Trussie's Story

photography by Sarah Fleming for the Juvenile Project

photography by Sarah Fleming for the Juvenile Project

From a young age, Trussie Hudson witnessed domestic violence and drug abuse and personally experienced sexual abuse and hunger in her home. At the age of 17, when she was 9 months pregnant with her first child and working as a cashier at Kroger, she was caught selling discounted groceries to her friends. When she moved out of her mother’s home to raise her child elsewhere, she was found to be noncompliant with her juvenile court-ordered program, and sent to detention until the age of 18. Now 34 years old, living in Memphis with her two sons, Trussie shared her story with us. Listen or read to learn more.

Interview with Trussie Hudson conducted by Joann Self Selvidge for The Juvenile Project (TJP) on October 29, 2016. This interview was filmed; Sarah Fleming was director of photography.

The Juvenile Project: Okay. We're at speed... Let's start out, just tell me your name and where you grew up.

Trussie Hudson: Well my name is Trussie Hudson and I'm from Clarksdale, Mississippi. I really don't know too much about Clarksdale because we moved when I was a child, so Memphis is my home.  So I'm from basically Memphis.

TJP: Okay. [There’s a cat on the stairs.]

TJP (Sarah): It's okay.

TJP: Okay. Is that okay on [the audio]? Then occasionally we're going to have the little meows. You said Memphis is your home.

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: Tell me where you grew up in Memphis, and describe to me your environments of where you were living.

Trussie: Well basically I grew up in South Memphis. It was neighborhood to neighborhood basically growing up. I grew up all over Memphis from here to there, everywhere.

TJP: Tell me about who, like your relationships with the people you were living with, your family members.

Trussie: Well, growing up I basically was like before I had a child, I was living with my aunt. That didn't work out. I was just going from house, to house, to house until I found somewhere stable to live with my son.

TJP: When you were younger, do you remember how long you all were when you all came to Memphis?

Trussie: Ooh, I have no idea. I was pretty young. I was young because ... Yeah, I was young, probably about ten or eleven maybe.

TJP: You had an older brother.

Trussie: Yes, I had an older brother.

TJP: Were you staying with your mom before you started staying with you aunt?

Trussie: Yeah. I was staying with my mom, and things was hectic in the household, so I had to leave.

TJP: Okay.

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: When was the first time you experienced any kind of violence in your life?

Trussie: Violence? I'm basically not a violent person, but the things that I was going through living with my mom, it was terrifying, and stuff like that. I felt like I couldn't be there anymore, so I had to leave. I had been going through it for so long. It ain't no telling, probably when I was about seven to seventeen, I was being molested in the household, so I had to leave.

TJP: Can you tell me a little bit about what you feel about that? What was it that you were going through? Was it on a daily basis?

Trussie: It was on a day to day basis. It had got to the point where when I did find out that I was pregnant I didn't know was it the man my mom was dating, or was the guy that I had slept with. I really didn't know. It was [00:03:30] like a scale of undecided. I was like maybe I should get an abortion, but I didn't want to do that because I didn't feel like that was the right thing to do.

TJP: Tell me how old you were when that happened.

Trussie: The first time it happened, I was like probably nine years old, and all the way up until I was 17.

TJP: Who was it? Was it the same person?

Trussie: It was the same person, and his family. Every time my mom sent me over there, it would constantly repeat happen. Then my mom was always on the go, and stuff like that. She never just sat down with me and figured out what was really going on in my life.

TJP: Did you tell anybody?

Trussie:    I never told anyone because I was too scared of what the person might have done, so I didn't know. Then, growing up in a household where your mom was getting beat and stuff, so you really didn't know if you would have told how it would have affected the household.

TJP: Were you seeing her on a regular basis? You were seeing all of that happen.

Trussie: Yeah. My mom was there half of the time, half of the time she was gone. Then she was a drug addict too, so I felt like I could never talk to her.

TJP: Who did you trust?

Trussie: I really didn't trust no one but my oldest brother. He was my shield and my protector.

TJP: Did he live with you up until ...?

Trussie:  e lived with us up until he got to the point where he just did leave, or whatever. After he left it got worser. I was like, "I can't take it." It was getting to the point where I was ready to kill myself because I couldn't take it no more.

TJP: How did you know where to go?

Trussie: Well when I turned 17 and it was this group of people that I used to hang with school, and we used to go to church together. I reached out to them. They was like, "Come on." We was living in a studio. It was their studio. He was, "Come on. Your baby can come. We're going to help you with him, and whatever." So, I got there, and I moved in with them for awhile. I have no idea what happened in that household, but I left one day, and came back. MPD [Memphis Police Department] had surrounded the house.

They had took my baby to Juvenile Court. I couldn't even get him because they were like I need a car seat. He was just a couple of months old… The police took him. When I got to Juvenile Court, he wasn't even at Juvenile Court. They took him to LeBonheur [Children’s Hospital] to make sure he was okay. I had to wait to the next day to talk to some people. I called this lady that I always confide in. Her name was Becky Lloyd. She came, and we went again. She took me to somewhere so I can live.

TJP: With your baby?

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: Tell me what was going on when you were first pregnant. When you were first pregnant, what was going on in your life at that time?

Trussie: At that time I was being pregnant and living in the household with my mom, it was like I couldn't talk to her, couldn't tell her certain things. It was like she never listened. That's why I had to hurry up, and try somewhere to go to leave. So after I was trying to work. I got in trouble trying to work. I started working out at McDonald's. When I found out I was pregnant, I got fired because the lady asked me to wash some walls. She asked me to get on my knees, and wash the walls. I told her I wouldn't, so I quit. The guy from Kroger, he hired me. Going through the things that I was going through at home, we had barely any food. My mom's boyfriend was stealing her food stamps, and everything. It was like we never had food. Then my mom had another baby, which I had a little brother. I was trying to provide for me and my little brother while my mom was still doing what she was doing.

I was stealing from Kroger's, and end up getting caught. I ended up going to Juvenile Court. They put me on this [program] called Hanover House, where they call your house phone, or whatever. You've got to report to them every day. I had to stay at home with my mom while I did that. I was like I just couldn't stay there no more, so I was trying to find anyway out to get up out of there. I started dating this girl. My mom didn't like her, so I had ran away. I left my mom's house. Then on Hanover House you've got to be there until your time is up. After I left my mom was like, "Where is she?" She called me, and she was like, "Well you know they just want to hold a conversation with you. They need you to come to Juvenile Court to sign some papers." I was like, "Okay." At the time I was still under age, so I went to Juvenile Court.

Once I went to Juvenile Court, they locked me up. Then once my mom found out they was going to lock me up, she was like, "Oh no, you can't lock her up. Who's going to raise this baby." It ended up my mom had to take care of my baby. At the end of the day, I really don't know what my baby went through because being in a household with a man who was molesting me, in my mind I could only think about did he do anything to my son. Being in there, I was in there 35, 45 days. I wasn't doing what they asked me to do in there because I was ready to go. All I thought about was my baby. They kept adding on days, and days, and days. After that, I finally ended up getting out. I only saw my baby one time the whole time I was locked up. It was St. Peter's Home. It was a home for all girls. I started going there. Once I got out of there. I got a crib. I got an apartment, my very first apartment. Ever since then I've been out on my own, ever since I got out of St. Peter’s I've been out on my own.

TJP: How old were you when you got out?

Trussie: I was 18.

TJP: You had gone because you were 17, and you were still underage?

Trussie:  m-hmm (affirmative).

TJP: This was all related to that initial ...? Was it?

Trussie:  he incident that happened at Kroger. I had some people that come in there, and I was ringing the stuff up for low price, just so I could have food for my house, and their house, the people that was coming to get it too.

TJP: All of that, just all of that for this. Tell me about the situation where they found out at Kroger, and what happened. Like how you got ...

