Raised by an insane mother …. Latoya Hamilton turns her tribulations into musical poetry

It sounds like a familiar situation when someone says they were raised by a single mother. Musical gospel poet Latoya Hamilton has a similar single-mother story, but way more intense.

Her mother was insane and there was no father around.

Latoya said her mother sometimes walked the streets of their Nelson Road, Maxfield Avenue, St Andrew community, inexplicably carrying a mattress atop her head.

She had a serious mental illness, which required her to be institutionalised.

At age nine, Latoya travelled to the Bellevue hospital to visit her mother.

“I don’t know why they let children in that place,” shared with THE WEEKEND STAR.

People in the neighbourhood threw barbs at Latoya, labelling her as ‘coming out of mad breed’. She said, at times, she would even be threatened by community members, some of whom were quick to remark, ‘memba seh yuh nuh have nobody, innuh.’

It was, understandably, a confusing and frightening experience for a young girl and it affected her immensely. With no father around to pick up the pieces left by her mother’s instability, Latoya was forced to raise herself.

Latoya and her mom lived next door to an uncle, who provided them with food. She recalled sharing all the meals she got with her mother, who had fallen into deep depression for 10 years.

“I would get up, give her what I had to eat, and that’s how I lived for a long time,” she told THE WEEKEND STAR.

“Dumpling and butta, parched egg, flittas without salt, I know all ah dat,” she says while laughing.

She laughs now because it was a situation that could not be helped.

“I would leave the house with her laying in bed and come back an’ si har same way.”

At age 13, Latoya said she sought comfort in the arms of a 19-year-old man.

“Everyday, mi wipe oil pan mi lip,” she said, laughing at her attempt at seduction. The young teen and older boy pursued the relationship, which lasted until she was 19. Half-way through the relationship, even while wrapped up in an older person, she made a decision which went unnoticed and without combat. Latoya was a high-school dropout at 15.

Latoya was naturally bright enough to stay on top of her grades throughout school, but was never forced to attend.

“There was no one to tell me to go back,” she told THE WEEKEND STAR.

However, she admitted to being forced to go to church. She said her mother beat her every Sunday, insistent that she must attend church. These were the moments in which her mother seemed to have true clarity, until depression set in.

She remembers her mother saying to her, “Latty, give God thanks for small mercies.”

On her own volition, at 17, Latoya borrowed books from neighbours and acquired five CXC passes, one by one. Ambition simmered within Latoya, who eventually ended the relationship with her first boyfriend.

20 years old, attended church at the insistence of a friend. As one who used to frequent the dancehall in all her unsupervised time, she found herself delivering testimony through dance and, because of her liberal tongue, through speech.

She admitted her performance was only executed because of the will of God, through the encouragement of her peers.

She told THE WEEKEND STAR that her poems are her life and, though it once hurt to be asked to perform, she heard the voice of God telling her that she must.

Now, 33, Latoya has been working as an administrative professional. She is also an ordained minister at Fresh Fire Ministires International in Braeton, St Catherine, where she launched her first gospel poetry album.

The album, Leggo Mi Stuff, an audio anthology capturing Latoya’s feelings, experiences and lessons she has learned on her continued journey to Christ.

She has been invited to perform her work on multiple stages across Jamaica, something she was initially apprehensive about until she began ministering at the Women’s Centre and got what she said was an overwhelming response to her performances.

She will be performing has on the Ocho Rios and Port Antonio legs of Kevin Downswell’s Road Show, June 17 and 18.

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