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Monica Conyers: My testimony

“I advise anyone: Before you call someone your friend, look at their motives and listen to wise older people.”

Photo by Lauren Jeziorski

I am from the city of Detroit, and I have lived here all my life. I am a mother. A wife. A daughter. A sister. An aunt. A cousin. A friend. A mentor. You can’t understand one’s journey unless you are told or can look through their eyes.

And I do have a testimony.

As a young girl growing up in Detroit, I had lots of dreams – but I’d seen many things. My first glance at domestic abuse was at 6 years old. I used to see this woman, who I thought was so beautiful, whenever I went to my grandmother’s house. One day, this woman came out of the house with a man I assumed to be her boyfriend. I heard arguing, and I looked and she had fallen and hit her head on the curb. He left her there for dead. My grandmother called the EMS, they came to get her and I never saw her again. I still wonder if she is alive or dead.

I became an advocate to stop domestic violence. After all, my grandmother always said a real man does not hit a woman. Far too often, women feel they don’t have a place to go and have to stay in abusive relationships. But you do not. There are places that you can go for assistance. What I want women to know is that no one knows your situation unless you tell someone and seek help. (And the magic words in court to secure a personal protection order are “I fear for my life.”)

When I was younger, I’d always wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know anyone who had. My counselor told me that I was not going to college. But my God didn’t put a dream in me for anyone to tell me differently. I now hold a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a juris doctor – I finished law school while raising my family.

I had no one to guide me, so I make it my duty to guide others. I believe mentorship is important, as I never had one, but it must be done with love. If you have the opportunity to mentor someone, I’d advise you to do it carefully, because what you teach can have a lasting impact. Love is one of God’s greatest gifts, and as the saying goes, it is better to have loved and lost then to have never known love at all.

I was elected to Detroit City Council, and representing the city was a very stressful job. You are responsible for so much. I am glad to say that I was able to help keep the Detroit Zoo open, as well as other premier jewels in the city. I pushed for seniors to have a discount on their garbage pickup and for felons applying for jobs in the city to not have to answer that question on the application. There were challenges, however – namely allowing people into my circle who did not have my best interest. I advise anyone: Before you call someone your friend, look at their motives and listen to wise older people.

I love my life. This life has been a journey for me. But I’ve often thought about what will I do with the rest of my life. In my current role, I assist citizens throughout the city of Detroit who are homeless to find housing and gain employment in order to take care of themselves and their families. Through my services, they are also required to enroll in a GED class. Whoever said the unemployment rate is down must not live in Detroit. It is still high here. And if you’re reading this and you have jobs or available houses that are kept up for these transitioning residents, please share that information widely.

There are still setbacks. Cancer, for example -- I want to kick it. I lost the person I’ve known longer than anyone else to cancer. It was sudden. I remember us talking, and she said, “don’t cry, I have no tears left.” I don’t ask God why my sister had to have cancer; I just say a prayer. See, no one in our family had passed in a very long time and the ones that did lived a very long life. She was healthy -- no high blood pressure or diabetes. I miss my sister. I asked my doctor if there were screenings for this, and he said yes. I immediately was tested, and was returned a negative screening. It is important to take care of yourselves, to eat healthy and go to the doctor.  And family is important. Love yours, because we don’t get to pick who our family is, but they are yours just the same. 

God is truly amazing. I was given an opportunity to be in a television show. I was given the opportunity to have a radio show. I am grateful for all my blessings. In January not only will my husband, Congressman John Conyers, be the dean of Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus, I will be the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses. Not bad for a little girl from Detroit. Now tell me God isn’t good.

So I tell you when you fall, get up and try again. If it takes you 100 times to get it right, keep trying. Believe in yourself, no matter what anyone says, and never let anyone define who you are but you. Don’t let the fear of starting over stop you from your dreams. God has things around the corner that you don’t even know are there for you.

I love my family and my friends, and I love my city. There is no one like you.

MONICA CONYERS IS A LAWYER AND HOST ON 910-AM SUPERSTATION.

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