Trussie: I can remember just like it was yesterday. It was around Halloween time. I was pregnant. They didn't lock me up because I was pregnant. The people that stayed in my apartment, they came to the grocery store. They had different foods. When you scan something and it don't go through, you can just type it in. I had worked there good enough to know the system. I was like, I'm going to try it because we need food at our house. My neighbor was like, "Okay cool. We can do that." They came through. I rung up stuff for low price to have food. They was on their way out the door, and they stopped them. They had them come back, and they re-rung up all the groceries. It didn't amount to what I had amounted it to, so they called the cops on me. I was like, "Okay."

TJP: So what happened? The cops came, and then what happened?

Trussie:    The cops came. They had me in this room. They had the cuffs on me. By me being so pregnant, I had them in the front. I was calling my mom, and I was like, I don't know if she's going to come, I don't know if she can. They didn't lock me up. They had released me because I was pregnant. Like I said, the next day I had to be at Juvenile Court. When I went that's when they put me on the Hanover House stuff.

TJP: Did you have anybody there that was helping you?

Trussie: No, I did it all alone by myself. I had already planned it out in my head. I didn't want to tell nobody what I was doing, because maybe it wouldn't have got that far.

TJP: When you went in did they give you different options? Did you get to have any sort of say or choice in what it was? Did they just sentence you, or just give you ...?

Trussie: No. They didn't. They just put me on Hanover House. They didn't sentence me. They locked me up after the fact [when] I was un-compliant with the program that they had put me on.

TJP: Okay. Basically you got locked up for noncompliance.

Trussie: Exactly.

TJP: Did you have a parole officer, or anybody who was checking on you?

Trussie:    Well that was Hanover House thing was if I'm not there when they call and ask the questions. If the voice recognizer doesn't recognize my voice that was automatically a no no, so yeah.

TJP: You couldn't say, look I moved out of my house, here's the new number?

Trussie: No.

TJP: You had to be staying with your mom, or guardian?

Trussie: Yes.

TJP: In all this time when was your baby born?

Trussie: October the 12th.

TJP: Okay.

Trussie: He was born October the 12th. Right after October, Halloween, I'd say I got away with it so far all the way until Easter.

TJP: You mean the Hanover House?

Trussie: Yeah. They finally caught up with me. That's what it was like, my mom told me that they wanted to talk. I was like, "Okay. I'm about to be 18, so there's nothing that they can do." Fooled me. I go down there and they just locked me up. She wanted to cry and boohoo, but she the one did it, you know. She could have been like, "She doesn't stay here anymore, or whatever." She wanted to see me locked up, especially because the way I was living my lifestyle. She didn't like that. She probably still don't like it to this day. I'm 34 now, so I don't care.

TJP: When is your birthday?

Trussie: June 26th.

TJP:    Tell me about that. Tell me how your lifestyle changed.

Trussie:    When you're going through so much you look for love in so many ways. When you try to look for love, and the way that you feel you need to be, you can't really just find it. Sometimes all it takes is time and patience. That's what I had learned over the years, but back then I didn't know that. They always say you've got two roads to follow. You can either go one way or the other way, and I choose to go the other way.

TJP: What do you mean by the other way?

Trussie: I choose a different road to take in life than a lot of people would have.

TJP: Had you made that choice before you gave birth?

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: You were living with your girlfriend when you had your baby?

Trussie: No. I was just living out here. I wasn't with anyone. I was just living, just trying to have somewhere to lay my head for me and my son. To keep from being on the streets, I was trying to live with family members, but I didn't want them in my business. Therefore I kept away from everybody, and so they only saw me for holidays, or whatever, never on a day to day basis.

TJP: You lived with that group of friends for awhile, but that wasn't ...?

Trussie: Yeah. After that situation had happened, I had lived with them for a good little minute, but after that happened, I haven't seen them since then.

TJP: Did you have anybody steady helping you with the baby?

Trussie: Yeah. I only had one person that was the lady that I was telling you about, Miss Becky Lloyd. She's been a great mentor. I had lots of contact with her for awhile. I was back at her again, just homeless. I was letting people keep my son while I tried to find here and there to go, and stuff like that.

TJP: How did you meet Becky?

Trussie: I met her when I was in the seventh grade. She was a truancy officer. I was missing school because I did not want to go to school. She came to the house, and she was like, "Trussie has missed so many days." I was like, "Uh-huh." I knew if my mom found out I was going to get in trouble. She really didn't even finish talking to my mom that day. She just cut the whole conversation short. When I got to school the next day, we had the most best conversation ever. It was like she was on my side. I told her my life story. Ever since then, she's been in my corner. I don't try to burn bridges with nobody. I don't try to take advantage of nobody. I call people if I really, really, really desperately need them. Other than that I just suffer all the consequences throughout life myself.

TJP: I'm going to ask a couple other questions. Did you ever experience when you were growing up, and having all this stuff happening to you personally in your home environment, what were your relationships like outside your home environment? Did you ever experience drugs, and gangs, and all of the things that happens sometimes?

Trussie: What? The gangs, I couldn't get down with them. I didn't like being around a lot of people as it was because I really didn't trust a lot of people knowing the situation and the circumstances that I grew up in. I really couldn't trust nobody. The drugs, the only drugs I ever done was marijuana, no alcohol, nothing like that, so that's basically it.

TJP: I'm sure because you saw your mom going through it, you were like ...

Trussie: Yeah. I was like mm-mm (negative), no street drugs, nothing but marijuana that was it.

TJP: Well tell me, did you ever have any sort of like an actual attorney, or an advocate helping you with any of this when you were ...?

Trussie: No, no one. The only person like I said was her, was Miss Lloyd. She was my savior.

TJP: Okay. That day you said you went down there just to sign some papers. Did you ever actually see a judge?

Trussie: Oh yeah.

TJP: Tell me about your court experiences, what that was like.

Trussie: The court experience was like when the judge was like, "We're going to give you 35 to 45 days in St. Peter's," I just broke down crying. My mom she was out there with my baby. The only thing I was thinking about with my mom was my baby. I wasn't even thinking about my mom. You know what I'm saying? I didn't care how she felt. I was really worried about my son, just wondering if he [mother’s boyfriend] was going to try to molest my baby as a baby. You know people don't care these days. That was the only thing that really hurted me the most, just knowing that he's in that household with my baby. Even though I wanted to run out of the courtroom too. I almost tried it.

TJP: They got you, and you had to go to St. Peter's. It was a normal detention center, or was it a special one?

Trussie:    This detention center, it had school. It was basically like a college dorm or something. It was rooms, we either shared rooms, or we had our room. This particular time I had my own room. It was okay. It brought out a lot of me, even though I shed tears every day, because I didn't really want to be there. You know, hey things happen in life, and you've got to suffer the consequences. Not knowing that my mom would be like she already knew what was going on, it was like she was against me more then she was with me. It was hard. Sometimes it's hard to know who's down with you, and who's not with you, especially when your mom ratted against you.

TJP: You said she already knew what was going on.

Trussie: Yeah, because she knew. After she found out they were going to lock me up for a good period of time, she was like, "I should not have ever let you came down here. I don't want to watch your baby." You know what I'm saying? Now after that time that she found out that she was going to have to watch my baby, she was like, "Oh no. You can't all lock her up." It was like that then, but after that it was like whew. I was like, "You did this, so you got to deal with this." At the same time in my head, I was just so not feeling it.

TJP: You said when you first got pregnant you weren't sure ...

Trussie: That her boyfriend was the dad, or the guy that I slept with on my own was the father. He was constantly molesting me. I was telling my mom, and she never believed me. My mom went out of town one day, and the neighbor was outside with me. He said something in front of the neighbor. The neighbor told my mom when she got back, and my mom still didn't believe it.

