Thursday, February 15, 2007
Charlotte, N.C. — She didn’t look like a drug abuser.
That’s why Patrice Gaines said she was concealing heroin for her addicted boyfriend at a Steppenwolf concert in Charlotte, N.C., in the summer of 1970.
She didn’t look like a drug abuser, but she was one.
Her mother in Washington, D.C., was caring for her 2-year-old daughter. Gaines was 21, and she was scared.
“I was extremely dissatisfied with my own self. I was looking for a way to escape,” Gaines said. “My life was out of control.”
Patrice Gaines was arrested in 1970. She worked hard to get her life back, became a journalist and author, and now runs a foundation to help women in similar situations.
Gaines worked hard and got her life back, becoming a journalist and author. She’s now returned to the Charlotte area. She runs a foundation out of her home to help other women.
Growing up in Quantico, Va., Gaines said she had a poor self-image and felt isolated because of her skin color. Those early experiences led her down a path of self-loathing, which finally landed her in jail.
After her arrest, Gaines got five years’ probation and considered herself lucky. But she also got a record as a convicted felon.
She was living in Charlotte, where she worked as a secretary and researcher at a newspaper. Although she promised herself she’d change her life, for several years she bounced from abusive relationship to abusive relationship.
Gaines said she loved to read and write. While she was trying to get her life straightened out, she went to night school. She became drug free. Eight years after her arrest, she was selected to receive training from what is now known as the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in California.
To find out more about the Brown Angel Center and Patrice Gaines, visit www.patricegaines.com .
Gaines’ books, “Laughing in the Dark: From colored girl to woman of color, a journey from prison to power” and “Moments of Grace: Meeting the Challenge,” are available for purchase from the Web site, as well as at Amazon.com and other retail outlets.
For the next 23 years, Gaines worked as a reporter, most recently writing news features at The Washington Post. She won awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and the Volunteers of America. In 2001, she resigned. Gaines said for the last five years she worked as a reporter, she felt she ought to be doing something else.
“I gave my two-week notice on a job I had been in for 16 years and the only career I had ever known.”
With this latest change in her life, she wants to help change the lives of other women, too.
In 2004, Gaines, 57, and former New Jersey businesswoman Gaile Burton, 58, founded the Brown Angel Center, a foundation to help women who have been incarcerated get back on their feet. The goal is home ownership in five years. The method includes mentors, life coaches, education and housing.
Currently, the organization helps one woman, the first in the program. Other women are being reached through community workshops on finances, goal- and decision-making and forgiveness. Although the foundation doesn’t have a physical address, plans are for a permanent location with housing for women in the program, as well as holding workshops and performances.
The founders have applied to become a United Way agency and hope to receive grants, but most of the money to date has come from private donations. Gaines hopes to have the foundation become primarily self-sustaining through book sales, motivational speaking and workshop fees.
“To teach independence, we need to live it.”
Thursday, February 15, 2007