Publisher: ALLEGIANCE MASTERS INC.
“The bullet hit me in the right shoulder. I looked and grabbed my arm with my left hand. Then I looked at him and said, “You shot me!” only to turn to my right and look directly into the barrel of another gun. I felt the metal on my temple and slowly turned my head in the opposite direction. The man said, “GOOD NIGHT!” and pulled the trigger as I said silently to myself, JESUS! … and the next thing I knew, I had been shot twice in the head.” – Stephanie Powe
This is not a movie, though it very well could be. A story, yes – however, fabrication is non-inclusive.
Unbroken: The Diary of a Gangster’s Girl takes place in Chicago’s infamous “Wild-Wild 100’s” and is the written silhouette of Stephanie Powe’s life.
Fast money and the feeling of always needing to be a provider can come at a deadly cost. The combination can easily open the gateways to adverse relationships, environments, and situations. For Stephanie Powe, a hustler bred with an entrepreneurial spirit, the lifestyle of independence and fast money ended with rape, a one-on-one encounter with death, and a prosthetic eye that led to another beast – low self-esteem.
It was all a set-up. The instructions were easy. She was to meet her connect at 110th and Vernon to pick-up money that her jailhouse former boyfriend supposedly had for her. After the pick-up, her night would continue with her current male companion.
After all the drama leading up to what could have been her last moments, Stephanie was really trying to head in the right direction. She was doing it, but her connection with one bad guy always threatened forward movement. And well, when you lead a high-risk lifestyle that involves the streets, money and drugs, outcomes never play out as expected.
This night, near 111th street by the railroad tracks, was no different. What took place that night would change Stephanie’s life forever.
She pulled up to the meeting location, instead of one guy there were two others, her jailhouse beau called, words were exchanged; voices and accusations grew. She was forced into the backseat of her car with guns being waved in her face, one held to her temple. A few blocks and turns later, she found herself alone with gunshots to her shoulder and neck, blood everywhere and clinging on to life.
Powe’s story dates back 20 years but the message and these same scenarios are taking over lives as I sit and write this. It’s an ongoing devastation that many aren’t catching on to until it’s too late and their lives are behind bars or six-feet under. It’s nothing to sugarcoat.
Stephanie is a lucky one. Despite the drama she entangled her self in, there was still a sense of control and she always had a plan. Her journey in life has been a wild one spiraled up, down and every which way. But the path she leads today, is one of strength and testimony.
I recently spoke with Stephanie regarding her first novel, Unbroken: The Diary of a Gangster’s Girl and what it took for her to gain the courage and bravado to tell such a compelling and detailed tragedy turned teaching tool.
The details in Unbroken … you were very descriptive and painted the picture vividly, even when the two tragedies happen in the chapter titled “Unbroken” and when you’re describing the set-up. How were you able to go back to that dark place to reveal all of its truth and ugliness or had you never left?
I never left. I was always there mentally and anytime I looked at myself, it was a constant reminder because I don’t feel I look the same. Everybody else is like ‘Aww, you look the same!” No I don’t. (laughs). My eye is missing. I know that that’s a prosthetic eye that I’m looking at.
It was like I was stripped of my identity. I didn’t know who I was at this particular point. If you ever … the feel of a deep and devastating lost … it can be hard to recover from that. I came out with this little camouflage on like nothing was happening and just dealt with everything from within. So with everything that’s going on in Chicago, I feel that this story is relevant and that’s why I did it and every since then it feels like a release because it was like closure.
I know that it was the money, but what would have made you “full” at that time because you still had all this love around you – but with some people there’s still this feeling of empty. Was there a void you felt you were filling that may have led you to life in the fast lane?
My mom worked off and on during the time. My father didn’t want her to work so he worked at General Motors for most of his life and he always had some type of side hustle. I just felt like I was a provider. It was empowering to me to do stuff for my sisters; to take them wherever they wanted to go, on trips, and get their clothes made where I got my clothes made. I think that sense of being able to provide and being able to help other people was empowering. It wasn’t a void – it was ‘I’m able to do something for somebody else’. It’s the same feeling I have now; I feel like this book is going to allow me to help somebody else.
You have quite the entrepreneurial spirit. How were you able to start your own business?
That comes from my Dad’s side. He said to always have something to do and when I started making money, I felt like, at the time, school wasn’t what I needed because money was coming in and I had the money to be able to venture out and start whatever I wanted to start. Meeting people was just a part of me. The guy that I ended up partnering with owned a jewelry store, he showed me the entire trade on how to repair jewelry, resize the ring, where to shop at, what to put in the store and how to decorate it. The regular 9-5, it wasn’t enough for me. Some people can do it and some can’t. I think the entrepreneurial spirit that was drilled into me to always have my own has just always been there.
What was the most challenging about revealing your lifestyle to your younger sisters and even the rest of your family?
The crazy thing is that, my sisters had no idea what I had been through, what I was doing, and who I was dealing with. They learned it all after reading the book. They were too young to know what I was doing. All they saw was the glitz and glamour of what was going on.
I think the entire part was tough. When I first left the hospital we were saying, Ok, we’re not going to tell anybody, this is going to be our family secret and we’re not going to say that your eye is completely gone, we’re just going to say that it was damaged. So I lived with that for the past 20. I think that was my biggest struggle, just coming out and telling everybody that this is what it is.
To talk about my eye was a big thing for me. I still have self-esteem issues about my eye and this is my fourth eye that I have. My first three were unreal. I would look at myself and stand there and cry. The first time I looked at myself was this year. And for me to stand there and still say, ‘Ok, I’m still whole. I’m still beautiful and this one eye doesn’t make who I am and who I am not’. (voice becomes emotional and shaky). I’m still me.’ Then I keep it moving.
Once you reach the end of your story, it feels like there was a spiritual presence over it because with so much that happened to you and all that you were involved in, you were saved from it all. I mean HE definitely made you battle it out but at the end, it was definitely like, ‘Ok, and now the tunnel will begin to open for you’. What role, if any did church and spirituality play in your life early on?
I was baptized Catholic, but I moved away from it during my teenage years. I just felt like the Catholic Church wasn’t for me and felt it was more forced because we had to pay to go to Catholic school and if you didn’t attend their church, you had to pay more tuition. So, I didn’t feel like that was a natural thing for me to do.
As I got older and started attending my friend’s church, it was a different environment. I guess it was a Baptist Church and I felt like I belonged there because it was moving to me but then, they were catching the Holy Ghost and it became what is it that they’re feeling that I’m not? Why am I not jumping like they’re jumping? Am I missing the message?
So for whatever reason it was, I went to Church every Sunday, even if I hung out late Saturday. Something told me I had to get up. Whatever that spirit was that kept me going to St. Marks, I was there. I didn’t understand it completely. Some of the messages I understood and some were completely over my head but I felt like that’s where I was supposed to be.
And that night in the car, when they found me, when I prayed I was like, I know this is not my time. I know that YOU have a different plan for me. This is not the way for me to leave, me leave my family. This is just not possible. I need YOU to save me.
I saw myself in a casket and I wrote all of that in the book. That was real.
During the writing process, did you find yourself gaining more strength as the pages continued?
I felt empowered. For every page I wrote, I felt like I was taking more of me back.
Below is a re-inaction of the night that changed Stephanie’s life forever.