3 St. Charles natives tell their story in book

For three St. Charles Parish women, telling their life’s story in a soon-to-be released book, “Dear Young Woman,” became an empowering experience and one they hope to pass on to generations to come.

“As women, we are often taught how to love and nurture others, but never really ourselves,” said Mechelle Pollard. “We often times suffer in silence in things we have gone through and are going through.”

Pollard, along with Cherie Johnson and Renata Rafiel, all Hahnville High School graduates, share their stories among 26 authors featured in the book.

“It is a compilation of testimonies to bridge the gap and open dialogue with our younger generation of women that are coming up after us,” Pollard added.

Cherie Johnson said her chapter is focused on value and what makes a woman truly valuable.

Mechelle Pollard

“I share what I learned through the miscarriages I experienced and the effect it had on how I viewed myself and how I measured my value,” Johnson said.

Although Johnson resides in Tangipahoa Parish, she grew up in St. Charles Parish, and is a 1997 graduate of Hahnville High School. She is a member of Triumphant Church of Luling, as well as the River Parishes Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which services the parish along with St. John and St. James parishes. She was also recently named one of Dillard University’s 40 under 40 alumni.  She married Mark Johnson Jr, who is also from St. Charles Parish.

Renata Rafiel’s chapter will address how she left an abusive marriage.

“Many women hide their pain and refuse to let anyone know the pain they’re experiencing, Rafiel said. “They also feel stuck and hopeless. These were my feelings until I finally got the courage to leave and never look back.”

Renata Rafiel

She added, “I’m finally ready to release my pain in this chapter and share my story on how I overcame years of hurt and pain.”

Alandria Lloyd, a book publisher in Mandeville with her own company called The Writer’s Block, initiated the project by reaching out to writers for their story of “overcoming” in order to bridge the gap between generations.

Oct. 15 is the publish date for the book, Pre-orders are being taken at bit.ly/31yUdFS.

“The book is aimed at breaking the silence and letting other women know I’ve been there and this is how I overcame it,” Pollard said. “I think that us being able to band together and share our hurt will initiate the healing for so many of us feeing like nobody cares what we’re going through. I think this will start the dialogue.”

Cherie Johnson

The stories are challenging, including Pollard’s own story of attempted suicide at age 15 and her struggle with clinical depression. But she also advocates for mental health awareness and the importance of seeking help.

“It was challenging to do the story,” she said. “But it was freeing once it was completed.”

Pollard stays in contact with her two HHS grad friends, continuing a dialogue that helped them find a healing process with the book.

“Was it freeing afterwards?” she said. “Man, it was amazing.”

[pullquote]“As women, we are often taught how to love and nurture others, but never really ourselves.” — Mechelle Pollard[/pullquote]

And it’s a dialogue that Pollard hopes they can help get started in St. Charles Parish.

Others write about struggling with molestation or abuse.

“It is raw and powerful,” Pollard said. “Believe me that every single author in this book has dug down deep and come out raw and uncut about the stories that we’re sharing. Some of our stories our own families don’t know about. All of these stories are very powerful and strong.”

By the book

  • Three HHS grads contribute to a book, “Dear Young Woman.”
  • They are among 26 authors.
  • The book will be published Oct. 15.


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