I created a self-defense program, Kickbox & Kickbutt, in 2006 to empower females to be victors, not victims. Teaching safety tips, preventive measures, and self-defense techniques helped my clients tremendously. But what I found even more awe inspiring was the positive reaction I got when I shared my story of overcoming devastating obstacles in my life; sharing my story really helped empower the females even more. Therefore, I decided it was time to put pen to paper and put my story into book form.
Killing of Innocence is the name of my upcoming book. It tells of the brutal saga of the day-to-day life in a tight-knit Mafia organization through my eyes—a young, black girl. Jake Stein, who fell in love with my mother, Janet, adopted me when I was a baby. Jake, was a member of the Philadelphia Italian Mafia during the 60’s and 70’s. I had a very special bond with Jake. I was his heart, and he loved me as if I was his flesh and blood.
When other little girls were playing with dolls, jumping rope, and playing jacks, I was learning all about drugs, racketeering, bootlegging, extortion, and murder. At age nine, I witnessed my first Mob hit when Jake whacked my “Uncle Joey,” one evening in an alley. Despite witnessing my ‘dad’ gun down a man in cold blood, which resulted in me developing a stomach ulcer from the reoccurring nightmares, my love for Jake never changed. Jake had taught me the ‘code of silence,’ so I kept my mouth shut, telling no one of the incident, not even my mother.
When my brother Rob and I were almost killed in a Mafia shootout my mother, who was fed up with the Mafia lifestyle, left Jake. But even after my mother separated from Jake our bond remained closer than ever. I’d often skip school to be near Jake, who took me under his wing as a little, female “wiseguy.” I graduated to learning how to fight and how to shoot guns. But despite the fact that I grew up fast and dealt with many things no little girl should ever have to deal with, Jake and I did take time out to share our passion for movies. Every Saturday, Jake took me to see a movie, mainly gangster movies, featuring James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, and a young Robert DeNiro. It was Jake who instilled in me the belief that I could one day become a writer and a director. Even though I had never seen a female director in the 70’s, I made a commitment to Jake to pursue that dream when I got older.
When Jake died, I was fifteen-year-old. My mother had moved to Florida with her new husband. I found myself on the streets, homeless. I survived the only way I knew how—by getting involved in drugs, criminal activity, and prostitution. Even when I was committing some truly terrible acts in order to survive on the streets, I never forgot my promise to Jake.
Eventually, I got off the streets, kicked drugs cold turkey, and began to turn my life around from a victim, to a victor. It was a long, hard road, with many setbacks, but eventually I kept my promise to Jake. Today, I am an award winning writer and filmmaker. Jake would be proud.