Project Free Write: Nina

By Steven

This is about a woman who made sure her kids were taken care of.

My mother’s name is Nina Hendrix. As I was growing up to be a man, there was no father around, so my mom made sure I had shoes and clothes, and she made sure I took a bath. As I got older, she told me to respect women and people because you’ll never know if you’ll need help. It don’t pay to be mean to people.

I have a lot of memories with my mom. One funny one is when I was in jail, and my mom tried to cash one of my checks. She tried to use her ID, but the cashier said it needed to be the right person. She called me and told me that I had to get out of jail, so that we could cash the check. I got out, and we cashed it. Half went to rent. The other half went to food and clothes.

My mom was funny, nice, and caring. She was soft spoken, but she always made a party where there was no party. She stood up for herself too. She had a lot of integrity. She loved her grandkids and church music. My mom was a mom to everybody. She was always giving people positive messages from God. She wanted everyone to feel good about themselves.

My mom passed away in 2019, right after her birthday. She had leukemia. She was sick for a while. It was so bad they were about to cut off her legs. I was in prison when she died. I was supposed to get out and live with her. She was my biggest supporter. She sent me packages and wrote me. I called her all the time. I could hear that she was sick. She always coughed into the phone.

I’m sad that I was locked up when she passed away. I remember the sergeant from my facility called me out of my unit. I thought I was in trouble. But my brother was on the phone. He told me that my mom passed away, and I broke down crying. I was put in an isolated room for one week because the prison thought I was crazy. I was worried that my family pulled the plug on my mom too soon, and I didn’t get to say my last goodbye. I just wanted to go up there with her.

I would’ve told my mom that I loved her. I will keep her spirit forever in my mind. I feel her spirit to this day.

Sometimes, when I leave the TV on and people ask why, I say that she’s still watching. When it’s cold in the house, I feel her near again. When lights blink twice, I know she’s here.

I don’t know how I got through my mom’s passing, but I am trying to be like her and have an open mind and treat people with respect. I am picking up where she left off.

About Project Free Write…

Poet, scholar, and activist Maya Angelou once wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  Project Free Write heeds this wisdom.

Founded by the Yolo County Public Defender, Project Free Write is an eight-week storytelling workshop for criminal legal system impacted persons with a mission to bear witness to their voices, their experiences, and their common humanity.

Classes and creative workshops take place at the Day Reporting Center, a county program that provides comprehensive evidence-based services to men and women on probation, parole, or released from the local jail.

In addition to reading and discussing various stories, students are given ample time to “free-write” or draw their own stories and experiences in their own words. In sharing these stories with the Yolo County community, Project Free Writes inspires individuals to advocate for one another’s humanity and seek meaningful change in the criminal legal system.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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