As we start the last week of the #ChangeYourNarrative Blog Series, I am excited, honored and humbled at the story of our next narrative changer. Her story is truly a testament to God’s unchanging hand and His unmerited favor. The adage that what doesn’t kill you will ultimately make you stronger applies to this narrative. Rasheena Perry is a woman on a mission to (Re)Purpose, (Re)Define and (Re)Align her life to impact the lives of women who have been hurt.
Rasheena was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and currently calls Spring Lake, North Carolina her home. She is the CEO of Rasheena Unscripted, LLC. Rasheena is a Minister | Transformational Catalyst | Playwright | Author | Leadership Development Strategist | Organizational Trainer | Coach | Singer. Even though she wears many hats she still makes time for her wonderful children and her community. After reading Rasheena’s narrative I knew instantly she was a force that was built to rise up for the Kingdom of God.
Let us take a closer look at her narrative.
Tell us about your childhood.
My childhood was very dark, painful and confusing. It formulated many of my first impressions, which later affected my young adulthood, career, friendship, and marital and spiritual opinions. I was born in the heart of Brooklyn, New York better known as “Bed Stuy–Do or Die.” I am the daughter of two teenage parents, both of whom were strung out on heroin, cocaine and I can only imagine what else. Needless to say, neither of them was in the position to raise me. I eventually left to live with my grandmother. Life with my grandmother was seemingly the best thing for me. However, little did I know that later in life I’d be left with a story that had to be told. I was raised in the church from a newborn babe. My grandmother attended regularly so I really had no choice. My first impression of love and rejection was formed at an early age. At five years old I began the journey that I refer to as “On My Own!” It started with my father showing up on my fifth birthday and running downstairs to get my present from his car; I’m still waiting. My grandmother was 73 years old when I was dropped off to her. She had less than a first grade education. I was forced to teach myself. Homework was never checked because she couldn’t read or write. Nevertheless, I was an A student and remained that way throughout my school years. I spent the next nine years seeing my mother sporadically, and even then she was in no condition to mother me. In fact, I ended up rescuing her; saving her life. I experienced and witnessed things no child should have to. I’ve found her unconscious with needles still in her veins from where she had been shooting up heroin. I was forced to stop her from bleeding out and dying. Most 7 years olds don’t know how to tie something around their mother’s vein to place pressure on it and stop the bleeding; I did. To my dismay, I had several more years of practice.
The madness doesn’t stop there. At the ripe age of ten, it was time for me to learn all about being a woman. My molester uttered those words. Seeing that he had been our pastor since I was a toddler singing in the “Tiny Tots Sunshine Choir,” I trusted him. Because, after all he was my pastor. In all honesty he was the closest thing I had to a father. My grandfather was the neighborhood drunk and emotionally detached from everyone in our house. So, from the age of ten until twelve my pastor molested me daily. Then at twelve he began to violently and repeatedly rape me; at church during services, when no one was there, in the churches make shift Christian Academy that was a rodent infested abandoned factory, and even in dark alley ways. Whatever his fetish was that day, I was forced to fulfill. He warned me that my grandmother would never believe me and that my drug-addicted mother wouldn’t even care. I tried to tell and my grandmother’s response was, “Pastor is good to this family and whatever he wants, that’s what you better do,” and so I did. We lived in the projects a good distance away from the church. Walking this far was dangerous for a child. As a result, the neighborhood men and young boys would grab me up in the alley ways, elevator shafts, stairwells and even rooftops and force me to do sexual things that I never even heard of, nor could my young body stand. I fought back once, and I was then dangled off the roof of my twelve-story project building. You would think I was begging for my life; instead I was begging for death! “Drop me I begged and pleaded,” but they didn’t. There’s more, but I’ll stop there.
What would you say was the narrative that was expressed to you based upon where you grew up, how you grew up and the messages you received?
The narrative that was expressed to me was, “You are nothing, you come from nothing, you’ll never be nothing, your life has no value, your body has no worth, no one will ever love, nurture or respect you and all you will ever be good for is sex!” Educating myself, setting goals and having dreams were pointless for someone like me, because it’s not possible to make it out of where I come from.
How did that narrative play out in your life with regard to your decisions, actions and feelings?
