VANEE'S STORY ~ HOLIDAY SEASON: BITTERSWEET
A MOTHER’S LOVE:
I was walking past a school the other day and saw a lady with a child. I imagined it was a Mother taking her child to school. What caught my attention was the holiday cookies she held. I imagined how my daughter must have felt all the years watching her classmates Mother’s around the holidays. Knowing her Mom was in a prison cell.
As a Mom my heart ached from Thanksgiving until Christmas while inside of a Federal Prison. The holidays were always big in my home. Not being there I felt like I abandoned my children. It was painful watching them mask their feelings. I believe they felt if they laughed or showed any signs of joy it would be a betrayal to me. I would cry in my bed knowing we wouldn’t be together. How can I make this up to them. ??? They didn’t deserve this.
Kids are suppose to wake up and run to the tree on Christmas morning. I would ask them what did they want for the holidays. Their response was always they didn’t know. I would sit in the prison chow hall and remember previous holidays. That would bring a smile to my face. Thinking about my babies and how excited Christmas mornings were in my house. The memories in my heart kept me during these times.
In November 2011, Vanee was sentenced to 63 months in Federal Prison. As a mother of three children, it was during this time that the plight of incarcerated woman and their children took center stage in her life. In 2017, she co-founded Hope House with Topeka K. Sam to empower women by providing a safe housing space, a supportive community of women, mentorship and guidance for formerly incarcerated women to successfully re-enter life after prison. Vanee Sykes holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from American College of Applied Arts, Atlanta GA; a Paralegal Certificate from Blackstone Career Institute, Allentown, PA; and has over 20 years of experience working in the City of New York government.