Rethinking Black Motherhood and Drug Addictions

Counternarratives of Black Family Resilience

by Tierra B. Tivis (Author)
©2018 Textbook XIV, 214 Pages


Rethinking Black Motherhood and Drug Addictions: Counternarratives of Black Family Resilience offers a unique perspective on the complexities of being a Black mother addicted to crack, powder cocaine, heroin, and crank. Qualitative interviews provide rich narratives from five Black mothers challenging negative controlled images and stereotypes of Black motherhood and drug addiction. Using Black Feminist Thought, Critical Race Feminism, and Resilience as conceptual frameworks, this book confronts hegemonic constructions of Black mothers and their children within the context of drug addictions. Particular attention is focused on using the mothers’ self-definitions of struggles and family resilience to dismantle the negative controlled images of the junkie and the crack ho’ and her crack baby.
The mothers in this book speak truth to their experiences with motherhood and addictions to some of the most powerful street drugs that explicitly defy the junkie, crack ho’, and crack baby images. The book also addresses tensions existing within researcher-participant relationships and nuances unique to research with Black mothers in recovery. Personal lessons learned and challenges experienced during the research process are highlighted as Tivis shares dilemmas of self-reflections of positionality, accountability and use of language.
Rethinking Black Motherhood and Drug Addictions contains important implications for research and practice in education and across other disciplines concentrating on mothers and children from racially diverse backgrounds. This book will be relevant for both undergraduate and graduate students and academics within these disciplines. Rethinking Black Motherhood and Drug Addictions will be of interest to advanced pre-service teachers and other disciplines engaging in clinical and professional practice with addiction and with families.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Permissions
  • Introduction
  • References
  • Chapter 1: “These People Are Suffering:” Help versus Incarceration
  • Overview of Chapters
  • References
  • Chapter 2: Tools for Understanding Drug Addiction and Black Mothers’ Standpoint
  • Different Way of Seeing Things
  • Black feminist thought
  • Critical race feminism (CRF)
  • Black family resilience
  • References
  • Chapter 3: Origin of the Crack Ho’: Mammies, Jezebels, Controlled Images, and Prosecution of Addiction
  • Research and Controlled Images
  • Devaluation of Black motherhood
  • Pathological conceptual frameworks
  • Costs of Controlled Images of Black Motherhood
  • Controlled images of Black mothers
  • Controlled images, public opinion and policy
  • Criminalization of Black Women
  • Prosecution of pregnant women
  • Criminalization of prenatal drug use
  • Rethinking prosecution and prenatal drug use
  • References
  • Chapter 4: “From Suga to Shit”: The Drug Business and Destruction of Black Communities
  • Perfect Space for Heroin and Crack Industries
  • Historical Context Heroin and Crack
  • Heroin
  • Crack
  • Mothers and Detroit’s Crack Business
  • Sharonda
  • Bethena
  • Detroit’s Crack Business
  • Desirea and New York’s Heroin Business
  • Mothers and Atlantic City’s Drug Business
  • Ladonna
  • Barbara
  • Atlantic City’s Drug Business
  • Continued Drug Use Trends
  • References
  • Chapter 5: More About the Mothers, Research Practice, Black Motherhood and Addiction
  • Sista-Girl Conversations
  • More about the Mothers
  • Sharonda
  • Bethena
  • Ladonna
  • Barbara
  • Desirea
  • The Settings
  • Detroit
  • They must have a lot of hurricanes here
  • Atlantic City
  • Blacks at the South Jersey Shore
  • References
  • Chapter 6: “I Had Help”: Kinship, Drug Addictions, and Black Family Resilience
  • Kinship Networks
  • Guardianship and Care of Grandchildren
  • Other Family Kinships
  • Fictive Kinships
  • Black Males: Essential Resources
  • Cost of Kinships Networks
  • Discussion
  • References
  • Chapter 7: “Wasn’ no Junkie, I was a Workin’ Addict … It’s a Difference”: Self-Definition of Black Mothers’ Roles and Responsibilities
  • Protection from Streets
  • Healing Relationships
  • Daily Routines
  • Expressions of Warmth, Responsiveness, and Love
  • Discipline
  • References
  • Chapter 8: Crack Baby Aftermath and Navigating Educational Institutions
  • Construction of a Crack Baby
  • Crack Baby Backlash: Labels and Stereotypes
  • Black Mothers’ Perceptions and Academic Orientation
  • Intentions, academic difference and hope
  • Problems at school
  • Mothers’ home school involvement
  • Contributions to academic achievement
  • What Does All of This Have to do With Education Now?
  • References
  • Chapter 9: “I was Just Cryin’ Out to God”: Recovery and the Spirituality of Struggle
  • Desirea and Barbara’s Take on Methadone
  • “God Looks Out for Babies and Fools”
  • Hearing and Listening to God’s Voice
  • “Church and Cryin’ Out to God”
  • References
  • Discussion: What the Mothers Made Me Think About
  • Power of the Crack Ho’
  • Rethinking Policy, Research and Maternal Drug Abuse
  • American Dream and Chemical Genocide
  • The Fake War on Drugs
  • What They Taught Me
  • References
  • Contributor Bio—Dr. Laurence J. Parker
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