TJP: He was bragging on it to the neighbor?

Trussie: Yep. When my mom came, she told my mom, and my mom still didn't believe.

TJP: Did he think it was his baby?

Trussie: I don't know what he was thinking in his head. What was going on in my head... there was so much going on, I was like, "I can kill him in his sleep." I just wanted to kill him. I was like, "I'd be gone for life, and my son wouldn't have no mom." Somebody else would be raising him, and there ain't no telling what they'd be doing. I had to make choices in my head. There was times where I wanted to kill myself, and everything. I was like I've got to do something better, and I've got to get out of this.

TJP: What kind of relationship did you have with the baby's father?

Trussie: He was more like, "Oh, that's not my baby." He didn't want to claim, he didn't want to take the responsibility of it because of what he was doing. He had a girlfriend, and everything else. Fifteen years later, that's when we had a DNA done. My son was 15 when we did a DNA test. It came back to be his 99.99%. He was like, "Okay." He was trying to step up as a father, but he was trying to demand me to do this. I was like some kind of robot with a remote control to do what he said to do. I'm just not it. It wasn't that he hadn't been. If a person can't control you, they don't want to be with you so that's really why I chose the other life to live.

TJP: He eventually came around, and there was a relationship there?

Trussie: Yeah. After the fact, but then it just got rocky. Then he just didn't do nothing to help me out with him, or anything.

TJP: Why did you all decide to have a DNA test done?

Trussie: Because he had got married, and his family was telling him that my son wasn't his. That's when we went and got the DNA test done. I told him that it was his, but he just wanted to make sure. Then once we got the DNA test, then the judge was involved. They was making him paying child support. He really hated me then. I was like, "You was listening to other people, so this is what you get." In my head I was like, "Okay."

TJP: Well he didn't have to pay child support for that other fifteen years?

Trussie: I know, right. He had back child support.

TJP: Oh, he did.

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: You had the baby. You said he was two months old when you got out?

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TJP: You found a place. You got your first apartment, and you were working.

Trussie: He was two when I got my first apartment. Tarian was almost two years old when I got my first apartment. I missed the year with him growing up, seeing him walk, his first teeth, and everything. I just missed everything. I went down the road and I ended up having another child ten years later. I wanted a girl, but I got another boy. God makes no mistakes. He was like, "You're not ready for a girl." I was like, "Okay."

TJP: In that time, in that ten year period of time, I know you said you had some other run ins with the law. You had some other issues ... Do you have a criminal record as well?

Trussie:    Well, yeah. I'm not a felon, thank God. Even though I always fight people, and stuff like that because of the anger that I felt that was inside of me. I think that caused all of it. Every little thing it ticked me off, and there was straight violence. I was getting locked up for domestic assault, aggravated assault, and stuff like that. After a couple times of being locked up... I spent the night in jail, and it was weekend time. I had to do weekend time. I haven't done no years, and it was weekend time was like 24 hours, and that was the weekend for me. After that, and after spending that weekend like that day in there, I went in at 7:00 that morning, and got out at 7:00 at night, so that was two days in jail. After that I was like this is not for me. I got to do something about this. I just got away from everybody, and just blocked everybody out. I put myself in a shell, and just hid from the outside world for awhile.

TJP: Hang on a second. Can you all hear that?

TJP (Sarah): A little bit. What is it?

Trussie: A cell phone upstairs.

TJP (Sarah): [00:29:00] Oh, okay. We'll just pause a minute. That's fine. Oh, there it is.

TJP: It's going to keep coming if it's a... I wonder if we could put it on silent. Is that yours, or is that your friend's?

Trussie: That's upstairs.

TJP: Yeah.

TJP (Sarah): Oh, okay.

TJP: Okay. You had a couple of domestic violence [charges]. You spent the time in jail, but it was just like you've got to be in jail. Tell me about the whole ... Because I'm curious about the whole process. How did you end up getting arrested and going to jail? When you were at jail, what did they tell you that you had to do, and all that?

Trussie: Domestic violence. I didn't get locked up just like every time I went, I got out for free. I didn't want no trouble. I had a basic juvenile record, but I didn't have an adult criminal record. When I turned 18, there was just so much going on. People just felt like they could just talk any way to you, and stuff like that, so I was always trying to defend myself. They always call the police when I win. When they won, they wouldn't call the police. They would have just took it as yeah, I beat your butt. When the table turned, they called the police on me.

I thought, well I kept getting locked up. I was like no, I can't live my life like this. I can't keep going to jail. I've got a baby to raise, and there ain't nobody going to take care of him for me, so I have to start doing what I had to do. Like I said, after that I just put myself in a shell, and got away from everybody. I dropped friends, and the people that I felt that was going to deal with me. They would have came and knocked on my door, and been real with me, and tell you.

TJP: You escaped all that?

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: Why did you do that?

Trussie: I just wanted to get away from everybody, and just try to make a difference in my life. I felt as if I got away from everybody, I would be better in life. I could have been better than what I already am. The things that I know now, if I would have knew these things back then, I think I'd probably be more successful than anything. I'm too talented to be just doing nothing.

TJP: What would you be telling yourself at that age?

Trussie: At that age, I'd have been like, "These are not the people to hang around. You need to take your butt to school every day," and everything. It's just life.

TJP: You said mainly you think it was just anger. It was just anger that was getting you into these situations where you were fighting back.

Trussie: Yeah, because of the things, like I said being molested, and you just can't say what you really want to say at a young age. Once I got to a certain age where I can express myself, and say what I want to say, and fight it out, I felt like that was the relief. That's how I got through half of the pain that I had. I was hurting, so I wanted somebody else to feel the pain too. When they hurt me, I wanted them to feel the hurt too.

TJP: You mentioned on the phone... I think it was you mentioned on the phone, did you have any alcohol problem?

Trussie: No alcohol problems.

TJP: No alcohol. It was just straight anger.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TJP: Did you ever come to a point where you worked any of those out? Did you ever find a counselor or anybody to talk to?

Trussie: I didn't find anyone to help me out with my problems. I think the older I grew, the more it just dropped off. That way it just dropped it off, because you know, your mind is a terrible thing to waste. As I kept thinking about it, that would make me act out. I had to come back to reality, and be like, what's wrong. Just because people did you this way, you don't have to treat people that way. Therefore, I was like, okay, I had to have a self talk with myself.

TJP: You were the counselor.

Trussie: Yeah. I was my own counselor.

TJP: Okay, so you had another baby.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative), ten years later.

TJP: Tell me about that experience.

Trussie: With that experience it was like I felt I was ready for a family. I wanted a husband after all the things that I had been through, and I stopped hanging with everybody, and I wanted to change my life. I started dating this guy. We was cool. He was my best friend. He listened to everything. I vented to him, and he was like, "Man, you're so crazy." He didn't judge me or my lifestyle just because I dated women. He didn't judge me. He was the coolest guy ever. After Jayden was born, that's my second child, after he was born it was everything was cool. Then all of the sudden his dad had got locked up. Jayden was about, I'd say about four or five months. Jayden is seven now. His dad has been locked up ever since then, so he hasn't seen him. He's in [federal prison]. He was on papers, and he violated his papers, so he had to back up all his Fed time.

TJP: Wow. When you say he violated his papers. What was the original?

Trussie: I have no idea what the original charge was with him. To my knowledge what people say, I don't know what really happened because I wasn't there, so I don't know. You just go off of your... It's a he say, she say. It was like they robbed somebody. At the same time it's supposed to been a setup or something like that. It didn't go right, so they snitched him out. Once they snitched him out, when they got him, he got charged for that, and then plus what he was already on papers for, so he had to bag out at them.

TJP: How long? Did they tell him a time?

