I met Mami while she was walking the streets in a neighborhood, in Atlanta, known for prostitution and drugs. I had a sense before I even approached her that she carried a heavy burden. She was beautiful, but had the same look in her eyes as a soldier returning from the frontlines of war. She was hesitant to talk to me at first, but she eventually told me the story of how she was forced to grow up too fast and the search for her family that brought her and her sister to Atlanta.
Mami: I’m from Puerto Rico. When I was 13 my mom saved my life from an eighteen wheeler, but she got killed. She was a single mom, so after she died, I raised my sister who was 8 ½. We stayed at my mom’s house because it was paid for, but they cut the lights and water off. The neighbors would sometimes give us food and stuff like that. I would steal food from the super market and then I started selling drugs when I was 15. That’s how I took care of us.
BW: How long have you been in Atlanta?
Mami: I’ve been in Atlanta 18 years, We came here looking for my dad when I was 21. He left us when I was 4 years old and we found him, but he ain’t shit.
BW: When you found your dad, what did he say?
Mami: He opened the door and the only thing he told us was, “Why didn’t y'all tell me you was coming?” That’s it. He don’t love us. He don’t care about us. He looked at us like we were strangers. He had another family and he just kicked us to the curb.