I embrace my mother at my favorite restaurant, Imperial, after my 8th grade promotion on June 12, 2018. I wanted to thank her for always being so supportive about me wanting to attend Groves although the current school I was attending went up to twelfth grade, and understanding throughout all the challenges I’ve faced with my mental health.

Photos by: Kaitlyn Williams

I embrace my mother at my favorite restaurant, Imperial, after my 8th grade promotion on June 12, 2018. I wanted to thank her for always being so supportive about me wanting to attend Groves although the current school I was attending went up to twelfth grade, and understanding throughout all the challenges I’ve faced with my mental health.

BANG 2 am October 10, 2004. It was about 3 am. My mom had just finished feeding me, the newborn daughter, when the phone rang startling her. ‘Who could be calling this late?’ she thought. When she looked at the phone, she realized it was her husbands’ number. She hurried to answer the phone, but to her surprise, when she answered the phone, the voice on the other line was a woman. My mom’s thoughts were scrambled. ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Who is this woman?’ ‘Where is Ray?’ The lady reassured her that everything was fine. “He’s alive,” she said. There was a long agonizing pause. “but he got shot,” the young lady finally said. The lady asked if it would be okay to send a car over to her house so she could be transported to the hospital my dad was at. Sadly, my mom couldn't immediately say yes. She was so anxious to see her husband, but she had a toddler and a newborn to look after. My mom called my grandmother and asked if she would do her a favor and take care of the children while she goes to visit her husband in the hospital. Her mother came to her rescue and arrived at the house just as the police came to escort her to the hospital. Two weeks later my dad was released from the hospital and the transition was not easy on both parts. “I had to have shots in my stomach that were blood thinners three times a day. And she had to set an alarm on her phone to give me those shots every night making sure that I had physical therapy, putting me in a tub and washing me up, because I couldn't do it myself. Watching her take care of you guys all at the same time. Maddie was four and you were only ten days old. Changing diapers, cooking for a toddler, feeding you, taking care of me, giving me physical therapy, and bathing me. She was basically a mom with three kids. I was just overly amazed at how she did it with a smile on her face, and nothing but content for taking care of all three of us,” my dad said Learning all of this information about my mom amazed me. I couldn't fathom how much stress and willpower it took to take care of three people, especially a newborn and my traumatized dad . No matter how hard things get, she still puts her loved ones first.

