Q: How did your son first become involved with PCP?
A: I don't remember how he became involved. I didn't realize he had gone as far with PCP as he had until the end of 1983. He was 23 or 24. He was living in the home at that time.
Q: What effect did that have on the family, when you found out he was using PCP?
A: He made the effect. He became extremely violent. We were afraid to sleep, afraid not to open the door for him. He was extremely radical. His behavior was that of a madman. We still at this point in time don't sleep at night. I have nightmares about it. I've had an increase in the disease that I already had, which is high blood pressure. I'm constantly taking medicine. My children, my daughter is afraid at times to be alone with him in the house for fear he may have a recurrence.
Q: When you realized your son was using PCP, what did you do?
A: I didn't know what to do. I wasn't that familiar with the drug. I didn't know that much about it. But when I did find out, I started making calls around the city to find out if there were any open programs to see if there was any way for any help for him before he went too far. Nobody knew anything.
Q: Has your son ever been arrested for anything that was related to his PCP use?
A: Of course. He was arrested three times: once for indecent exposure, again for indecent exposure. He was arrested a third time and tried in a court of law, because he became nude in public in Rock Creek Park in front of a park policeman who arrested him. It took us about three months in court to get it over. I represented him in court myself.
Q: Did you win the case?
A: Yes, I did. I won it based on the fact that the time he was doing this he was under the influence of PCP. It was not his normal personality. I do not believe if he had been his own normal self that this would happen. He was put on one year's probation and got a $100 fine.
Q: When he got high on PCP, his urge was to expose himself?
A: It was either to expose himself or to overly dress. For instance, on a Sunday, whenever there was a church day or in the middle of the week, he would put on two or three sport jackets, two or three pairs of pants, four or five shirts, four or five socks on each foot.
Q: Do you think that there was anything that you did in your son's upbringing that possibly could have contributed to his desire to use drugs?
A: I don't believe that I did anything in terms of love, but I think that some of the values that I gave him could have been redirected into another situation. The school system failed him. I could have moved out of the poor community if I could have afforded it into a different environment. But it's everywhere, it's not just in the poor community. Drugs are everywhere.
If the school system, along with me, the parent, had been able to give him a something, other than hope, give him a constructive ideology of which direction his life should go, give him some form of quality education, which he did not get and which most poor black kids do not get --
Q: Did he have any self-esteem at all?
A: Of course he had self-esteem. He had self-esteem until he became old enough to understand what it is really all about. It is very difficult to explain when a child has lived in one environment. I moved out of the environment when he was approximately 13, 14 years old. He could not adjust to a different lifestyle. I don't think that has anything to do with what I did wrong. It has something to do with what he felt inside. I don't think he wanted to leave that environment. I think he felt very comfortable being poor in a poor community. We went through a reconstruction period between 1969 and 1976. Everybody was trying to move into a different direction. Everybody was trying to make their kids feel, through materialism, through giving great gifts, that we loved them. You lose something in the process -- respect, self-esteem.
Q: You told me that you thought the existing institutions in the district were not able deal with people who had used a drug like PCP. What exactly did you mean?
A: First of all, PCP is a man-made drug. It's not cocaine, it's not reefer, it's not heroin. Neither D.C. General nor St. Elizabeth Hospital nor any of the police departments in the District were able to do anything about it because they didn't know anything about PCP. But PCP was a dangerous and a violent drug. My son (was) in D.C. General Hospital, in St. Elizabeth. Neither one was in a position to help him out mentally or physically. He had lost almost 65 pounds from the use of the PCP between April and July. Even though he was violent to my daughter, myself and my family, he was still allowed to sign himself out of a hospital (because of his age). The minute he was cleaned up in St. Elizabeth, he had the right to come home.
Q: Would he end up in St. Elizabeths after he was arrested for something?
A: No, he would end up in St. Elizabeth after he had become violent with us. They cleaned him out to speak, and put him on a drug. (A person under the influence of) PCP acts similar to a schizo and every four hours they were giving him dosages of Stelazine, a control drug for schizos. And Stelazine was not helping.
Q: Is it like a tranquilizer?
A: To some degree, for people who have mental disorders. The problem was that as opposed to a schizo, Keith was able to sign himself out of the hospital, give the impression that he was okay, then turn around and come home and try to kill us again. You see, we don't even know how much PCP he was taking a day. He'd been spreading it over reefer. He would smoke 15, 20 joints a day. He stayed continuously high. In the deepest of summer, he was able to walk these long walks and come back home and become violent and bust doors and do anything he chose to do.
Q: Your husband died in 1976 of a brain tumor. You were left to raise five children by yourself. Four of your children are doing well. They are all gainfully employed. The youngest is in college now up north. Why Keith? Why didn't he make it?
