Copyright © Sal Vance 2014.
Chapter 1. I Am
I wake up every morning wondering what life would have been like if I had a somewhat normal childhood, a somewhat normal adolescence, or just a stable environment period.
I was brought up with none of the above. As human beings, we are equipped with survival skills to be strong in order to survive.
My name is Salahudin Harun Vance, and I was born in Philadelphia, PA. It was always a struggle growing up in my house. I was the fifth out of six children in the family. My mother, Barbara Vance, was a strong woman; she was a little over the top at times, but she was strong. Being raised by my mother showed me the true meaning of loving someone unconditionally; loving “thy mother and thy father” no matter if they show you love or not.
Thinking back, I don’t remember ever hearing the words “I love you” from my mother until I was roughly 18 years old. I used to think that my mother hated the sight of me because I looked so much like her.
Getting beaten and tortured as a child gave me many nightmares growing up. My mother would always say “if you ever call child protective services on me I will kill you.” After witnessing my mother shoot my younger brother’s father, I believed every word. The thought of telling anyone about the abuse never crossed my mind after that fear that was instilled in me. Abuse in my family was a common occurrence; if you did not do the dishes right when you were told, you got lashes with an extension cord on your bottom and, if she missed, sometimes on your back. There would always be exactly 25 lashes. She would even make us count out the lashes as she gave them to us. My mother would make us lay on the bed as she gave us lashes on our backs and our butts, but then sometimes she would make us stand up and touch our toes. I think that she would come up with a different scheme every time to abuse us more, not even caring about what it would do to our psyches.
I recall one memory vividly. My mother handcuffed my older brother to the stairwell and stripped him naked. She then proceeded to lash him down his back and body until he couldn’t take it anymore. He tore the wooden bar from the stairwell and ran down the street naked to a neighbor who took him in for a day. Unfortunately that was not the end of it. When he came back home, my mother proceeded to repeat the same punishment but she handcuffed him to the strongest post on the stairs so he would not be able to break away again. All in all that was one of the most horrific moments that traumatized me the most.
My mother would also have these spurts of butt whipping tactics in which she would end our whipping with a “run past.” As we would run past her after our whipping, she would whip us one last time. I don’t know why she would do that. She never gave us any leeway. She would even tell us to run down the stairs at times and would miss our butts and whip us in the neck or face. One time she told me to run past her down the stair after a butt whipping. I faked my first attempt and literally cleared the whole staircase from the second floor to the first floor using the bottom of the staircase to brace my fall. After I cleared the stairs I started to look at myself as having athletic ability and began to think that maybe I would someday be a good athlete.
Growing up, all I used to do was either stay at home and watch cartoons or be out with my friends throwing rocks, dirt balls, or whatever we could find at cans and abandoned buildings.
I was tall and lanky with buckteeth and no confidence or coordination of any kind. Between the ages of 1-14, I was constantly being abused by my mother. I think that a lot of the abuse that was given was a result of the frustration she felt having to raise a family of 6 by herself. My father is incarcerated for life in prison because of a murder conviction, so she had no choice but to raise us on her own.
My mom used to work odd jobs all of the time to try and support the family. Her frustration would take its toll and more abuse would be heaped on us. Growing up, I didn’t know what my mother had to do to put food on the table for all of us. I would see my mom having different boyfriends all the time. These guys were trying to make friends with us and fit in. I would always wonder: was my mother just putting up with these guys because they sometimes brought us food or helped out with a few bills? Or did she really like them?
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