Trussie: Well to my knowledge Jayden will probably be like 20 or 23 when he sees his father again.

TJP: Have you all ever visited?

Trussie: No. I don't think that's a good idea. That's not a good idea.

TJP: For Jayden?

Trussie: Yeah, not a good idea.

TJP: Is he in Arkansas at Fed, or is he here? Is he here? Do you know?

Trussie: I have no idea.

TJP: He was about four or five months, and that was it. He has no memory.

Trussie: No memory.

TJP: Trussie, do you talk about ... Does he know about his dad?

Trussie: Yes, he does. He knows about his dad. That's one thing I always try to make sure my kids know who their father is.

TJP: Okay. Now you have two kids.

Trussie: Now I have two.

TJP: They live with you now.

Trussie:    They live with me now. I love them to death. I wouldn't trade them for the world. When they leave me, my heart just drops because I'll be thinking what they doing, is anybody touching them. My mind is just so crazy, I can't help it. I'm a mom now, so I got to let go of a lot of things. I try not to put myself in that world anymore, and try to think positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts. I just try to do that.

TJP: What's going on in your life right now?

Trussie:    Wow. Right now I am in high school. I go to the XL Center, where I'm trying to receive my high school diploma. My graduation date is next year, December the 17th, 2017, so I'll be graduating. I also joined a forklift class, and I got certified to drive forklifts. My job, I just put my two weeks notice in because the school had me to go through the forklift class, and they got me a job too, so that's exciting. At school, I am sergeant at arms at school. It's been a journey with the school, and things.

TJP: Tell me what you had been doing, where you just get ...?

Trussie: This job that I'm working now, I had been cleaning up for a year and five months, cleaning up office buildings. You know it was okay because I didn't have a job at first. The pay was kind of flimsy, but I still took it, and was still going to school, and making sure that I get there every day. Like I said, since I've been in school great things come to those who wait, and keep praying. I have been praying, and praying, waiting, and waiting. Now I'm at a point where I'm ready to start a new journey. God made stepping stones for every... Conquer that you ever go, you conquer. I feel like I've been doing real good. I'm enjoying myself in this program, and continue to see out more once I get done. It's going to be a journey.

TJP: What brought you to the point where you thought you wanted to come back and get your high school diploma?

Trussie: I was talking to this lady at my job. Her name is Miss Margaret. She's like the grandma of the job. Every time she's always got something she's like, "Trussie, let me pray for you. Let me talk to you for awhile. I don't care if it's done." She always says, "Hi Terry Ann." She calls my son Terry Ann. I just sit there and smile at her and talk to her. She gave me this paper one day. She was like, "I didn't know." I was talking to her. She was like, "I didn't know you didn't have your high school diploma." I was like, "Oh yeah. I had dropped out of school because I was going through so much. I couldn't deal with it. I couldn't focus. I couldn't think." She was like, "Well, here." She gave me this piece of paper. She was like, "Call these people, and just see what you can do." Instead of calling, I go up there. I GPS-ed the address and I go up there. They were all like, "Oh yeah, you can start. Just go to the board and get your transcript, and of this."

I did everything they asked me to do. The next day I went and took them all the paperwork. They gave me a badge and I started. I was like, "Yes." I've been going for two, four, six, seven months now. I've been in there seven months now. I've came too far to turn back, so there ain't no turning back, so I'm going at it.

TJP: Why did you decide to do this program instead of a GED program?

Trussie: I tried the GED program, but the school that I was going to that was doing the GED program testing and stuff, it was like I had been there for four months, and they test you out. People had been stealing the test, and everybody was passing, so they had to redo the whole test. They were like, "You guys are going to have to wait a couple more months for them to come up with a new test." I was like I'm not going to do this. This is crazy. I thought it was going to be quick, simple, and easy. I was like no. Then come to find out, the people who was running the school was stealing money so they closed it down. They literally closed it down. I was like what program am I going to go through now. People was telling me about other programs, and I was like, "No, I'm okay. I'll just find something." Like I said, when I started this job, and she gave me that paper, ever since she gave me that paper I used it as a golden ticket.

TJP: That's awesome. Wow, so I'm trying to think. Can you talk about what it's been like? Obviously, Jayden was not in school yet. There's that period of time where you didn't have support, and you had to figure out how to care for your family and everything.

Trussie: At the time I was cutting hair to make money. I'm kind of good at it too. It was like I've never been to school for it but I'm so good at it, it's ridiculous. I don't know where it come from, but I'm so good. They're like, "Why are you not in a shop?" I was like, "It's not my dream, but it's just like a hustle." Everybody has to hustle. I started buying boxes of candy with the money I was getting from the haircuts, I had Tarian help go sell candy. We just go post up, and just sell candy to make money, and stuff like that, and besides the church that helped me, and stuff like that.

TJP: That's good. That's how you got to do it though.

Trussie: Oh, yeah.

TJP: Two kids. The longest time you ever served, you didn't serve a long time as an adult?

Trussie: No.

TJP: Just a few nights in jail.

Trussie: It wasn't even a few nights. I thought I was going to have to spend a few nights, but it was like they do you get two days, and one day, like 24 hours. That's like two days in the Penal Farm [Shelby County Department of Corrections] system. When you go there, 24 hours is two days. I thought I was going to have Friday, Saturday, Sunday and be out of there. Like I said, I went in Saturday morning, and got out at 7:00 at night. I was running up out of there too. I ain't stopped until I got to that Burger King. I ain't lying. I got to Burger King and called somebody to give me a ride, and some more. I was just trying to get home.

TJP: Wow. You didn't have a formal charge? They were just like, "We're just going to put you in here."

Trussie: Yeah. Because the things of the things that I had did. It was like, the lawyer that I had, he was like... Oh my god, he was like so great. He was like, "I know you're trying to do better with your life, and we're going to try and help you out. They just want you to do a little weekend time." I felt like that was the tester and the teaser. The tester of this is what it's going to be like, and the tease is like you don't want to be here no more. Just going in there and putting on a jumpsuit, and walking around, and they take you... You're going through so many different parts in the Penal Farm. You be like, "These people are in here for all these charges. Nobody need to be in here but rapists, and murderers."  I'm not neither one, so I need to get up out of here. I will not come back anymore. I've never been back since then. My record's clean as a whistle.

TJP: You never actually got a record for that?

Trussie: No.

TJP: Cool.

Trussie: I got it expunged.

TJP: I was going to ask, how did you find a lawyer? Later, how did you get it expunged?

Trussie: Actually it was a public defender.

TJP: Hang on.

TJP (Sarah): Yeah. Let's wait for that train.

TJP: We've got a talkative train. Was that a truck that went by, that loud, that low?

TJP (Sarah): That's better. That's fine.

TJP: That's better, okay. First tell me how did you get hooked up with the public defender?

Trussie: When you get locked up they ask you because I didn't have a job or anything to afford a lawyer. I was like, "I can't afford a lawyer." They was like, "Well we'll give you a public defender." I just broke down to my public defender my life. It was just like okay that was all I needed to do. They was like, "Well the judge just wants you to do two days in jail." I was like, "I don't want to do two days. I can't do two days. I don't want to do two days." He was like, "Well you got to do some, because this is going to be on your record if you don't do this. If you plead guilty and all of that." I was just like, "Well I'll just do the two days because I don't want it on my record." Then so I went in there ready for the weekend. I went in Friday. I thought I was going out Saturday or Sunday, but 7:00 that night they was like, "Miss Hudson?" They bust the door, I was running up out of there.

I couldn't stop until I got to Burger King. I didn't eat. I didn't want anything. The lady that I was in my cell with, she had snacks and stuff. She was like, "Here you go, a Snickers. You've got to eat something. Why are you in here?" I was like, "I just want to go home." It was okay. There was some good people in there that's away from their kids. If I can make a difference in life like half those women in there, I'd be like, "Oh my god, we can have a group meeting or something. You wouldn't even think about that again." Everybody got a test among them, so I think I have one because I have came a long, long way.