This book is truly a village effort with influence and support from many whom I would like to personally thank for their contributions to the completion of this book. First, I would like to thank the mothers who graciously shared their life stories with me. I am truly inspired by their strength, faith, and hope for a better tomorrow. A great deal of gratitude goes to Drs. Eloise Jackson and Ollie Bowman from Hampton University for their guidance and providing the foundation for my academic journey. Thank you also to my Hamptonian sisters and Shawn Baccus Featherstone, Mavis Roberts Lee, Karen Vaughan Palmer, and Beth Freeman Wilson for always having my back. Miles keep us apart but our sisterhood and love for “Our Home By the Sea” always keeps us close at heart. I am also indebted to my circle of sista girlfriends in the academy for steadfast supporting and encouraging me to finish this project. They are: Drs. Carla McCowan, Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, Dawn Hinton, Barbara Jean J. Jones, Dalia Rodriquez, and Thandi Sule. I am so grateful for the sisterhood and continuous love and support from Tatiyana’s Aunt Jackies: My homegirl, Dr. Jacque Bowman for her wisdom and guidance; Dr. Jackie Bussey for helping me find my way back home to Michigan; and Jacki Brown and Jackie Brandon for giving me a space to find peace once again at the shore.

I would like to also thank Drs. Robin Jarrett, Lawrence Parker, Arlene Torres, and Assata Zerai for their invaluable knowledge, guidance and support ← ix | x → doing work with Black mothers and drug addiction. I also appreciate the mentorship and support of Violet Harris, Arlette Willis, Susan Fowler as well as Susan Noffke, who has transitioned on. Dr. Emery Petchauer’s feedback and support has been priceless and I am forever grateful for him encouraging me not to give up on sharing the mothers’ stories. I am also extremely thankful for Peter Lang’s series editor, Rochelle Brock, her guidance and continued support throughout the completion of this book. Also, Kathryn Harrison, Peter Lang’s acquisitions editor’s assistance with this book is much appreciated.

A special thank you to Corine Smith, who truly exemplifies fictive kin and embodies what it means to be a “play mother,” you are forever treasured in our family. To my “play” aunts Lena T. Fulton, Barbara-Ann Hinksman, Rowena Taylor, and Shirley Viera and godsisters Ann Turpin Williams and Cheryl Sampson Ramsey, your support was invaluable. This book would not have been completed without their love, listening ear, guidance, and encouragement. Special acknowledgement to my parents Bernardine Tivis Carter and Harold Bernard Tivis who have transitioned on but live forever in my heart. Last but not least, thank you to the best daughter in the world, Tatiyana, who has been so patient when I “was always on the computer.”


