Patrice Gaines is a speaker, author, journalist and co-founder of The Brown Angel Center, a program in Charlotte, NC that runs workshops for women in the Charlotte Jail. She is a spiritual life coach dedicated to helping others transform their lives. Her autobiography Laughing in the Dark details her journey from heroin user and abused woman to award-winning journalist and good mother. She is also author of Moments of Grace, which outlines her path to change. A veteran journalist, Ms. Gaines was a reporter at the Washington Post for 16 years and was a member of a reporting team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer. She has won the National Association of Black Journalists First Place Award for Commentary and the Best News Story Award from the Associated Press, Chesapeake Chapter. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Essence, Ebony, USA Today and Black Enterprise. Ms. Gaines has been a commentator for National Public Radio, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and was featured in a segment of Dateline NBC.
What do I do best?
Love. I'm a loving person. I used to love from a place of desperation, because I felt unworthy and I tried overcompensating by proving to everyone I could love them. This led to pain and confusion because, of course, not everyone wanted to love me back and in my desperation I badly needed that love to feel whole. This led to more and more rejection and the vicious cycle of believing I was unlovable. Therapy, meditation, prayer, reading, studying, lots of looking within, all led me to finally arrive at where I can love everyone unabashedly and fully without needing to be loved in return. It's an awfully freeing experience that has brought me more love than I can imagine.
What makes me the best version of myself?
My determination and perseverance, particularly related to my passion for life. I was and still am determined to understand as much as possible this existence I have. I am determined to live a good life and to make it better each day. I am passionately in love with life and even in my darkest days, I would not give up!
What are my aspirations?
For me this is evolving, which I think is great. The more I learn about myself, the more I believe I am capable of doing in this lifetime and the more I heighten my goals. What I know now is this: I am in seminary and I hope to use this new knowledge in my writing, to take my writing to a different place, especially in regards to the merger of religion and social issues. I know I want to do a lot of healing work around forgiveness since I believe a misunderstanding of this and a lack of it profoundly impacts our society negatively and impacts each individual, personally. In dreams I have seen myself doing laying on of hands and healing people. I am open to this and have studied healing to be prepared.
My Biggest Success?
Always, the first thing that pops into my mind is: My daughter. She is a gifted, humane human being; a kind and compassionate woman, very thoughtful and intuitive. I look at her with amazement each time I see her and think: I helped shape this woman into who she is. I feel very successful in her presence.
My Most Challenging Moment?
Really, I've had so many. But the first to come to mind is my leaving my job as a reporter at the Washington Post. It was the best job I ever had and I come from a pit of despair that I created with my own misperceptions. Briefly, I hated myself growing up and believed my father didn't love me. In my desperation, I generally chose abusive men to love. I became a drug user (heroin), and a convicted felon. It was very difficult to get a job, but I developed a love for writing. I was accepted into a summer journalism program and thus, was able to create a career. For me, this job became my own proof of my self-worth. Until I realized it wasn't. My work was not fully appreciated by management and this supported my sense of worthlessness. Except, something inside me knew there was more. After I wrote two books and received standing ovations whenever I spoke, I knew that I could not depend on that job to give me my self-worth. And I began to question: Is there something else that I came to this earth to do? That question opened me up, spiritually. On the outside to some it may have looked like I was derailed. I actually feel as though I stepped onto a magical spiritual carpet ride, as I turned my focus on developing myself as a human being. I asked: If I have one wild and beautiful life, what do I want to do with it?
This is always changing, but always in the same light: "All things are possible." This is like "Keep your head to the sky" or "If a door closes, look for an open window." I believe miracles are ordinary happenings and so any mantra I use uplifts and encourages us to look beyond what we see in front of us.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
This probably sounds/is so cliché: Jesus -- because he had a mastery of what it means to be human and of God also No one has understood this as well since.
Martin Luther King - Perhaps the closest person I know in my lifetime who seemed also to understand God. A visionary who saw far beyond what was before him. This did not quench his fear and yet, he persevered. Wow.
Oprah Winfrey - What a magnificent human being to watch. She reminds me of my daughter in her magnificence. The point being that some human beings awe you with their capacity to be brave and to grow.
Right now, Rose McGowan - What a brave woman who shows us what we are capable of being when we insist on the truth.
And Jay-Z and Beyonce - How beautiful to watch people grow up publicly and do it well. I've enjoyed watching them mature. It makes me happy and it makes me wonder where they will go next. Thankful to witness it.
The thing is on any given day I can be inspired and motivated by any other human being. Perhaps they display a capacity for love or forgiveness that moves me. I volunteer in a woman's jail in Charlotte, NC and so many times I meet a woman whose face and presence stays with me for months because she shows me how God works through flesh.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I love to travel. Each time I go somewhere new outside of the U.S. it becomes my favorite place, my favorite trip. Just the opportunity to see something new astounds me. I compare it to babies who see the world as new. We get too used to what we see and so I like to be presented with a new way of seeing the world from a different culture and position on the earth. But I must say my daughter and I enjoy beautiful beaches always and more recently we've fallen in love with Destin, Fla, which we visit annually.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My Current Passions?
I will always love to dance.
I will always love live music. I love music--period. I love jazz, particularly. But I'm happy with some hip-hop too. (Shout-out to Jay-Z)
Learning. I am excited about being in seminary.