“Welcome to the continuing saga of a family’s journey towards healing and reconciliation. This story picks up from where we left off in ‘Escaping the Clutches of a Cult: My Journey to Reunite with My Daughter’. It is a testament to resilience, strength, and the enduring power of love in the face of unimaginable trials.
To protect the privacy and safety of the individuals involved, names and certain identifying details have been altered. Nonetheless, the essence of their experiences, struggles, triumphs, and their indomitable spirit remain faithfully represented. As you delve into the pages of this narrative, remember it as a tribute to the human spirit’s ability to rise from adversity and to reclaim the bonds that truly matter.
In sharing their story, it is my hope that their journey may serve as a beacon of light for those navigating their own hardships, reminding us all of the incredible resilience that resides within each of us.”
Emerging from Minneapolis’s vibrant, tenacious heart, a saga of grit, affection, and victory against insurmountable odds unfurls. This narrative spotlights an exceptional African American woman named Michelle, a beacon of strength and resilience in her early forties, and her indefatigable daughter, Faith. At age 26, Faith holds the torch of her mother’s legacy, embodying courage, perseverance, and an unyielding spirit.
In the interest of privacy and respect, this narrative’s names and specific details have been altered from the original account. While the essence of their struggle and triumph remains true, this story serves as a testament to their journey rather than an exact retelling. As we continue to share their story, remember that it is not merely a tale of hardship but a celebration of the human spirit’s capacity to rise above adversity.
Michelle became a mother at sixteen. The circumstances of Faith’s birth were as precarious as they come, with Faith being born prematurely and suffering a blood hemorrhage. This condition delayed her development, but the resilient child that she was, Faith adapted to life with her medical disabilities. Despite her long, oval-shaped head due to hydrocephalus and a brace she wore to correct her tiptoe walking, she pressed on with remarkable fortitude.
Faith’s early years in school were marred by challenges. She struggled with speech, which, coupled with her physical appearance, made her an easy target for her peers’ cruel taunts. Elementary school was a grueling period of isolation and mockery, with middle school exacerbating her agony.
High school, though still fraught with challenges, brought a silver lining in the form of two girls, Tasha and Keisha. These girls would eventually become Faith’s chosen family, offering a sense of belonging she had been longing for. Amidst the trials of adolescence, Faith found solace in her crushes on popular musicians Bow Wow and Chris Brown. Their concerts were the highlights of her teenage years, with Laura, ever the supportive mother, ensuring she got front-row seats to experience their performances up close.
However, an encounter backstage with Bow Wow at one of his concerts marked a turning point in Faith’s life. Despite her excitement, she left without his autograph, feeling invisible amidst the crowd of fans. This experience sparked a realization in Faith; she yearned for someone who would truly see her, someone who would give her the attention she deserved.
Without informing Michelle, Faith embarked on her journey of dating. Her cousin introduced her to a friend who shared a similar backstory of childhood sickness. Their shared experiences drew them together, and they embarked on a relationship. After a year, they were engaged, and Faith soon announced she was pregnant.
This news took Michelle by surprise, bringing forth a wave of worry and concern. Doctors had cautioned her back in the 1980s that due to her health complications, Faith might not be able to safely endure pregnancy. Yet, Faith was determined to prove them wrong, to fight against the odds.
In an inspiring defiance of expectations, Faith carried her baby to full term and delivered via cesarean section. This was an achievement that surpassed Laura’s own experience of emergency c-sections at twenty-seven weeks. Witnessing her daughter’s resolve and strength, Laura found a new depth of respect and love for Faith, who had triumphed in the face of adversity.
However, the joy that the arrival of a new grandchild brought was soon shrouded by a heartbreaking revelation. Faith discovered her fiancé had been unfaithful, fathering twins with another woman. This profound betrayal left Faith shattered. Despite his pleas for forgiveness and even attempts to have Laura intervene on his behalf, Faith remained resolute in her decision. The hurt was too deep, the damage irreparable. She decided to part ways with him.
The young man, despite his indiscretions, expressed an unwavering desire to be with Faith and their child. He tried to make amends and to prove his commitment, showing up consistently for prenatal appointments, building a crib with his own hands, and even taking up two jobs to ensure he could provide for his new family. He was there holding Faith’s hand during the ultrasound scans, his eyes welling up at the sight of their little one. He set up a nursery, painting it with gentle colors and filling it with toys and books. He even took cooking lessons, wanting to be able to make healthy meals for Faith during her pregnancy. His attempts at reconciliation were sincere and consistent, yet Faith was torn between the pain of his betrayal and the evidence of his dedication.