TJP (Sarah): Oh, how old were you when ...?

TJP: What? Oh, I was going to ask that question. When did this happen? How old were you?

Trussie: I was in my twenties. In my twenties, I probably was about 23, like 22. 23, 24.

TJP: It was before you were pregnant though with Jayden?

Trussie: Yeah. This was right before Jayden. I was in my twenties.

TJP: How did that compare to your whole juvenile experience? Obviously, the juvenile experience...

Trussie: The juvenile, I was in there longer. Then in juvenile it was a facility for teenagers that just still was having fun. Then in the prison system, it's different because you've got all these different women in there. They're in there for rape. They're in there for murder. They're in there just for... some people were just in there for simple things too. I was like this is totally different because juvenile and jail, in juvenile they let you out. You can associate with people. In jail, they can put you on lockdown where you ain't going to see nobody. I didn't really like either one of them. I was like okay I've got to deal with it. I did it, I've got to deal with it. Then it gave me a wake up call, a wonderful wake up call. Ever since then, I've just been trying. I don't have much, but I'm living. You don't have to have a whole lot to live. As long as I have a roof over my kids’ head, I think I'm more than blessed than ever.

TJP: What do your kids know about your experiences?

Trussie: Well Jayden doesn't really know anything. Tarian, he's my shield. He's 6'3". He's this big guy. My son, I let him know everything about me because if anything ever happened he knows. There isn't nobody else know, my son knows.

TJP: Like your big brother was.

Trussie: Yeah. My big brother, he still knows. I still confide in him too.

TJP: Where is he? Is he here?

Trussie: Yeah. He stays in Raleigh. He just had a baby, a little boy. He has a new relationship. I think God has blessed him tremendously from what he was already in to where he's in now. I think he has came along way himself.

TJP: Tell me about your relationship with your mom now.

Trussie: Ooh. The relationship with my mom is we can be having the best time ever. It's just things that my mom say when she's around people that gets to me. She don't even have to say things like that. She worries about other people's life more than worrying about her life, and my life. I think if she stayed out of other people's business, me and my mom could have a better relationship. It's like over the years then every time that I felt like I could go talk to her about anything, I feel like it's just a slap in the face or something. I can't go to her in just confidentiality, and talk to her without everybody else knowing before I even make it back home. I don't really just talk to her about anything. I just tell her the simple basic stuff. Oh yeah, your grandkids, they're fine. I'm raising them. I'm in school. I'm working. That's about it. Other than that, it's nothing.

TJP: It's interesting because recently since we did an interview with her, and I called her so I could get in touch with you because I was like, "I think it would be good to do one with Trussie." She was talking about she's gotten to a certain point where she wants to press charges against her ex for all the stuff he did to you.

Trussie: Yeah, because we joined this church called The Healing Center. This lady named Pastor Diana Young. I went to her with open arms. I shared my story with her. She was like, "Have you ever told your mom?" I was like, "You're about the only person, just besides Miss Lloyd that I done told this to." She was like, "Your mom, you never said anything to your mom?" I was like, "I never." So, she scheduled a meeting for me and my mom to meet. We had a luncheon. We sat down, and I just opened up and told my mom everything as far as Mississippi to Memphis. How I really felt and what went on in my life. She just broke down in tears. I was like, "You don't have to cry now, because it's over with, and I'm over it. I just want to let you know that I suffered through this for 34 years of living through this, and letting you know this."

I just really told her probably a year ago, probably a year or two ago, probably a year, a year ago. I was like, "When I tried to tell you this is not how you felt. You felt like he was telling you the truth, but now here it is that I really want to let you know. I feel like you weren't protecting me from him. I felt like you allowed him to do it because you was against me. You went against me to be with, you know saying the deal with him." In some ways I feel like she fault me for him leaving. I felt like he should have left. I felt like he should have been gone. I feel like he should have been dead or something. Sometimes I drive down the street, and I know he's still in the same neighborhood that my mom does.

Sometimes a thought comes into my head, I'm like if I see him, I'm going to run him over, stuff like that. I just try not to though. I don't want to be in a predicament that I used to be in because that's not what I want. I don't want my kids to come see me behind no bars, so I've got to make the best out of life. I'm raising some kings, I'm not raising no thugs.

TJP: That's beautiful. That's beautiful. What's your relationship like with Edward, Jr.?

Trussie: My little brother. I love my little brother. He is so hilarious. He just recently had a baby too. I love him to death. I try to get him to understand certain things, but he don't too much care. He's not like my older brother. He's totally different. We still have a bond. I love him to death, but I tell him every day, “I hate your daddy.” He just laughs about it. He laughs about it. We just do that now.

TJP: Does he have an awareness of what all was ...?

Trussie: Well, after the fact that we had the meeting with the pastor. She asked some people to go downtown. We went downtown and pressed charges. The crazy thing was that when we went to go press the charges, and they was pulling the records up, they pulled my little brother up. His dad's been using his social security number every time he gets in trouble out here with the law. My little brother had the... I don't think he even did it. He had to say that's not him that did the crime. If he don't go down there, they're going to charge him with it. I been telling him to go down there. I tried to talk to him, but he don't want to listen. He loves his dad too. I try to talk to him about, and he just goes the other way with it. I don't never say nothing else about it no more to him. I just let him live his life. I don't want him to hate him because on account of me. At the end of the day, that's still his father, but you can't take it back.

TJP: Man. So you said, "I'm raising kings, I'm not raising thugs."

Trussie: Well you know, the streets is serious out here. You have all the kids, especially boys. You've got boys that don't like going to school like girls do. You've got girls that don't like going to school like some boys do. I don't want the streets to take my boys away from me. After all the violence that's going on, and my son by him being so the size he is, he already looks like a grown man. I don't want the streets to make him a thug. I want him to be a king. I want him to be his own self. I don't want him to get manipulated out here in these streets because of what these rap videos showing these kids these days. It's not the same anymore like when we was growing up. We had good music. Now you got this music where these kids want to be half of these rappers, and stuff like that. I know kids love music. They're going to listen to it whether we're around them or not around them. Therefore, I just try to keep positive things in their life, and keep them on the right track so they won't go in left field.

My son, he's 17. I told him he's got to be a role model and help me with Jayden. What you do reflects on him, so what he see you do, you know what I'm saying, he's going mimic that. I just want him to graduate. Like he's in 11 grade, Jayden's in the second. I've got to go all the way over again. It's worth the journey because the things I've got to see Jayden do, I never got the chance to see Tarian do. It's been quite the journey.

TJP: I have some just wrap up questions at the end. I was thinking about this project that we're doing, The Juvenile Project. I just want to get your take. Since you've actually experienced it. You spent time at the detention center.

Trussie: And juvenile court. I was in juvenile court, and after a certain amount of days they transferred me to the all girls home.

TJP: What was that like at the actual juvenile court?

Trussie: Oh my god. It was fights because you had these people claiming something, then you had these people claiming something. It was more of a gang thing in there. That’s why I was like, I don't like it right there. That's why I couldn't never get down with nothing like that. I think that's when the drugs came in, the marijuana came in because I was always happy. I was like it was cool dude, you know.

TJP: How much time did you have to spend actually in the court?

Trussie: In juvenile?

TJP: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Trussie: I spent 30 days in Juvenile Court until they got me a bed ready at St. Peters. When people left St. Peter’s, that's when they came to Juvenile Court to get other people to go there once a bed got clear. Just like when you go to the hospital, you can't go to the back until you get a bed. That's basically how it was.

TJP: How would you compare those two? It sounds like you liked...

