Sonya Clark, far left, with her children in their home. Photo by Sophinarath Cheang.
My mother, Sonya Clark, is forty-two years old. Born in San Diego to a navy soldier and his wife, she and her family were forced to relocate from navy housing upon her father’s retirement. My mother recalls moving to Long Beach as a four or five year old girl. She has been living here since then.
Initially getting into a career in education was really about being gainfully employed after college. “I had a big problem with being a waitress with a college degree so, through the urging of a friend of mine, I applied for a teaching position at a small private school in Los Angeles called Marcus Garvey School. I discovered that I had a real passion for teaching young people, working with their energy and inspiring them to be confident in their abilities. Teaching just seems to be a strength of mine so I just stuck with it.”
Currently unemployed, my mother previously worked at Long Beach City College as a coordinator for Project Launch. Project Launch is a student services program that supports community college students at LBCC in getting the resources they need to graduate from a two-year college in order to transfer to a four-year university. Students are offered math tutoring, academic counseling and computer lab access. Project Launch’s funding was cut in 2010 because of the recession so her position was transferred to another department at LBCC’s Liberal Arts Campus. Although she maintained employment, she found the hours of the position and the understaffed department difficult to manage. “The job started at 7:00 am but my kids wake up at 7:00 am to go to school.” The job made her home situation worse.
Eventually, she had to resign from the position and apply for unemployment. She is a single mother raising five kids. “It’s hard not having a spouse or just another grounded person there because everything is on me.” She shares with me that there is no doubt in her mind that it takes two incomes to provide what she considers to be a quality life for her children and herself. “Before resigning from my last position, I had what could be considered a pretty good income with full medical and dental benefits and yet if I had a partner who earned a comparable income, my family and I could at least rent a home with a yard and more space. Currently, I don’t even have my own room or bed. I sacrificed my personal space for my kids.”
There are other major decisions my mother has to take on a fixed budget.
“Gas is a biggie. As the price of gas rises, some days I park the car and walk my kids to school. Other days I give my kids bus money to take public transportation across town instead of burning car fuel. I’m also lucky enough to use my parents’ washer and dryer instead of the laundrymat to wash our clothes and other items.” She tells me that it gets a little nerve racking because it’s nearly impossible to have an emergency fund when emergencies come up all the time like broken vacuum cleaners, car repairs, and the list goes on.
Although there is a lot of work in her day-to-day life, my mother does certain enjoyable activities to keep herself grounded. “I really enjoy going to public museums and gazing at artwork for long moments at a time. I am a huge fan of cultural arts events. I try to go to the CSULB Native American Pow-Wow every year.” She shares with me that she found that practicing yoga continues to be an important part in her life and in maintaining her health. “I enjoy yoga, I like how it blends meditation with physical health. When you leave, you feel a greater appreciation for your body and it’s a great source of relaxation with my busy schedule.” Even though there are some hardships that people go through, there is always an outlet for all of the drama. Luckily, my mother finds many activities to, even if for a moment, get away from it all.