In 2005, after my father was shot, he pitched an idea to my mother that would change their lives forever, and for the better. “Your dad came to me and said he had an idea. He said that he thought we should open up an adult foster care facility and service mentally ill adults. I asked him why he wanted to do that. He knew he would be retiring from the police department so he just wanted to keep busy but his reasoning for pitching that idea was because when he was a officer he would go on all these calls and a lot of the disturbances that would be going on was folks who were mentally ill and he also said he had a couple of calls where he would go to adult foster care facilities and he would say that they were not in good condition and open one in a very nice area and provide quality care. I was working for the state of Michigan. I had no intention of ever starting a business, and I just wanted to move up the corporate ladder with the state. But he said I had just got my masters in social work and that I should put it to use and we should start this business. So I started doing research on it and boom the next thing I know we have a house and were working on it,” my mom said Once both of my parents got licensed to have an adult foster care facility, they had to decide on a name for the business. With their children as their inspiration the business was named Maka SIL & Grouphome inc, after their two baby girls: Madisyn and Kaitlyn. “I wasn’t all in favor of the business because I didn't know anything about it. I have four degrees, and they are all in the field of education, counseling or psychology. So therefore I didn't know much about foster care homes or community living support. When she started the business I went on line and looked something’s up. I bought her a notebook that had all kinds of forms in it for foster care homes and community living services with things that she would need to know and things that she probably knew, but she was just starting the business. I wanted her to have the forms and to see the kinds of things that other people that ran adult foster care homes did,” Raynna, my dad’s mom said Before my grandmother knew how amazing and crucial my mom was for the happiness of her son and her future grandkids, she was not always a fan. My grandmother has a soft spot for my mother now, and everyone who truly knows my mom knows that it’s very hard to not admire her. After my parents opened their first foster care home, my mom,Evonne, went on vacation with her friends to Jamacia. When my mom came home I ran downstairs in a hurry because I wanted to be the first to see her. As each foot hit the steps, the smile on my face grew wider. I couldn't wait to feel her warm embrace again. “Mommy!” I said while running into her arms “Hey Kaite! Look what I got you.” She slowly pulled out a pack of Biscoff Delta airline cookies. As I took that first bite into the cookie, I thought, “I have the best mom ever!” Unfortunately, my mom did not often experience this same feeling of motherly warmth when she was my age. She was never presented with random gifts from her parents or given the same kind of love that I experience from her. As a child my mother was never encouraged to attend college. Her mother didn't attend college, and her father wasn’t very keen on paying for expensive things, and college tuition was expensive. My mom never planned on going to college;she didn't believe she met the requirements of a “smart kid”, and only smart kids went to college. Even though she didn't think she was smart enough to attend college, she still had ambitions, goals, and dreams all of which began in a Marriott Hotel. She had worked at the Marriott as a waitress for a few months before she realized that she wanted more for herself. She needed more for herself. “After all of my classmates moved away and went to college I stayed home and I got a job. I realized after working that job for so long I thought ‘I'm never gonna get out of my mother's house’. I was a waitress, and I wasn't making enough. I was only making enough to buy clothes or food,” my mom said. After realizing that the universe had bigger plans for her, my mother decided to apply to Western Michigan University in the winter of 1992. After being accepted she wanted to move into her dorm room and start living independently as soon as possible. Financially, she knew that college was going to be a burden so she was going to need a little help. “I had been working all summer to get things like a comforter, a mini fridge, a microwave, and all that stuff you need for a college dorm. When I was finally settled into my dorm room my dad left me with 30 dollars. I knew that that wasn't going to last me for even a week. So I got up early the next day, and I went to the financial aid office. I told them what my situation was, and they recommended me with some jobs in the area. So I started going to find different job opportunities. I found an opening within the special education department, and I had a job within a week. I knew that if I could make 50-60 dollars a week that would sustain me,” my mom said. The stories that my mother tells me about her college experience are some of my favorites, because every single time she is faced with an obstacle, it’s as if that obstacle is facing her. When she was given only $30 at the beginning of her college career, she didn't sulk about how she wouldn't be able to live off of such a small amount of money. She didn’t beg her family members, close friends, or anyone for money. Instead, she got up and paved a way for herself by getting up and searching for a job. She has always been independent and determined, and she was not going to let the challenges of college change that. Her third year of college she was introduced to the self-proclaimed comedian, my father, Ray. “The first time I saw him, he was hugged up, making out with another girl in front of the dorm. I was walking up with my old friend named Robert and he told me ‘That’s my boy Ray with his girl. They have matching shearlings on’ while we were walking up I didn’t know what he was doing until I walked right past him, and when I walked past him I was like ‘ew’ ,” my mom said Over the months that they knew of each other my father began to fall for her. How could he not? She had everything. Confidence, beauty, and, most importantly, brains. “In college when I used to go hang out with your mom she would always ask where my books were. She was concerned about my academics. Even though we werent dating at the time she was the only girl that I liked that ever showed interest in my well being as far as my education. Even though I felt like I didn't have a chance in hell with her, I still thought ‘I need to marry this girl’,” my dad said. He managed to put a ring on her finger on August 21,1999. It was a sunny day in Detroit as friends and family filled Tabernacle Missionary Baptist church. This was the old church that my father had grown up in. Out in the parking lot, as all the guests filled the church, my dad and his childhood friends were catching up and drinking together. “I was a little buzzed. I had been drinking in the parking lot with my friends before the reception,” my dad said. Everyone knows the truth comes out when you’re buzzed, and when the wedding reception began, my father saw my mother walking down the aisle. He didn't run in fear of commitment or having to take care of a family. He stood firm, smiling, with a single tear rolling down his cheek as he watched my mother walk down the aisle. As he wiped his tear of joy away, he looked over at my grandfather who was also crying. My grandfather was a very proud man, so for him to let that tear fall in public said so much.They both knew that my mom was perfect for my father, and they both knew that she would be an amazing friend, wife, and daughter. “She's always been worried about being a good mom. Every aspect of being a mom I know she has struggled with, but she's always gotten it right,” my dad said said There are certain moments in my life where my mother shows me so much love, grace, and affection that it shocks me. She has always told me stories about her childhood. She has never been ashamed of where she came from and she has always been open about the trials that she faced throughout her life. “I didn't grow up that way [ with love and affection] ,and I try to give that. I want to be as nurturing to you guys as I can possibly be. I tell you guys I love you, I hug you guys, and I spend time with you. If i'm somewhere and I think you may like something I try to pick it up for you. Like when I figured out when you were watching Gilmore Girls and I bought you that Gilmore Girls shirt. So I show my love by trying to take care of both of you, and daddy as well,” my mom said

Evonne Williams has worked with people her whole entire life. From being a social worker to being the proud owner of Maka Sil, her own business working with the mentaly disabled as well as seniors.providing them with foster care homes and proper care. She sits in her office on March 5, 2019 signing documents to buy a house for one of her clients. It’s as if my mother has children all over the place. She is always helping people, and finding out what is best for them.She truly has one of the kindest hearts.