Trussie: At St. Peter's, it was freedom. We had regular clothes on. In juvenile court we had these little suits on, flip flops, and stuff like that. Being at St. Peter's it was like I said, a college dorm where we had rooms, real beds. We had TV time, play time, swimming. It was the whole nine yards. It was like home. We was outside, and in Juvenile you don't go outside. You're in this one room all day until they feed you.

TJP: It's just jail?

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: It's just jail for kids.

Trussie: Oh, yeah. It was jail for kids.

TJP: When you think about that, and you think about the kind of labels that people put. One of the things that Sarah and I are working on is a bigger project. I wanted to get your take on what do you think it means to be a juvenile delinquent.

Trussie: I don't think it's cool to be a juvenile delinquent. For people out here doing wrong, especially kids, that's what I try to tell my son every day. I was like, "You don't want to be in there. They're going to treat you like crap. You've got to do what they say dude. You've got to wake up when they tell you to wake up. You've got to clean up when they tell you to clean up. You've got to do what they tell you to do because you're in their facility, and with that being said, that's not the road that you want to take. After awhile it's going to lead to somewhere else, if you feel comfortable with going to juvenile, you'll feel comfortable with being in jail. That's not the route that you need to go."

TJP: You've already answered a lot of my questions. Okay. So you were a kid when you had a baby, I mean pretty much when you had your own kids.

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP: When did you start to think of yourself as a being an adult?

Trussie: When I turned probably 27. When I turned 27, it was like I was club hopping, just wanted to be out just doing things out here. Then I was like this is not what it's all claimed to be. People make it seem so good, but it's not so good. You can get yourself caught up in some things that you just really wouldn't even expect to be caught up in. You can just be walking in a club, and a fight break out, or somebody get to shooting, or anything. It's cool to go out every blue moon for a special occasions, parties, and birthdays, and stuff like that. Just going on a day to day basis, I was to the point where I was going Monday through Sunday, so it was, I lived the nightlife, and I slept in the daylight. I was like a vampire, and slept in the day, and up all night long from sun up to sundown.

I just was living that life, and then I was like, this ain't what I want. People was dying. It was like, no I've got to change. This has got to change. This has got to be better. There's something better in life out here for me. I've been in several car wrecks, where I almost died. I was in a body cast from chest to waist down. They told me I was going to be paralyzed but I came out of it. I have three fractures vertebrae in my spine, to the point where sometimes it hurts so bad, but I'm not on any pain medicines, or anything like that. I just deal with the pain. I may take a Tylenol or something like that. I don't want to get sprung on pills, so therefore I don't take them. I tell them I don't want them. I go get some little icy patches, or something, and put on my back. I don't do the pills. I don't want anything because they can get addictive too.

TJP: So you were in an accident during this time when you were going out a lot?

Trussie: Yes. I was in two car wrecks. One where the car flipped over. When I woke up, I thought it was the end of my life. All I just remember, I just closed my eyes as the impact hit. As the impact I just felt a gush of wind. It was, I don't know, it just felt like so... I promise you it just felt so powerful to the point where God just stopped the car. We was flipped upside down. It was like we was about to hit a pole, and it was a big force, and it just stopped the car. When I opened up my eyes, all I remember is glass was in my face, and my friend was hanging upside down. I didn't even have on a seat belt. There was two kids in the backseat. She had two kids with her in the back seat. When I opened up my eyes it was just like glass everywhere. I saw her bleeding. I just saw two men just running towards the car and that's all I remember, and I was just hanging out the window. That's all I remember.

TJP: Who was driving?

Trussie: My friend, she was driving. A car ran the light and hit us.

TJP: You said you were 27 years old when you said people were dying. What was it in particular that said, I've just got to stop this?

Trussie: Yeah. I was never a big drinker. People putting stuff in people's drinks, and people smoking stuff, and the right things weren't inside of it. I was like, uh-huh. They might try to get me, so I'm like, "I'm cool." I'm going to get away from this. I've got to get away. I've got to figure out something better to do with my life than this. I just started praying about everything, and I just left it to God. I tell him to lead me and guide me, shield me, and protect me, and so here I am.

TJP: Was that before you had Jayden, or had you had him yet?

Trussie: That was before and after.

TJP: How old were you when you had him?

Trussie: Huh?

TJP: How old were you when you had Jayden?

Trussie:    Jayden is seven. I'm 34, so I was what?

TJP: 27.

Trussie: Yeah, 27, 28.

TJP: How do you see the culture? We live in Memphis. You talk about streets and street culture, and rap, and all that. How do you see culture affecting you? What are the good sides and the bad sides about living in the environment?

Trussie: Well this is an environment like where I'm living in now. It's okay to a certain perspective. There's nothing here for these kids to do. The only thing they do is fight each other, or it's gang related over here. I try to keep my boys away from it. If they go outside, I'll be out there with them. They won't even stay out there more than 20 minutes. I know Tarian wants to say, “I don't want to come in,” but that's why we'll leave. We'll go downtown somewhere, and just enjoy time downtown. I got plenty of things for us to do. My coworkers gave me all these little activities and stuff, so I got baseball, kickball, jump rope. I've got these dice where you do exercises with them. I just learned to do a lot of stuff with them, instead of letting them be out in the streets.

By Tarian being of age now, he wants to go to the movies with some of his friends. Some of his friends I don't approve of, so I let him know right then and there, "No sir, not going to happen, so therefore you get rid of them, or you're going to be in the house with me." He's was like, "Okay mom. I'll just do whatever." We tried to put up a basketball goal up outside. They made us take it down, so we don't even have that no more for the kids to do anything. There's nothing for them to do. Just like Jayden had his scooter outside, and they stole his scooter. We ended up finding it again. It was just like, I just want a house. Jayden's like, "Mom, can we have a house?" I was like, "I'm trying to work on this house." It's all in my head.

I just want to get a house so he can play, and have fun, and enjoy, instead of he's got to go outside and play, and people want to pick on him, or say something negative to him, and stuff like that. These little kids, they were like, "Your mamma's your dad." He gets so upset. My seven year old be like ready to fight. He's like, "No, that's my mom." I was like, "Jayden, you don't got to worry about stupidity." He was like, "Okay, mom." He's seven and he understands. He's smart.

TJP: That's awesome. I don't know… You did work with a pastor. Basically, it sounds like to me you worked with Pastor Young. It was almost like, you said you counseled yourself, but it seems like she was a good counselor.

Trussie: Yeah. She was okay, but you know I got through this by myself. It was just the point of getting to my mom to let her understand how I felt, and what I went through, and the experience that where she went wrong, and when I needed her the most. That was when I let Pastor Young step in, so I could try and bond with my mom a little bit more. That was the only thing with that, other than that I conquered this within myself.

TJP: You got your criminal stuff expunged just because you served the time.

Trussie: Right.

TJP: You didn't have to anything extra.

Trussie: Exactly.

TJP: Okay. I figure we’ve got it. One of the things we talk about, we're doing this piece that's on the juvenile system. There are all these different kinds of elements. There are some elements that get people disproportionately in the system. That more girls are getting in the system than there used to be.

Trussie: The reason, I feel like ... I would love to work for the juvenile court system because I feel like a lot of girls are scared to speak out because you never know what's going on in their life. They really can't confide in no one. They feel like probably everybody's against them. That's probably why a lot of young women are getting locked up. Then another reason why they are is because you have these young men that are misleading them, and misguiding them. Therefore, they are trying to please these young guys, and fellows out here too. They manipulate the mind of a woman, therefore they feel like whatever they say, that's what needs to be done.

