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Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle

Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle



Hood…not meaning a bad place where poor black and brown people live. Hood…meaning family place…home.
Momma…not meaning woman who has birthed a baby. Momma…meaning community-builder and protector of life. Warrior.



They said you would amount to no good,
judging you from your parents mistakes or your lack of help,
or simply because your from what they call the hood.

I say even with your failures, you’ve surpassed your ancestors success.
And you being born in da hood, without a silver spoon,
has helped to mold you into the best.

They said you were easy prey for weak, half-slick men,
because you didn’t have a father.
And you would settle on being a baby momma and not get married,
because your parents didn’t bother.

I say that a weak, half-slick man wouldn’t have a chance with you
even if he was the last in the world.
And because your mature and strong mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,
you refuse to be defined or introduced as “ my baby momma, my wifey, or my girl.

They say your stuck-up, a bitch, or you want a white man.
Because your not impressed with thugs, ballers, or any man with no real plans.

I say your classy, a lady, and you desire a brother who can stay focused and work his plan.
And no matter his color, you know that an adult female is best paired with an adult male,
who has the conviction, fairness, and mentality of a man.

You’ve been with me from the maternity ward, thru my growing pains,
and emergency room trauma.
That’s why I love, respect, and honor You, HOODMOMMA!

A Man’s Inner Reflections aka AMIR

You Ought to Know Me

A Stream of Consciousness Bio Sketch
By Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle

Born in Panama City, Florida in 1972
Third child of six, birthed by a smart, beautiful, loving & struggling single mother…whose wicked step mother sent her away to college when she was only 16…just months after her blood mother, (my grandmama Olivia that I wish I had known) died of a heart attack…wicked step mother wanted her out of the house beacuse she didn’t want any “female” competition around. My mother ended up a country girl. Lost in a big city. Fell prey to a Dallas pimp. Pregnant and alone. She made her way back to Panama. The story tells that she got off the greyhound bus in the middle of August, wearing white patent leather thigh-high boots and a baby on her hip.

From here to my adulthood you probably know how the story goes.

Six kids. 2 brothers and 3 sisters for me. Too many victims for evil opportunists. Poverty. Close quarters. Project housing. Momma searching for love to feed her babies and feed her soul. Missing and needing her own momma. Sexual abuse. Emotional neglect. Momma depressed. Sick and dying child. (Child fathered by the Dallas pimp.) Struggling. Hunger. Us playing in hurricanes. Pretending our lives had no hurtful night time. Church and preachers. The rootman. Housing Authority. Vacation Bible school summers and free bolonga sandwiches. Momma taking in other children neglected by crack-addicted parents. A good and giving woman fighting way past wounded. Amidst this classic despair, I orchestrated happy moments running in the sun all day and playing hide n seek in the evenings. Making songs, paper dolls and dreaming out loud.


I graduated from high school the same year my oldest brother, Elton, died after struggling for years with Cystic Fibrosis and Juvenile Diabetes.

I was “too smart, too weird and “too white” in high school. I left town and went to college for a short while in Alabama. I tried to be an English teacher ‘cause er’body said I was a great writer? All I wanted to do was paint and draw and sew and read and be in a warm community. I left school. Went back to Panama. Worked and struggled to take care of myself, my momma, my sister and her three kids. I got married to an officer from Tyndall Air Force base. He decided he wanted to move back home.

Milwaukee is his home. I came here in October of 1994 with knee high boots and a baby on my hip. This has been home ever since. Two husbands. Two daughters. My life has been a roller coaster ride. My resume is a colorful collage of jobs and schools. I have been a baby sitter, child care teacher, director of a family child care. I’ve worn ultra-sexy clothes to sell men’s suits. I have rolled dough to make cinnabons. I taught k-4. I have provided art workshops to hundreds of people. I have sold my own handmade dolls and jewelry. I am a Cultural Arts Consultant and freelance journalist.
All these things I have done to make money. I use to be ashamed of my hodge-podge resume. Until I realized that the one job I never listed…the only constant thing in my history, was my youth and community organizing. The work I have always done for free. It is who I am and it is as natural as my own skin.
I have learned that my energy is best used to help repair the fabric of our communities. I have a clear undertsanding of the way the fiber gets broken down and worn so thin. My work has evolved to include not only youth organizing, but community-building through family, intergenerational enrichment opportunities and healing through creative arts. I am especially passionate about the need forus women to heal from our wounds. I have a firmly believe that when the women…vessels of life, are healthy and celebrated, our community will have a greater chance to heal.
For…too many of us a tending to this great work…way past wounded.