Despite the young man’s efforts, the tension between Michelle and Faith persisted. Michelle, ever the protective mother, was upset about Faith’s decision to get pregnant given her health conditions. She felt that Faith had risked not just her own life but also the well-being of her unborn child. This concern led to many heated arguments between them, straining their already fragile relationship.
Michelle, however, couldn’t help but admire Faith’s tenacity. Despite her initial concerns, she saw how Faith’s determination was fueled by love and an unwavering will to provide the best life for her child. She came to respect her daughter’s decision, even though it kept her awake with worry many nights. Michelle was proud of the strength her daughter showed, pushing forward in spite of the trials and tribulations life threw her way.
“A Second Chance”
The story of Michelle and Faith is one of resilience and an unyielding spirit. It’s a testament to the power of love, courage, and the indomitable strength of a mother and daughter who have weathered life’s storms together. Their journey is far from over, and they continue to navigate the challenges that come their way, demonstrating that no matter the odds, they remain unbroken.
Faith decided to give love another try, but with her busy schedule as a single mother, finding the time for a new relationship was a challenge. Michelle, now a doting grandmother, was more than willing to babysit, providing Faith the opportunity to pursue her romantic life. However, unbeknownst to Michelle, the man Faith was dating was a drug dealer.
This new man, Jamal, was a smooth talker, quickly winning Faith over with promises of a better life. He persuaded Faith that he could ‘flip’ her money to help furnish her new house. Faith, naive and hopeful, let him move into their home after just a month of dating. Once Jamal had a taste of Faith’s steady income, he began to withdraw from his life on the streets, claiming he wanted to turn his life around for the sake of their relationship.
Within three months, Faith was pregnant with her second child. Their whirlwind romance raised some eyebrows among their family and friends, but Jamal’s charisma managed to keep Laura at bay. When their baby boy was born, Faith was overjoyed. She now had a perfect pair – a boy and a girl, and she decided she was done having children.
However, her second pregnancy was not without complications. Faith’s shunt got clogged and pinched due to the baby pressing on her shunt tubing, causing her to cease intercourse during her eighth month. There were rumors of Jamal’s infidelity, but without solid proof, they remained just that – rumors. However, Jamal’s demeanor started to shift. He became domineering, insisting that Faith clean and cook despite her doctor’s orders to rest. He was particularly possessive of their baby boy, to the point where Laura had to plead to spend time with her grandson.
Jamal’s controlling behavior escalated when he began criticizing Faith about her weight, implying she should have lost her baby weight sooner. To keep Michelle’s suspicions at bay, Jamal would take up temporary jobs, just long enough to convince her he was contributing to the household.
Then, when their son was nine months old, Faith found out she was pregnant again. She kept her pregnancy a secret until she was four months along. By that time, she and Jamal had eloped at City Hall. Dressed in coordinating plaid shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes, they appeared just like any other couple on their wedding day – all smiles and brimming with happiness. But a shadow of uncertainty loomed over their joy.
Faith was due to inherit some money from her recently deceased grandfather, and this news was met with unease within the family. They weren’t certain how Jamal would react to this development, but they soon noticed a chilling shift in the dynamics. Communication and visits dwindled, and Michelle, especially, knew something was amiss. She suspected that Jamal’s change in behavior was motivated by the impending inheritance, causing an undercurrent of tension in the household.
Just when Faith thought her life was stabilizing, a new storm blew in. Jamal brought a young woman named Keisha and her daughter into their apartment. He introduced Keisha as a distant cousin who had a child with a disability similar to Faith’s. According to Jamal, Keisha needed guidance, and who better to provide it than Faith, who had amassed college credits in Child Development and Education.
Faith, always keen to help, welcomed them, unaware of the sinister plans Jamal had. He swiftly moved Faith out of their bedroom and into her daughter’s room, and had Keisha and her daughter take over their former space. Unbeknownst to Faith, this was the beginning of her twisted journey as a sister-wife.
Keisha, who bore a striking physical resemblance to Michelle, stole her identity – her birth certificate, social security card, and even managed to secure a state ID in Michelle’s name. She assumed control of Michelle’s finances, including her bank account and the anticipated inheritance from her grandfather. Michelle’s in-home support service, a benefit due to her disability, was also hijacked by Keisha, who claimed the hours and banked them.
