“I cannot believe I’m back here” I thought as I sat on my old bed. I was about to cry when Sand came into the room with my nephew Justin in her arms and sat next to me on the bed “You okay” Sand asked? “Yeah” I said trying to keep from crying.
“What’s wrong with you now” Momma’s voice came from out-of-no-where! Sand and I jumped and turned around; Justin looked at Momma and started to cry. “Ain’t no use in sitting around looking crazy now”, “You should have kept your legs closed” Momma said nastily. “What makes you think you different from everyone else” she snapped, as she left the room.
I was now six months pregnant and my belly was really growing. Eric still had not made it to Dallas yet; but we were talking on the phone regularly. Whenever I called him in New York, his mother and sister laughed at me in the background, as they called Eric to the phone. “Errik, Errik” they mocked as they yelled for him; “She so country” I would hear his sister, Deborah chuckling to his mother in the background.
I wrote him letters and sent him Polaroid pictures of my growing belly in envelopes that I decorated with pictures that I drew and colored. Sand took the Polaroid’s of my belly in the bathroom and swore I was sending him porn; she was really getting on my nerves with that.
I applied for state assistance because Momma demanded it; she then took my monthly check and food stamps. “I got legal rights to take this, with all the trouble of you coming back” she said.
So, Eric sent me money so I would have something in my pockets. Momma seemed to hate it when Eric called; she even lied a couple of times and did not give me his phone calls.
“You really think he is coming here don’tcha” she would ask, but not wanting or needing a response. “That boy ain’t coming back for yo stupid ass” she said. “You was just another piece of tail” she laughed at me hard.
I refused to believe her about Eric, just like I refused to believe anything else she said about me.
Eric was on a bus on his way to Dallas! I was now eight months and my belly was huge; everyone thought I was having twins! I was so excited he was going to make it here before the baby was born. But Momma was not; she looked at me with this far-away look when I told her that Eric was on his way.
Corn started hanging back in my doorway and acting weirder than usual. Momma had not picked with me too much the last couple of months, but now that Eric was on his way I couldn’t do anything right; she hit me every chance she got. It felt like she hated me.
Eric arrived and Corn took me to pick him up at the Greyhound bus station. It took everything in me not to cry when I saw him; he hugged me and my big belly tight. Corn looked him up and down, as Eric hugged me; he looked jealous. We waited for his bags to be unloaded from the bus and headed back to the house.
Momma, who did not want to ride to pick Eric up, was in the den smoking and watching TV when we returned to the house. She was sitting on the couch in her regular position, leaning forward, with her legs spread wide in her lounger. “Momma, this is Eric; Eric this is my mother, Mrs. King” I said. A cigarette hung out of Momma’s mouth, as she looked up with an intense set to her jaw and said, “Hello” with a short nod of the head.
Eric stuck his hand out to shake hers “Nice to meet you” he said, but she just looked up at him. Eric looked at me, I looked at the floor. “Lord please let her be nice” I thought, just as Sand entered the den with Justin on her hip. Sand gave Eric and me a big welcoming smile.
“Eric, this is my sister Sand; Sand, this is Eric” I said. Eric smiled back at Sand. I took Eric to the dining room closet so he could put his bags away. We sat back in the den with Momma, who ignored Eric, even when he tried to hold a conversation with her.
Uncle Robert Charles and Aunt Marilyn gave Eric their blessing! “Eric is your Soul Mate” Aunt Marilyn said. “Don’t you fuck this up Joyebell” my Uncle Robert Charles told me with a smile.
Uncle Robert Charles liked Eric so much; he fussed at me for not giving Eric a napkin with his plate that evening at dinner.
“Joyebell, you need to take care of him; get the man a napkin” he said. “She takes great care of me” Eric said in my defense. Aunt Marilyn smiled at me, she liked that he defended me and I did too.
It was a done deal for me! If Uncle Robert Charles and Aunt Marilyn approved, I knew I had made the right choice!
But Momma had made up her mind too, she did not like Eric. No matter what he did, it was wrong; and she let him know how much she did not like him every chance she got. She seemed to be trying to drive him away and make him leave me; she did not like that he came back for me.
She talked ugly to him, “You ain’t shit, you ain’t no man; you just looking for a free ride” Momma would say, along with other nasty and mean things. Eric was learning firsthand what it was like to live with Momma.
I could tell he was getting tired of her mouth, but was trying to respect her for my sake; this went on a couple of weeks as Eric left out every day looking for a job.
Corn got Eric a job with him at Affiliated Foods in Haltom City; loading and unloading their trucks. I thought Momma would be happy that Eric now had a job; but that seemed to make her angrier. She went from saying a few mean things here and there, to straight out badgering him every day!
