Interview with Lucille O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal’s mother

23 Jul

Lucille O’Neal was born into a Christian home in Dublin, GA. She spent her childhood, adolescent years and early adulthood in the Central Ward of Newark, New Jersey. She often speaks of the spiritual foundation and lessons taught by her mother and grandmother as the source of her courage and inspiration for parenting. Lucille refers to them as two of the most humble and strong women she has ever known. As an active mother in the lives of her four adult children and a grandmother of fourteen, she takes her role of parenting and grand parenting very seriously!

In 1992 Lucille and her family moved to Florida where she contributed to the development of the SHAQ NETWORK as the Chief Operations Officer. She managed the day-to-day operations of the first official Shaquille O’Neal Fan Club until October 2003. In addition to the duties in her son’s organization, Lucille co-founded the Mother’s of Professional Basketball Players (MPBP) and served four years as executive secretary (1996-2000).

She was very instrumental in the leadership and development of the organization’s goals and objectives. The MPBP was created to provide support to mothers whose sons and daughters were currently playing or had played in the National Basketball Association and the Women’s National Basketball Association. Since the organization’s inception the MPBP has endeavored to support the communities represented by the players and their mothers. Today she serves as the current President of this restructured organization; The Mother’s of Professional Basketball Players, Inc.

Lucille’s gratitude to God for His mercy, grace and abundant blessing on the lives of her family has motivated her passion to help others that are less fortunate. Her sincerity is evidenced by her involvement in numerous youth oriented and community projects. Lucille’s straightforward attitude and ability to adapt to any situation has equipped her with a tireless ability to serve. Whether chairing fundraising events like “Shaq’s Mama Said Knock You Out!” (an annual premier event featuring a variety of celebrity hosts, including Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Dennis Scott, to benefit The Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund; named in memory of her Mother) or rolling up her sleeves to assist other organizations at the grass roots level, Lucille gives her all for the cause.

As a newly appointed Board Member of Orlando’s Ovarian Cancer Alliance and a new member of MD Anderson’s Council of Governors, it is evident that her commitment and devotion to others is conveyed through her extraordinary volunteer efforts (past and present) and her involvement with numerous charitable organizations. Lucille’s dedication to diverse causes underscores her heart for humanity. She has made countless contributions to various charities and continues to be an inspiration to many people, young and old.

After 30 years of raising two sons and two daughters, Lucille resumed her studies in an Adult Education Program at Bethune-Cookman University where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration (June 2003). Most recently she completed her graduate program (Master of Arts in Organizational Management) at the University of Phoenix (March 2005).

BPM:  What makes you powerful as a person, mother and a writer?
I believe the things that make me powerful as a person, mother and a writer is the fact that I lived the things I write about in my book! Today I know who I am and I know what I am capable of. As you read the details in my book and it tells about portions of my life, it is clear that the story could have been anyone’s; however, in “Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go” it tells my personal story. I learned throughout the years that sometime situations remain the same and the only thing that possibly changes is the name. In my case it a powerful thing to know that I can walk it just like I talk it today! I live the life I speak about and the publishing world calls it a memoir but I call it a testimony.

BPM: Who are your mentors? Where do you find your inspiration?
My first mentor was my mother Odessa Chambliss who passed away in April 1996. She was the main one that helped me to see the good in every person. Next to her was my grandmother Cillar O’Neal and our Pastor, Iola Hartsfield. Although I did not know they were teaching me life lessons, I never forgot the things these women taught me about being a young lady and being a proud individual. Because of the spiritual instructions these women gave me a long time ago I have a foundation in the church. My relationship with God today allows me to want to continue to grow and mature in the ministry. My mentors today are the Mothers at my church and the First Lady. They pray for me and encourage me to keep on trusting in God while I am in this special place in my life. In addition to that, I get daily inspiration from bible scriptures and prayers which is what I use to encourage myself and start my days. In my home I keep positive plaques, photos, cards and anything that gives a positive message in eyesight. My favorite plaque that inspires me says, “This is the day that the Lord has made…don’t mess it up!”

Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go
Lucille O’Neal (Author), Shaquille O’ Neal (Foreword)
and Allison Samuels (Collaborator)

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 in her memoir, WALK LIKE YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO GO, 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.”

BPM: Introduce us to the primary message(s) in your book. What genre is it?
To be honest there is more than one message, but the primary message I want to give and which allows me to share with the readers one very important fact; it is that we have all that we need within us to strive on a daily basis and live a fruitful life! That mental wealth state of mind I talk about in the book is a place where we all could be. Happiness does not primarily come from others it is ultimately coming from within all of us. This book could fit into more than one category but I know that it fits well into the faith based genre since I call it my testimony.

BPM: Share with us a few life enhancing sections from the book.
In the book I talk about two periods in my life when my faith was tested. Throughout these ordeals I learned how to depend on God for strength. He allowed me to experience peace in the midst of a personal storm both time. When I talk about it now it may sound like it was easy for me but it was a battle every day to keep my wits about me. There were days when I really thought I would break down…but God! Another instance was when I was able to see my dream of going to college become a reality! Not only did I finish and accomplish a long time goal but I was able to achieve more than I ever imagined. I encourage young people today to dream big and set no limits! My life has been enhanced just by having to experience certain hardships and to look at me today you would never know that because I keep a smile on my face.

BPM: What motivated you to publish this book now?
This has been one of my life long goals also and we all have a story inside of us. For the past 18 years the public has known me as Shaq’s Mama and I do not mind letting everybody know that I have four children (Shaquille, Lateefah, Ayesha and Jamal) and 14 grandchildren. My babies encouraged me to write the book and Shaquille especially helped me along with Allison Samuels who worked along side me and guided me through the entire process. She is a true Godsend and helped me bring my story to life so the readers could understand it.

BPM: Who should read this book and why?
I think everyone can definitely take something away from this book. Men, women, young people and anyone truly looking to find themselves. There is a message for everyone in my life story. But that said, I do feel women of all ages will be able to relate the most to my journey. Becoming a mother at such a young age is something that happens everyday and many young women feel so alone when this happens. I felt that same way at certain points before and after Shaquille was born, so this book, I hope, really speaks to women who feel that there’s no way out of a situation they’re in at the moment. I want to inspire them to keep on going because it does gets better.

BPM: What issues in today’s society do you address in the book?
A few issues that were swept under the rug during my childhood are still going strong in this time period. Teen pregnancy, low self esteem, alcoholism, and divorce are all topics people deal with today and often just need to hear that others have fought the same battles and won. Teen pregnancy is a subject close to my heart because so many young girls face it and really need inspiration to keep on moving forward. That’s why it was so important to write the book because I had faced so many obstacles that I know other people face as well.

BPM: What impact will this book have on the community of readers?
That’s a tough question because I can only say what impact I hope it will have and that is the attitude of never giving up no matter how hard times may be. We as a community have experienced some truly difficult times for decades and it is so easy to give in to the negativity and heartbreak of our collective past. I’d like to think that my book shares with readers the meaning of hope, determination and patience. I fought so many demons over the years and it was only through the love of my family and the conviction of my faith that I was truly able to overcome and ultimately believe in myself. Our community has to do the same. Rely on the only thing our ancestors had to get them by—love and faith.

BPM:  What message in your book do you want readers to share with others?
As I mentioned, the main message is hope and I’d love for readers to pass that on to anyone they can. The importance of hope and determination can’t be overstated at any point and it’s so wonderful when we can inspire each other. You never know when just your words will change a person’s mood or perspective.

BPM: Before we end the interview, define SUCCESS. What part does GRATITUDE play in achieving success, in your opinion?
Success is feeling secure in yourself and the decisions you’ve made in your life. Success is being satisfied with who you are and how you treat others. That’s how I define success for me. Gratitude is being thankful for every blessing, every kind word and everyone in your life that you love and loves you back. Gratitude is waking up everyday and thanking God for another chance to do something good in his name.

Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go by Lucille O’Neal
ISBN-10: 159555307X   |   ISBN-13: 978-1595553072

Read a preview from the book here.

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