Slowly, Faith found herself trapped in an increasingly abusive environment, where she was manipulated and controlled. She was made to cook, clean, and take care of the children – tasks that Keisha should have been doing for her. Her eldest daughter, Sky, sensed the tension and repeatedly cried out for her grandmother, Michelle.
Ebony, wise beyond her years, was able to convey to Michelle the grim reality of their household – the abuse, the crying, and the control. Michelle, alarmed, contacted the police, but Faith, out of fear, denied any wrongdoing.
Things escalated when they received a notice from the Department of Human Services (DHS) for a well-check on a vulnerable adult, which meant they could come unannounced. This unexpected intervention left Jamal and Keisha trembling in fear.
In the midst of the chaos, Michelle found herself alone, pregnant, and sheltered with her daughter, Ebony, in a women’s refuge. Jamal refused to let her take their son, asserting his ‘ownership’. A particularly violent incident had forced her to flee: a fight over food had led Jamal to physically assault her, even kicking her pregnant belly. Despite the police’s repeated disregard of her calls, she held onto her determination to escape.
A conversation with a caseworker at the shelter nudged her to consider contacting her mother. As Faith was being driven to another shelter across town, she caught sight of the unfrozen Mississippi River. She was reminded of her mother’s words: “All I have to do is jump into the Mississippi to get back home!” And with that memory, she mustered the courage to call Michelle.
It was late, but the sight of the river flowing freely gave her hope. The call to her mother was filled with tears, pleas, and apologies. And before they hung up, Michelle was already on her way to pick them up, to bring them back to her childhood home, back to safety. And as they made their way back, Faith realized that this was just the beginning of her journey toward reclaiming her life.
The narrative takes a turn when Michelle finds herself rushing to a women’s shelter on the outskirts of town. In her arms, she cradles her granddaughter, Ebony, as she hurries to rescue Faith. The cold Minneapolis air bites at their faces, but Michelle’s resolve never wavers. She swears under her breath, a promise echoing in the hushed whispers of the night, never to let her daughter return to that place. Her grandson, unfortunately, still remains in the clutches of a man who’s supposed to love and protect him, but Michelle is prepared for battle for her family.
A semblance of peace graces their lives for a few weeks, a calm before a storm she knows is coming. And it does, in the form of a knock on her door. Standing on the other side are the very faces she had hoped to never see again – her daughter’s husband and the other woman. Their demand? They want Ebony back. But Michelle understands their intentions are far from pure. They are driven by selfish desires, not love for the child.
Michelle blocks the door, her body becoming an impenetrable wall between them and her family. She snatches Ebony’s purse and phone, desperate to keep her from leaving. A struggle ensues, but Michelle’s resolve is a mountain that stands tall in the face of the storm. She reminds her daughter of the promise she had made. “I brought you into this world, and I’m the only one who can take you out,” she tells her with a stern voice. “You told me to do whatever it took, and I’ll never let you go back over there and let him kill you or cause you severe harm, such as damaging your shunt.”
Her words hang in the air, a testament to a mother’s unwavering love and protectiveness. Michelle stands her ground, ready to shield her family from any harm that comes their way. This chapter of their story may not be the end, but it is a significant step towards a better future for Faith. Their journey has been far from easy, but it has taught them the true meaning of strength and resilience. And with that knowledge, they are prepared to face any challenge that life throws their way.
Events unfolded that would challenge the mettle of even the most steadfast of parents. Michelle found herself in a heated confrontation with her daughter, Faith, spurred by an urgent need to protect her from harm. This confrontation spiraled into an almost surreal sequence of incidents. Faith misinterpreted Michelle’s use of an old-school African American parental saying, “I brought you into this world, and I’m the only one who can take you out.” What was intended as a symbol of Michelle’s unwavering commitment to her daughter’s safety was misconstrued as a death threat? “Oh, you want to kill me? I’m calling the police,” Faith retorted, physically attacking Michelle in her desperate bid to flee.
When Faith’s adamant accusations and stubborn determination to leave became apparent, Michelle had no choice but to step back. With a heavy heart, she watched as Faith, her husband, and the other woman left her property. Contrary to what Michelle expected, they didn’t head towards the bus stop; instead, they walked towards a nearby clinic. As Michelle sat on her front porch, tears streaming down her face, a shocking turn of events unfolded.
