Location: Carver High School/COR
Female, Age 40
“Grateful, Honest, Funny, Blessed, Over whelmed, Stronge”
Daniel Enger: Good morning, today is December 4th, 2021, and we are here at the offices of Carver High School located in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. My name is Daniel Enger and I have the pleasure of being here today with Crystal, thank you very much for taking the time to talk. I’m looking forward to hearing your story and learning from you. Crystal my first question for you is a really big one namely please tell the story of your life from the time you were a small child up to the present day.
Crystal: Well I’m from Gainesville Hall County I lived there until I was about 6 years old we moved to Decatur, Georgia, stayed there until I was about 9, moved from Decatur, Georgia to Fulton County where we lived in a shelter for about a Year and a half waiting on assistance to move us into based on income living with my mom, it was just me and my mom at that time. We moved into Carver homes from the shelter and my mom gave birth to my sister, I was basically forced to raise a baby even though I was only 9 years older than her I still had to take on the means of being a mom. Because my mom had mental breakdowns all kind of little things would happen. She would maybe enjoy life a little too much, as a parent you can enjoy life, but you got to have a limit to what you actually enjoy because it’s not about your enjoyment it’s about the children’s enjoyment. And giving them a different insight than what you had to encounter as a child. So, we lived in Carver Homes until they shutem down and at that point we moved to University Homes. And then my mom went to work and got things together, but I’ve always been the more so outspoken child and so, looking over the things that I’ve endured in life being a child and growing up in Urban living it was okay because we had a lot of friends, we had a lot of people around us. And then we moved into a house off of Metropolitan and Third Avenue up in it’s not all the way up in Hapeville but it’s somewhere up in there. My mom got married and everything was supposed to change but nothing ever really changed, like your mind kinda stayed in the same place from where you came from what you had to deal with. I grew up went to school and I started to resent school I didn’t want to go, my 12th grade year I decided I just didn’t want to go to school no more I wasn’t doing so well, and I didn’t have help I didn’t have anybody to say grow up to be somebody go to school. I didn’t have anyone to encourage me to do what I was supposed to be doing and being a 16-year-old teen taking care of a seven-year-old child that was just my siblin that’s all I worried about making sure she was able to go to school presently and making sure that she was able to have the things that I didn’t have, and it was just a child raising another child and not hers. At this point my mom was working so much to try and make sure we had basic needs. And then I experienced homelessness again my mom’s husband and me just couldn’t get along and her choice was to say, “well you should leave and I’m going to let him stay” because that’s what he gave her as an ultimatum, and I slept in the airport (pause, crying) for the first time in my life I knew what it meant to really be homeless and not have nobody. I was only 16 years old (pause, weeping) After… I’ll say this God has a weird way of showing up when you don’t even think about it, but I say that to say, that if it wasn’t for Him, I don’t know where I would be. And everything in my life at this point from me leaving to go to Oklahoma and experiencing the different atmosphere seeing that everything was pretty much the same everywhere you go, some kind of something in the economy that’s a hindrance to people because things didn’t change going to Oklahoma. I thought if I went to Oklahoma things would change. I got married at 22 and had my first child at 23. My mind was to always to be there for them in ways that my mom really wasn’t for me. So, that’s what I did I became a parent I decided to take care of things but soon to find out that everything was fixin to fall back through again. And I lost my husband to personal issues, and I got depressed I lost my home I lost everything in my home, and I had to start over again. And that’s when Four Season came into play. I applied to Four Season, Mechanicsville and a few other residents in this area simply because I like this area, I just don’t like the history of crime in it. It really saddens me to wake up to the noises and all the things we shouldn’t wake up to. I’m a country girl so in the country you don’t hear too much but a bear, or a deer (chuckles) or some kind of cricket or frog or something squeaking and making noise. It’s better than hearing gunshots, it’s better than having to experience the train running through the city in the middle of the morning when you’re sleeping, it’s totally different environment than being in the city. Me and my kids went to Oklahoma because I was scared my husband was trying to take my children from me and I’m a momma, I don’t even think you should try a momma that way, and I took that personally and I felt like my only choice … at that time I was still Postpartum depressed, at this time I wasn’t all there. But I was there enough to feed my kids, bath my kids, get my kids back and forth to school, to go to work I was still there. And I experienced homelessness again because my mom says well, I can’t get the kids off the bus, I can’t help with this, that, and the other. It was just like I’m looking at my childhood all over again on a repeat because now I have a good job, I’m trying to move back out of your house so I can get me and my kids stable and situated in our own and she just could never be supportive enough for me and my kids and what not. So, I went to Oklahoma at that point, and I lived in Oklahoma for about 7 months and Oklahoma was not for me, I had to come back home. I called and I said I’m coming back to Atlanta and my mom said “I don’t know where to tell you to go” and I experienced homelessness again. At that point I don’t even think I cried I just thought in the Greyhound Station somethin said call your grandmother. I called my grandmother, and I prayed to God, I said God I need you to move me where I need to