the neighbors would put together search parties to find her because she would disappear for days at a time. My grandmother tried tirelessly to get her to stop but it was falling on deaf ears. During this rough time I was introduced to Christ by a mentor program that was back then hosted by Greater Exodus Baptist Church. It was a great opportunity to get a meal, and learn something in the process. They would come and get us in a van from the projects, bring us to the church for a few hours and bring us back. I dreaded going back home because I knew what was there when I went back. I can remember some of my mom’s so-called friends and dealers threatening to do me harm because she owed money, which at any given time I could have been taken out.
Imagine walking through the projects not knowing if you’re going to make it because your parent owed someone and couldn’t pay. I had no choice but to stay at my grandmother’s house full time but she was unable to care for me and neither was anyone else in my family. At the time I felt like my whole family turned their back on me. Times were definitely hard and the last thing they needed was another mouth to feed. One date that always sticks with me: July 9th, 1987, which is the day Department of Human Services, took me away from my mother. I don’t know who called but they saved my life and hers that day. That day, I became a part of “the system” where most kids get bounced from home to home because they can’t adjust to a better lifestyle and are rebellious because they want to be reunited with their parents. I went from seeing my mom on a somewhat regular basis to not seeing her at all. I will admit I did a lot of crying and wondering what was going to happen next. I was placed with one family who did not really want me there but just wanted the check for taking me in. I don’t remember how long I stayed there but I know it wasn’t long. Then I was bounced to West Philadelphia, a part of the city I had never been to at the time to another home. With this family I was verbally and physically abused, and the case worker took their word over mine. When my grandmother passed away in 1988, the foster family took me to the funeral and that was the first time I heard from or seen my mother since I was taken away. It was well over a year, and she was very distraught by her passing. I actually thought that my grandmother died of a broken heart because my mom would not stop her destructive lifestyle. After the funeral, the family would not take me to the cemetery for the burial, which really hurt. All I remember them telling me is that “that they didn’t have time, and you’ll get over it in few years”. Emotionally torn and hurting, I moved from school to school because of frequent behavior problems because I didn’t know how to express myself about what I was going through. After a while I was able to get supervised visits with my family, seldom my mom would show, but it was mostly my uncles, aunts, and cousins. We would hang out at Wendy’s and sit in the meeting room for a few, and then I had to say my goodbyes, then carted back off to my foster home.
I moved to two homes before I made my last stop on January 13th, 1990. At this point I’m attending a lot of therapy because of my anger and behavior issues still, and it did help to discuss things but I held a lot back….why? Who knows? This last stop I was taken in by an older couple who had taken in troubled kids before, and was very nurturing. I felt very comfortable in this new environment and they helped me get through a lot. My life started to take a turn for the better while at this home. The couple in whose home I was placed in attended East Bethel Baptist Church, and we were in attendance every Sunday. In addition to Sunday service, I was going to prayer meeting even though I didn’t want to go, but as my foster parent emphasized, God will help you and get you through the difficult times. I began to do better in school and graduated from Gillespie Middle School with the highest award given to a student for academic excellence. I received the award from the Omega Phi Psi fraternity for outstanding academic achievement. I felt that good that day and I knew my life was turning around then. In September of 1992 during my sophomore year of high school, my mother was awarded full custody of me and it felt great to be back with her. She was clean and sober for some time now, and had an apartment in Northern Liberties ready to go. We had lots of therapy to attend because of everything that took place prior and we made it through. Fast forward a few years and I’m out of high school and working, and she’s working 2 jobs to stay busy. Things took a turn when in the early 2000’s she relapsed, started by selling prescription pills and eventually getting high on her own supply. This was devastating to me because I started thinking “oh no, not again!” My mother was arrested while I was at work and she managed to call me from the paddy wagon on the way to the precinct. She told me to get the money out the house and get rid of some stuff, only to find out it was $25,000 and enough pills to open your own Rite Aid. She was arrested a couple times afterwards and was on the brink of homelessness; because I was so angry with her I didn’t want her near me. I struggled emotionally during this time dealing with depression and on top of it; I was a young and immature man becoming a father who suffered emotional abuse in that relationship. I felt like my world was crashing down after working so hard to stay up so I did the last thing I wanted to do: I cut ALL my family off. I stopped attending church and developed a real bad drinking habit, drinking at work and all. I hid my depression to keep people from asking questions. I grew my hair out and got braids so I wouldn’t have to go to the barbershop. I lived with people I met on the fly and gave up my apartment because I didn’t want anyone to find me. I called one of my aunts every now and then just to let her let my family know I was still alive. While being out there, I met the woman who is now my wife, and she helped me get back on track. She helped me re-establish a relationship with my son, and deal with things instead of just running. We dated for a couple years and decided to get married in 2004. During this time, my mother was out of control again, and she was upset when she heard I was getting married. She did not attend the wedding or even call me because she thought that my wife was taking me away. In the meantime she was arrested again and was forced into mandatory rehab after being incarcerated for a period of time. I only visited her twice, as she was locked away for close to 2 years. I could not picture myself talking to my mom through a glass window or hugging her through bars. The two times I went I felt very uncomfortable and I knew I wasn’t going back. With all she’s done, she’s still my mother. Through everything I endured with this, I still love her dearly. When she came out the rehab program, she eventually found a new view on life and she knows that not just me, but the whole family was hurt behind her actions because it affected us in ways she thought it wouldn’t. My mother and I still disagree from time to time, but we’re both growing every day. My daily prayer is that she gives her life to Christ, and hopes she does it soon. I’ve decided to share this to encourage anyone who may be going through any situation that looks hopeless. Trust and believe that God will see you through no matter how dark it looks. My life hasn’t been easy, and the odds were stacked against me, but through the grace of God I’m still standing.
By Marek Allen @thatsmrallen_2u on Instagram & Twitter
Posted on October 3, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged Baptists, childcare, DHS, Family, Foster care, God, Home, Hope, inspiration, Jesus, Mother, restoration, Richard Allen, Sunday, testimony, unfit parent, West Philadelphia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.