Stories my mother told me . . .

by Michael O. Allen on March 3, 2008

This is one of them.

My mother was about 15 when she got pregnant with me. My father was 18.

Terrified to go to her own family, she approached my father’s sister and told her of her predicament. The two young women hatched a plan to make the problem, me, go away. They would procure an abortion for my mother.

I forgot to mention this was in Africa and in the early 1960’s.

Just imagine what the practice of abortion was like in this country in the 1960’s and you’ll understand that undergoing the procedure in Africa then would have ended in certain death for my mother.

But my mother’s biggest fear was realized. Her father found out about the pregnancy and ended the talk of abortion.

I was born and my early childhood was spent in my grandfather’s compound in Accra, Ghana. The consequences of those decisions set the course of my life. My mother never finished high school (she was fond of telling I was her high school diploma until I made her stop). Attendant to that was crushing poverty that ruled much of my life.

The good news, however, was that my mother did not die and I lived.

Bates for News

Six-month-old Daniella broke the hearts of New Yorkers everywhere when Sailema claimed she was left in his cab.

I reminisce about this now because of little Daniella, the 6-month-old that a few people are in a whale of trouble for trying to make sure she is safe. Cabby Klever Sailema turned her over to Queens firefighters, claiming a fare had abandoned the infant in his cab. That story turned out not to be true.

Klever Sailema spoke to the Daily News from his lawyer’s office in the Bronx.

Now he’s going to be punished. So will Daniella’s father, Carlos Rodas, 27, when cops catch up with him.

I was taken by the age of the mother, 14, and the insanity of punishing her and any of the people (well, Rodas does deserve sanction for taking advantage of a child) for trying to think of a way to make sure Daniella is safe and cared for. She was not much younger than my own mother was when she faced the same questions. The plan they hatched was, at best, hare-brained.

But, if the hoped for outcome is adoption, what exactly is wrong with that?

This story could have had a tragic ending. We’ve heard and seen too many times little children like Daniella being killed by the hands of their ward?

Maybe Sailema, a 45-year-old father of three from Elmhurst, Queens, does not deserve a hero’s medal but I’m not sure he deserves the charges against him either. What good is served by punishing Maria Siavichay, 21, Daniella’s aunt, who may have cooked up this ‘solution’?

I see this whole incident as a distress call for our community. Our sex education program is sorely lacking. A good sex education program does not, of course, mitigate statutory rape. But Daniella’s 14-year-old mother should have had better information to cope with her situation every misbegotten step of the way. And she should have had better resources after becoming pregnant. Our entire child welfare system failed her.

Here’s another thing: Our society does not aid families. We don’t help young families.

Here’s my question: What should Sailema and Siavichay have done?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Todd Drew March 3, 2008 at 10:31 AM

These people did their best to care for this child. As a society we need to understand that we are all responsible for each other. We are trying to assign blame to four people in this case when the failure lies with all of us.

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