Unexpectedly, a police car rolled up her driveway, soon followed by two more. Michelle’s heart pounded as she realized that Faith had indeed called the police. She had accused Michelle of threatening her with a pair of children’s scissors and stealing her phone, purse, wallet, and even her pain medication. The wave of betrayal and disbelief Michelle felt was overwhelming. The first two officers were courteous, asking about the scissors and whether there were any witnesses.
Tiffany, Michelle’s 16-year-old adopted daughter, was at home during the incident and stepped forward to provide her account of the events, which supported Michelle’s story. Despite this, Michelle experienced the ignominy of being arrested for the first time in her life and charged with felony threats and fifth-degree imprisonment. Her own daughter, the one she had striven to protect, had turned against her.
Michelle and Faith’s journey underscores the devastating impact of parental alienation and domestic abuse. Victims can be manipulated and coerced into actions that harm their own well-being and that of those who genuinely care for them. It serves as a stark reminder of the need for comprehensive support systems and education about these issues to help both victims and their supporters. It also highlights the importance of providing law enforcement and other professionals with the resources and training they need to respond appropriately to these complex situations.
Michelle found herself in the aftermath of an arrest, sentenced to four days in jail that would feel like an eternity. From invasive body searches to the indignity of wearing worn-out undergarments, the experience stripped her of her individuality. She was deprived of her beloved makeup, personal body supplies, and even her much-needed Pepsi, plummeting her to the lowest point of her life. Sleep was a luxury, with Michelle managing to snatch 10-15 minutes of rest at a time.
In the shared bleakness of their cell, she first met Ms. Pat, an older inmate. Upon hearing Michelle’s last name, Ms. Pat asked if she knew a woman named Mary. To her surprise, Mary was Michelle’s aunt, and Ms. Pat shared that they were good friends. Ms. Pat had lost touch with Mary and saw this chance encounter as an opportunity to return past favors. She became Michelle’s unexpected lifeline, providing her with a brush, a comb, and hair grease. She even shared her commissary items, including Pepsi and chips. Recognizing Michelle’s discomfort due to several medical conditions, including ovarian cancer survival, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids, Ms. Pat surrendered her bottom bunk to Michelle.
Yet, life in jail was far from bearable. Due to her medical conditions, Michelle was moved to the ground floor, into a cell with a new cellmate named Sheila, leaving Ms. Pat behind. Despite the change, Ms. Pat ensured that Michelle was taken care of, even securing a bottom bunk for her in the new cell. However, Sheila proved to be a difficult cellmate. A hoarder with severe flaky psoriasis, she would scratch all day, allowing skin flakes to scatter everywhere, including her mattress. She hoarded the food Michelle didn’t eat, letting it rot overnight in a cup, which she would consume the next day, hoping to make herself sick and gain a brief escape from the cell. Sheila would leave her feces in the toilet as a silent protest against the prison system, filling their confined space with an unbearable stench. The food was nearly inedible, causing Michelle to regurgitate her meals.
Michelle, desperate for water but unwilling to drink from the rusty faucet, used Sheila’s cup. The sight and smell of the cup, combined with the nausea from the stored food, made her sick. As she vomited, a guard discovered the cup, considered it contraband, and punished them by taking away thirty minutes of their recreational time.
Upon release, Michelle, indebted to Ms. Pat for her kindness and guidance, returned to the jail to post her bail. Ms. Pat, battling crack addiction, had been in jail for two weeks with a $150 bond and no one to help. This resonated with Michelle, whose mother had battled the same addiction. Determined to help Ms. Pat on her road to recovery, she posted her bail. Their bond, forged in the difficult conditions of the jail, continues to this day.
Michelle’s experience in jail, combined with the heartache of parental alienation and domestic abuse, left her grappling with PTSD, depression, and anxiety for years. Her story serves as a testament to the power of resilience and the courage it takes to stand against injustice.. Sleep became a luxury, with Michelle only managing to snatch 10-15 minutes of rest at a time.
The heartbreak of this ordeal was amplified by the realization that her own flesh and blood, her daughter Faith, had chosen an abusive man over her. She reflected on the chilling irony that Faith had called the police on her abusive partner multiple times but never pressed charges, yet she had not hesitated to do so against Michelle. This came shortly after a heartwarming celebration of Faith’s birthday, a day Michelle had lovingly dedicated to pampering her daughter with a complete makeover.