Evonne Williams has worked with people her whole entire life. From being a social worker to being the proud owner of Maka Sil, her own business working with the mentaly disabled as well as seniors,providing them with foster care homes and proper care. She sits in her office on March 5, 2019 signing documents to buy a house for one of her clients. It’s as if my mother has children all over the place. She is always helping people, and finding out what is best for them.She truly has one of the kindest hearts.

I hadn't realized how much of an effort she puts into figuring out activities that I enjoy. She does so much more than occasionally, buying me nice gifts. After having me attend Southfield Christian for about 4 ½ years, she saw that I wasn't reaching my full potential. Yes, I was getting good grades. I was high honors every, single semester, but did I say I wasn't reaching my academic potential? No. I hadn’t reached my potential as a person. She saw that I wasn't as happy as I could be. I wanted to be content with what I had and who I was, but I was never fully satisfied. Even after joining new clubs and making friends, I wasn't the happiest I could've been. I wasn't as enthused about life as I should have been. She saw straight through my flat facade. Normally, parents would be pleased with their children as long as they're getting good grades, but my mom knew that good grades were not going to be enough to keep either of us happy. So she asked me one day if I would consider switching high schools. The question caught me off guard, but it gave me a chance to actually think about whether I wanted to continue going to Southfield Christian or not. After a couple seconds of thoroughly thinking about the pros and cons of leaving Southfield Christian, I said I wouldn’t mind. Over the weeks she presented me with a couple schools, and the one that stood out to me the most was Wylie E Groves. I was excited. New people, new opportunities, and a fresh start. As we continued looking at information about Groves we realized that we would have to move in order for me to go there. So we started looking for houses and we eventually found one. My mom went the distance just for me to be happy. She loves me so much that she stopped everything that she was doing, had us move to a new home, and used so much of her hard earned money just so I could be happy. I am so much happier now than I was before, and I feel like I’m living my life for me, and nobody else. I’m free to be whoever I want to be because of her. I’m able to develop my own opinions and be my own person. She is my savior, and I can only give thanks to her for the person that I am now and for the woman that I am becoming. She's always felt as if she's never been good enough or that she could be a better parent for you guys. Although she doesn't give herself much credit, Evonne is an amazing mother. She does so much,” my dad said. I was so shocked when my dad told me this, because Evonne has done so much for me, and she continues giving me the world daily. She provides me with a roof over my head, food, clothing, and support whenever I need someone to talk to. Over the years my mom and I havent had the best relationship or the relationship that we both desire, but recently i've seen us developing a closer bond and I’m enjoying it because I feel like I don't know her as well as I should. We don't have the friendship that we should have, and it’s my fault. Teenagers can be very moody, including me. Over my middle school years and a portion of my freshman year I had the worst mood swings known to man. Somedays I was happy and energetic and other days I was really dejected and moody. I know many parents say “I’m not one of your little friends. I'm your mother”,but I think it’s so important that you have a friendship with your parents. Especially your mother. I’ve always wanted to be able to joke around with her and be able to confide in her like I do with my other friends. So developing a genuine friendship with my mom has made life so much more enjoyable. It’s difficult being human, and my mom has risen up to the challenge and completely dominated it. She has never had it easy, and she never will have it easy unfortunately. She’s a woman, and on top of that she’s a woman of color. But she has made a name and a living for herself from the ground up. She started a successful business with almost zero supporters, and used that business to provide for her family. My mother is the strongest person I have ever met, and she is the strongest person I will ever know. Strong doesn't mean she puts up a front and never lets her guard down. Strong doesn’t mean that she refuses help and tries to figure it all out on her own- although she is very independent. Strong means that she lets her emotions show; she lets her guard down with those she loves, and she makes sure to tell her kids that she loves them every single day. I know that if I were put in her shoes I would crumble. I know that if I was faced with less than half of the challenges that she has faced throughout her lifetime I wouldnt have a single clue as to what to do. My mom, Evonne Renae Roper Williams, is a self-made icon. And I am beyond blessed to be her daughter.

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