What We Make

Chanda Rice


But let’s get back to Momma’s funeral.

So as I walked up on her, I could see that they put that fucking dress from out the back of the closet on her and her hair was GONE. They gave her a short curly bush! This American Indian was lying there with an African hair do! I know she was hot. I could hear her saying “I’m NOT no nigger like y’all.” This was one of her constant rants. Yeah, I know, I jump around a lot! “You just hold on and try to keep up with a chick!” It is amazing how the mind is so accurate in remembering shit from the past but forgets shit that happened yesterday. I just stood there pondering, clutching her sleeve.

I wondered what they were going to do to me next. I thought of the lies I told her on where the money came from and what I had to do to get it. She knew, she groomed me for the Game. So spiritually I took everything, all the lies and the reasons to lie and put them in her coffin with her! Hell, it was her shit and I was giving it back. “Take this with you!” My dad had to come get me. He had to pry my fingers from her sleeve. This was my first black out and I wasn’t even on drugs at the time! People would have blackouts from drinking or drugs. But it has been known to happen to people under complete duress where they black out from the trauma.

All I remember is sitting in the limo and the two songs that came on the radio: “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan and “Better Days” by Dianne Reeves.
This was my insight into what they had planned for me. These songs let me know that I was going to go through some rough times, but I was going to make it.

I walked around like this for months in this state of confusion. I was fucked up—I would walk all the way up to Woolston Avenue to the cemetery. When I’d get there I’d just lay there and cry and dig. I must have done that for at least three months.


1. Being abandoned.
2. Growing up abused by grandmother and family.
3. Overcompensating for siblings lost.
4. Being loved.
5. Burying first husband.
6. Burying idea of second husband.
7. Cutting family ties.
8. Not being Anne Johnson.
9. Living on my own.
10. Getting sober again.
11. Looking for Mesha.
12. Loss of Mesha.
13. Receiving Ferd.
14. Play with Ferd.
15. Feeling alone.
16. Waiting for Fridays.
17. Tried to deny I was aware.
18. Tried to hold 9 year relationship together alone.
19. Found myself still losing my Identity.
20. Went back to church.
21. Started class at Drexel.
22. Found out I can still dream.
23. Found out some people never change.
24. Found out I can make it on my own.
25. Walking in who GOD made me to be.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

It is 3:10 & I’ve just gotten finished watching the mother of all movies, Imitation of Life. I fell in love with this movie the 1st time I saw it and waited for it to come on every year since. So when I watched it—color & black & white—it was in hopes that my little girl would do better. But I’m Annie Johnson & she’s Sarah Jane. I found that out today. Really, I been knew it. I was still hoping that it would change. I wonder if because I didn’t get her like others got babies it had something to do with her disposition. I walked around in a state of confusion even after she got here under a curtain of mockery. Her father & I NEVER had sex. I let him put it in between my legs while we were standing up. He never penetrated me. Which also made me the joke of every family gathering. “So where did he put it?”

I sat up all night trying to give birth. Me & Miss Chunky. A nurse came by with magazines so I bought a Playgirl. Since I didn’t have no dick & I’m having his baby I thought I might as well find out what dick looks like. I’d dreamed of Marvin Gaye. I looked up & my cousin Moe was coming in my room with a case of formula & Pampers & he told me, “From now on, that pussy is mines” & he walked out. I was 13 & it was Mother’s Day. It didn’t take her long before she turned on me too. I thought if I breastfed her it would bring her close; she would chew my nipples until they cracked & look up at me & smile. But I still had to nurse her. She would expose me in front of people or throw her bottle to not be weaned. Her 1st words to me were, “I don’t like you!”

Because I was young & inexperienced & also because children don’t come with instructional manual, I fumbled. Sometime when she do mean things to me, I’d let her have it. But then I’d remember that I chose her cause Momma wanted me to get rid of her. Sometimes I wonder how far would I have gotten without her. I tried my best. Back then black folks as well as society frowned on a woman/girl who had a baby out of wedlock and they would send you down south & when you came back it would be your sibling or they would take your baby & that’s what my grandmother by the help of Mildred & my sister did. I tried to give her things to secure our bond but that’s all I did. I gave her things.