The profound emotional trauma of this period would imprint itself on Michelle’s psyche, leaving her grappling with PTSD, depression, and anxiety for years. Her torment was further amplified by another period of estrangement from Faith, lasting nearly four years. During this time, Michelle found herself pretending to show interest in joining the Black Israelites, a cult-like group that Faith had become involved with, purely to maintain some connection with her grandkids.
However, as she attended their classes and found herself debating their interpretation of scripture, Michelle felt herself drifting further from her own beliefs. The sacrifice became too great, and she realized she could not forfeit her soul and personal convictions just to maintain a presence in her daughter’s and grandkids’ lives.
Michelle’s story is a harrowing testament to the enduring strength of a parent’s love and the immense challenges faced in the struggle to protect our children from harm. It shines a spotlight on the complexities and heartache of parental alienation and domestic abuse, and the indomitable spirit of a mother’s love.
The story took a dramatic turn when Jamal and Keisha landed in jail. Michelle had reported them for the abuse of a vulnerable adult. Jamal, awaiting trial for felony assault and kidnapping, had targeted an elderly woman Keisha had been caring for. Their plan to rob her went awry when the woman unexpectedly returned home. At this juncture, Faith was seven months pregnant and had returned to her mother’s home with her children, Ebony and Jamal Jr. They were making strides and preparing for the arrival of their new baby, Anthony.
When Anthony was three months old, they embarked on a trip to Orlando. Michelle, who had always planned to move back to her birthplace, New Orleans, once her son left for college, was now considering this move with a young child of her own. Faith expressed her desire to move with her, so Michelle and her 10-year-old daughter Bianca relocated to New Orleans. They settled into their new home, and soon Faith and her three children joined them.
Faith’s father and his side of the family lived in New Orleans, so the move offered them an opportunity to spend more time with Faith and her children. In addition, Faith’s father was battling kidney failure. Faith and the children had a room at both her mother’s and father’s homes. Ebony and Bianca were thriving in the New Orleans schools and were deeply involved in the arts, including acting and ballet. Life seemed promising until Faith encountered difficulties obtaining medical insurance. The medical services in New Orleans did not measure up to those in Minnesota, so after a year, Faith and Ebony flew back to Minneapolis. Michelle agreed to take care of the boys until Faith settled down.
Upon their return, Faith moved in with her grandmother, Bernadine. Bernadine noted that Faith spent a lot of time on the phone with her Bible in hand but didn’t divulge much other than she was participating in a Bible study. Faith and the children were still living with Bernadine when she called Michelle, worried about Faith taking the children out on a bitterly cold day to attend a Bible study at a library.
Faith had asked Bernadine to promise not to tell Michelle that she had met a man online and was attending church with him. Faith began dressing modestly, wearing long skirts and head wraps. Everyone was pleased to hear that she was reading her Bible, but they were taken aback when they discovered that she was studying with the Black Israelites, having met a young man from the organization Plenty of Fish.
Faith’s decision broke Bernadine’s heart. An upset Faith packed up some of their belongings and took the children to a women’s shelter nearby. She reproached Bernadine for breaking her promise. Bernadine knew Michelle was the only one who could help Faith and the children, but her being in New Orleans presented challenges.
Faith was placed in a wonderful women’s shelter that doubled as a transitional housing complex for women and children. They were offered four years to get back on their feet with the help of their caseworkers in exchange for their own apartments. Faith moved into a beautiful three-bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Saint Paul.
The man she met on Plenty of Fish was expelled from the Black Israelites, unbeknownst to Faith. Still, she decided to remain with the religion because of the bonds she had made with a few women in the organization. In particular, Trinni, a young lady from Trinidad who had moved to the United States after meeting an older man in the organization. The young women found common ground in their children, family estrangement, and medical issues. Trinni revealed that she had epilepsy, and her family had hoped to get her to the US for better care, but financial difficulties and her father’s death had delayed their plans. Trinni’s bond with her mother was strained, largely because of her deepening involvement with the Black Israelites. As the gulf between mother and daughter grew wider, Trinni found comfort and companionship in her friendship with Faith.
It was peculiar that Trinni met a man in an online dating chat g group, too, a man who was a decade older than she was. He was not just a prospective partner, but also a bridge to the life she had always dreamed of in the United States. The man painted a picture of prosperity and happiness, promising Trinni and her young daughter a better life in a new land. However, he conveniently omitted certain truths about his life, such as his job as an orderly in a senior home.
