“Amplify” is a series of reader-submitted reflections that seek to shed light on the unique life experiences of Black women. If you are interested in submitting a post to The Pedestal Project, please contact us under the “Connect” tab!
Sharva Hampton-Campbell is an up-and-coming author, business start-up consultant, and empowerment coach who specialize in personal and professional development. She has a passion and zeal for helping women tap into their God-given purpose. Sharva has traveled stateside and internationally as a motivational speaker where the lives of women were immensely enriched. She is the founder of Azinza, a women’s organization that host annual empowerment retreats. She has co-authored “Becoming the Professional Woman,” “The Young Woman’s Guide for Personal Success,” “The Christian Women’s Guide for Personal Success,” and “Survival Skills for the African-American Woman.” She has a children’s book and a personal memoir that are currently in publication. Her most recent book project is titled “U.G.L.Y., Uncovering God’s Love for You, Stories of Triumph over Low Self-esteem and Self-worth.” Volume two is in the works, as well as a male version titled “B.R.A.V.E, Brother’s Revealing Areas of Vulnerability and Endurance, Stories of Triumph over Threats to Manhood.” She believes that writing is central to the healing process. It provides a cathartic experience that propels you to wholeness.
Life’s journey brings forth many winding roads and narrow paths. I often question which one to travel down at any given moment in my life, especially when presented with obstacles that need immediate resolve. Why is this journey called life so difficult at times?
As a young child, I overheard adults ponder this question on a regular basis. They talked about world issues, state government issues, local issues, and most importantly personal issues. One day, I was privy to a conversation by two adult females, and they were discussing how they had to lie about their income so they could qualify for public assistance. The conversation went something like this. “Gurl, I had to ask my boss to pay me under the table because I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t.” Gurl asked, “Sis, what do you mean by that?” If I tell them how much I get paid, which is barely enough to pay the power bill, they will cut my stamps off, and I can’t afford to buy groceries for the three hungry Negroes in my house. What they givin’ me is barely enough to buy enough food to last the entire month. So I’m damned if I do tell them and damned if I don’t.” “Sis, whatcha gonna do to get out of this mess of a life you have created for yourself?” Sis responded, “Hell if I know.” Sis’s phone rang and when she answered she recognized the person on the other end of the line. It was her sister Pudd’n” “Sis, have you heard the news,” asked Pudd’n. “What news ?”, said Sis. “President Jimmy Carter is setting up new programs that will allow us to work and receive welfare,” said Pudd’n. “And you excited about this?” screamed Sis. I’m sick of being damned. There is no way the government gonna let us work to earn a decent income until we can get caught up or get a little bit ahead before they cut us off. Get real! Why is this journey called life so hard? I made a few mistakes in having these children back to back for three no good men, and now I have to suffer like this. It’s downright depressing.” Gurl chimed in and said, “My momma said you made your bed and now you have to lay in it.” Sis, looked Gurl in the face, eye to eye and said, “Tell yo mamma that I got out of the bed, made it up, and don’t plan on getting back in it no time soon.” Gurl, Sis, and Pudd’n laughed for what seemed like forever.
Let’s fast forward to a similar personal experience; I remember going away to graduate school at an HBCU and unfortunately due to financial reasons I was only able to complete the summer session before returning home. I couldn’t find a steady job, so I applied for public assistance to cover my food expenses. I was so embarrassed about having to apply for Public Assistance. I rationalized in my mind that this type of support was for the needy, and I was taking food from someone else’s table. I had a Bachelor’s degree. I shouldn’t be in need of public assistance. I shared my opinion with the social worker who processed my application, and she told me that I had it all wrong. She explained that the program that I was eligible to receive assistance from was set up for individuals like me, those in between jobs and in need of a little support. She said she knew that I would not take advantage of the program because she could tell that I was appreciative of the support and would not get comfortable with what society called a “handout.” I assured her that as soon as I was back in school full-time and working, I would surely request to deactivate my support.
I thought about Gurl, Sis and Pudd’n and their life situation. They never moved past the public welfare system to personal independence. Why? When I was growing up, I saw the struggles of many of the matriarchs in my family trying to provide for my aunts, cousins, my siblings and I. I noticed that they lacked the education to gain professional jobs that would move them past the point of “robbing Peter to pay Paul “or “the land of never enough.” I was determined to remove myself from what I saw as a family cycle of poverty or what sociologist refer to as multigenerational cycles of poverty. I saw education as the key. However, once you earn the degree, there is another level of obstacles that often present themselves, such as discriminatory practices in hiring, promoting, and salaries. This journey called life, it presents with many difficulties along the way, and this is only one facet.