“And don’t think you gonna stay here for free” she said. She was already plotting on his paycheck. “You gonna have to give me $200 a week to stay here” Momma said.
“We would never be able to move, if I give you that much money” Eric countered, the day she made her demand for his money.
“Then you can get the fuck out” she yelled in his face; “And Joye ain’t going nowhere with you when you leave” Momma said as, she looked at me!
“The hell I’m not” I thought! My heart was racing as my ears started to pound. I could tell Eric was done! He was so over my mother. Next thing I know Eric is yelling at Momma!
“I am a grown man and you cannot talk to me like this” he yelled! Momma shifted her weight to her right hip and slide her left foot out; while simultaneously placing her hand on her hip. “I already am” she countered.
Eric stepped closer “Then don’t talk to me at all until you can act like a grown woman with some sense” Eric said.
“Daddy!” I yelled for Corn. Momma’s mouth fell open and closed quickly as her lips pulled tight across her teeth.
Momma turned like she was walking away and then quickly turned back with a full swing at Eric, but he dogged her blow. Corn rushed into the room and pulled Momma back as Eric and I left the house and started walking up Carl Street.
He walked so hard and fast that my lower stomach was hurting by the time we made it to the Rocket Slide, where we sat and talked for a couple of hours. Eric was my HERO! I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would always protect me; no matter what.
It had been almost a week now and Momma had not retaliated yet; but since I knew it was coming, I was hoping we could save enough money to move before it happened.
“Do you see any apartments we can afford” I asked Eric, as we sat at the kitchen table looking through the paper; planning our move. I sat at one end of the table and Eric at the other, closest to the bathroom hallway with his back against the wall.
Momma entered the kitchen and Eric and I stopped talking about apartments and switched the conversation.
Momma went to the sink and then turned around and walked past me like she was going to the refrigerator, but just as she passed me I saw her weight shift and I tried to get up from my seat, but she was faster than me and my big belly.
‘Whomp’ is the sound I heard as I grabbed for my face, then flashing lights; followed by a severe throb!
Eric jumped up from his seat as Momma high tailed it out of the kitchen. Eric ran around the table to me and pulled me close, as I cried.
Eric called a cab as we quickly packed our things and temporarily moved three streets over to the local motel, the Mi Amor.
Eric continued to go to work with Corn and I hung around the hotel. I was standing at the sink washing our clothes when I heard a knock at the door. I peeped through the key hole… Sand! It was my sister Sand! We hugged and kissed; she bent down and picked up a huge black trash bag and drug it into the room.
“What’s this” I asked as she pulled the bag in. “Look and see” she beamed! I opened the bag and it was filled with food; canned goods galore, lunch meats, bread and a can opener! She even brought me Momma’s electric griddle so Eric and I could cook a hot meal in the room. I loved her so much; she ALWAYS had my back.
We lived at the motel for about two more weeks. I was due anytime now and grandma Bertha did not want me at the motel by myself during the day. Grandma had Eric and I move in with her and daddy Presley until I had the baby. Adonis was soon born! He was so beautiful, I felt like I had accomplished something really great; as I looked into his little face, as he breast fed.
Eric no longer wanted to be dependent on Corn to get to work, so we moved to an extended hotel with a kitchen, in Haltom City, TX where Affiliated Foods was located. We lived there almost a year until we moved into a one bedroom apartment.
Two years had passed. Eric and I were happy! Adonis was a healthy, happy little boy; and Eric and I still loved each other more than anything else. We were now recently living in Richmond Virginia.
Eric’s brother Mark said he could get Eric a job at the Post Office where he worked; even though that did not work out, we stayed in Richmond.
Six years later I had another child, my beautiful daughter Tylor; and three years after that, I became pregnant with my handsome youngest son Lynden.
Sand moved to Richmond pregnant with my niece Sierra, at the same time I was pregnant with Lynden. Sand had been struggling and moved to Richmond for help and a fresh start.
By 1996 I was ready to make my dream of being a singer come true! I had been singing regularly at Saint Paul’s Baptist Church with the Gospel Creations, Women’s and Combined choirs. I had learned so much about myself singing in those choirs and through Pastor Lance Watson’s sermon that year on “Making Your Move” and was ready to step out on faith.
I entered the Showtime at the Apollo contest; Steve Harvey was the host. I was shaking in my heels backstage. I was in the middle of telling myself “You been through scarier things than this, get a grip,” when the stage attendant touched me. I jumped and looked at her.
“Time to go” she said. I walked out on the stage as my heart slammed in my chest. I opened my mouth and it happened! I performed on “It’s Showtime at the Apollo!”
I will never forget Steve Harvey yelling “Grown folk” when I first walked out and “Lawd have mercy” when it was voting time. He was funny and nice, Keke Sheppard was great too!