Trinni, however, was not perturbed by these omissions. She was enamored not just with the man, but also with the religious doctrine they both followed. The Black Israelites proclaimed that they were the lost sons and daughters, the chosen tribe. This belief, coupled with her feelings for the man and the prospect of a new life in the United States, made Trinni overlook the glaring red flags in her path.
When Trinni made the move to the United States, she was a single mother to a seven-year-old girl. Fast forward four years, she was expecting her fourth child. Despite her growing family, Trinni was still not a legal citizen. Her living conditions were far from ideal; she resided in a one-bedroom apartment that served a dual purpose. It was not just her family’s home but also the headquarters and place of worship for their Black Israelite community.
The apartment was constantly bustling with activity. Members would come and go for meetings and services, turning what should have been a private family space into a public one. Trinni’s dreams of a better life in America were far from the reality she now lived. Yet, she remained committed to her faith and the man who had brought her to the States, even as her personal circumstances became increasingly challenging.
“House of Tears: The Reign of Abuse”
Faith’s conversion to the Black Israelites was far from peaceful. She became volatile and confrontational, verbally assaulting those around her. She would shout at white men, labeling them as rapists and devils, and dehumanize Africans by calling them monkeys. On two occasions, she and her children were kicked off a bus for her verbal attacks on a Somali woman and her children. When she learned that her favorite cousin was expecting a child with a white man, she not only banned her children from visiting their cousin’s home or playing with her son but also condemned her cousin for being married to a white man, citing scripture to bolster her argument.
Faith’s behavior mirrored the aggressive tactics of the Black Israelite men who stood on corners, shouting at passersby, including other black people, whom they claimed needed harsh words to understand their message. The family lived in fear that Faith’s vitriolic outbursts would provoke a violent response. Despite her petite frame, she was known for her fierce, mean-spirited demeanor. She was so committed to demonstrating her faith that she followed their directives to the letter, including distancing herself from family members who refused to accept their truth.
Upon finding Faith a suitable match, an older man, the General of the Black Israelites, deepened her commitment to their cause. This man resided in one of the member’s vacant apartments, colloquially known as “barracks,” which doubled as their place of worship. To demonstrate her unwavering faithfulness and honor the organization, Faith handed over half of her food stamps to the Captain and paid a tithe amounting to 20% of her income. Upon earning full membership, she was christened with a new identity – Inawah Yahadawah. This unique name, symbolic of her acceptance and dedication to the group, led her to legally change her name, a step even some of the male members hesitated to take.
As Inawah, she was obligated to finance her soon-to-be husband’s journey from Kentucky to Minnesota. This man, let’s call him Zephaniah, was a mystery. Beneath his hat hid a large bald spot, an unshared detail that she discovered only after his arrival. Zephaniah was a peculiar man, deeply entrenched in his religious beliefs. He insisted on maintaining his hair as per biblical prescriptions, comparing any requests to cut it to the actions of Delilah, the biblical figure infamous for her deception.
His arrival was far from the joyous occasion one might expect. Zephaniah entered their lives with nothing more than a small suitcase filled with papers and books, and two garbage bags containing his belongings. Their first encounter with his personal hygiene, or lack thereof, came when he reluctantly removed his shoes at Inawah’s request. The smell that erupted from his feet was so unbearable that all the windows had to be thrown open. His body odor was equally offensive, a result of two days spent on a bus.
Zephaniah’s problems were not just skin deep. He had a collection of health issues – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, and gout. He was a heavy drinker, a fact that Inawah, in her journey back to being Faith, would later confess to. The burden of his alcoholism fell on her and young Ebony, who were sent out daily to procure his preferred whiskey.
His presence and his rules brought additional hardship. He enforced a strict dress code, dictating that the boys dress in black t-shirts, black or camouflage pants, and combat boots, reminiscent of the uniform of a soldier. For the women, the rules were even more stringent. Their attire resembled that of Muslim women, with all skin covered, hair wrapped, and long dresses and blouses worn. Personal grooming, like hair and nail care, and wearing makeup or earrings were forbidden. He even attempted to dictate Michelle’s attire and restrict her interactions with men, actions that were the final straw for Michelle’s tolerance of the organization.
Inawah’s transformation into a dutiful wife and adherent was painful to watch. While the man showed no interest in taking on a parental role, he exercised a firm hand in controlling and chastising the children. This man, who had entered their lives under the guise of a spiritual guide, had become a source of constant distress. His oppressive rules, unhealthy habits, and domineering behavior had not only strained their resources but also threatened the fabric of their family unit.