By 17 they had all fucked me real good. I’m sorry, I’m jumping ahead of myself. So my cousin made me his. We met when I was 11 & he set out to get me. My dad took me & the 1 born before me to Auntie Dean’s house where they were giving a party. When we saw each other, our eyes locked for 28 yrs. This was the introduction to incest. He groomed me til I got pregnant. He was allowed to spend the night. Momma would say, “As long as you’re with Moe, you’ll be alright.” My baby was 6 months & walking. She was getting out of the way. That’s what people say your baby’s doing when you’ve got another one coming. I was 3 month pregnant again.

We wanted that baby. I’d sit in between his legs while he rubbed my belly. I got some pants from Chunky to hide it but I was showing. 1 night over Lucy’s I started spotting. I was losing his baby I worked so hard to get. My white jump suit was red in the back. I rushed down the hill just fast enough to drop it in the toilet. I stood there looking. My baby was in the toilet. I got in the bed. I thought it was over. 6 months later I doubled over in the street & was rushed to Temple for a DNC. That’s when I found out he gave me an infection on top of his baby. That’s why the baby didn’t make it. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t have any more children, cause I gave my womb to my cousin.

He tried to be a good dad, so much so that on a bus excursion to Asbury Park or someplace she kept calling him daddy in front of everybody. He was family. He would always be there. This batch I come from took pride in saying, “We keep it in the family.” From his mother & her sister to us, a hot mess. A generational curse. This was the start of my Stockholm syndrome. This is when the captive falls in love with captor. So I’ve been in love with my abusers all my life. This must stop! It took me up til now to realize my grandmom turned me out.

So back to 17. I met this guy. He worked as the maintenance man where I lived. He had curly hair like my cousin but he was white. My grandmother went off. “I didn’t tell you to get a white boy!” She said to find someone who was nice to me, she didn’t say what color. What are we supposed to do, go back to the reservation? I should have known better. I thought they were better than black men because they kept their word. But this is not about dicks; that’s the other book.

This is about my Sarah Jane. So momma would let me out for a few hours. She’d say, “It don’t take nobody all day to do nothing!” I call it “The James Brown.” Can we hit it & quit it? Can we hit it & quit it? Let me count it off: 1, 2, 3, 4. Get up! You should be done. That’s what momma thought: “It’s a shame for a woman to be out all night & ain’t got no cigarette money, so if you go out with a man all night he’d better give you some money!” That’s how I got introduced to the game by my grandma. The only thing that made her mad was I came back with more than she ever did. I remember when I turned my 1st trick & gave her the money, she stopped complaining. It was the 1st time I got rest.

Back to Danyell. Children need to be kept away from adult business. They don’t know the things we as mothers have to do to keep a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, clothes on their back, shoes on their feet & a pencil in their hand. I gave her everything. 2 karat diamonds in her ears & those big chains that RUN-DMC use to wear. She had them 7 years before they came out. I let her go out & they’d strip her by time she come back. I bought them with my case money. I had a good old trick named Artie. No matter what I’d spend, he’d give me $500. We would go to Ponzio’s in Brooklawn, NJ every night for dinner. We went with Riccobene, Philip Tasty Lou Batone. She was so pretty. They called this yellow baby their doll. They would throw her back & forth across the table while she laughed.


I EXIST because I see me when you won’t;
In memory of all you tried to kill:
In spite of your desire to snuff me out.
I must; because you want me gone.

I EXIST because someone should have stood up
for me & spoken out against you long ago.
After being lied on & to; after you tried to make
me look like a fool in front of everybody
w/ my help from protesting; “See, I told you”

I EXIST after you lied & said “You loved me, stripped me, fucked me, gutted me
& stole from me.” You even tried to put me on. You hater!
You pillaged my village!


I EXIST to stop you from
ever doing this again. To repair the damage you caused.
I EXIST because you want not me, but from me & when you finished, I can go
away. I EXIST because you were not strong enough to fight them off.
Because of your darkness

For loves sake in spite of you.


I saw you that day you came out in that lovely ensemble in black. You were phenomenal! Where do you get your clothes? Who is your stylist? You look mahvelous! You made that? No you didn’t! Girl, I’m gonna have to get you to make me something too! Girl, you are bad! Where do you come up with all this stuff? I always thought you was crazy. You crazy! Not that kind, but I heard you have a book coming out soon. You go there and you’re not afraid to go there.

Chanda Rice

CHANDA CHERISE CORLEY RICE is known as Muffy. She is Cinderella living this new life God gave her as she trusts him in each step. She is an overcomer. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction class.