She gently held my back and pushed me forward when I had zoned out with a bad case of the nerves at the end of the competition because I had tied with this artist that Steve kept calling “The Masta Pressa”. Steve called my name to step forward for the audience to decide the tie vote. I won! I was so proud of myself! Eric was too!
I lost the second time I went back to compete. I was crushed! Eric pulled me close in the back parking lot area of the Apollo and lifted my chin. “Don’t you lose hope” he said, as I stood there crying.
“Look up at the sky. You see all of those stars” Eric asked? I nodded my head “Yes”. “They all are big beautiful stars, some look bigger than others, but they all are big and beautiful” he said.
“The bigger stars are only bigger because they are closer on their path to us than the others” Eric continued. “Be patient, your time will come when God has everything in place.” “Your star is just as big as the other stars, just wait your turn” Eric said, as he pulled me into his chest and wiped my face.
I calmed down; as he and all of our family and friends, who lived in and traveled to New York for the show, went out to eat together.
After Showtime at the Apollo, I came back to Richmond more determined. I had a dream about a choir singing a song; I woke up at 3 am and and wrote it down. I got up later that morning, gathered up my babies and headed to McDonalds.
I fed them breakfast and set them loose in the playroom; while they played I wrote my first song, ‘Project Butterfly’. Also about this same time my niece Sierra came to live with me when she was three years old. Eric and I now had four beautiful children to raise and he never complained once. He had only initially asked “What happened?”
I was on fire now! Songs were coming to me left and right; and before writing ‘Project Butterfly’ I had never written a song before.
Eric and I worked in the blind, but figured it out somehow and before I knew it, I had co-written and co-produced my first album Project Butterfly.
Lance Dickerson, a local jazz musician I met through church, wrote the music to the songs I had created and then we went to the studio to record them.
Wayne Sykorskey, owner of the studio where we recorded really liked what we were doing and called his friend Jim Bonnefond to listen.
Jim liked it and flew into Richmond to professionally produce Project Butterfly! Jim Bonnefond had produced ‘Kool and the Gang and David Ruffin’; I felt blessed!
Next I was referred to and soon met the man with the baddest mix game in Richmond; Spade of Rythym Shack Studio. By the time I got to Spade, I had exhausted my budget. I only had enough cash left for one session with him. I paid him the last I had.
When he tried to book me for the next day; I told him my budget was gone and that I would have to come in on my pay days. He was like “Naw, you ain’t gotta do that’.
Spade blessed me by letting me finish the album and make payments to him every payday, until I had paid the bill off for Project Butterfly.
I would get off work, go home, feed the kids, get them into bed, take a short nap and then go to Spades at 10 pm; after his other clients were finished recording.
I stayed in the studio until 4 AM, went home and got ready to go to work; and then did it all over again. I did that for two weeks.
Spade is a direct man and had a rep for being tough and he was not to be played with. But Spade was very nurturing towards me, he took me by the hand and taught me how to listen for the mix and that they had their own personalities.
He then mastered it for me and I was proud and blessed to say it was a professional product. I will forever be grateful to Spade. I now had my first album!
Eric and my cousin Gina were my managers, Eric’s sister Deborah was my booking agent and Eric’s brothers Mark and Bruce, along with Mark Harrison and Carrington Henderson from VA Beach were the Moore Music Ministries team; including me as administration and booking as Lisa.
It was hard being Lisa, Moore Music Ministries’ secretary and hearing some of the not so nice things that were said ‘to me, about me’, as I worked to get radio play and book myself.
“She’s too secular” “She’s too gospel” “She’s too old”; I heard it all. We knew nothing in the beginning about the business, but we worked hard and created a significant presence; while maintaining our 9 to 5’s.
I was finally getting us booked to sing regularly at churches, the album had multiple radio rotations, booked and played BET, TV One, The Word Network and had three songs playing on the Gospel Music Channel.
After about two years of pushing, W.E.A. (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Group) picked us up for distribution and sent us out on a radio promo tour.
I was excited and scared to death! Sand agreed to watch the kids while Eric and I went on the tour. Thank God because if she had not, I could not and would not have gone out on the tour.
I was ill at the thought of leaving the children with someone other than Sand. I never let them spend the night at other kid’s houses for fear someone might touch them; so to think of not being in the same state as them and them far away with someone else was unthinkable.
I was even afraid to let them go and visit family out of town; so I was glad when Sand said she could do it.
Six weeks into the promo tour everything came to a halt when Sand could no longer watch Adonis, Tylor, Lynden and Sierra.
So I came off the road and back home. I was devastated and scared that I would never get another chance, but had no other choice.
“God, please preserve your gift and me, until the children are grown and I can try again” I prayed.