Antoinette White: Recounting Her Pain and Abuse to Empower Other Women
Antoinette White has experienced some rough times. She endured a childhood of extreme poverty and sexual abuse in Gary, Ind., and an early adulthood that included homelessness and a close encounter with domestic violence when her sister was killed. Today, Antoinette is an accomplished entrepreneur, empowerment coach, motivational speaker and self-published author who is dedicated to helping empower other women and girls and help them prepare for life’s sometimes turbulent journey. Her Mission to Motivate firm helps women through self-esteem rituals and resilience training while also encouraging self-forgiveness and healing from past experiences. She has traveled across the U.S., to Ghana and the Dominican Republic, and soon to South Africa, to help transform the lives of women and girls with her inspiring message about survival, self-love and life preparedness. In her book Who’s Protecting Me? she tells how she overcame the many obstacles she faced beginning in childhood. Here, Antoinette White shares her inspiring story with BeGeorgeousduring an interview with writer/editor Lynn Norment. This is the first of three parts.
BeGeorgeous: Why did you found Mission to Motivate?
Antoinette: I saw a need for victims and survivors to know they’re not alone. Whatever they have endured is not their fault. They must learn how to forgive. Forgiveness is for yourself, so it (the experience) doesn’t keep you rooted in pain and stagnation. I want women and young girls to know that their past pain doesn’t define who they can become. Working in corporate America, I also see a need to address how executives seem to be so disconnected from employees and don’t understand how low employee morale can affect the bottom line.
BeGeorgeous: You once were homeless? How did that happen?
Antoinette: I had moved from Stone Mountain, Ga., to Dale City, Va., with my toddler son and boyfriend, who became my husband. We moved in with his father and stepmother. They told us we could live with them for 30 days to save all of our money for our own place. I was working as a manager at a retail store in the mall, and my husband was working as a custodian at a local elementary school. We had to pay for daycare, a storage unit and some basic necessities. I asked the stepmother if she could extend our 30-day timeframe because we were trying to save and get our credit straight to get our own place. After living in their home for a few months, I found out I was pregnant, so we decided to get married. I think that infuriated my mother-in-law. After living there less than six months, she told us she thought we were taking advantage of her, and we had to get out. I had nofamily in the area and nowhere to go.
BeGeorgeous: What happened? What did you and your husband do?
Antoinette: My husband and I both were working minimum wage jobs. After having dinner at a homeless shelter, where he saw that I was visibly upset and didn't eat my food, he said:"Let's go. I can't have my family here." We just drove and drove because he was from another part of Virginia and didn’t know the area; eventually we found an "efficiency" hotel. I'm not sure why they called it an “efficiency,” because the refrigerator was only large enough for my son's TV dinner. I was pregnant with my second child at that time, too. I went to bed hungry many nights. We lived in that hotel for a few months until we were able to move to a brand new apartment complex. The management worked with us the entire time; we had to pay a few things off to get our credit up to par first.
BeGeorgeous: You have experienced domestic violence almost first hand. Tell us about that?
Antoinette: I am the oldest of three. My sisterHeatherand I were two years apart, and my brother Antoine is five years younger than I am. My mom taught us early on not to take crap off anyone. Heather began to date her high school sweetheart, and during one of their breakups, my sister had a son with someone else. My sister reconciled with the high school sweetheart, and they had my niece. I knew that Heather and her partner fought at times, but I didn’t worry because she knew how to fight and protect herself. Shortly afterwards, I moved to Virginia. On one godforsaken night, in the midnight hour, I got a call I thought I never would receive. All I could understand from my mom was this: “Heather is gone! Heather is gone! He killed Heather!”
I never thought his threats were real. I thought he was just a country boy talking nonsense. Prior to the incident, Heather, a mother of two, finally had mustered up enough courage to leave him. She had been planning to come to Virginia with me. He had always told her, “If you leave me, I will kill you then kill myself.” So on that dreadful night when he knew she was serious because of the promotion she had received and the new car she had purchased, he knew he was no longer needed. He took a sawed-off shotgun and blew off her face, then shot himself in front of their kids. Heather was gone at age 22.
BeGeorgeous: How did that tragedy impact you and your life?
Antoinette: I became very angry. I was mad at the world. I was mad at the boy who had killed my sister and his entire family. I stopped going to church. I began to question my faith in God. I wondered what kind of God was I serving to take my best friend away from me. What kind of God would let something so tragic happen in front of Heather’s children? I couldn’t watch any movies that had killings. I couldn’t listen to R&B songs that said, “I can’t live without you.” My sister and I had pledged we would grow old and raise our children together. A few months before she was killed, she had written me a letter stating she was ready to move to Virginia. But all of that was no more. I/we were robbed.
After the acceptance and healing began, I knew I needed to step up and help my mom. It was time for her to enjoy her life, but with Heather’s death, she had to raise children all over again. So I started off taking the kids every other summer to give my mom a break. Eventually I moved them all in with me so I could help my mom raise them. I had to forgive him for killing my sister because we had to teach my niece to love both sides of her family despite the fact that her dad killed her mom.
I had to stop asking God, “WHY?” I made peace within myself. I had to stop worrying about whether my sister made it to heaven. I realized that it is not about whether you go to church. What matters is whether you have your own personal relationship with God. Heather’s death brought us even closer together as a family. We truly learned the meaning of the proverb, “It takes a village.” WE had children to raise, and we had to raise them on forgiveness and LOVE.
BeGeorgeous: In addition to being homeless and dealing with domestic abuse through your sister’s tragic experience, you also endured sexual abuse as a child?
Antoinette: Yes, I was sexually abused by my father from age 6to 12 years old. I was abused until I finally told. I also had a couple of other attempts of abuse from my next-door neighbor in Gary and a minister in California.
BeGeorgeous: In your memoir Who’s Protecting Me? you recount how you overcame life’s obstacles since childhood. What lessons do you want your readers, other women, to take away from the book?
Antoinette: Don’t let anyone or your past pain define you. Stay determined and resilient!
Read Part 2 of Antoinette’s inspiring story next week, October 30.