Founder of Stud 4 Life, Lawanda Greenor Wanda B.is no stranger to giving back. Her organization has marched to stop the violence and does cancer walks in honor of her late mother, Dorothy Jean Green. And now, she is sharing her life story in Leader by Fault, a new book about forgiveness, the importance of community and living her life her way.
Windy City Times: What's new with your organization, Stud 4 Life?
Wanda B.: We're trying to adopt another shelter since the other one [women's shelter, Clara's House] got shut down. We're trying to find one that deals with LGBTQ runaways so we'll be able to mentor, too. In the meantime, we're going to viaducts and taking clothes to help people on the streets and we're marching for all the unnecessary killing. We're still doing all of that.
WCT: Tell us about the book you've written.
WB: It took me 10 years, but I stopped for five, because when my mother got diagnosed with cancer and I had to take care of her. Leader By Fault is a book that describes my life, coming out, living life as a stud in the projects and all of the stuff I had to deal with just being who I am. It describes the obstacles that come with that, the pain, and the family struggles.
WCT: We talked about this briefly in our last interview a few years back, but how did you come up with the title?
WB: When I was a teen, they made me a leader in the projects, and all the things that happened to me that was bad, like sexual abuse, was not my fault, so that's how I came up with it.
WCT: In reading the book, self-care comes up a lot, especially in terms of talking about your past trauma. What made you decide to finally go to therapy and how has that helped you?
WB: I had to go to therapy because I was really hurting myself. I was looking at my wife and my son and I didn't want my son to see me angry like that. Therapy really helped meshe hypnotized me and, when I woke up, I had rage and tore up her office. I really needed somebody to listen to me, and to understand the trauma that comes with being a dominant person out here and to face some of the things that happened to me. I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor. In order to help other people, I had to fix me.
WCT: What do you think has made you want to help people and take on this role as a protector: of your family, of the neighborhood and of people in the LBGTQ community?
WB: I've always been a protector because my brother was the oldest and gone in the streets all the time. There was four girls and I felt like somebody had to be with them to make them safe. I would rather have gotten hurt than my sisters or my mother. When you go through things at a young age, like getting shot at, you become pretty strong, and I just started protecting everybody.
WCT: You talk about getting stabbed and you've been shot at, and your brother might have come at you with a meat cleaver. Is there anything you intentionally left out of the book?
WB: Yeah, I intentionally left some things out. Not a lot, though. Certain things I left out because I'm still working on them in therapy, so I didn't want to give advice on things I haven't even fixed myself.
WCT: What was the hardest part of writing out your life story?
WB: The hardest part was the sexual [assault] stuff because I actually had to relive it. When I was reliving it, I could visualize, I could see some of the nights. When I started off, I didn't even know how to work a computer. I was computer illiterate and I did it all on notebook paper. My son bought me a computer and I tapped one letter after another to write this book. Man, you don't know, this book was painful. It made me think about all the tears and sexual acts, but I had to share my story.
WCT: You talk a lot about the importance of biological family, but you also talk about your rainbow family and those who are disowned and need mentoring.
WB: I love my rainbow family because when everybody in my other family wasn't there for me, I had them. They become your family when you feel like you don't have the support and love you need. Especially when coming out so young, depression is real and people are killing themselves in the community. If I can help, I want to do it. I think it's a calling of mine.
WCT: You talk a lot about street life in the book. What have you learned that you pass on to the people that you mentor?
WB: This life on the street is not a good life and you could be killed out here. I try to teach them to go to school and to go get some help. Some people are afraid of therapy, but I'm not. I think by sharing my story, it shows that if I can overcome things and become a better person … that helps them feel like they can do it, too.
WCT: Is that similar to what you hope your book accomplishes?
WB: I hope that readers will be able to say, 'If she can do it, I can do it. She came from here, from the streets with the shooting and the drugs, to now: she's married, she's working, her son is good, her life is good, she's got an organization, she helps people and she loves people.' As long as it helps the next generation, I don't care whether you're gay or straight, that's my goal.
Wanda B. will be doing a book-signing and reading from Leader by Fault on Saturday, July 18, 3-6 p.m., at P Venue, 1318 W. 87th St. ( Call 773-655-0771 or email email@example.com to make sure the event is taking place. ) People can also buy her book on Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/0692934669/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_LMIbFb8DZMBN7 .