My greatest job…most critical title or label if need be?
Hood Momma.

1994–2002 Family Child Care Worker then Owner
2002 Founded Black Sky Creations Creative Art Workshops
1998 Started youth/community work in Riverwest
2002 Co-founded Summer of Peace Initiative & Citywide Youth Rally
2003–2006 Cultural Arts Administrator of COA Youth & Family Centers
Columnist…”The View From Here” for Riverwest Currents (A founding member of this community paper)
Organizer of numerous community events and gatherings.
Various awards and recognitions…recently honored as an Emerging Leader at the 2006 Congressional Black Caucus Conference in Washington D.C.


Milwaukee needs more hoodmommas taking their struggle to the streets, into the board rooms and straight in the faces of the policymakers.

Iím committed to creating brighter futures for Milwaukee’s children of all persuasions, but especially of the darker persuasion. They fall through the cracks the fastest and end up behind bars so automatically.

My motherhood mission includes spreading the message of non-violence and giving youth skills to live this way.

Most of all, I am a student of life and these streets learning from the people in the thick of the struggle what we need to get up and out.

I support Inclusion.
Not Diversity! - Diversity is about counting people, inclusion is about making people count! a great man said.

Iím not down with poverty pimps and expect much more from Milwaukees Youth & Community Serving agencies. I expect even more from Hoodmommas. We have the most to give.

I write, dance, sing, paint, draw, sew, love, bleed, and give.

I speak too colorfully sometimes. Probably most times.
Donít listen. Just feel me.


From the Mouths of Babes!
“What? How does it feel to be the child of a Hoodmomma? It’s fun. But sometimes hard when momma is always at a meeting or teaching some art class. She has to do what she has to do. Plus, she still has time for us. It’s like…she is how it is going to be…being me.”’‘
Dylan 12 years beautiful


The View From Here

By Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle
“I am Hungry”

Artists make a choice to be hungry and poor. There is no money in art. You are hungry and it is nobody’s fault but yours.
Friends have said this to me lately. They are right.
I make art, teach art. I am art. I am hungry.
Literally and figuratively.
Milwaukee is a hard place to be an artist. Milwaukee is a difficult place to be an African American artist. Milwaukee is an extremely cold place to be a female African American artist. I must be crazy.
I admire the work and persistence of Milwaukee artists, Evelyn Terry and Della Wells. I would like to sit down with them and have a conversation about this artist life in Milwaukee. I need to join ABEA.
We need to keep creating and revealing beauty. Our city needs more of it. But it is hard. I make things with my hands. Beautiful things. But it seems they will never help me feed myself and my babies. Too many people would rather buy mass produced goods with no heart-touch. Or they want to purchase something from an exclusive gallery.
Where does that leave women artists like me?

I have a “plan for my pain”! I am going to promote “Beautiful Hustles”! This is a collective of Hoodmomma artists creating and selling their work for self-sufficiency. A fair trade…beauty for food. Beauty for money. Again, I must be crazy. But what do I have to lose? Nothing.

Folks tell me how great and wonderful I am all the time. How they love what I create. I can’t live on compliments. I need people to make a real effort to support our social enterprises. I know too many women with great talent they’ve tried to offer the city. I know too many women that have considered prostitution when having someone trade money for their art and work would have been enough.

Maybe I should give up being an artist and cultural activist. Get a 9 to 5 and create on the side. I find that hard. I have so much beauty in me…I see so much beauty in others. I want to midwife more beauty into the world. Especially our city. Milwaukee…yes we need so much more.


Hoodmomma will share the legitimate hustles of women artists who are trying to feed their souls, feed their babies, pay their bills and keep on keepin’ on.

Contact Tanya @ with your beautiful hustle!
Checkout these offerings and remember: Tis the season to support local artists!

AND Shop with Sara @ the new Fischeberger’s Variety on Holton!

2803 North Teutonia Avenue
Checkout Java Vibe Poetry Open Mic
Every 1st and 3rd Saturday from 4–7pm
Hosted by Lady CT aka the prolific and beautiful Hoodmomma, Charlesetta Thompson!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright December 2006. You ought to know better than to copy or use this content without asking me!
Tanya's email box

Last edited by tanya. Based on work by john, Tanya, TeganDowling, bs, tree, Godsil, Olde Godsile and g.  Page last modified on August 30, 2007, at 10:04 AM

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