The Yvette Ousley story

The author
The author
Posted: October 10, 2011

I GREW UP in North Philly and was a single mom at 22. My son and I lived in North Philly for a time. I wasn't a perfect parent by any stretch. In fact, I've made a lot of the same mistakes that I talk about in this op-ed.

Starting out, I knew that statistics said I would get on welfare, live in poverty and that my son would be dead or in prison by a certain age. But I told myself we weren't going to be any of those things, that they didn't have to be because somebody else said so. I was determined that my son would be a success. I told myself that he would never be on the corner hustlin' or snatching pocketbooks because I would make sure that he never had a reason to be there.

Seeing this little guy into adulthood successfully became my life's work. I used to tell him that sometimes things happen in life - but that we have to achieve in spite of them.

I always worked, and he always had jobs, too - go to school, behave, get good grades, do chores, babysit, volunteer, work part-time. When my son was eight, I married my husband, Ben Frazier, a kind, patient, soft-spoken gentleman and the father of my two younger children, 13 and 11. Ben loved, nurtured, trained and disciplined my boy, involved him in baseball and basketball leagues and coached him, too, - and he is the person my son largely credits for his success today.

Along the way, I allowed grandma and pop-pop, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends and my Daily News and other extended family to help raise him. I whipped my son's behind when needed, and I supported his teachers.

My biggest mistakes were giving too much and not always listening to the men when they tried to tell me about raising a boy.

By most accounts, I had a good kid who did what he was supposed to. The teenage years were hard because he did teen stuff - talking back, wanting to do what everybody else was doing, etc. By the time, he became a sophomore in college, I had given him so much that, at one point, I had to cut him off completely - the most difficult thing that I've ever had to do.

Today, my son is a decent, well-spoken Morehouse College graduate who's looking at law schools and working for the federal government in Atlanta. He's never been in trouble with the law and doesn't have any children. My proudest moments were when people at Morehouse and St. Joseph's Prep told me what a special young man he is.

I'm sharing this because I know that I and the paper will take a hit from people who will call me an Oreo (black person who acts white) and say I have no right to criticize. But I write with the knowledge that parents - single, married, working or not - can do better by our kids, that fixing this won't be easy, but it can be done.

- Yvette Ousley

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