OKLA. CITY —
Richard Daniel is an Oklahoma native who has recently returned to the state after retiring from a 28-year career in law enforcement in California. He also served in the U.S. military and acted in several movies and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Daniel has recently written a memoir of his upbringing in Oklahoma that is titled “Momma Loves us, This I Know.” In that work Daniel tells a harrowing tale of how he and his brother and sister lived in extreme poverty and experienced abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father and stepfather.
On virtually every page of his memoir is detailed a humiliation or injury that Daniel and his siblings had to bear at a very young age. He attended 14 different elementary schools and lived in substandard housing for much of his childhood. As his title suggests, the heroine of Daniel’s book is his mother, LaVeeta Mae, who sought to protect her children from abuse from her husband and other children. But it is also made clear that she had an alcohol problem as well and could also be violent toward other family members. The only unblemished adults in Daniel’s family are his maternal grandparents with whom he and his siblings lived with on occasion.
While Daniel is a gifted writer and his lean prose succeeds in vividly recreating the violent and chaotic world of his youth, the sadness of his tale makes it difficult to read his memoir. One can only imagine how difficult it was for Daniel to write it. He recently explained that he wrote it as a way to give hope to children who are living in difficult situations today and to let them know that it is possible to rise above adverse childhood circumstances.
Daniel details how both his brother and sister became successful adults. That is a message that the author has taken to several schools in the Oklahoma City area recently.
Like many people who were exposed to domestic violence in childhood, Daniel was very angry for a time and drank heavily as a means to deal with his painful memories. But he reports that in time he learned to neutralize his anger without drinking.
There are numerous photos in the book and in many of them his mother is shown to be a very attractive woman whose appearance did not suggest the difficulties she encountered in life.
Daniel, who spent years on the mean streets of Los Angeles as a police officer, said he was often reminded of his mother when he saw strong African American mothers who tried to protect their children from the violence and drugs that threatened their well-being.
Richard Daniel’s book may be classified as part of the American literary tradition that includes works by Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X in which individuals chronicle how they managed to overcome difficult situations and succeed in life.
William F. O’Brien is an Oklahoma City attorney.