be moved. My Grand momma said “well come on up here and spend the night a couple of nights” and I went to Gainesville. I got on the Marta bus and rode all the way to the end of the line and went to Gainesville and my Aunt Tracey told me I could bring the kids to stay with her she had a nice size cabin house. So, my children were able to experience some things that I experienced as a child I felt like they gave me a different outlook on things that I see people go through cause you try not go through the bad things you try to always go through just the good things just to be able to move along and we went to the country and we stayed there about 2 years and I came back to Atlanta. When I came back to Atlanta, I moved in with my one of my best friends. It’s like College Park area and everything kind of different parts down there it’s a little quiet like the country it’s not so noisy, so it was comfortable enough to deal with, but I was still Postpartum depressed. I was still dealing with a lot of personal hurt inside cause this is only the short story of my life I’ve had a very long story and it’s so big that it really can’t be told in one day. But God pulled me out of the situation of being Postpartum depressed and I slowly started to find things to assist me with getting back on my feet I found Forest Cove. When I moved here everything was a little different, but it wasn’t nowhere I had a roof over my head, and I was thankful for that roof because prior to that I didn’t have anything I was starting over again, and just me and my kids. No job, no money no nothing but when we moved in Four Season we started developing and gain all of those things. I was able to show my children another aspect of life that I also seen. I always thought that was important because you need to have your children to have a level of understanding that everybody’s not the same the living and the lifestyle are not the same. They can live in one area, but they don’t have to be the area they can always be their independent self. And I kinda kept my kids in the house but my son would always want to run wild. There was something that happened that made him want to stay in the house. About 2 or 3 years after we moved in there was a guy that was shot in the middle of the field and my son had never seen anything like that and he comes running in the house mom, mom somebody got shot and I look out the window and there’s a guy laying in the field and about this time the police were puttin up tape and trying to keep people from walking up in the area and my son said mom why would they do that? They’re used to seeing deer’s being shot or going duck hunting (chuckles) birds or snakes trying to get you but bullets they didn’t know much about you know them harming a human they really didn’t understand that. I remember my son trying to explain to me how he walked in the middle of an open fight and he wasn’t paying attention, when you from the country you kinda walk in the house and you put your stuff down and you go on about your way, but when you walk in these partments and houses you go in the house and you lock the doe. And then you go your way but then you come back and make sure that doe locked. So, my kids sometime they revert back to that and I come downstairs and I’m like why is my door unlocked why did yall do that anything can happen, and I say that because when I stayed in Carver Homes when we was kids the drug dealers and the people that really didn’t stay in the community but just came and ran the community down when bad things would happen it’s everybody else to blame but us as children would be like WOW what’s going on. They may come through Carver Homes and rob the whole street and we would have to lay down on the ground it was a bit crazy. For me it was like I ain’t stunt that they just shootin I think I became more concerned when bullets would reach my door because I stayed down in the hole where God wanted me. There was not much going on down at 129 they would have all kind a shoot outs but most the time they would be on the opposite ends and not down where I was. So I felt like God put me down there for a reason and I stayed down there for seven and a half years, they recently moved me on the end and it’s a lot more quieter than I thought but I think it’s because there’s nobody down there really it’s just me and I think I have six or seven neighbors at this point in this building and that building. In all those two buildings I think I got about 7 neighbors Most apartments are abandoned or closed off boarded up. And at this point I just had a baby about three months ago, I have a 17-year-old, a 16-year-old, a three-year-old, a one-year-old and a three-month-old. So, at this point I have a whole lot more to protect than just those two big kids (chuckles) and at this point I wish Fulton County wasn’t as construed as it is cause in Fulton County there’s a lot of mental health here, and I really believe that mental health is here because of what they’ve allowed Fulton County and Atlanta to be. It’s not just the people in it, I know that, but you can’t do better if you don’t know better. And a lot of these people don’t know better, a lot of them really want to do better but it don’t take much to brakem down. So, I can say that cause I’ve been broke down many a times, but I’ve been up many a times I’m just thankful for the vision that God has allowed me to see, and at this point I really would like to move out of Fulton County just to get my head together because I don’t think I can do it here, I don’t think that I can mentally be who I’m supposed to be here no more. A lot of times you don’t think it’s the area, but I believe it’s the area it’s no way that this amount of people can experience this amount of hurt and disaster and be normal. I don’t think that’s possible because it’s hard for me to be normal. So, to be around people who haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced in life and to be able to sit and not be normal, but they think their normal how do you help somebody out of that? You can’t really level yourself with them to understand what they’re really going through, I can but a lot of people can’t, you know. I just … (sigh…) your environment. It really is you (chuckles) you gotta take yourself out that box but in everything life gave I’m gone learn from it (chuckles.)
