Brown-skinned woman smiles at the camera with a book on her lap; a magenta graphic reads
Pass the Mic: Kaelah Jordan


(Above) An avid reader and self-proclaimed nerd, Kaelah loves the library at Sojourner Place at Oliver. 

I have a catch phrase in my family that, apparently, I’ve been saying since I was little: “I’ll do it myself.”

I'm fiercely independent. It's kind of irritating to people that care about me because they know, even in times when I really need it, I will not ask for help. I will try my best to exhaust all my resources and skill sets first.

In school, I was a huge nerd. I still am to this day. Most of the kids were interested in playing outside, making up silly games, cartoons, things like that. I was more interested in how things work and spirituality. Pocahontas “Colors of the Wind” stole my soul. That’s how I always felt – everything has a life, has a spirit. Discovery Channel, The History Channel and Nat Geo were my jams. I got in trouble because I would take apart my mom’s click pens and the remotes. I would deconstruct them and try to reconstruct them. I had a genuine, deep curiosity.

My mom is from Compton, California and my dad is from Brooklyn, New York. He’s Puerto Rican and Black. And on my mom’s side of the family, we are East Indian, Cherokee, Italian, Southeast Asian. A melting pot of so many different ethnic groups.

Growing up in Northwest Baltimore, Park Heights in Belvedere, I got picked on a lot with people not being able to tell what my ethnic group was—and I kind of sounded like Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I definitely faced a lot, which is why my mom put me in martial arts at age four.

My mom moved around a lot. She was sickly, so I had to be the strong one, the shoulder that she can cry on. She would end up in the hospital, lose her job and there went the income. The lights got cut so many times, I got used to using camping lanterns and playing Uno by candlelight. I was very lonely. And I faced a lot of abuse – mental, emotional, sexual, physical. I learned very quickly not to trust people.

At age 15, I started hanging out with the Goths downtown. Big love to the alternative. They really taught me how to appreciate myself. We had a saying, “But did you die though?” So when I got hit with things, that was my outlook. I have another day to try again to allow for something more positive to happen.

As an adult, I met people that were there for me. I was able to repair the relationship with my mom. I was able to settle with the fact that I won’t have a relationship with my dad. My best friend, Bryanna, is super dope and one of the sweetest people in the world. My little sister, Taylor. And my kids.

When I had my kids, it was like “Okay, I gotta shift gears.” I can’t keep exposing myself to abusive situations. My oldest daughter was a non-consensual conception. Her father was cruel.

When I finally got out of that situation, it was hard to emotionally and psychologically rectify that. Something in me said, “The best revenge you can have is to have this baby and let her grow up to be somebody great.” And that’s what I’m doing.

I struggled for a long time, different centers, different shelters, different people's houses. I bounced around for years until I finally got disability for my mental illnesses.

I’m an overprotective mother, because I look at them and see that little girl that wasn’t protected. I had to go to therapy, I quit smoking, I quit drinking, I changed my eating habits.

My therapist was the one person who really helped me look at things from a different perspective.

That helped me get out of that victim mentality and realize that I could do this despite the challenges I have sometimes with my mental illness. I can be a great mom. I can be a mentor. I can handle my business. I can inspire other people that are going through the same things. Those same people that are being told every day “You can’t.” And now my thing is ******* watch me.

I was robbed of my childhood, and I see that in my community. Look around. Our rec centers and resource centers have been taken. A lot of those outreach programs for young adults or even smaller children are gone. And there are a lot of people bringing their unhealed trauma into the work environment. Kids of color are getting wrecked in the system. My dream is to create a children’s sanctuary – where we have self-sustainable gardens, mental health workers, a safe place to go.

Can you imagine the world that we can bring to fruition? Awesome people, raising little awesome people and sending them into the world with resources, love and a sense of belonging—no matter what pronouns they go by, how they want to dress or what color they are.

“Pass the Mic” is a storytelling space featuring the voices and stories of people with a lived experience of homelessness.

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