StoryCorps in the Valley: Being a Single Parent, Helping Others, and Failing Gracefully

Jun 9, 2021

Sabrina Burress shares a conversation with her two sons, Tay Burress and Manny Chapman
Credit StoryCorps

WMRA is currently partnering with StoryCorps in the Valley and Central Virginia to gather stories from our communities, and on the first day of recording, June 2, 2021, Sabrina Burress spoke with her two sons, Tay Burress and Manny Chapman.

They discussed her struggles as a single parent, how this inspired her to create a space to help others who struggle, and the art of failing gracefully.

Sabrina Burress co-founded the ARROW Project, a community-focused health and wellness organization based in Staunton that aims to alleviate barriers to accessing mental health services. 

The conversation begins with Manny Chapman asking his mother, Sabrina Burress, about life as a young single parent.

MANNY: What were some of the struggles of like raising us at a young age and how did you combat them?

SABRINA: I distinctly remember when I lost my job, one of two jobs when we lived in Waynesboro, and we went to the grocery store. That we went to the register and I didn't have enough money. So I was trying to put things back so that we could get, you know, like whatever whatever money I had. And I just became so overwhelmed, and I was tearful and y'all were so little. That I just left. I think I told the lady at the register, I was like, "Hey I'm going to go see if I have another debit card in the car," or something, but I really just wanted to like leave the premises. And Tay, you were like, "Why did you leave all the groceries. Where is my cereal?" And I was like trying to be so very very calm because you all were too young to understand. That was one of the biggest struggles of being a single mom. It's just the number of times like we didn't have what we needed, and there was no way for me to be able to tell you all. You know like, "Hey I'm doing my best." So that was one of the biggest struggles, was just trying to navigate the financial parts of being a single mom.

MANNY: You know, you being like a mental health professional, I think... I know you you started your own nonprofit. It's called the ARROW project. So I've never really heard you go in depth about it, so like what what exactly is the ARROW project and why did you want to start it?

SABRINA: I don't think I can go in depth, but I will tell you why I started it. And it connects to that question that you asked earlier about what were the struggles like. Our entire life, from the moment that I became a mom at 21, it's been like hustle hard, grind hard, like do all the things, work the jobs that you don't want to work, because you got to you know like you got to make that money to put food on the table. And even from our black experience right, all of these things that systemically make it really hard for us to exist, and I was like I want to create a place where people can feel heard, and feel seen, and celebrate their resilience, and find love and hope. And you know like get to the other side of whatever. So that's probably one of the biggest reasons that I created ARROW project. I wanted for there to be a place where people can live past, and through, and above. The year of COVID, and the increase in racial unrest, have been these really beautiful moments where we get to honor that. And I get to say like, "Hey come to my space. Let's do some individual counseling, or group counseling, or community engagement, where we can help you to feel safe in this world. And we can help you to find your resilience." There are other components of ARROW that are really important, but that was the big one. Like I wanted to have something that was my own. That I created, no one can take it away from me. But most importantly, somewhere where people can live past their mental health issues, and world issues, and systemic issues. And so yeah. What is something that I have taught you?

TAY: I would definitely say you've taught me how to fail gracefully, or fail very strategically to make it look like it was intentional. And then pick the pieces back up after the fact. So then everyone is like, "Oh man, he's... he's good at that I guess." And then you know, we just keep on going. I'm like nice, cool, like awesome. I think that's definitely what I've learned.

SABRINA: So I'm gonna hold on to that one forever. Cause we do right? That's a part of life, we fail. But it's our ability to own it, and work through it. Yeah, Yeah, I love you.

MANNY: Ummm, I would say like one thing you say a lot to me, and just people you talk to is, what is it... tap in? Tap in, like tap in to yourself. It's like know where you are at before you make any decision, or antyhing. So like just know where you are or how you feel.

TAY: Funny enough, that's kind of like I learned it as being mindful, where as Manny learned it ais tapping in. So it's just kind of funny that those two things are connected in different ways.

SABRINA: But I appreciate that you both learned it, because that's so important. Like I cannot tell you all... I can tell you! I tell you all the time how important it is to tune in. Like when we tune into ourselves, we can navigate the world so much better. All of the most overwhelming things can feel so different when we're tapped in and grounded in ourselves. So I love that both you all have that. So great. I'll stop saying it... I won't. I'm going to keep saying it. I'm glad so I'm gonna hold on to it. OK, we're a dynamite trio!

TAY: Yeah, absolutely.

SABRINA: Anything else y'all? We good?

TAY: I think I can walk away from this knowing, that I now know you all a lot better than I did before.

SABRINA: Thank you for sharing... fo sho!

TAY: Yes, thank you both as well. Awesome.