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Leaders share stories of empowerment at HABD event for women

Adrian Peterson-Fields, HABD COO speaking during the "HERstory, HERvoice" event. (Ameera Steward Photos, The Birmingham Times)
Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

On Friday, Minister Celeste McCloud shared HERstory.

McCloud was one of several distinguished women that included Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Tyson and Valencia “Mrs. V” Johnson from radio station V94.9FM, who took part in “HERstory, HERvoice” an event hosted by the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) at Cooper Green Community Center.

HERstory, HERvoice 2019 has a goal to inspire women and mothers through the stories, challenges and lessons that have helped transform their lives.

“We all have stories, we all have different triumphs and even failures, that we can share with each other,” said Adrian Peterson-Fields, chief operating officer of the HABD. She added that the program was not designed as a family initiative . . . “we wanted to celebrate women all on your own,” she said.

McCloud, of The King’s Daughters ministries, said she was raised as “church girl” by her grandparents and got into the gospel music industry which led to a road of money, selling her body, drugs and alcohol. She was also abused and faced life-threatening situations, she said.

“I went from straight A’s . . . [and] a young woman with financial stability to committing crimes to fulfill my addiction; run-ins with the authorities, city and county jail time, two prison terms,” she said. “I’m not telling you this to tickle your ears, I’m not telling you this cause I want to be colorful, I’m telling you this because that’s what happened to me. I’m telling you this because I had to go through this process for God to sit me and stand me where I am right now.”

Tyson said she grew up in a two-parent household but lost her parents early on. There were five remaining in the household and her oldest sister, who was 21, became their mother. “Of course, it was hard,” said an emotional Tyson.

She remembered a teacher saying that she and her siblings weren’t going to amount to anything, but Tyson said she didn’t take it personal because “my momma always told us we were somebody.”

Tyson said she would never give up because “I know the potential in black women, I know the potential in black people…because I know what I had.”

Johnson said she was “most likely to not succeed…I don’t look like what I been through.”

“The greatest revenge is success…when the same people that told you you’ll never be, you show up with your posture straight…letting them know, ‘baby I used to be down, I used to be out,’” she said. “If you change the way you think, you can change your situation.”

Peterson-Fields, who is McCloud’s daughter, said May is usually the month to celebrate mothers, “but it’s a lot of mothers that are not physical mothers, but you still have some connection to others.”

Peterson-Fields said she also had a story to tell: She didn’t have a bed until she was 17 years old and she was raised by her 80-year-old grandmother who was legally blind.

“I walked the back streets of Gate City…so it’s nothing you can say to me that I haven’t experienced,” she said. “So today we share stories, we triumph . . . your stories are no different than mine. I may have on a suit, my title may be COO, but I’m still…from Gate City, from Woodlawn, Oliver Elementary, and Banks Middle School,” she said.

The program was part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Strong Families initiative to uplift fathers, mothers and children who live in public housing by focusing on education, health and economic empowerment.