Open and honest about her status, Pam Coffey Jr. wears her red 'I Know' wristband with pride.
Pam Coffey Jr. steps to her own beat with her stylish sense supported by jewelry reflecting her mom and God, both significant spiritual guides in her life. 'Butterflies symbolize freedom so butterflies represent my mom now that her spirit is free.'
It's really important that I be comfortable with myself, comfortable with the fact that I am HIV-positive.'
Spending time in the kitchen is one of Pam's favorite ways to relax and relieve stress, and she is excited to announce that she will soon be graduating from her Culinary Arts Program.
I can't give up on myself. This fighting willpower within myself burns like a flame, like the torch we light at the Olympics. It won't let me give up on myself. It was dampened for a while. It came back after my mom passed because all of a sudden I had a cause to fight for. Today I'm blessed to be me.'
Pam's last conversation with her mama was to promise that she would look for her sister and brother and do all she could do to find them. After 11 long years, Pam finally found her baby sister who is extremely supportive of Pam. 'Now I can teach my baby sister things she doesn't know about being a woman, about being a woman living with HIV.' They are still looking for their brother.
Pam gazes out at the Pacific Ocean as she tries to capture an instant that will soon disappear like the crests of the lapping waves.
Walking into a local store, Jesus looks on as Pam strides her way towards the entrance to pick up groceries so she can return home and cook away.
MOTHER FUCKERS COME AND GO BUT I'M GONNA BE HERE ALWAYS
I was in an all women's facility for three years. On my way back home, I had the complete physical, head to toe. It's required in order to be released back into society. So when I came home, I knew my status was negative. Then I started dating this guy. I hooked up with him. Before I went to prison, I used to donate plasma for $5, $10, $30. The first time I went back to donate, they checked my blood. That is when they detected the antibodies for the virus. They sent me an urgent letter through the mail stating that they needed to speak with me ... and I knew. I knew I was positive. That was March '05. When the doctor told me, it really freakin' set in. I wanted to go back to use but then I talked to my case manager and she helped me.
Mothering a baby doesn't come with any instructions. It's a hard job. I went through a lot of emotions having my two kids taken away from me, living the life of addiction, being newly diagnosed, and still grieving my mom every day. My two young kids stay with their auntie on their father's side. I'm working to get them back. It's a process. I'm continuing to work on myself. It's a skill, prioritizin' my life. I don't want people to get the wrong perception of me. When I was stagnant in addiction, I became a totally different person. You have to change all that stagnation in your life. Shit, you know what I'm sayin'. I found a will to fight for my life, to conquer all of this because it can be conquered. I don't see my kids because their auntie doesn't bring them to see me. To keep my stress level down, I just don't worry, so for right now I'm gonna continue going to treatment and continue to test clean so I can get my babies back. My mom always told me my word is my bond.
Recovery teaches us to keep life simple. Life gets complicated if you let it. I like to have fun and I even get 'bunctious sometimes, but you have to know there is a time and place for everything. That is my mom talkin'. My mom helped a lot of women in prison cope with drug addiction. She was four years clean and sober when she died from medical neglect in prison. I want to work with women and children because you know there are just not enough facilities doing that. God knows I wanna work with other women. As long as He knows I will always keep Him first. He is not going to turn his ear from me. He is still calling my name to do things like this project.
It's really important that I be comfortable with myself, comfortable with the fact that I am HIV-positive. I'm a serious person. I analyze everything. One thing is for sure-I can't give up on myself. This fighting willpower within myself burns like a flame, like the torch we light at the Olympics. It won't let me give up on myself. It was dampened for a while. It came back after my mom passed because all of a sudden I had a cause to fight for. Today I'm blessed to be me. I don't wanna be someone else. I hope I learned from my mistakes. I believe I did. Other people tell me my words are powerful but I don't see all that. A lot of people don't know the voice they have within them to express their thoughts, their opinions. I want to be that voice.
Anyone meeting anyone in your lifetime is not by coincidence. You never know what one person may offer to another person. Humanity is about love. It doesn't matter what color you are. We are all sisters and brothers in God's eyes ... the same blood ... It boils down to being human.