By Lucille O'Neal
Foreword by Shaquille O'Neal
"Because my mom was just a teenager when I was born, we supported each other as we both grew and evolved over the years. We never saw her down and she balanced our lives, as well as her own, with the precision of a well-skilled neurosurgeon. She certainly kept me away from the lure of drug dealers in our neighborhood and off street corners as a young man. Through it all, she's never let me give up on myself, even when things seemed the most hopeless." Shaquille O'Neal
Lucille O'Neal is the mother of one of professional sports' most beloved stars, Shaquille O'Neal. Fans around the country were introduced to Lucille as Shaq's mom in the mid 90's during a commercial for Robitussin's "Dr. Mom" campaign, in which she held a photograph of her famous son and one of his size 22 shoes. Witnessing her eldest child soar to inconceivable success and stardom is a source of tremendous pride for Lucille, particularly because there was a great deal of disappointment, shame and secrecy surrounding her giving birth to a baby boy whom everyone around the world would come to know as "Shaq". In Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go: From Mental Welfare to Mental Wealth, Lucille describes how her faith, even when she did not fully comprehend or realize it, ultimately gave her the strength to endure some of the darkest, most challenging periods in her life.
From being an unwed teen mother and creating a stable home for her children, at times with the help of public assistance; to coping with her unexpected feelings of anger and resentment towards her son's blinding success; to battling alcohol addiction; to making the painful decision to end a marriage of nearly 30 years, Lucille opens up about the behind-the-scenes personal dramas and triumphs which have made her the determined, compassionate and resilient woman she is today.
"What's most important to me is that young women today know they shouldn't doubt God or their own abilities. It is important for me to talk to them about this because I doubted both for so long, and I lost a lot of valuable time questioning my self-worth," says Lucille, Says Lucille, who's lovingly called Big Lou: "If I am able to prevent just one young person from having to spend any of her precious time or life wondering if she matters, I will have done my job."
At 12 years old, Lucille was already six feet tall and a lanky 95 lbs. Feeling awkward and unloved, lacking self-esteem, and dealing with instability at home, Lucille sought refuge from her troubles by partying and drinking with friends. Despite a strict Christian upbringing, her rebellious behavior led to Lucille nearly landing in a juvenile detention center. By the time she was 17, Lucille had met a college boy whom she thought loved and connected with her in a way that she'd been missing. Several months into the relationship, the teenager discovered that she was pregnant. The relationship eventually came to an end three months after the birth of their son, with her boyfriend not wanting to be a father.
Once Shaquille was born, the 18-year-old mother took full responsibility for her son, as she sought to get a job in order to get off public assistance. Standing at a towering 6'2", Lucille O'Neal finally started to feel more confident in herself as a woman and new mother. She soon met and married Philip Harrison, a union that would forever change the course of Lucille's life. Although Phil was a military man whose assignments took their growing family around the world, it was still difficult to make ends meet, with the Harrisons having to depend on food stamps at times just to eat. Lucille strived to be the best wife and mother but in the process, she began to lose herself. In an effort to guide readers through her life, Lucille combines stories of her childhood, young adult years, and womanhood with inspirational thoughts and Biblical verses that have shaped and aided her as she untangled a lifetime of profound insecurity and self-doubt.
Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go speaks to women of all ages who have struggled to understand how she fits into the world. Lucille courageously tells the deeply personal, at times heartbreaking, journey of the girl who experienced the pain of being an outcast and the stigma surrounding being an unwed teen mother. Yet that same girl evolved into a woman of immeasurable substance, faith and spirit, who has no regrets. "These days, when I go to bed at night, I sleep on the sheets of satisfaction, the pillows of peace, and the cushions of confidence?I am rich in so many ways that have nothing to do with money, which only serves to explain the happiness I have regarding my mental wealth today," she says.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Lucille O'Neal is the President of the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, Inc. and the Southeast Director of the Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund. She has appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, Live with Regis and Kelly, Good Morning America, and The View. Lucille returned to school as a woman in her 40's to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration at Bethune-Cookman University and a master's degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. She is the mother of four children and 14 grandchildren.
Allison Samuels is an award-winning Newsweek national correspondent who has been with the publication since 1996. Samuels is the author of Off The Record (Amistad/HarperCollins), which details the behind-the-scenes stories of her interviews with celebrities such as Denzel Washington, Kobe Bryant, Halle Berry, Michael Jordan and Bill Cosby. Her first book Christmas Soul (Jump At the Sun/Disney) was released in 2003. Samuels has been a frequent contributor to National Public Radio, CNN, MSNBC, and many others.
MEET LUCILLE AND SHAQUILLE O'NEAL
Wednesday, April 7 at 6:30pm
830 N Michigan Ave.