Elizabeth Harris

elizabethharris

What is your story?
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. My aunt raised me because my mother passed away from lupus when I was only one year old. I have an older brother and an older sister, and I have lots of cousins. I went to four different grammar schools while I was growing up, but they were all on the South Side. I was recently homeless for about a year and half. Within that year, I became pregnant with my third child. It was a tough time for me mentally and emotionally, but it made me who I am today.

Where do you think the problems in Englewood and Woodlawn stem from?
I think they stem from poverty and lack of education. A lot of people are uneducated on a lot of things. They’re stuck in a rut and they don’t know which way to go. They want a handout, but at the same time, they don’t want a hand out. It’s kind of like they’re stuck in the middle. We don’t have the right resources here in our community. We have to go outside of our community to get resources, and we often get turned down for being ineligible for being out of the area. When organizations turn you down because they say you don’t qualify, it kills your faith and your spirit, and a lot of anger comes out of it. People then begin to look for other things to fill that void, like alcohol and drugs. It’s a vicious cycle.

How do you deal with violence in Chicago?
Violence occurs because people feel abandoned. We need to show them love. Love breaks all barriers. Love them no matter what type of anger they’ve built, because eventually they will break down. We need to find the source of the problems. You can catch drug dealers, but there will still be drugs on the street. People need to stop being scared and start disciplining children. You still have to continue to parent even when your child is over the age of 18.
For me, because I have three young children, it’s about raising your child and having a faith-based background. Faith fills any void. I want to keep my kids active, and I try to keep them open. I want to give them experiences outside of our community and the violence that occurs, like taking them to the museum. Most people from our community haven’t even been to downtown Chicago. They have only been in their own neighborhood.

How did you become a member of MAP?
I became a member through Pastor Downey. He recommended me to Dede Koldyke. When I got the call if I would be interested in MAP, I immediately said yes. I love anything about helping people, that’s what I want to do with my own life. This is my opportunity to step into a group that can pave the way for mothers like me. I joined so I can turn back and help another mother who went through the same thing I did. That’s where my heart is.

What does being a member of the MAP group mean to you?
I’m just excited to meet other women from different areas who’ve been through what I’ve been through. We all have the same issues, just a different zip code. I’m happy to meet new moms. I love meeting new people.

What is your goal for MAP?
My goal is for the MAP group to get other mothers involved. I want us to start waking up the city of Chicago and to take back our homes and our babies. Mothers run the household, we pay the bills, and we need to not stand for disrespect. I think a lot of women have gotten scared and they need to know it’s time to speak up.

What does being a mother mean to you?
Being a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me. My children saved me. I didn’t want kids, but when I had my first baby, it changed my whole perception. When you feel that first kick or hear that heartbeat, it’s such a joy to see that God trusts me with this life. It’s a privilege and it’s an honor.

What do the MAP mothers provide for each other?
We provide love, understanding, comfort, friendship, companionship. We pick up every piece that may need picking up. Sometimes you just need that. You need to be around people who are going to love you and not be judgmental and lift you up and make you feel good as a woman and a mother. No one understands a mother better than a mother.