Portions of Chapters 1, 2, and 5 are reprinted with permission of Michigan State University Press from African American Females: Addressing Challenges and Nurturing the Future, edited by Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher and Vernon C. Polite (2013).

| xi →


Tierra Tivis has written a book that I consider the second wave of using theories of race and gender analysis in research methodology, in the form of counter stories and counter narratives from critical race theory. Her work illustrates the depth and complexity of portrait of the lives of young African American women as mothers who have been addicted to heroin or crack cocaine seeking ways to address their addiction and combat negative images of them. In many ways, Tivis has written a book that not only contributes to this methodological analysis but also humanize the portrait of African American women in urban settings.

In the area of critical race studies and intersectionality for example, what I am seeing is what McCall (2005) and Nash (2008) call for in the complexity of intersectionality. These trends speak not only to the centrality of race and racism in CRT, but how in combination for example with gender, disability and other aspects of how persons of color negotiate their identities that are not bound up as fixed and inextricably bound; rather they exemplify an intersectional methodology. I see Tivis’ book as an example of a study that moves race and Black feminist research into more areas of methodological complexity. ← xi | xii →

These can be categorized as anti-categorical complexity: which is based on scholarship calling attention to social processes of categorization and the workings of exclusion and hierarchy that draws and maintains boundaries of race, gender, etc.; intra-categorical complexity in which the research problematizes the exclusionary implications of categorization and then present narratives that represent the multiplicity of persons and who they are and how they represent themselves in ways that demonstrate the problems with defining and interpreting categories such as race, gender, etc.; and inter-categorical complexity which presents a methodological approach grounded in premise there are relationships of oppression among already legally and socially defined groups, and they are not perfect and ever-changing and these relationships are at the center of the analysis. What I think the reader should take away from this book is that Tivis’ research exemplifies this particular type of inter-categorical complexity, which can be strategically useful in critical race qualitative research studies that both call the categories themselves into question, but at the same time displays the linkages among the categories of race, gender, etc., and inequality. We can see this in the lives of the women discussed by Tivis in this work. Her book also reminds us of the importance of racial reflexivity as something more than just simple “member checking” of findings, but to deeply question assumptions of why research is being done and for what purpose regarding the researcher as self (Pillow, 2003).

The way that Tierra Tivis intertwines the interview data with the African American women she profiles in her study, juxtaposed with the popular media image that has been portrayed of low-income urban African American women who have used crack or heroin, is an example of what CRT seeks to uncover in terms of the “deep whiteness” that insist that the portrait of whiteness and its projection on to the control of Black female bodies is always right and it can never be contradicted or challenged (Bonilla-Silva, 2015). Tierra’s work raises important questions of racial authenticity versus racial sincerity. This book is an example of how as John L. Jackson in his book Real Black (2005), pushes readers to explore the differences and tensions methodologically between racial authenticity in research, that often gets constructed into racial sincerity. Tierra Tivis’ book is an attempt to address intersecting ends that seek to answer the question as to what, why and how do we do ethnographic research on gender/feminism race, racism and its impact on the lives of African American women.

Laurence J. Parker

University of Utah ← xii | xiii →


Bonilla-Silva, E. (2015). More than prejudice: Restatement, reflections, and new directions in critical race theory. Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, 1(1), 75–89.

Jackson, J. L., Jr. (2005). Real black: Adventures in racial sincerity. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

McCall, L. (2005). The complexity of intersectionality. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30(3), 1771–1800.

Nash, J. C. (2008). Re-thinking intersectionality. Feminist Review, 89(1), 1–15.

Pillow, W. S. (2003). Confession, catharsis or cure? Rethinking the use of reflexivity as methodological power in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(2), 175–196.

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· 1 ·


Help versus Incarceration

These people are addicted … are suffering … these pill mill clinic owners … these doctors, they’re just preying on that suffering, for … cash … profit.


XIV, 214
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XIV, 214 pp.

Biographical notes

Tierra B. Tivis (Author)

Tierra B. Tivis holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her teaching and scholarship focuses on early childhood, early childhood special education, and Black families and resilience from a Black Feminist and Critical Race perspective.


Title: Rethinking Black Motherhood and Drug Addictions
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