The man’s hypocritical nature was revealed when he chastised Michelle for her way of dress and interacting with men, while he himself was indulging in alcoholism, a fact that contradicted the virtuous lifestyle he was preaching. This realization was the catalyst for Michelle’s decision to reject the religion, even if it meant she would be forever estranged from her precious grandchildren and daughter. Michelle was determined to find an alternate route, which included letting go.
Faith’s immersion into the Black Israelites worried Michelle. She saw parallels between the organization’s manipulation and domestic abuse, with the yelling and threats of eternal damnation serving to keep the women members in line and destroy their self-confidence. Now, Faith was involved with a man the same age as her mother, exerting control over her daughter, grandchildren, health, and finances. Michelle thought Faith’s marriage to Jamal had been bad, but this was worse. Michelle feared for her daughter’s spiritual well-being, as well as that of her grandchildren, and knew that rescuing them this time would be even more challenging.
The ripple effects of Faith’s abusive relationship and her involvement with the Black Israelites extended beyond her and Michelle. It deeply impacted Michelle’s younger daughter and her 25-year-old son. The grandchildren, being close in age to Michelle’s younger daughter, had a bond akin to siblings, and the forced separation dealt her a massive emotional blow, creating a rift between the sisters that was hard to mend.
In a chilling display of control and manipulation, Faith’s Black Isralite husband enforced his brutal practices on the household, extending his cruel reach even to the grandchildren. His repertoire of abuse ranged from whipping the children with belts and cords to striking the seven-year-old grandson with a broom. Faith, who shared a sibling-like relationship with her niece and nephew due to their close ages, was distressingly coerced into partaking in these horrific punishments. This enforced involvement not only traumatized the children but also created a painful rift between Faith and her youngest sister, Bianca. The once close-knit siblings found themselves caught in a web of abuse and estrangement, a chasm that was proving difficult to bridge.
In an act that felt like a knife twisting in our hearts, he not only sold off the Xbox that was a cherished gift to my grandson, but also ruthlessly discarded all of their treasured toys. My sweet granddaughter, who had inherited my own childlike joy for doll collecting, was forced to witness the loss of her precious collection, valued at over $1500. Her collection was more than just dolls and Barbies – it was a world of imagination and creativity, including two lifelike newborn dolls and an adored dollhouse that was the setting of many happy make-believe stories. The rationale for this cold-hearted act was a brutal one – they were dictated to renounce their innocent pleasures and, instead, immerse themselves in the arduous study of scriptures and mundane household chores. This was an enforced childhood loss, replaced by a harsh reality that no child should ever have to face.
The sudden shift in their lives didn’t end with the confiscation of their toys. The children were also barred from taking part in any holidays, including their very own birthdays. Even the slightest mention of these festivities was met with a stern rebuke. This period of upheaval caused immense anguish for all of us, but it was particularly devastating for my young grandkids, who were only three, five, and eight years old at the time. They struggled to understand the rationale behind these harsh restrictions and longed for the joy and togetherness that had once accompanied those special occasions. Their confusion and sadness only deepened as they watched their peers enjoy the celebrations they were now denied.
“The Dawn of Redemption”
In a fortunate turn of events, Michelle’s son managed to salvage two bags of toys from the trash. Yet, the damage had been done. Watching my warm, loving Faith transform into a harsh, judgmental figure was heart-wrenching. Observing her align with the bigoted, racist, and sexist teachings of the Black Israelites felt like a betrayal of the spiritual legacy Michelle’s grandmother had worked so hard to establish.
Michelle remembers once nearly getting thrown out of a class for defending this generation of white people, arguing they weren’t responsible for their ancestors’ decision to enslave ours. Her open-mindedness and empathy stood in stark contrast to the racially charged teachings my grandchildren were subjected to. The bigotry and prejudice they were being fed were deeply unsettling. Michelle didn’t just hear these teachings; Michelle traveled with the group to their events, including barbecues and Passover balls. She saw firsthand the manipulation and twisted interpretations of their beliefs.
Michelle remembers once nearly getting thrown out of a class for defending this generation of white people, arguing they weren’t responsible for their ancestors’ decision to enslave ours. Yet, there Michelle was, bearing witness to the racist teachings my grandchildren were being subjected to. She didn’t just hear these teachings; she traveled with the group to their events, including barbecues and Passover balls. Michelle saw firsthand the manipulation and twisted interpretations of their beliefs.