The way that the narrative played out in my decisions, actions and feelings is twofold. On the one hand it fueled my fire to exceed everyone’s expectations of me. So I taught myself, I paid extra close attention in school and I was determined to always excel in whatever I set my hands to do. I was an achiever and I was successful in my academic and athletic pursuits, except there was never anyone there to see it because no one cared. On the other hand, I became a woman in a child’s body. I was confused, hurt, angry and out for revenge. The worst thing about that was, I was not after revenge against the people that let me down or even the ones that violated me. I was after my own self! I hated me. I was unlovable. I was worthless. I was stupid. I was gullible. I was a spectacle. I believed I was a failure before I even had a chance to experience life. And to add to my screwed up life I was now pregnant at 15. I literally hated everything my life represented, I didn’t trust people, church or myself. I believed I was better off dead!
What was the catalyst or main event that made you say, “Hey, this narrative has to change”?
The primary event occurred in 2009. After many attempts at suicide this last one was almost a success. I had gotten married and was a proud military spouse. I achieved my dream of giving my children a better life and opportunity. However, three years into my marriage I was informed by the military police that my husband was taken into custody for alleged child molestation. The roller coaster of emotions, confusion, anger, resentment and then love for him sent me into an already existing cycle of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. I suffered with these issues all of my life, but because of my religious beliefs I just tried to pray it away.
Then, on December 19th, 2006, I determined that I was tired of praying and I would make them go away myself. So, I overdosed on numerous medications. I found unconscious by my children who called some members of my church. They tried to help me. They feared if the paramedics were called my children would be taken away. Eventually, I began to have seizures and I started to fade; they had no choice but to call for help. The paramedics rushed me to the hospital, pumped my stomach, took blood work, ran tests and only found a small amount of Nyquil. This was not even enough to harm an infant. I knew how many bottles of pills I had consumed. I knew how much alcohol I had consumed and I knew that I should be dead! But God! He saved my life; he kept me here without a trace, without a side effect, without any damage to my brain. This was when I realized, that my life had a Divine Purpose! This was when I realized that man and God were two different entities. The men may not have loved me or seen my worth, but my real daddy did.
What is the new narrative in your life?
My new narrative is to (Re)Purpose, (Re)Define and (Re)Align my life. I made a conscious choice to change my narrative! From that moment forward, I stopped saying I went through this and began saying this is what I came out of. I turned my pain into purpose. I no longer saw myself the way everyone else saw me. I saw myself for who, what and whose I was. I redefined my identity that then caused me to see myself through the eyes of Christ. I accepted that with my purpose I had a vision and it was time to turn my vision into action. Next, I had to realign my life because my former path could not take me where God had predestined for me to go. From there I began to turn my disappointments into success.
How does this new narrative show up in your life everyday?
It shows up every day in the way that I serve others. I offer them the tools and resources that God offered me to come out of darkness into His marvelous light. I help them recognize that it’s not about where you’ve been, but it’s all about where you’re going. I take the God-given opportunities to share this message with women who are where I was. I recently debuted my Stage Play entitled “Resurrection, It’s Time for Me To Live!” In it I became naked and vulnerable and I stood in my truth and relived the horrific events and traumatic experiences from the beginning to now. The events in my life have built character, integrity, tenacity, compassion, and commitment and prepared me to fulfill my assignment on earth. Everyday I share my message through my lifestyle, through social media, through my prayer groups, on speaking platforms, dramas, poetry, transformational coaching and the unadulterated love of God.
At present, I am in the process of releasing a Book & CD Compilation Project called “Unbreakable, One Woman’s Journey from Gutter to Glory” and the cd called “Unbreakable.” In addition, I am also preparing to host the “Image Awards Ceremony”. I will be honoring 15 women who have survived similar experiences and are on the path to recovery. Each woman will be presented with a scholarship to attend the RePurpose, ReDefine and ReAlign Coaching Academy. I’m actively seeking sponsors to cover the cost of the scholarship at this time.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to change his or her narrative but didn’t know where to start?
My advice would be to tell them that the choice is yours! We are the governor of our own emotions, so we can decide to see the glass half empty or half full. If they truly want to change their narrative; they must change their perspective, which will set them on the path to changing their life! Remember, it happened for you, not to you. That’s my perspective. What’s yours?
As I read Rasheena’s narrative I thought about the thousands of students I have encountered over my span of 10+ years of working in pre-college programs. The faces of my middle and high school students swirl in my mind as I take in every trial and tribulation of Rasheena’s. We may walk past Rasheena’s everyday and not pay attention to their pain or their promise. Let her narrative be a reminder that if the still small voices pushes you to reach out to someone in pain–go immediately. Their life and death just might depend on your action. Life is more about how you finish and less about how you start.
Re-write your own narrative and watch miracles happen.
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