Daniel: Crystal of all the things you’ve accomplished and overcome in your life so far what are you most proud of?
Crystal: I’m proud, the one thing in my life that I accomplished was having my 17-year-old turn 17 (with much passion) not being gunned down, not being sexually active, not being genderized, I’m just thankful that I was able to create that beautiful young lady. That child gives me hope that anybody can do anything. (Pause, with passion) that’s my greatest accomplishment because with her we can do anything, anything is possible, what I don’t know she knows, and you couldn’t tell that her environment has been what it was. She don’t have a big book to tell stories about how hurt she has had to experience, you don’t have to think about what she’s experienced that could have harmed her you know, made her respond, God put me here to protect them and that’s what I’ve done. I was blessed at the age of 5 and 6 and that was just a product of neglection no one really thinking anybody would do someone like that. So, my mission since I had kids was to protect them from all those forms of harm. My sons the one that likes to run out the door and experience the hurt see what’s going on outside, but my daughter she doesn’t care to even go out the door to be a product of her environment. She prefers to find different insight she says she wants to move to the UK. (laughter) I said well it’s the same laws and rules that we have they have their own too. So, no matter where you go, you’re still under somebody else’s command. (laughter) She looks at me and says “yeah, but well you know” I say well everybody has to make their own choices. This wasn’t an experience that I expected to show them because when you get married that’s forever you know, in my head, but things happen, and you have to restart your life and resubmit yourself to God and get a better view of what you sposed to be doing. Christy is most definitely my greatest accomplishment.
Daniel: Crystal you’ve gained a lot of hard-fought wisdom from experiences in your life so far if you were invited to share your wisdom to school kids in your community maybe here at Carver High School, if you were invited to give the kids guidance to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives what would you tell them?
Crystal: You always gotta live with an understanding of your own because if you can protect yourself, you can protect everybody around you. I would say to a child or an adult to just keep going cause anything’s possible. No matter what your handed in life anything is possible you don’t have to be a product of what you live in cause anything is possible you can walk out of that at any moment.
Daniel: Crystal in what ways would you say your life is going well these days? Please talk a little bit about how life is good for you at the present time.
Crystal: Well, that’s hard to say. Life is always good; you wake up you put your feet on the ground, you can get up and walk and have a normal day and that’s the best thang you can ask for.
Daniel: What led to things going well for you, how did that happen? Who or what has contributed most to you doing well these days?
Crystal: Prayer, speaking to peoples spirit instead of speaking to them. Allowing God to work through me instead of allowing people to work me against God.
Daniel: Crystal looking ahead to the future when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
Crystal: Healthy, stable, (and what was the other one) being able to move into a safe space would be the healthiest thing that I could ever do for my children’s life because at this point minds matters but it so much more and you got so many things going on, but just living in a safe and healthy environment is better than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Daniel: Crystal, what are some of the personal strengths you have that you draw on as you pursue your hopes and dreams?
Crystal: I won’t say the Bible but kinda that’s what I lean on that’s where I gain my understanding just my faith in God and understanding that He’s not incapable of doing anything. He’s capable of doing and pulling any kind of thing that you least expect to be done he works in mysterious ways. I can’t even explain how; I didn’t learn about God until I was
12-years-old, I got saved when I was 12-years-old. If it whatin for Him nothing of my existence would be, because without Him I can’t, I can’t function, I can’t be normal I’m not allowed that right now.
Daniel: Crystal what challenges and obstacles do you see standing between you and the realization of your hopes and dreams, what holds you back?
Crystal: My environment, my environment doesn’t allow me to be stable mentally. When you walk in a house that turns dark you can’t function normal. When you walk in a home that you can barely walk through cause the floors, you know things are just screwed you can’t live normal that bothers your mental. I know when I was Postpartum depressed, I had days when I didn’t want to take a bath, I didn’t wanna eat, I’d get up and heat the kids some raviolis or something can wise, but I just didn’t wanna exist. And at this point I do wanna exist, and this environment doesn’t allow you to really exist. You’re just there you know you don’t really have an existence most people couldn’t care less your just there.
Daniel: Crystal what needs to be done so that the challenges and obstacles could be overcome, and you could realize your personal hopes and dreams.
