A Letter to my Younger Self: Ohavia Phillips

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Ohavia Phillips has made a name for herself locally and internationally as a media personality.

Known for her Afro-inspired dance moves and her big smile, the 29-year-old Brooklyn, New York, native looks to inspire anyone she connects with through positive affirmations.

She has been a successful content creator, media figure and Emcee, as well as the host of her own talk show, “The Oh Show,” which she has hosted live at Blumenthal Performing Arts and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

She has interviewed big names including inspirational speaker Eric “ET” Thomas and Stacey Abrams, a well-known politician and lawyer.

Though her success continues, she has a past that has led her to where she is today.

Today, she tells her story through a letter to her younger self.

Photo: Daija Peeler for QCity Metro

Dear, young Oh, 

I know you are wondering how life could have changed so quickly. You’re only 15, but this next stage in your life will surely make you stronger.

The summer of 2009 is a defining moment in your life. School is almost out, and your time in middle school is almost complete. Most graduating eighth graders are spending their summer preparing for high school, but God has other plans for you.

Things had just seemed to feel normal again after mom and dad moved you and your four siblings to Charlotte from Brooklyn, New York. But then again, things were never truly normal. Mom and dad always fought, but you never thought anything of it. I mean, what couples don’t? But one day, Dad tried his luck and the abuse turned physical. 

Maybe things would return back to normal, like they always had, but when you came home from school that day and all your personal belongings were in trash bags, you knew something was different.

Mom had had enough and knew it was time to go. You may not understand it now, but mom did this for your good.

Moving to a domestic violence shelter was hard. How could anyone expect a 15-year-old girl to go from a 4-bedroom house with a big backyard and her own room to sharing a room no bigger than one fit for a college dorm with your mom, three brothers and sister?

How do you go from having your own bed to sharing one of three twin-sized beds with your little brother?

Those pale blue walls and the stained windows only match the tears that flow down your face on a nightly basis. 

Sleeping in a bed provides no warmth without covers. You use a pillow without a pillowcase, which provides little comfort to escape in your sleep. 

That room feels so cold physically, but emotionally you can feel the hopelessness and despair left behind by previous families that had to endure similar situations. 

 I know that you feel helpless, but this situation will not define you. 

What I need you to do is look at the brighter side and how strong you are becoming. 

Mom is trying her best to work. As a registered nurse, this woman is working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m every single day. 

She has to take care of people all day just to take care of five kids waiting for her at the shelter.

She was and is a fighter. 

You are the oldest of the bunch, so she must leave you to take care of your 13-year-old sister and three brothers who are only 11, 4 and 2. 

While it may seem difficult, these are the moments that will made you a leader. Though you are scared, you put on a brave face for your siblings. Though you are sad, you show them that your smile is still there. Even though you are worried, you show them that there is always hope for things to get better.

The boys don’t fully understand the situation. Honestly, they think the family is there just as a getaway. And that’s totally fine; it’s better that they think that way in this difficult situation.

Keep them engaged. Enjoy those countless hours playing outside or pretending to be a talk show host with them as your pretend audience. 

Luckily, we have a small TV in the room to pass the time. Nick Jr provides them the perfect escape from our harsh reality.

A teenage girl is supposed to be out at the mall and going on trips with her friends during the summer, but instead, you are having to take care of your siblings. It’s ok. I’m proud of you for stepping up and making sure they were ok. 

Mom never asked you to do that, but you took on the responsibility to make them feel safe.

I know you may feel too weak to act strong, but you will persevere.

This trial will make you stronger and inspire your dreams. 

Some days may get tough. If you need to escape, go in the bathroom, sit on the grey, stained floor, lean on the tub.

Cry if you must. While you can’t escape those walls, use your imagination to soar beyond them. Your dreams will keep you alive.  

Justin Timberlake’s “FutureSex/LoveSounds” album is always on repeat. His music and dancing inspire you. Use it now more than ever to bring hope. Enough hope to imagine yourself out of this place, without bars on the windows, without locks on every door, without the cold temperatures, not from the outside but from the broken hearts of women and families on the inside.

Imagine a home. 

Let this place fuel you. Little do you know what God has planned for your future.

Broken crayons still color, and what you will color someday will be vibrant and free.

 So, do not allow this space and time to hold you back; let it inspire you to get out and stay out through your creativity.

Manifestation will become a mantra in your life, but it all started with your mom.

Our case worker said most families spend a year in the domestic violence shelter before getting out, but mom wasn’t going for that. She told them that all she needed was three months, and he laughed at her.

But after all those long days and nights, she will prove them wrong. We will move out in three months into our new home in north Charlotte.

You and the family will finally have a safe place — no abuse, no anxiety, just a safe space. A place you will call home.

Though there will days where you reflect back on your time in the shelter, don’t be captive in that moment.

While you may get a new physical home, remember that home is where the heart is. So your home is your heart. Keep your heart. Keep imagining, keep creating and keep believing.

And even in this present moment, you will have an opportunity to share this story for someone going through it or who will.

One day you will create freely at an address that is safe and sound. But in the meantime, these next three months will allow you to recognize that this trial is not forever.

 It will not make you less of a creative, less of the mogul you wanna be, and it will be one heck of a story you will share one day.

Photo credit: Daija Peeler of QCity Metro

Edited by Jalon Hill.

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