When I thought about who should represent the magazine on the May Issue, it was easy. D’TRA GARY is an amazing Black Woman. She is beautiful and bold. She’s an incredible mother, business woman and friend of the magazine. It is my hope that her story will inspire, encourage and empower you. This is her story.
I started out in the field of Retail Management. After having kids, I discovered quickly the inconsistent schedule would not work for me. So I went to look for an apartment to move to one day, and the Property Manager that showed me the apartment said “You have to come and work with me. You have what it takes to make it in this industry.” So after a few discussions, I landed in Property Management. 15 years in the industry, I worked my way up from a leasing consultant to a Senior Property Manager. About six years ago, God had me to pay more attention to the details of my financials. I was producing positive variances of over 15k per month over the budgeted income. One day I had a property visit with an owner, and we sat down together to go over a few things concerning the property. We then got into a personal convo and he told me that this particular property was for his kids retirement. He then ended the convo by saying “D’tra, make us win here. My kids retirement depends on it!” I was in awe when he left. I am here creating wealth for another man and his children and I haven’t created that same wealth for mine. At that moment is when I decided to create a plan for generational wealth for me and my family.
It has not been easy raising five kids alone, but it has been worth it. Routine is the best word I can give you that allows me to maintain every day balance. But my faith in God and my desire to want more for my family has allowed me to attain the success I have. Although I have been raising my kids alone, or as people say, being a “Single Mother”, there is a certain mindset you must have to keep yourself out of that statistic. Where I am from, mothers would use the metaphor “As long as my kids eat steak, I’m good with eating hamburger.” And I would watch this behavior. Kids dressed in the best all the way down to Michael Jordan sneakers on their feet, mom is working non-stop just to keep those Jordan’s on their feet, and they never get a chance to see or enjoy their kids. Staying on government assistance because they were told as a “Single mother” they could get a “break” because the father is not present in their life. I watched how people’s perspective of you change when you mention you are a single mom.
They often feel sorry for you and have automatically decided that you could not do as much, the same, or even better because of this “condition”. After watching this, I silently began to hate these two words and discovered it was a handicap. Don’t get me wrong, I did have food stamps, Medicaid, and WIC off and on for years. I had people close to me that would say, “Hey Dee you need to get this free rent because they have all these programs for “single moms.” When I refused and told them I would not be on government assistance for long, some of them called me stupid for not taking advantage of all I could get, or that I thought I was better than everyone. And they were partially right. I was better than my current state and I kept pressing because I was not going to settle for less for myself or my children.
In my process, I have been evicted or close to it and have had to move multiple times, my utilities have been cut off, I have had multiple cars repossessed, and I have gone to sleep hungry some nights so that my kids could eat because I had to stretch the little money that was available. There have also been times I did not have enough to get my kids Christmas and was referred to different agencies and/or churches for assistance. Funny thing is, my kids NEVER knew it. I did not allow them to feel the weight I was carrying every day. I could not. I was a walking dead person, and no one even knew it. I wore a smile, always cheerful, and I worked so hard every day that people could not really tell what I had to endure from day to day. I was going through a custody battle with my oldest son’s father, that caused me to have two nervous breakdowns that I never told anyone about. My other kids’ dad was (that I had 3 of my children with) inconsistent and unstable.
I was damaged and broken in every area of my life. I remember living in Riverdale, GA. at one of my properties where I was a leasing agent at the time. I met an amazing friend named Louvenia who was also my neighbor and she was raising her three children by herself as well. We did a lot of things with the kids together and helped each other out a lot. We were outside one day with all the kids (when she moved into her rental home), and I was screaming at my kids about something I do not even remember to this day. Her son which we called Little “TI” came up to me and said, “Ms. D’tra why are you so angry? Every time you come around, you are always hollering at these kids for something!” His mom hit him and told him to mind his business, but I stared at him because I discovered he was right. Out of the mouth of babes, huh?
I was out of gas, tired, burned out, depressed, and agitated with my life. And I realized I was passing this on to my kids and it did not have absolutely anything to do with them. I remember I moved into a rental townhome in Lithonia, and I made this big taco dinner for my three boys (the only kids I had at the time). I sat at the table and told them that one day we were all going to be very wealthy. The boys engaged and got excited but I calmed them down to speak some things into their spirit, so they knew it was not a joke. They accepted it and we declared it with God that night. After that is when a whirlwind of events began to rock my world.
My grandfather passed away which was one of the worst days of my life, I lost my job and they refused my unemployment. I was under eviction at my current home and my water was cut off. I kicked out my kids’ dad who was living with me at the time, and got rid of that toxic relationship forever, and then found out I was pregnant… again. One day, I was in the kitchen cleaning up and it was like a dark cloud had come over me. I immediately felt defeated, less than, dark, and depressed. Somehow, I finished cleaning the kitchen and I went to the dining room which was completely dark as well and I slid down the wall onto the floor. I was crying uncontrollably, and I told God if I do not wake up the next morning it would be okay. I had never been suicidal or even thought about doing anything to myself so to be to this point in my life, I knew it was bad and it felt like I would never come out and I was trapped. Then the phone rang. It was my oldest son’s great Aunt Oretha and she said “Hey darling, how are you?” I told her I was not okay and explained everything else to her I was experiencing. Ms. Oretha not only spoke life back into me, but she reaffirmed me and told me that God did not bring me this far to leave me. I knew God had used her to do this because I was in the lowest place in my life that I have ever been. After our call, I was so drained I went straight to sleep. I woke up to the sun shining through the window directly in my face and I rose out of that bed, and spoke out loud to myself, “Never again”.
Never again will I blame someone for not living to my expectations, and it being the cause of me not having what I want or need in this lifetime. Never again will I get this low. Never again will I make excuses. Never again will I accept these two words “Single Mother”. Never again. After that declaration over my life, I made a drastic change and worked my way up to the top and built a brand for myself. I can now eat steak with my kids…Literally. I can now enjoy them, solely provide for them, give them their wants and needs, and not be worried about normal bills that sustains our everyday lives. I can now travel and take my kids places we have never been and make memories. I can now be in a place to hear and pay attention to the matters of their little hearts because my heart, mind, spirit, and finances are free. I can provide a safe haven and call it home. I can now just be a Mother.
Ode to all my “Single Mothers” -Don’t accept those two words over your life. When you look at me and hear my story, know that there is a better way. Know you can have the desires of your heart. Know you can LIVE with your kids. Know that you are capable and worthy of every good thing. Make the preparations to have more and do more. You deserve the very best in this lifetime. Your child/children have a front row seat to your life, and I charge you today to show them a better way. Today!
My 1s business is called Cupcakes and Coffee Art. We specialize in Sip and Paint Parties for Adults, Kidz Zone Paint Parties, and Art Shows. What sets us apart is that we sketch the images on your canvas before you arrive so all you have to do is paint, and most importantly at every event Cupcakes and Coffee is included with your session. I have helped developed people for years now, and I’m most proud of the fact that I stepped out and did it for me for once. It feels great.
My formula is simple and Matthew 6:33 is my blueprint. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added to you. Success requires grit and passion. It also requires that you see it before you see it, or you will never experience it.