Crystal: Just people to assist like COR they really assist us they try ta stabilize us mentally where we are comfortable. I love COR as if all three of them Jens was a momma to me. And I know that young Jen is somewhere around in my age, but she’s got a great heart, people like that, that don’t judge you, and don’t labelize you, but assist you try to see what helps you be normal that’s something you could never ask for but God giveth.
Daniel: Crystal I’d like to ask you a few questions about the community now please. First of all, how would you describe your community, who are the people who make up your community?
Crystal: It’s not a community, no one sticks together everybody’s against everybody, there’s no community I don’t know what happened to the community, but it’s not a community. It’s just a bunch of bodies there that live there and just trying to overcome they own demons. Some experience alcoholism, some experience drug problems everybody got they own demon, but it’s not a community, it ain’t nothin community about it. A community to me is us sticking together when somethin happens we’re here to support, we move when you need us to move and I move when you need me to move, I feed you when you need to be fed, sometimes I am the community, and I don’t have a choice. It’s a set a kids that stay across the street from me well across the walkway I’ll say. They don’t have lights, they don’t have gas, they don’t have food but when God says do something your obedience get you a long way. So, I have to be obedient and do what he tells me to do when it pertains to other people in the community. It’s supposed to be a community and people supposed to do these things cause we ain’t all got it in us to be strong. (heavy sigh)
Daniel: Crystal when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life how would you describe the hopes and dreams of people in your community?
Crystal: It’s like they live day to day they don’t really have hopes or dreams they just live day to day hoping that something will change without them changing it. It doesn’t work like that you gotta work wit God and work with a few other people that God send to you to get you where you need to be in order to mentally get yourself together. I’ve seen a lot of people move out of Four Season and go to a whole different environment and really try to do best but a lot of times they revert back to Four Season. A lot of time they fall down, and they just say “forget it I’m just gon give up cause I see where this gon, I’m gon right back to Four Season now”
Daniel: In your community what are some of the strengths that people have that they can draw on once they realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives. What are the strengths of the folks in your community?
Crystal: Strength, (chuckle) there’s not much strength in the community. Like I said there’s a lot of people against everybody, everybody’s against everybody. Everybody that’s in the community is there for themselves, they don’t really think about other people. But in order to become blessed you have to bless others so they might have missed a few slots (laughter)
Daniel: Crystal what are some of the challenges and obstacles that make it harder for people in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives. What holds people back in your community?
Crystal: A lot of times it’s the things that they involve themselves in, the people they choose to hang around, the drugs or the alcohol they choose to use. On a too frequently basis it’s okay to have fun but it’s not okay to put yourself in a place of losing your children, or mentally losing yourself, or not being able to be normal. So, to me that’s one of the biggest problems you can’t mentally be okay if you drink all day every day, you can’t mentally be okay if your function or choice of drug is cocaine or crack. It’s a lot of that out there, that people . . . and that’s a mental issue, it causes mental issues, it’s not something that’s healthy nor normal.
Daniel: Crystal what needs to be done so that the challenges and obstacles you just mentioned can be overcome and people in your community can realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives?
Crystal: For some people it’s a little late they still doing the same things they been doin when they were 17, 18, and 19. Some people are just never gon get it cause it’s their environment and that’s what their used to, like I said you are a product of what you live in, and whatever you choose to remember outside of where you live is a product of something to teach you, it’s something to give you something to see outside of your environment. So, you see these good things; for example, my daughter we get in the car we go drivin we go down in Ellenwood, Brookhaven I love to sightsee Atlanta I love Atlanta but Fulton County just ain’t it. Take her through Brookhaven and she says “Wow mom I don’t even see apartments like ours” and I look at her and I say that’s because that’s not life the apartments where we are were put there and we’ve been allowed to grow and get things together and get a roof over our head that didn’t financially stick us in a hole and … but that’s not life you don’t ever want to have to come back to this. If she had children and she want to give the kids an experience then I understand because that’s how I felt I wanted my kids to not be the children that go in the house, walk through the house leave the doe open or unlocked. So, I needed them to understand there was different aspects of life you can have a good life, or you can have a bad life, you can be in a bad area, or you can be in a good area, and these are the things that show you how much better your life can be. So, being in the country go in the house and leave the doe open, being in the city go in the house and lock the door it’s an immediate effect. It still happens that way if I go to my Grand momma’s house, go in the house and leave the door unlocked and just walk through. If I go in my house, I’m gon lock my doe, and I ain’t gon come back out after a certain time. You can’t change a persons environment and not change it in their head cause they been there for years some people been there for 7 to 15 to 30 years and that’s all they know so if you take that person and you put em somewhere else your teaching them something about a different kind of life, a different way of living, some people can’t deal with that because they ain’t never seen it they don’t know what to do with it.
