Diane and Donyaeh
Sue in Wisconsin asks: What gave you, Diane, the strength to do all that you have done with getting your children back and getting a good job? Was it just your faith? You obviously have a strong faith. I have a strong faith also. It is very hard to ask for help, however. A person hates to feel “poor.” People always want to think that a person is lazy or something. Life just seems to be harder for some people. What would you say to those people?
Diane Hazzard: Hi Sue! Yes, it has a lot to do with me keeping my faith. I also had to do the things they asked me to do, like go to the parenting classes and anything else that was asked of me to get my children back. I hated feeling poor and not having money to buy my children the things they needed. I had to realize that I couldn’t do this by myself so I had to ask for help, which was very hard for me to do. I also had to humble myself and say that I don’t want to live like this anymore.
Michelle in New York asks: I would like to, first of all, say that I admire you for all your courage and strength. I am a high school student and I have never witnessed a film so touching and dramatic. I would like to ask you, do you think that the filming had anything to do with the results of everything that happened in the end?
Diane: The film played a big part, but it was me who didn’t want to live the way I was living. I had to tell myself that I can do better than this and I will do better with the guidance and strength of GOD. I also had to change my attitude and start thinking positive.
Kelly in South Carolina asks: Ms. Diane, how is your relationship with Love now? How is Donyaeh? How old are your kids now? How are each of them doing? What does Donyaeh want to be when he grows up? Oh, how did you come to naming her… Love?
Diane: Me and Love’s relationship, I am happy to say, is very strong today. Donyaeh is going to be 7 years old next week and he still loves to dance. All of my children are grown up and living on their own and are well, thanks for asking. Donyaeh, he has a few things he would like to be when he grows up, so it changes. As to Love, it was her father who named her because at the time she was made from LOVE.
Mary Jane in New York asks: First of all I want to say I am very proud of you. I am a social worker. I work with drug addicts in recovery. What do you suggest I do, to MOTIVATE my patients to stay clean and sober? What’s the strongest “thing” I can do or say to encourage them? Your answer means a lot to me.
Diane: For me it was my “ATTITUDE” and the Serenity Prayer. I would say this prayer any time I needed the strength inside of me to keep on keeping on. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I would have to ask them, “aren’t you TIRED of the pain and the changes we put our family through?” I would also tell them that I sometimes had to take it one hour (or one minute, even seconds) at a time and pray and say the Serenity Prayer. Let them know that they will always be in my prayers. For you, Mary Jane, I want you to remember that YOU CAN’T SAVE THE WORLD AND I’M PROUD OF YOU FOR THE WORK YOU ARE DOING TO HELP PEOPLE IN NEED, SO KEEP YOUR HEAD UP, OK!
Brandi in Alabama and Sheila in South Carolina ask: How do the children see themselves now? Do they see the growth in their lives? Now that you have graduated, and as you continue to better yourself, have you noticed a change in their self esteem now that they have proof that regardless of their background, they are able to overcome bad circumstances?
Diane: I have to say I’m very proud of my children who are grown and on their own doing their thing. Their self-esteem is up. I thank GOD for allowing me to continue to do better, it’s helping my children to keep doing better, and better with their own children. I know that they will be great role models for their children.
Julienne in Virginia asks: As a social worker, I often wonder if what I’m doing or saying is really helping my clients. When you look back at all the social workers that were involved in your life over the years, can you remember anything one of them did or said that really made a difference in your life or helped you in any way?
Diane: Julienne, first I want to say that I’m proud of the work you are doing. You need to look in your heart and ask yourself, “do I feel like I’ve made a difference?” Play the tapes back in your head and if you love your job, than I believe in you, because you chose this field of work. If you love what you are doing then that is all that matters. Keep doing what you are doing. I also want to THANK YOU FOR FEELING!
Brenda in Louisiana asks: I saw the show last night and was so touched by your courage and strength. As a cancer survivor, I know that sometimes faith is all we have to get us through rough times. I am in the process of becoming a foster parent and would love to discuss with you your view on what is important is the foster parent-birth parent relationship.
