I recently finished reading an advanced copy of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson’s autobiography “Grace After Midnight: A Memoir” available now in bookstores on Hachette Books.
Felicia is probably best known for her role on HBO’s hit series The Wire as Snoop.
But after reading her story, it’s clear that Felicia is more than just a pretty face.
Felicia was born premature to two drug-addicted and incarcerated parents and reared in an East Baltimore foster home. Hours old and about 3lbs, doctors didn’t expect her to live. She was so small she was fed with an eyedropper until she grew stronger. Days went by and she continued to survive, so Snoop was made a ward of the court and reared in an East Baltimore foster home. While other 12-year-olds were in school, Snoop was learning the drug game. At 14, Snoop was sentenced to 8 years in prison for the second degree murder of Okia Toomer. She said her life turned around at 18, when a man she called Uncle Loney, a local drug dealer who looked out for her and sent her money in prison, was shot and killed. It was he who had given her the nickname "Snoop" because she reminded him of Charlie Brown’s favorite beagle Snoopy in the comic strip “Peanuts.” She finished school while behind bars. After earning her G.E.D. in prison, Pearson was released in 2000. She landed a local job making car bumpers, she said, but was fired two weeks later after her employer learned she had a prison record.
Snoop met Michael K. Williams, who portrays Omar Little on The Wire, in a Baltmore club. He invited her to come to the set one day. He introduced her to the writers and the producers, and she was offered a role in the series.
Her new book “Grace After Midnight: A Memoir” reveals the details of her life prior to her acting career. A life of hard knocks that almost lead to her death and a long term prison sentence.
Felicia is open about her being a lesbian both in real life and in her book. While her sexual orientation doesn’t dominate her story, it’s a significant part of it.
“Grace After Midnight: A Memoir” is Felicia’s story, but it is also the story of countless Black men and women, some who escaped the game and others who didn’t. But one thing is clear about Felicia, she’s fiercely independent and made her own way, be it it legit or nope. And like with so many brothers and sisters, Felicia puts in black and white what happens when you try to go legit and do things the "right" way and how in many cases the system sets you up for failure.
I thoroughly enjoyed her story and look forward to hearing more from her. I hope that her publisher will send her on tour with her book so that she can meet and talk to the people who have been inspired by her story. It’s not everyday that the autobiography of a Black lesbian who is out of the closet is published and publicized. I have to say that I’ve read about her book in the November issues of Ebony and ESSENCE Magazines. Word!
Congrats to Felicia for keeping it real and telling her story, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but mostly for being an inspiration and putting a face on the invisible.
Now the rest of ya’ll…going and buy it!
Grace After Midnight: A Memoir
Non-Fiction/ Life Stories
5-1/4 x 8
I was born in Baltimore twenty-seven years
ago, and then I died—twice. I died both times because my mother was
filled with drugs and so was I. Crack babies are messed-up babies, and,
according to what the doctors were saying, I didn’t have a prayer.
But they brought me back from death’s door. Someone or something keeps bringing me back from death’s door.
I don’t understand it, but maybe writing this book will help me see who I was and who I became.
Sometimes I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine myself back then:
A little-bitty baby small enough to fit into the
palm of the doctor’s hand, no bigger than a puppy or kitten; a baby who
has to be fed with an eye dropper ’cause her mouth is too small for the
nipple of a bottle; a baby born cross-eyed due to the drugs running
through her system.
A baby born to die.
But that same doomed-to-die baby finds a way to live.
Sure wasn’t because of Mama. Mama was Loretta Chase.
The woman may have wanted me—I can’t know that for sure—but I do know
that she couldn’t care for me. Later I learned that Mother was the kind
of lady that always kept a drug dealer around to fill her needs. She
could do that because she had a pretty face, long wavy hair, and a fine
figure. Men flocked to her. My daddy ran from her—or she chased him
off. I never did get the story.
I didn’t get a lot of the stories about my real
parents. They’re ghost figures in my childhood. I saw them in my dreams
when I was a little girl. Sometimes they creep back into my dreams now
that I’m a grown woman, but they’re always covered in mystery.
The mystery was heavy because as soon as I was born
I was put into a foster home owned by two people who had a row house in
the toughest neighborhood in East Baltimore. Their names were Cora and
Levi Pearson and their place was on East Oliver Street, three doors off
the corner of North Montford. That’s where I grew up. Oliver and
Montford is where it all happened.