A: When my husband died in 1976, Keith took the role as the leader of the family. The other boys wanted and needed at that time a male model, a role model, who was gone. They were in despair. I was in despair. They had no one else to turn to. He saw me in pain. He wanted to struggle to help me, but he was very young. He was hurt inside, he never was very talkative anyway. I want to express that to a lot of people who are in pain with their children that if the child sees the mother suffering, the struggle for the mother, and the child is unable to monetarily help that mother, or to help the family, the child puts it inside, it becomes hurting and it becomes painful. After maybe four or five years of smoking reefer, this drug was the kind of drug that allows him to feel better about himself.
Q: You sound as though you know your son used to smoke marijuana. Is that true?
A: I knew it, I never saw him smoke it but I knew he did.
Q: Did you ever tell him not to?
A: I most certainly did. But you see once a child is involved in a peer group and being that Keith is a man- child, he did not respect a mother's opinion. He wanted the male image that he did not have so he went on to do what he wanted to do anyway.
Q: Do you feel alone? Do you feel isolated?
A: Isolated most definitely. If you write letters to the mayor, if you come to the system with ideas of what is going on, they take you as a lone person and they set you aside on the shelf like an old book. I will never stop speaking out. Not ever. Even though I am not a Republican or a Democrat. I'm a human being. I respect Mrs. Reagan because at least she is doing something that is relevant, discussing it at one level. But even at that level, you must have grass-roots people that are in pain to tell you what is really going on.
Q: One time you thought you were going to have to kill your son or he was going to kill you. What incident brought that on?
A: One day we were going out, my daughter and myself. And he was coming down the steps behind us with a sledgehammer. I could see from the look on his face that he meant business. I opened the front door, pushed my daughter out, slammed the door and demanded that he either use the sledgehammer or put it down. He looked at me and laughed and he kept banging the sledgehammer in his hand. I then went into my pocketbook, I was armed. I did intend to kill him had he raised that hammer, because it then was no longer my son and his mother, it was one human being against another human being who was in danger of his or her life. I most certainly was not going to let him kill me.
If I had had the cooperation of the community, he should never had gone that far. Change the damn laws and make it so a parent is protected. Who really cares about me? The pain and the agony that I am in? Where are the human rights for the parents?
Q: Did your other children ever do anything to come to your aid and help their brother to get off the PCP?
A: Most certainly. But you can't make a person get off of PCP. That person, be he male or female, has to want to get off of PCP. You can't make anyone do anything. My children, the rest of the family, we even went as far as to have our own therapy session in the home because some therapy sessions cost great deals of money. And you don't have that money.
Q: Your son has a job now.
Q: Do you think he'll be able to keep it?
A: If PCP is what they say it is and it has recurrences, I don't know whether he will keep the job or not. All we do is try, hope and pray that he does keep the job.
Q: Have you ever had an urge to try it yourself to see what your son was experiencing?
A: Hell no. I don't think that you have to stick your hand over a flame and get burned to know that there is pain. No, I have no desire. I have enough drug problems myself. I don't need to try his drugs.
Q: Drug problems such as what?
A: One to get up, one to stay up, one to keep me going while I'm staying up and one to put me back to bed.
Q: Is this something that you take for the high blood pressure?
A: For high blood pressure and the depression. The depression of no hope. The depression of thinking in my mind, is this some form of genocide that is being performed on young people? I'm not a hate monger. Nor do I ever advocate anyone else that is. I love myself so therefore I do love all people. I don't necessarily like all people, but I do love them. I've thought that when the city became 89 or 86 percent black that we would love each other and care about each other. But we can't because it is difficult enough trying to get through each day one day at a time. It's difficult living on $237 a month with one child. And somebody tells you, "What did you do with your money?" It's difficult living on food stamps and not having any way of eating past that. It's hard enough to get through day by day with food stamps, the AFDC check. The whole idea of poverty, the stench the people have to live in. The kind of communities where trash men do not embrace the poor communities, but they embrace Georgetown.
Q: To your knowledge, right now your son no longer takes PCP?
A: To my knowledge. But he is still very depressed because of his situation as most poor, black men are. He works a job that only carries him until the next one. His salary is very small. I don't think he minds a small salary, but he would like to become more equipped.
Q: Do you live in constant fear that one day you are going to receive a phone call saying your son has just been committed to St. Elizabeth's again for PCP use?
A: I live in constant fear, not only for my son, but for the fact that if I come home by bus from my job that that very young man that's standing on that corner is high. I am in fear for myself. I'm in fear for the recurence he may have. But most of all I'd like for other people to know, to understand, to get grips on this thing. To find out why. Don't think it's cute because your son is smoking reefer. The school system can only go so far. Teach your children to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. The pain that most parents are feeling is that they are lost, they have (to deal with) this thing by themselves.
I don't think I will ever get over it. I'm like the mother who lost her son or daughter to the drunk driver. I want something done that is positive. Until that happens, and even after, if it should happen, I will continue to fight.