Just like a national holiday or a particular month that focuses on a person or group of people who overcame enormous challenges and changes your perceptions, sometimes you meet someone who unexpectedly adds to that enhanced appreciation of life. A person I met recently, Nekisha Gallon, is one of those people who touches your life the moment you meet her.
With a heart to always strive for a better life than what she endured as a child, Nekisha Gallon is a true spiritual survivor who aims to be a light to anyone she meets. A bright soul I crossed paths with in the past year, we instantly connected because of our experiences with the foster care system. Her story began in 2001 when she was only 11 years old and forced to endure emotional turmoil as she was removed from her home and placed into the custody of the Contra Costa County foster care system. She endured painful experiences no child should ever have to face.
The oldest of six siblings, Nekisha and her younger brothers and sisters were separated, and placed into not just one foster care home but multiple foster care homes. Caught in the crossfire of her mother’s crack addiction, she dealt with multiple instances of sexual abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to care for her. Even with all these tragedies in her memories, Nekisha always knew that God had a different plan for her life.
Watching her mother make diligent efforts to show up for the supervised visits, the devastation, and difficulties of her mother’s choices, along with the lack of follow-through from the county’s family court system, she witnessed the deterioration of her mother’s mental state. What could have been an opportunity for her mother, Rocquel, to be provided with direction and resources for rehabilitation, sadly resulted in her living on the streets of North Richmond.
Dealing with the world with her heart on her sleeve just like her daughter, Rocquel has endured harassment and insults as she survives sleeping in parks and any abandoned home she can find. Nekisha still visits her in this environment out of unconditional love and a desire to keep her thoughts on what is good in this world and how she can add something good to her mother’s life.
It can be a very cruel world that we live in but there are offsets because of the determination of individuals like my dear friend to keep on keepin’ on. Sadly, growing up in a dysfunctional family environment often leads to a continuation of the dysfunction. However, Nekisha shattered the limitations by graduating with honors from high school and now attends Cal State East Bay, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. In 2015 she married her high school sweetheart and is a mother of two children, Angelo Jr. and A’Naiyah. Today she works full-time in her own fitness business, “Flexin With Keke,” and is working to raise funds to help her mother with future rehabilitation costs.
You never know what someone has been through and their capacity to make necessary changes, despite pushbacks, so don’t judge a book by its cover because behind that “book” may be loved ones wanting a better path for all involved. Whether a person is part of the mainstream or the struggling homeless, everyone has a story to share. When the day begins and you walk out the door to face it, remember that there are those who have endured or who are enduring a rough path.
The pain of the past can be the lesson that helps us grow and break patterns; to plant the seeds that help the community and many we may never meet. It was such an honor to get to know about Nekisha and her family’s life. Just like her business name, instead of letting the problems keep her down, she is determined to flex through the mess. It is a pattern we all should imitate.
For more information regarding fundraising or to be a physical fitness member with “Flexin_With_Keke”, please email firstname.lastname@example.org