When I arrived the Pearsons were already in their
early sixties. Sweet folk. They took care of me, but I still wanted my
mama. And when I heard that Mama was calling for me, I got happy all
over. I wanted to see her.
All little girls wanna see their mothers. All girls
need their mothers. The earliest dreams I can remember are dreams of my
mother. I’d see her standing there before me, holding out her arms,
hugging me tight, putting me to bed and tucking me in.
“You’re my precious baby,” she’d say.
I’d smile at her, close my eyes, and fall asleep inside my dream.
My memories of Mama’s visits are like dreams.
During the first two visits we were at the park. I
remember clouds and rain, I remember a dark sky, wet grass, and plastic
slides in the playground. I remember Mrs. Simms, the white social
worker, who held my hand until, from behind a tree, a woman appeared.
The woman was beautiful. She ran to me with her arms wide open. I
didn’t move. I didn’t know what to do.
“It’s your mother,” said Mrs. Simms. “Go to your mother.”
I let the woman embrace me. She smelled of
cigarettes and perfume. Tears ran down her cheek. I didn’t know why she
was crying. She held me tight and said words I don’t remember. I
imagine that she said she loved me. We walked for a while. She, Mrs.
Simms, and I went to a candy store where I got a soda and a little bag
of M & M’s.
“You and your mother look just alike,” Mrs. Simms said.
I loved hearing those words because I knew my mother looked like a lady in a magazine.
The rain stopped—I can’t remember if this was the
first visit or the second—and children were in the park. My mother said
something about my pigtails. As a little girl, my hair was done up in
“If you let your hair grow out,” she said, “it’ll look like mine.”
She let me touch her wavy hair.
“Can I bring her to my house? Can I be alone with my daughter?” she asked Mrs. Simms.
Mrs. Simms said, “Maybe. Maybe next time.”
Next time came soon. The night before I was too excited to sleep.
What would my mother’s house look like? I was sure
it’d be pretty because she was pretty. I was sure it’d be big. The
house on Oliver Street had three floors and three bedrooms, but I knew
my mother’s house would be bigger. The house on Oliver Street had all
sorts of people living there—grandchildren and cousins to Mr. and Mrs.
Pearson. But I was my mother’s only child. I wouldn’t have to share the
house with anyone but my mother. Maybe I could live with her forever.
I always hated dresses, but I wore one to visit my
mother because I wanted to look pretty. I wanted to look like my
mother. My dress, lavender and embroidered with white lace, was brand
new. My foster mama had bought it for me to wear to church.
My excitement built as Mrs. Simms drove me to my
mother’s. But when we arrived, I was sure she had made a mistake. It
wasn’t a house at all, but a tiny one-room apartment with a small
kitchen, and a couch that opened up into a bed. The room was messy and
didn’t smell good. This couldn’t be where my mom lived. But it was.
When Mrs. Simms left us, my mother sat down on the
edge of the bed. Something was wrong. She was crying and shaking. I
didn’t know why. She didn’t hug and kiss me like she had in the park.
She didn’t even look at me. I just stood there.
Then her mood changed. She got up from the bed and told me to take off my clothes. I didn’t understand why. I wouldn’t do it.
“Do it!” she cried.
She screamed at me until I did it. I took off all my clothes, dropping them on the floor.
“Now get in there,” she ordered, pointing to the closet.
I tried to run but my mother caught me. She pushed
me into the closet and locked the door behind me. I began wailing at
the top on my lungs.
“Stop crying,” she said. “I’ll be back.”
Then the sound of her leaving the apartment.
The fear of being locked in.
Baby girl fear.
I carried on. Kept crying. Kept screaming louder,
but no one heard. Cried so loud and long that I cried myself out. I
finally fell to the floor and started kicking. I had to get out.
Someone had to hear me.
I don’t know how much time passed, but when I heard
the voices of Mrs. Simms and my foster father, I screamed my head off.
They broke open the door and set me free. I was hysterical.
“Imagine that,” I heard Mrs. Simms tell my foster father, “selling her little girl’s clothes to buy crack.”
I was never allowed to be alone with my mother again.
Sometime in my childhood my mother reappeared at the house on Oliver Street.
Each time the visit was short, and with each visit
she looked less beautiful. Her eyes were crazy. Sometimes her dress was
dirty and worn. She’d come into the front room and just look at me.
She’d try to smile, but the smile wouldn’t come. She’d cry and leave.
Her visits became more infrequent. Finally they stopped.
That’s when Mrs. Pearson became Mama and Mr. Pearson became Pop.