Can you feel my pain? – Sophiyah McGriff
I think it is so important for a father to be there when there child is born, to see their child be brought into this world, but mine wasn’t there for me. That really made a dent in my life, knowing he was in a jail cell while I was being born. Before I was 12, I loved my dad to death and I didn’t care what anyone said about him, I still cared for him. He was in and out of my life, going to prison for dumb things. Every time he was out, I would have so much fun seeing my dad. My mom never let me go visit him in jail, even though I wanted to so badly. He used to send me birthday cards, Christmas cards, letters, poems and pictures of me that he drew. I always used to write him back. Staying in touch with my dad, at that time, felt good. I still respected him because I was so young, but as I got older, I slowly stopped writing him because I realized how much he hurt me and my brother. We would talk on the phone, not very often, but I always kept in touch with him. Him and my mom never really got along but if they did, it was only for a short period of time.
My older brothers didn’t really like my dad for past things that he did. When he used to get out and come over, moods changed quickly. I got really excited to see him; of course I was a daddy’s girl. But it wasn’t long until he would leave again. In 2012, my brother got shot and killed in Vallejo, California. This made a huge dent in my family. It was like we lost a puzzle piece to our five piece puzzle. He was such a good person and everyone loved him. Losing him impacted a lot of people. After that, I just shut down. I didn’t want to deal with anything anymore. I finally decided that I needed to get rid of all the negative things in life. I realized that my dad being incarcerated was a negative impact on my life. He wasn’t doing or saying anything that was helpful for me. I wasn’t going to just sit there and waste my time on someone that keeps messing up and making me go through the pain that a young innocent girl should not go through all her life.
I know my dad loves me, but he doesn’t try to be a good father. I have forgiven him more than enough times for him to fix things, but he just keeps doing the same things over and over. I have no more faith in our relationship because I know it’s just going to keep failing. I have no respect for this man at all. He has hurt me and my family too much. The way he treats my mother is the most horrible thing that I witness. He thinks he’s better than everyone else and puts everyone down, even though he has no job, nowhere to live and has just gotten out of prison. That’s the thing about him, he is so selfish and doesn’t care about anyone but himself. When he speaks to my mom, it’s like he wants her to get mad. He speaks about my deceased brother and that’s a really sensitive thing with my family, it’s like he just doesn’t care. He makes her feel so bad about herself and what she’s doing to raise her children, even though he can’t take care of us, because he’s too busy continuing to go to jail. I just want him to realize that him being in prison for most of my and my brother Devon’s life has affected us. But for me it isn’t a bad thing, I let all of the negative things out so I don’t need to worry about that anymore.
Living as a McGriff, especially as Shawn McGriff’s daughter, put a label on me as his daughter, because of his incarceration. As the child of an incarcerated parent, I have the right not to be judged, blamed or labeled because of my parents’ incarceration. I feel like it is wrong to judge somebody by their father that is in jail/prison. One day, just my brother was at my house while it was getting raided, the police never told us why, but we found out it was because of my father. I don’t think my home, where I sleep at, should get raided for his mistakes. Also one time I told the officer my name, and they said “Are you Shawn McGriff’s daughter?” and I was thinking does it matter that I’m his daughter? Parents being incarcerated affect their children and their lifestyles. It also makes me feel like I can’t live as my own person because of my last name and the history behind it. Being this young with a parent in jail, makes you feel like you’re different from all the other kids. My father doesn’t even know I feel this way, but I don’t think I need to. I don’t feel like wasting my time on telling him because I know if I do, he’s not going to change. I don’t want to share that with him and then find out he’s back in jail, then I would be really hurt.
Being a child of an incarcerated parent is very hard. I think that the police, judges, security guards, really anyone that has power over young people need to listen to kids stories and they need to stop judging us by our parents. The police need to realize that our parent already being incarcerated affects us enough, so how they’re treating us is not helping the situation. They need to understand the type of things we are going through before they label us by someone who has ruined our lives so much already.
My mom is my world. She does everything for me and my brother. She is my mother and my father. She works so hard for us and I appreciate her so much for that. I know she wants the best for me, but my dad seems like he doesn’t care. He will never understand how hard my mom works to be a good parent. And whenever he gets the chance, he tries to make it seem like he’s doing the right thing, when he’s not and never has. The last time I saw my dad before he went to prison for four years was when he picked me up and took me and my brother to the mall. After that trip, we found out he went to jail and the car that he took us in, was stolen. When I heard that, I was shocked. I will never be as stupid as him. I never want to be like him. His kids should be his first priority, but apparently we’re not.
My life has been hard enough while he wasn’t in it, so me going ahead in life, doesn’t need him in it because I know it will just worse. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing because my mom, Devon and I are doing fine. I can’t wait until I graduate high school and then college and become what I want to be in life so I can show him I was perfectly fine without him. He’s going to regret not being there for me or Devon. I want him to feel guilty in himself because his choices really affected his children’s lives.
After high school, I want to go to college and become an OBGYN. I want to go to UC Davis or Alabama State University. After that I want to attend a medical school so I can get my degree and start working as a doctor. I have always had love for babies, and I think bringing them into this world is the greatest thing you can do. I have one niece and three nephews and they mean the world to me. I would do anything for each and everyone of them. Ever since my first nephew Jahmon was born, I fell in love with babies. I have a six year old niece, Imani, and she is just beautiful. I don’t get to see her that often but when I do, I just love being with her. My youngest nephew, Zion, moved to LA with his mother so I barely get to see him. My nephew Marshawn lives with me most of the time, and he is literally like my son. I just think it is the best thing to be able to bring someone in this world and have a passion for it.
In life, I think it’s important to not back down. I like to keep going and move onto better things. After my brother died, I was just going to give up, but I realized that I need to keep going and not be stuck on something. I know my brother wouldn’t want me to back down, so I didn’t. Whenever I face challenges, I keep doing it I don’t stop and give up. This situation with my dad made me realize I also can’t back down because it is not something that is going to help me further in life. Backing down means you’re giving up. Giving up is not a title you want to be known for.
The reason why I am in Project WHAT! is because I want to be heard. I want children to stop being judged by their last name. I want people to understand how much we actually go through. Project WHAT! is helping me be more open about my story. It is important that people listen to this because it is a hard topic to share with different people, coming from my perspective, and if it wasn’t for Project WHAT! then I would have never thought of telling my story because I thought nobody would care or nobody would listen. But now I am ready to be heard.