Tahtianna: What ultimately led me to Bridges 4 Life was that too many organizations out here was trying to help out the community and only allowing them to move forward a couple of steps and then move back, again. And it’s like two or three years go by and you see the same people and the same participants in the organization, and it’s like, that should tell you something. If five years go down the line and you see the same participants in the same organization, getting the same type of services, something is not clicking. And it’s not the participant, it’s the organization. So that’s where I came in. I felt that there needed to be an organization that was like a revolving door that would literally allow people to constantly revolve around this organization and move forward, provide them with a path that they can actually do something with, not giving them crumbs to keep them stagnated, for fundamental reasons, and having, you know, pretty much stagnated in the same position. So, that’s where Bridges 4 Life came in. I feel that those kinds of organizations are very much needed and there’s not much out there that are actually helping our community and move forward and giving them a pass giving them a tool that they can actually use to educate themselves and to be successful in life.
You have to keep in mind that they’re – the true fact behind the population that are literally living in the streets, not the ones that are just homeless, living in shelters, but the ones that are actually living in the street, under the bridges, under the tunnels and train stations, the ones that you literally see covered up in the middle of the winter. I would say maybe 80% of that population are people that age out of the foster care system, people that were in households with people that, you know, lied to these kids and try to demonstrate false love. And the minute that they turn 21, and a paycheck stops coming into these foster parents’ home, you know, the kids are outed into the street or the minute that a kid does something wrong. Cause you know, we’re all human, right? We’re all human. And, you know, we all make mistakes down the line. So, a teenage boy would probably make the mistakes of either smoking a joint with his friends or getting in trouble and getting arrested with the police for trespassing and whatnot and, boom, something like that. It’s so simple. Would have a parent kick them out into the street and have them saying like, oh no, that’s not going to happen in my house or whatnot. But literally that wasn’t the issue. That’s not the issue. The issue was that you’re no longer gonna get a paycheck for that person no more, so you don’t want to deal with the issue that that person is going through, but we’re all human and we all need that help.
I don’t think that it does go far enough of course, because we know that it’s no secret. The Black community isn’t loved. The Black- you know, they want us erased. So, I feel that when that’s a fact, you’ll achieve a different way to suppress that community. So, I wish and pray that we move forward through these bills, hopefully they can help the community, you know, rise up out this hole we’re in. But evidently, I think the reality is that if it’s not one thing it’s the other, so somehow, they’ll find another way to still harass us during walking while trans.
And unfortunately, if we don’t have a community that’s able to teach these kids from a young age who they are and help them understand what they’re feeling is not abnormal, that they are a normal person and they are human beings. Unfortunately, there was never, there was never, this world will never change.
Look like a big huge hospital size building, about the size of Bellvue, the –
Temar: Oh Bellvue, yeah.
Tahtianna: Yes, so I would like a huge enough building that I can provide these people with a huge enough room or apartment that they can live in for free. And that through private donations, I can possibly pay all of the taxes and all of the lights, everybody’s light bill and just pay all of the utilities involved with that building, so that people could just come in there with a two-year extension on living there for free. And within those two years, learning how to educate themselves, get them job ready, and just get them prepared for the regular world – for the regular world and help them make that transition into their own apartment. And to their own, you know, facility, living in, and I feel like that’s very important. That’s important because these kids are aging out of the foster care system and they don’t know what to do. They don’t have a communication with their foster parents, and when their foster parents start getting – stopped getting paid, they out ’em out into the streets.
Temar: You were awarded the Transgender Day of Visibility Award for your resilience and commitment to the liberation of your community. How did it feel to be recognized this way?
Tahtianna: It felt good. Oh my God. I do so much.
Tahtianna: I do so much work and I don’t wanna ask for recognition. But it’s like that commercial, you know, the mother, when she’s cooking and she’s making all this food and she’s like running around, she’s doing all this stuff. And then they’re saying a mother never gets the appreciation that she deserves. And then they show the kids and they’re all like standing on top of the counter and they say, ‘thank you, mommy’. And they’re like all saluting to her or whatever. It’s kind of like that. It’s kind of like, you know, every now and then, that feels good. Every now and then that makes you know that you’re doing the right thing.
I told a story, not too long ago. Last summer, I was at an event where, you know, someone saw me and I guess it was trying to figure out if, if that, if I was the person that they thought I was and whatnot, and they asked someone else, you know, was it me, well, what was my name and whatnot. And that person came up to me and was like, ‘oh my God, how you doing’? And I couldn’t remember that person from nowhere, and I’m like, ‘hey, how you doing’? And that person was like, ‘do you remember me’? And I’m like, ‘no, I don’t remember you’. And that person was like, ‘you know, you, you, you stopped at the ho stroll one time and, um, you gave me $200 and told me to go home for the night. That you would give me $200 if I went home for the night’. That touched me because that was true. That was me. I did that for a whole year. Every week I went down to Fordham Road, you know, the backstreets around Fordham Road and, and all those areas in the Bronx, Hunts Point and whatnot. And I would give the girls money to go home, especially if they looked like they was out there all night. And, you know, cause you can kind of tell when a girl was making money or the girl was doing okay, you know, or the girl was, you know, she didn’t need nothing, but you know, I would look for the ones that looked like they was down and out. The ones that look like they’ve been out there for a couple of hours and haven’t gotten anything. And especially when it was raining or snowing or something like that. And I will offer them $200 and send them home. And that, that touched me because I know that I was doing something for the community. I just had gotten off of doing drugs and living a foul life. So, I felt like, you know, if this money could go to someone else to do good, then so be it, you know, cause I didn’t see anything else positive happening at the time.
One thing that I want to, that I want to say, you know, when it comes to donations, when it comes to donating, sometimes it’s hard for people to donate. Not because they don’t have the money, but because sometimes the decision, deciding or not knowing becomes a little – can become a little problematic, right? Some people it’s just like when you’re going to a baby shower, sometimes you don’t know what the hell to get that lady. And you’re in that store for maybe a whole hour, trying to figure out, breaking your brains on what to get the person. So, it’s the same way when you’re trying to donate, sometimes you’re sitting they’re like, oh my God, I got $50, but if I give $10, is that going to look too cheesy? Or if I give 20, I don’t want nobody making fun of me for just giving 20. Oh, you know what? I would love to get 200 if I have it, but I don’t have 200 now. So, you know, you can’t get it. And then when you do have the 200, 9 times out of 10, you got a bill to pay, you got something else to do, and then you ultimately never end up donating.
So, let me just put it the easiest way like this, you know, there’s Netflix out there. There’s all these apps that literally people pay $10 a month for, right? I calculated that if I was to find a hundred people to donate to my organization, $10 a month, that would be $10,000 every month that I can help my organization with. And that is something that we can all do together as a community, $10 a month. Anybody can do it. So please donate to my organization, $10 a month, and help me help my community be safe.
Temar: Absolutely. And I think we’ll end it there. Tahtianna, thank you for sitting with me. It’s a pleasure as always.