WALK LIKE YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO GO
From Mental Welfare to Mental Wealth
By Lucille O’Neal; Foreword by Shaquille O’Neal
“Because my mom was just a teenager when I was born, we supported each other as we both grew and evolved over the years…We never saw her down…and she balanced our lives, as well as her own, with the precision of a well-skilled neurosurgeon. She certainly kept me away from the lure of drug dealers in our neighborhood and off street corners as a young man…Through it all, she’s never let me give up on myself, even when things seemed the most hopeless. — Shaquille O’Neal
Lucille O’Neal is the mother of one of professional sports’ most beloved stars, Shaquille O’Neal. Fans around the country were introduced to O’Neal as Shaq’s mom in the mid 90’s during a commercial for Robitussin’s “Dr. Mom” campaign, in which she held a photograph of her famous son and one of his size 22 shoes. Witnessing her eldest child soar to inconceivable success and stardom is a source of tremendous pride for Lucille, particularly because there was a great deal of disappointment, shame and secrecy surrounding her giving birth to a baby boy whom everyone around the world would come to know as “Shaq”.
In WALK LIKE YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO GO: From Mental Welfare to Mental Wealth, Lucille describes how her faith, even when she did not fully comprehend or realize it, ultimately gave her the strength to endure some of the darkest, most challenging periods in her life.
From being an unwed teen mother and creating a stable home for her children, at times with the help of public assistance; to coping with her unexpected feelings of anger and resentment towards her son’s blinding success; to battling alcohol addiction; to making the painful decision to end a marriage of nearly 30 years, Lucille opens up about the behind-the-scenes personal dramas and triumphs which have made her the determined, compassionate and resilient woman she is today. “What’s most important to me is that young women today know they shouldn’t doubt God or their own abilities. It is important for me to talk to them about this because I doubted both for so long, and I lost a lot of valuable time questioning my self-worth,” says Lucille. “If I am able to prevent just one young person from having to spend any of her precious time or life wondering if she matters, I will have done my job.”
At 12 years old, Lucille was already six feet tall and a lanky 95 lbs. Feeling awkward and unloved, lacking self-esteem, and dealing with instability at home, Lucille sought refuge from her troubles by partying and drinking with friends. Despite a strict Christian upbringing, her rebellious behavior led to Lucille nearly landing in a juvenile detention center. By the time she was 17, Lucille had met a college boy whom she thought loved and connected with her in a way that she’d been missing. Several months into the relationship, the teenager discovered that she was pregnant. The relationship eventually came to an end three months after the birth of their son, with her boyfriend not wanting to be a father.
Once Shaquille was born, the 18-year-old mother took full responsibility for her son, as she sought to get a job in order to get off public assistance. Standing at a towering 6’2”, Lucille O’Neal finally started to feel more confident in herself as a woman and new mother. She soon met and married Philip Harrison, a union that would forever change the course of Lucille’s life. Although Phil was a military man whose assignments took their growing family around the world, it was still difficult to make ends meet, with the Harrisons having to depend on food stamps at times just to eat. Lucille strived to be the best wife and mother but in the process, she began to lose herself. In an effort to guide readers through her life, Lucille combines stories of her childhood, young adult years, and womanhood with inspirational thoughts and Biblical verses that have shaped and aided her as she untangled a lifetime of profound insecurity and self-doubt.
WALK LIKE YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO GO speaks to women of all ages who have struggled to understand how she fits into the world. Lucille courageously tells the deeply personal, at times heartbreaking, journey of the girl who experienced the pain of being an outcast and the stigma surrounding being an unwed teen mother. Yet, in due course, that same girl evolved into a woman of immeasurable substance, faith and spirit…and with no regrets. Says Lucille, also lovingly referred to as Big Lou: “These days, when I go to bed at night, I sleep on the sheets of satisfaction, the pillows of peace, and the cushions of confidence…I am rich in so many ways that have nothing to do with money, which only serves to explain the happiness I have regarding my mental wealth today.”
Excerpt: Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go
Chapter Three — Man About Town
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. – Psalm 112:4 (ESV)
My grandparents, Cillar (Mama) and Hilton O’Neal (Papa), were like a wrestling tag team in my life and in the lives of all my relatives and anyone else who knew them. They could deliver a serious one-two punch that could blindside you and knock you out before you ever knew what hit you. Although they worked quite effectively as a pair, it was without a doubt my grandfather’s hovering presence that kept us all honest and on track. To know Hilton O’Neal was to respect him. He was a man who carried himself with a purpose and a plan no matter where he was. A physically striking man at a little over six feet tall, his deep, dark, chocolate complexion was as smooth as a newborn baby’s skin, and boy, could he dress. Spectator shoes, perfectly pressed zoot suits, and fedora hats were his signature pieces, and he wore them with style and pride. My grandfather was one bad brother!
As a child, I viewed my grandfather with both awe and fear, never fully comprehending what it must have been like to be a black man full of confidence and swagger in those trying days. This was a time when African Americans were considered less than human, attacked by police dogs, and forced to sit in the back of the bus. Looking his best was the one way he could consistently show the world that he was a proud, full-fledged human being-no matter if the law disagreed. Many African-American males did the same during that time in an attempt to prove to the outside world that they were worthy of respect. It saddens me to see many of our young men today dress so sloppily, with sagging pants and an overall unkempt appearance. I often wonder if they truly understand how their ancestors, like my grandfather, took so much pride in looking their best and what it meant to them to be viewed as respected citizens. Presenting a well-kept look afforded them the chance to be at least recognized in a world where they were often dismissed.
My grandfather also had other talents that went against the grain of what African Americans were supposed to be capable of doing in those days. Though he worked in construction during the day, laying bricks and drywalling alongside his brothers and other family members, he had a sharp mind for business and owned several properties, even a neighborhood tavern and bar. His keen business savvy meant there was always food on our table and that we never went without-even during the days of profuse poverty for blacks. While my grandfather was too humble to talk about his own endeavors or his advanced entrepreneurial skills, his middle brother, Chappell, enjoyed nothing more than sitting in a big chair and detailing the early exploits of the O’Neal family for hours on end. “Uncle Chap,” as we affectionately called him, was the self-appointed griot (African storyteller) of the family, and while his tales kept us quite entertained, we weren’t always certain they were completely true.
Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go by Lucille O’Neal
Excerpted from Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go by Lucille O’Neal Allison Samuels Copyright © 2010 by Lucille O’Neal. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Lucille O’Neal is the President of the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, Inc. and the Southeast Director of the Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund. She has appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, Live with Regis and Kelly, Good Morning America, and The View.
Lucille returned to school as a woman in her 40’s to earn a bachelors degree in business administration at Bethune-Cookman University and a masters degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. She is the mother of four children and 14 grandchildren.
Allison Samuels is an award-winning Newsweek national correspondent who has been with the publication since 1996. Samuels is the author of Off The Record (Amistad/HarperCollins), which details the behind-the-scenes stories of her interviews with celebrities such as Denzel Washington, Kobe Bryant, Halle Berry, Michael Jordan and Bill Cosby. Her first book Christmas Soul (Jump At the Sun/Disney) was released in 2003. Samuels has been a frequent contributor to National Public Radio, CNN, MSNBC, and many others.
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