PHD to Ph.D.

How Education Saved My Life

cover for PHD to Ph.D.

by Dr. Elaine Richardson AKA Dr. E


Trade Paper | $22.95 | ISBN 978-0-9840429-7-5 | Due Fall 2013. Pre-order now.



There was a time when Elaine Richardson was one of ". . . the Negroes everybody pointed to as the Negroes you didn't want to become." The title of this book is no metaphor or allusion, but literal shorthand for a remarkable, unpredictable journey. She inherits a plain way of talking about horrific pain from a mother who seemed impossible to shock. The way too fast way she grew up was and is too common, but her will to remap her destiny is uncommon indeed. To call her story inspiring would be itself too plain a thing, hers is a heroic life. --- dream hampton, writer. For more information, see


Mack and I got into this weird pattern. Every time I worked the streets, I was a fugitive on his most wanted list. He would comb Cleveland’s streets hunting for me. Sometimes he’d be sober and sometimes he’d be “fienin.” All of our encounters were now abusive. One time he rode down on me on a night that was raining moneymen for everybody—queens and fish. I was working on 63rd and Euclid. A warm gentle mist of rain sprayed the streets with a clean rain smell.

Tricks were riding, back to back and I was catchin left and right, just like back in the New York 11th Avenue days. Before I knew it, I had a fat wad of cash. I decided I had enough money to get off the street, cop, go over Melvin’s and shoot the lights out. I stepped into the bar on the corner of 64th to catch my last customer and a ride. Just as we walked out the door, there he was:

“Hey, where you goin?” He asked with that, “Bitch I gotcha” look.

“I got some bidness to take care of. I’ll meet you back here in a few, okay?” I lied.

“Nah, come on ride wit me.”

“Mack, I’m bout to take care of some bidness, what’s wrong witchu?” I pleaded as I shrugged behind my customer.

Mack bogarded him, grabbed me by the arm and started shoving me towards his car while my customer ran and jumped in his car and sped off.

“Bitch, you think I’m a goddamn fool. Get yo ass in da car.”

“Nah, Mack, I’m not goin nowhere witchu. You done ran my trick off. I ain’t goin nowhere withchu!” I shouted to the top of my lungs, hoping someone would come out of the bar or jump out of a car or off of a light post to save me from him. But no one came. I knew what was next. So I curled into a ball up against the building that housed the bar. He began punching me. First, in the stomach, then in the ribs. I begged him to stop, and I kept my face covered, because I never wanted to be a toothless hooker, and I didn’t want my face disfigured.

“You gone give it to me, or do I have to beat it outta you?” He growled, as he stopped punching me momentarily. “Bitch you wrong. You got my baby and you ain’t no mutha. You ain’t nevah home. You be leaving dat baby over yo momma house and you out here selling pussy to buy dope. You a dope-fien-bitch and ain’t nobody gone help you.”

“You don’t give a fuck about our baby. All you care about is Nay’s baby. Fuck you!”

And that’s the last thing I remember saying before I saw lightning and fell to the wet ground near the curb in front of the bar. He must have kicked me everywhere except my face. He got my wad of cash, as I lay on the ground in the fetal position. I remember hearing his car door slam and the sound of burning rubber on the road.

I lay there on the ground thoughtless and sobbing for a few minutes. Killed again. I pulled myself up slowly and looked around. With every move I made, I felt invisible kicks all over my body. Miss Pam spotted me and ran over to me:

“Miss Thinnng,” she sighed in her affected drag queen falsetto. What happennned? Who did dis to youuuuu? You want a ambulance, gurrrrl?”

“No,” I panted in a shallow breath. “I just... need to go... somewhere... where I can take a bath... and shoot some dope. Can you lend me some money?”

“I just got out here, Miss Thing, but yo girl Freda Payne up the block. Come on bay, take yo time. I’ll walk you up there.”

I crept up the street holding the hand of Miss Pam for what seemed like an hour. With every step, my ribs, my arms, my back, my legs, my butt ached. Miss Pam yelled for Freda, who ran up to meet us as we got closer to 69th and Euclid, one of Freda’s favorite corners.

“Aww, Pony, yo nigga did this to you? You need to press charges on his ass befoe he kill you. Fuck dat nigga, girl. Fuck him!”

“Freda... I cain’t go home like dis,” I muttered.

She took one look at me and signaled over to her waiting driver to pick us up. She instructed him to take us to Lancie’s. She took me to her room, ran a hot bath for me and went to fetch us some food and drugs. She took care of me, helped me get some decent clothes and let me lay low.

After a couple days, I turned up at my parents’ house, with a fractured rib and a battered body, and so the cycle went.