Just like an incident happened, I seen this girl. The guy who's the owner in this store saw her steal some beer. She was a young girl. The crazy part was they just went right back down the street. When the police came, he brought them back. A young girl, the guy got her do it. You know what I'm saying? That's manipulating the mind. You feel what I'm saying? Anytime you've got these guys that can manipulate anyone, they're going to do it, and they're going to take advantage of it. See some people are looking for love in so many ways that they really just find it, so they seek without anyone that feel like they're going to give it to them.

TJP: Obviously, in terms of race. When you talk about race, you talk about a disproportionate [number of] Black kids in the system.

Trussie:  Anyone can be in the system. We have more African Americans in the system than anything. That's what wrong with poverty. It hurts our community to see that because the parents are not doing what they're supposed to be doing in the household. You have so many young parents out here that they're still gang related. You know they're teaching their kids that stuff. Therefore, that's another reason. It's just crazy how hard it is out here. Parents act like they don't care about kids no more. When I grew up, we grew up around old people. When there was old people in the room, we're not in that room. If we said the wrong things, we were getting popped. These kids, these days, they're saying anything now because they don't care, and it's no respect.

TJP: You said that you'd love to work for the juvenile court.

Trussie: Oh, yes. Actually we had career day at school, and I signed up for MPD.

TJP: What does that mean?

Trussie: I signed up for MPD. They have classes where you don't have to meet certain criteria to join the force. I just signed up. I haven't just touched bases with them yet, until after I graduate, or whatever. I want to take that journey and experience some life. Even if I don't work for MPD, I still just want to work with them to get things situated in the community to pull out some of the gang violence, and pull some of these kids, and do some great things with them. You have some wonderful kids out here, and a mind is a terrible thing to waste. If we had more people to get involved with these kids in different communities, like you've got different communities where you got the community that's involved. These people are not involved. All they care about is just living, so that's the reason.

TJP: Is there anything that we didn't talk about? I know we kind of went all over the place.

Trussie: I know. It's just life. I just want the best of it. I did make a couple of mistakes, and wrong turns in life. Right now I'm just on this path where I'm just aiming for success.

TJP: I think that's about it.

TJP (Sarah): I think it might be worthwhile to just... go back.

TJP: I think so, too. There were so many things that we skipped over.

TJP (Sarah):    So, to clarify Trussie, when did you drop out of school? Were you pregnant, or was it before you got pregnant?

Trussie: I dropped out of school soon after I had Tarian. After I had Tarian I dropped out because I didn't have any [childcare]... My mom said she was not babysitting, so I started going to this school called Pyramid Academy, which was a school for pregnant women. They let you stay there until you had the baby. Once you had the baby, they let you come back. They had teen parenting. I was taking teen parenting, and stuff like that. Like I said, there was so much going on in that house, I had to leave. So I just left. Didn’t look back for school, I wasn't even thinking about school then no more after that. I was just left. I cried all I can cry. I just ran out of tears. People were like, "You have no love." I have love. I have a lot of love. I just I'm all cried out. There was nothing to cry about no more.

TJP: When you had to leave [to go to juvenile detention], you had basically left [school]?

TJP (Sarah): I'm just trying to get the time line straight. There's so much that happened.

TJP: The time line. In that...

TJP (Sarah): that very small period. I just want to make sure that when we go back to editing this that we're not getting anything out of order.

Trussie: Okay.

TJP (Sarah): All right?

Trussie:    All right.

TJP (Sarah): I want it to be as true to your story.

Trussie:    Got you.

TJP (Sarah): I'm going to say the things that I've got. Then if you just put them in order for us.

Trussie: Got you.

TJP (Sarah): You got pregnant. You went to the Pyramid Academy. You were working at Kroger. At some point you get arrested so you go to juvenile, and you move out of your mom's house.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TJP (Sarah):    Tell us in chronological order like that sort of chunk of time.

Trussie:    Okay. I was going to high school. When I found out that I was pregnant, I was working at McDonald's, and I got fired. I started working for Kroger's. After awhile, I had a child. After I had the child, I tried to go back to school. It didn't work. I had to leave home. From there was it was like I was living the grown lady life from there.

TJP:  o it was a matter of when you actually moved out. You had the baby October the 12th. The incident where you got arrested, you were still pregnant, so you must have been big pregnant.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TJP: Like almost towards the end.

Trussie: Yep. It was like right around October. This is funny because it was in October, I had him October the 12th, 1999. Right in between the first of the month and between the 12th, it was like I was about due. I know it was around Halloween because the displays and stuff like that.

TJP: You went down to juvenile, and they said we don't want you to have a baby in juvenile court.

Trussie: No. They let me out of the car. They just talked to me. They gave me paperwork to go to juvenile court. They had my mom to come up there. When she got there, the police was like, "No, we're not going to take her." They was asking me when I was due and stuff. They just gave me a piece of paper, and told me to go to juvenile court because the Kroger people had pressed charges, or whatever. That's when I went down there. I had a meeting with them. They were like, "We're just going to put you on Hanover House." I was like, "Okay, that's fine." You know they could have send me to jail pregnant. Locked me up in juvenile pregnant, but I think at that time they didn't do that. I think now they just lock you up. Yeah, they called my mom. My mom came. We went home. The next day we went to juvenile. I guess they threatened her, and told her if she didn't take me down there, they were going to lock her up too.

She ended up taking me down there. They put me on Hanover House. Time to time going by, I said right after New Year's, after I had ... So that was October, November. I'm just saying November, December, January. Tarian was three months, four months maybe. That was it from there.

TJP: So you left? That was when you moved out of the house?

Trussie: When I had him, and then that's when I at Hanover House, I violated.

TJP: Yeah. You said you worked it until about Easter, so like April.

Trussie: Yeah. I had ran away from Hanover House, and my mom's house. When she finally got in touch with me, she's like, "They just want to talk to you, and take you off these papers." I was like, "Okay." I come over, get down there, and they put me in handcuffs. I was like, "No, you guys got to be kidding me." She was like, "What are you doing? You're not going to lock her up. I can't take care of this baby." I remember like it was yesterday. It was like ...

TJP: Were you a junior or senior in high school?

Trussie: I was in the 11th grade when I dropped out.

TJP: You were in the 11th grade, and it would have been your spring semester. You went [to school] up until you actually got locked up.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TJP: You went with the baby. You were going every day.

Trussie: I was walking to school every day with a stroller and my baby in it. My mom was like she wasn't going to watch him. I was like, "Okay, I'm leaving."

TJP: I wondered if it was because you had the baby that you dropped out. It's because they locked you up in juvenile.

Trussie: And she wouldn't, I didn't have no help. I didn't have no help because at the same time I still had to provide for my child. When you have a parent that’s so used to the system, they want you to follow the system too. I'm not trying to follow the system, so I didn't use the system. Therefore, what she wanted me to do, I didn't do. That was another reason why she was so angry at me too.

TJP: Because you wouldn't do welfare or stamps.

Trussie: Exactly.

TJP: Why did you decide not to do that?

Trussie:    Because she wanted to take it. I was getting a disability check, and I didn't even know. She was getting the money. I wasn't seeing none of it. I was trying to work for money. If I would have known I was getting disability money, do you think I would have been trying to work? I would have been dependent on that, and going to school.

TJP: So it was about April when you got locked up. That's when you spent your first 30 days.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I got out right before my birthday.

TJP: In June. June 26th, right?

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, because they can't keep you over 18.

TJP: Oh, wow. That was just it. They just kept you until you turned 18, and then they let you out.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

TJP: Okay. Then after that you had to take your baby and go back to... What happened after that? It wasn't until he was two years old that you got an apartment.

Trussie: Well, just trying to find somewhere to stay. Like I said, I was just trying to do anything, and everything just to try have somewhere for us to stay. I knew I wasn't going back to my mom's house. That was a no-no. I knew I wasn't going back. She was still with the same dude, which is my little brother's father. I was not going back. It was either get it how you live out here, or go and keep dealing with this. I had to go and live, and how I had to live, until I tried to get right out here. It took me awhile, but here I am now, thank God.