When Faith and Michelle finally had the chance to discuss the situation, she expressed her concern. She didn’t want Michelle to sacrifice my beliefs for her sake. But Michelle assured her, she was willing to walk into the lion’s den to live with the devil himself if it meant saving h children. I would lie down with this evil, foul-mouthed, racist group if it provided an opportunity to rescue her family out from its influence.
When Faith and Michelle finally had the chance to discuss the situation, she expressed her concern. She didn’t want Michelle to sacrifice my beliefs for her sake. But Michelle assured her, she was willing to walk into the lion’s den, to live with the devil himself if it meant saving my children. Michelle would lie down with this evil, foul-mouthed, racist group if it provided an opportunity to rescue my family out from under its influence.
Faith’s relief was palpable. She was beginning to see the light, realizing the twisted nature of the teachings she had once embraced so wholeheartedly. The guilt weighed heavily on her, knowing she had let such insidious thoughts seep into not only her soul but her innocent children’s as well.
As Faith wrestled with her guilt, a glimmer of hope emerged in the gloom. She was beginning to acknowledge the venom she had swallowed, determined to rid it from her body and spirit. As her mother, Michelle pledged to stand alongside her, braced for whatever trials we had yet to face in our struggle against this sinister force.
The light of realization eventually found Faith, leading her away from the organization’s grip. It took the intervention of child protection services and a stay in inpatient mental health treatment, but she finally managed to sever the ties to the harmful environment she had been enmeshed in. She apologized to us, expressed her regret, and committed to addressing her mental health issues.
In a significant step toward healing, she entrusted me with temporary custody of the kids. We were on the path to recovery, a journey that was just beginning, but with each step, the future seemed a little brighter.
To support her and bond with the kids, Michelle made the decision to stay in Minnesota rather than move them to New Orleans. Faith’s making progress. She’s come to realize that her disability played a part in her poor choices in men. This revelation shattered my heart, as I couldn’t help but feel partly responsible due to my own teenage decisions that led to her premature birth and a lifetime of brain surgeries and pain.
Regrettably, Faith was not given a chance to live the dream she had cherished since she was 16 – the dream of walking down the aisle and celebrating her union with a partner who truly loved and respected her. Instead, she found herself bound to men who manipulated and controlled her, men who she was compelled to call her husband.
There was, however, a silver lining to the circumstances of Faith’s marriage within the Black Israelites. The organization’s practices meant that women could leave their marriages without the burden of a drawn-out legal battle, or the fear of their ex-husbands laying claim to their income or personal property. This, Michelle saw, was a blessing in disguise, as it gave Faith the ability to free herself from her husband’s control.
However, the man tried to exert his authority one final time when Faith decided to end their relationship. Claiming that his name was on the lease, he insisted that he had the right to remain in the home – a claim that police in Minnesota typically respect in such situations. But, when the man called his General to inform him that the police were there to escort him out, he met a firm pushback from law enforcement. Threats of intimidation and revenge were not something the police took lightly, especially when corroborated by other witnesses. As he tried to manipulate the situation to his advantage, just as he had manipulated the Bible, Michelle informed the police of his history within the Black Israelites. This moment marked the beginning of a new chapter in Faith’s life, one where she could finally seek the freedom and peace she deserved.
Our journey underscores the crushing effects of parental alienation and domestic abuse. It’s a story of struggle and resilience, of deep pain, and ultimately, of healing and redemption. As we continue to navigate this path, we remain hopeful for a future where healing and love will conquer all.
Certainly, navigating the heartache of adult child estrangement or dealing with a child who’s entangled in a cult or cult-like religion can be incredibly challenging. Here are some tips and advice:
- Stay Calm and Patient: It’s essential to approach the situation with patience and calmness. Reacting impulsively or emotionally may push your child further away.
- Educate Yourself: Learn as much as you can about the cult or cult-like religion your child is involved in. This can help you understand their perspective and potentially devise a strategy for dialogue.
- Maintain Communication: Keep the lines of communication open, even if your child is distant or unresponsive. Regularly let them know you love them and are there for them.
- Don’t Be Judgmental: Avoid criticizing or judging your child’s choices or beliefs. This will only create more barriers. Instead, try to engage in open, respectful conversations.
- Seek Professional Help: Therapists or counselors who specialize in cult deprogramming or family estrangement can provide invaluable assistance.
- Self-Care: It’s crucial to take care of your mental and physical health during this challenging time. Reach out to support groups, engage in activities you enjoy, and don’t forget to take care of your needs.