Daniel: Crystal imagine you are a powerful leader imagine you are a decision maker who could really make things happen how would you change the system to help people in your community realize the hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable and happy lives. Imagine you’re a powerful leader how would you change the system?
Crystal: I can’t say how I would change the system I just know that anything is possible, no matter what we think, anything is possible. I’ve seen too much in my life to say that I’m supposed to be fearful of the possibilities of better things, I like better things. I would like to be able to walk through my house and not fall or tremble, you know you may hit a chair or something down yonder but you just don’t walk across the floor and fall in it on a constant basis (cracking up laughing) I don’t want to have to experience that, that’s scary for me to fall that’s scary for me cause I don’t like to fall I just (pause) I don’t know. I think that if you pull people out of this environment and give them a better environment, they only got two choices they gon sink or they gon sail and most of the time they sink because it’s not normal to them they didn’t have nobody to come and pick them up and take them to the country and show them a different aspect of life. I say that cause my children’s father he didn’t have anybody to come and take him to the country and show him how to survive. I can survive outside the city I know how to go and milk a cow; I know how to go and build a farm (chuckles) I know how to cut a chickens head off; you can put me anywhere and I’ll figure out a way to survive. But these people been in the same place, same situation and they only seen what Fulton County allows them to see. They don’t see many goats, horses, and cows they wouldn’t know how to survive if you put them in those places. They would normally complain about not having a ride, and everything’s so far away, I be thankful for that stuff (laughter) keep me away from all these messed up humans, that’s how I think like a lot of people are just messed up (loud sigh.) I really think that would take a lot of counseling and explaining because common sense is only what you can take, what you’ve learned, and everybody don’t learn the same thang in every environment. So ….
Daniel: Crystal imagine you had a million dollars, and you could spend it to help your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives how exactly would you spend a million dollars to help your community?
Crystal: I don’t know, I really don’t know how that would help it could make the problem worse. You don’t want to be a judgmental person, but you also don’t want to burn your bridge with God so, I really don’t know how to answer that question. Because money can sometimes could be the biggest hindrance, because that money could be turned into drugs, could be turned into alcohol, probably could be turned into anything you never know. I remember when I was in high school up here at Carver I had a teacher and she said “you don’t have to be a product of your environment you don’t have to do drugs, you don’t have to do alcohol it’s okay to enjoy life but you don’t have to do these things, these are choices that you make for yourself.” A lot of the people that I see that I grew up with at Carver High School are in Four Season, and a lot of their mothers were alcoholics, crack addicts, powder addicts, they were constantly doing something that they shouldn’t have been doing because they had children and they needed to be levelheaded. So, they are a product of their own environment again this is what they were raised to see they didn’t expect to become that, but they did. I have a best friend she’s a alcoholic to her heart but she’d never tell nobody that, but she don’t live where we live, she lives in a nice place but she’s a product of her environment. She chose to go to college, she chose to do something for herself but she’s still a alcoholic, she still yearns to drink all day. So, at the end of the day she’s still a product of her environment. I don seen a lot (laughter) I don seen a lot, I know they sittin up there like she’s gon be in there forever (laughter) but that’s what God told me to do, and I have to do what he tell me to do.
Daniel: Crystal, I really appreciate you, I really appreciate this chance to sit down with you. I’d like to sign off and say thanks, but the final word is yours is there anything else you would care to share?
Crystal: Anything’s possible my momma used to tell me that all the time, (crying) I kept asking my mom before she passed, I been trying to figure out a business name because I do all kinds of stuff. I am not a product of my environment and don’t want to be, and I fight hard not to be I try really hard to keep myself afloat, and not a lot of pressure to walk in. I try to keep all these things at a level stand I don’t want to be a product of my environment. But my momma used to say, “anything’s possible just put your mind to it” and she whatn the best mom but those were the only encouraging words she would say to me “anything’s possible.” So, I was sitting in my living room about three weeks ago and she said it to me again. I said momma I just been thinking about my business and stuff like that and what I want to do, and how I want to go about this, but you got the devil telling you aww ain’t nobody going to support you, ain’t nobody going to do this, ain’t nobody going to do that and that’s when you become a product of your environment and I don’t want to do that. And I said mom I’m thinking I’m going to name my business “anything’s possible” and that’s what I did, and I talked to her the day before she died (crying) she said “Yeah that’s what I think you need to do, anything’s possible because you always asking me the same question and I always tell you anything’s possible. (laughter) and that’s the end of that.