TJP: You said they took the baby from you at some point.

Trussie: Yeah. The people's house that we was living in. It was a lot of people living in the house. I had left him there for a couple of hours to go and try and make some money, when I got a phone call, and said the police just took your baby. Like half of the people in the house was runaways. They just took my baby because they wanted to make sure he was okay, or whatever. They was just trying to make sure that he was a healthy baby, I guess. I don't know. They wanted to know the father of the baby, so that's why they took him too. They couldn't get in touch with me at the time, so that's why.

TJP: Did you have to do anything special to get him out?

Trussie: When I went down there the same night, I called Miss Lloyd, and I cried to her, and cried to her. I was like, "They took him to juvenile court. I'm not going to get my baby back." I didn't know what to do because I really didn't have nothing. I didn't have nowhere to stay, so I really didn't think they was going to give him back to me. So she came. We went down there that night. She got out her badge, and we went. I was like I didn't want to leave. I wanted to sleep. The funny thing was that ...

I'm glad she reminded me of this. One of the ladies that was there when I was locked up there, she was on her way out the door. She was like, "Hey Trussie." I was like, "Hey." She was like, "What's wrong? Are you okay?" I was like, "You all got my baby." She was like, "The little boy that they just brought in?" I was like, "Yeah. I just want him. I just want to get him." She was like, "You know you're not going to be able to get him, but I need you to come down." She was just going to leave. She was like, "I'm going to pull a double so I can stay here with you baby all night." I was like, "You've got to be kidding me." She stayed all night. She brought me my baby that morning. They was like, "You know you've got to have a car seat." I didn't have a car seat then.

So Miss Lloyd, we went over so many people house because we was trying to find a car seat to get him. They was not going to let me get him unless he had that car seat. He finally got the car seat. We finally got the car seat, and then we went back to go get him. She brought him out. She was like, "You need to stay out of trouble. You've got to get right out of here, because this could have been something that could have went a different way." I was like, "I know, I know, I know." Ever since then, you know, like I said, I've just been trying to stay focused.

TJP: What time of year was that?

Trussie: It was fall. I can remember it was fall. It was in the fall time because the leaves and stuff was on the ground. We went to the lady's house, and she went in her garage. She was digging up some stuff. We found the car seat. It was in the fall time.

TJP: It took you awhile to find somewhere else to live or did it ...?

Trussie: Yeah. It took me a good minute. That's when she stepped in and we went and found somewhere. I was staying with somebody else then because it was like I could stay there. Then when stuff starting going crazy for them, then they was like, "Well you'll have to find somewhere else to go." I was like, "Okay." I used to get up every morning before everybody. I made sure I had food for me and my baby. I didn't eat nobody else's stuff. I didn't touch nobody else's stuff because I just always felt like somebody try to poison you or anything. I never tried to eat nothing in nobody else's house, or nothing like that.

TJP: Chronology was good?

TJP (Sarah): Yeah. I think we're good.

TJP: We got that. So Miss Becky... I think your mom had mentioned her at some point.

Trussie: Yeah. She always calls when I'm around her. Every time I'm around her, that's when my mom called. She was like, "What are you doing?" I was like, "Oh, I'm eating lunch with Becky." She was like, "Oh, tell her I really appreciate her. I really thank her." I was like, "You don't really even mean that." I think she kind of feels she's like my mom. The job that I got, she helped me get that job. Her husband, he's the president of the building. He came up with MLF, Memphis Leadership Foundation. She got me the job there.

TJP: But your aunt, which aunt was it that you lived with?

Trussie: My auntie Anita. She stays in Raleigh.

TJP: You stayed there a lot when you were growing up, correct?

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I stayed there when even when we was staying in Mississippi. When we stayed in Mississippi, my aunt used to come. I used to ride back with her. She would send me back on the Greyhound by myself. My mama would meet me at the Greyhound. When I was ready to come back, I called her, and tell her I was ready to come back. She would send the bus. I'd go to the Greyhound, and the Greyhound would bring me back to Memphis.

TJP: Where did you go to junior high and high school?

Trussie: I can just… start from elementary... I went to Carnes Elementary... and Grant Elementary, and then I went to Hamilton Middle... Then I went to Manassas, no not Manassas, no, Northside, I went to Northside one day. One day and it was over with. I couldn't go. I thought I was going to get killed in that school. I thought I was watching Lean On Me all over again. I was like uh-huh. I said, "You got to do something about this. I can't go here." She was like, "Okay." ...Then I started going to Treadwell. That's when I met Becky was at Treadwell. I had been going there forever, since seventh grade, all the way up till 11th. That was the last school, besides Pyramid Academy.

TJP: Okay. All right. I think we're good. I think we're good. Are your kids here?

Trussie: No.

TJP: Are they coming?

Trussie: I've got to pick them up.

TJP: Okay. Well let's take a break. Let's take a break because I want to make sure.

Trussie: Break.

TJP: I want to take a break, but I want to get her to tell me this one last part because she's in high demand. Okay, so you guys tell me about ... I'll wait until he gets through the door.

Trussie: Okay.

TJP: Okay, so tell me what was it that somebody said they want you to do this.

Trussie: This guy, Mr. Todd came to me at school. He was like, "I want you to sign up for the forklift class when they come." I was like, "Forklift class?" He was like, "Yeah. I just want you to do it. There's just something about you." I was like, "Okay." So I signed up for the forklift class. I did 18 hours, and got certified for forklift driver.

TJP: Those cats are excited about it.

Trussie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). They just met me last night.

TJP: So tell me about your offers.

Trussie: I have four job offers. I have a company through K-Power, and Nike, Williams-Sonoma, and two other companies. I forgot the name of those two. Two other companies, so four companies want to hire me for forklift driver.

TJP: Which one did you accept?

Trussie: I haven't accepted any yet because I told them, I was like "Well, I just want to leave my other job in good standards." I'm going to do the right thing, and put my two weeks notice in, and type up a letter saying I'm going to resign. I never know, I might need to come back again. I was like, "Yeah." My last day at this job would November the 4th. Then the week after, I'll be starting a new journey with a new job. It depends on which one I take, so I don't know.

TJP: So Nike would be a good place, man.

Trussie: I know.

TJP: I had a friend who drove a truck for Williams-Sonoma.

Trussie: Oh, wow.

TJP: Yeah. He did that for a long time. He started … [to Sarah] Do you know Chris Chew?... He was a truck driver for Williams-Sonoma. Cool, I just wanted to get that on there. I just think it's cool that you've got all those job offers now that you've got your skills, and your certification, and stuff. How did you learn how to ... When did you start cutting hair?

Trussie: I started hair when my little brother probably was little. I used to play in his head. He used to always tell me to draw Mickey Mouse in his head. I used to mess him up so bad, but he asks me to do it now. He'll tell you I'm the best. I just kept doing it until I just got great, and great, and great at it. People ask me why I'm not in a shop, and I was like, "That's not what I want to do in life." My son, he's 17, and he's cutting hair too. He's into barbering too. I'm going to leave that for him. I would love to have enough money to open up a shop so he can have a shop, so he can cut hair.

TJP: That's awesome. You can come in and tell him that you taught him everything you know.

Trussie: Oh, yeah. Now I just let him make the odds and ends, and dollars so he can have money for himself. When people want to come and get a haircut, I was like, "Okay, my son is going to cut you up today." He was like, "All right, but if he messes me up, can you straighten me up?" I was like, "Yeah, I'm going to straighten you up if he messes you up, okay." I was like, "Okay."

TJP: That's a good skill to have. It's valuable.

Trussie: Yeah.

TJP:  Okay. That's good. Let's break.

TJP (Sarah):  All right.