Diane: Brenda, you will be in my prayers. If I’m correct, you are asking me how I feel about a birth mother who wants to still have a relationship with her child while the child is with the foster mother. As long as the child is safe and asking for the birth mother, then yes, let them. If it is a baby, then you would have to make that call. I never knew my father or any of his family. Just remember that this is a small world. I could be talking to a family member and not know it.
Ron in New York asks: Do you see yourself through your daughter? If so, do you think that one day she will be as strong as you?
Diane: I see myself in all my children, and people like you let me know that with the strength of God’s help we all can get stronger, including my children.
Tiffany in Illinois asks: For most of my life, I was not addicted to anything, but now that I am 33 years old, I am addicted to alcohol. I have been working on getting better and I admire your strength because you are able to deal with all of the stresses in life and you can still stay away from negative and destructive behavior. I did not grow up in poverty, I was not abused, I have a wonderful husband, I have a master’s degree in business law, I have an intelligent 15 year old and a fussy beautiful one year old baby boy. Despite all of these positive sparks in my life, I feel that I can learn something from you.
Diane: Tiffany, we cannot do this alone, my dear heart, please ask for help. I don’t want you to feel in anyway that you are less than a woman for asking for help. You are human first, we make mistakes, but what’s important is we can’t afford to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I don’t know about you, I want to see my 16 year old granddaughter grow up and graduate high school, God willing, HOW ABOUT YOU? ONE DAY AT A TIME, MY SISTER. YOU WILL BE IN MY PRAYERS.
Gilda in California asks: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I cried, felt your frustration, and laughed with you and your family. Watching your story made me reflect on my own childhood. Growing up was a huge struggle, but like you I’ve made it out of the “hard life” of growing up poor and black in America. I was fortunate to be able to go to college, thereby improving my speech, which had been poor and very “ghetto,” and through libraries/books/education, opened a whole world of opportunities for me, as I had no positive role models in my family. My question to you is… was college ever an option, and would you consider pursuing a higher education, if possible?
Diane: OH YES! I would have loved to go to college, then and now. College wasn’t an option because I had 6 children. Now I’m at the tender age of (?) and by the grace of God, I plan on going to college. As for you, YOU GO GIRL!
Mike in Georgia asks: Although I live in Atlanta, I grew up in NJ; went to college in Jersey City. I know a lot of people, including my own family, who were in your boat. How difficult was it for you to get used to someone that was not so familiar with what us poor blacks have gone through following your every move? Did you feel as though a black female filmmaker could have helped you tell your story better? (By the way, I am a filmmaker.)
Diane: At first it was very difficult to have someone, whether black or white, in your private life filming. Let me ask you something, would it made a difference if she was a poor white woman? I don’t know if it would have made a difference, all I know is that Jennifer Dworkin did a beautiful job with me and my family’s documentary, and I’m proud of the job she did. You keep up the good work on what you are filming, thank you.
Rhasha in Indiana asks: Diane, I enjoyed the film. I laughed with you and cried with you. My question is, what can we as black people, even as a human race of people, do to eliminate the crack cocaine epidemic? I know it’s a large problem and a huge question, but I know family members of mine that are using and this is how it gets started. First crack, then your children are taken, then the cycle begins, teenage moms, AIDS, murder, suicide. I know most of the problems begin with the home. What would it have taken for you to never begin with the drug and alcohol use? What did you need, that the drugs provided? My mom is an adoption and foster care specialist who deals with this everyday, I am a young divorced mom with friends in this situation and one day this could be me, your story could be mine. Thank You!
Diane: I was abandoned at the age of three and the twins (my siblings) were two. My grandparents did the best they could, being they both were so old when me and the twins came to live with them. I myself feel that if my mother would have been a mother, maybe things could have been different for me and my family. The drugs didn’t provide me with anything except for hurting myself and my children. I just wanted to be loved and needed. As for your friends, you can only help them so much, they need to be sick and tired of being sick and tired of living in “HELL” everyday. They will be in my prayers. Thank You! Keep your head up, girlfriend.
If you would like to write to the family, you may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the transcript of a live chat between viewers and Diane and filmmaker Jennifer Dworkin on Washingtonpost.com.