Regina Mullins - Waking Up In America

Regina Mullins

TAJCI:
My guest today is Regina Mullins, one of the women I met at Thistle Farms Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee, a community of women survivors of prostitution, trafficking and addiction. As her life was being restored, Regina stayed dedicated to keep the promise she had made to her friends. Today, Regina is a part of the outreach program at Thistle Farms, working tirelessly with the message that love truly can heal.

BUMPER:
I’m Tajci. At 19 I was a superstar and I was lost inside. I left it all behind, switched continents and started all over. Years later I found myself lost again, this time in the American Dream. This is a story about awakening. About living the life you were created for. About going inward and discovering the joyous and purposeful person you and I are both meant to be. This is Waking Up in America.

TAJCI:
I just moved to Nashville when in the fall of 2015 a friend invited me to visit Thistle Farms and join the meditation circle. My friend could not have known the avalanche of transformation that this meditation circle brought into my own life. There I met these women who drew me in with their stories, with their courage and with their tremendous witness that love heals. As I spoke to many women there, one name kept coming up. They said, “You need to talk to Regina Mullins.” Thank you so much.

REGINA:
Thank you for having me.

TAJCI:
Thank you for being here. You know, Regina, Doris who was in one of the episodes, she kept saying, “You have to have Regina because she’s the one that, because of her I am here and my life is restored.”

REGINA:
Wow. It’s awesome. It’s really because of God, though. And you know, just the grace and the mercy that He gives us all. And when He does bring us out, just like I’ve always told the women, “If you brought me out then I’m going to find the way out and I’ll be back.” And so if you brought me out then I’m charged with showing someone else how to get out of that lifestyle—out of the darkness and how to live in the light, in the life they were supposed to live, you know? And Becca Stevens, she did it for me.

TAJCI:
Yes.

REGINA:
She was my lifeline into what love heals me.

TAJCI:
Yes.

REGINA:
What love means.

TAJCI:
This is the t-shirt.

REGINA:
Thank you. You know, a lot of us we don’t know what love is. We don’t know what real love looks like. And in ‘97 I’m coming out of prison for the last time, walking into what was supposed to be a new life, I didn’t believe it.

TAJCI:
Right.

REGINA:
I really didn’t. Just being in circles, streets, jails, streets, prison.

TAJCI:
You know there is so little that we know of a life that you’ve lived. We see the movies that’s, like you say, is a romanticized version.

REGINA:
Right. Like the Pretty Woman.

TAJCI:
Like a pretty woman. Or we also hear very difficult stories, horror stories, but what I felt at Thistle Farms is this tremendous courage and this testimony that transformation is possible

REGINA:
It is possible.

TAJCI:
Even with these lives.

REGINA:
It’s real.

TAJCI:
I want to know your childhood. I want to know your best memory from your childhood. I want to know Regina as a little girl. What were you dreaming of?

REGINA:
Being Miss America. When I was, I believe in the fourth grade, we lived in North Nashville in a shotgun house—it’s what we call them today, just straight through.

TAJCI:
Okay.

REGINA:
And in the front yard there was this brick wall in front of our house. And I used to practice walking down a brick wall and doing my wave for Miss America one day.

TAJCI:
Why was that, yeah?

REGINA:
Because of the applause, the grandeur of doing something, to give back to the people.

TAJCI:
Oh, beautiful.

REGINA:
The people loved her. She was very beautiful always and I just saw myself being that one day.

TAJCI:
Did you feel yourself beautiful?

REGINA:
Yes, at that time yes.

TAJCI:
And you know

REGINA:
At that time, yes.

TAJCI:
Yes, because we as kids, we don’t have any fears.

REGINA:
Right.

TAJCI:
We believe that we are that princess.

REGINA:
Right. But you know back in those days—it was back in the early ‘70’s— maybe growing up and when you would walk around—coming up in my generation, it’s like my grandmother and my mother, you know they would say stuff like, “You’re being mannish. You’re being fast. You’re being womanish,” you know? And so it was like I’m not supposed to be that so it kind of took it away.

But the inspiration of “you can do whatever you want to do but you got to stay in school, you gotta stay in those books and you gotta stay in church.”

I was telling you earlier that I was raised in church and I ended up hating church. My mother had us in church all the time. She did. I couldn’t wait to get out of church. But you know what, I found myself remembering walking down those streets smoking dope and turning tricks and hearing my mother’s voice because I had become alienated from her.

But I still remember the things that she had told me, “Gina, God loves you. Gina, turn around and just come back,” you know. But I thought that during my promiscuousness early as a teenager, at 16 I was pregnant because I was promiscuous and sneaking out doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. And I had my first son at 17. And I was thinking that I had made God so mad at me that there was no way back to God. If ever I was supposed to know Him He surely wasn’t going to take me back. But growing up and after I had my two other sons and ended up in the streets, on the streets, in and out of jails and prisons, I always remember what my mom has said. It was in the back of my head that, “God loves you and He has a plan for you. And you just need to come back. Come back home. Come back to church.” And I was like, “Church? No.”

TAJCI:
No?

REGINA:
That’s why it was so hard when I came out of prison this last time in ‘97 and I heard about this place for women such as myself and that it was run by a priest, I was like, “Oh, hell, no.”

TAJCI:
And we’ll come back to that. We’re talking to Regina Mullins about her story of transformation and life restored.


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TAJCI:
We’re talking to Regina Mullins and I thank you so much for sharing your story on our show for our viewers.

REGINA:
No problem.

TAJCI:
It takes courage. Thank you. So you’re talking about how you still have your mother’s voice.

REGINA:
Yes.

TAJCI:
“God loves you.”

REGINA:
Yes.

TAJCI:
Even as you go, as you have your first son at 17 and you spoke about, you speak about, is it shame or is it guilt? Or what was it that you said it was?

REGINA:
It was shame and it was guilt. Because I knew the way that I was brought up I knew what she had taught me. And I knew that all of her words, although I didn’t understand them back then, they just came real to life to me.

TAJCI:
And I have to ask because so many women don’t, why did you keep your son?

REGINA:
I wanted my baby. I wanted my son. I wanted to love. I wanted someone to love and someone to love me. It was never without of abortion or adoption or… I come from a family on both sides, my mother and my father’s sides—my father side, my grandmother had 13 children and my grandmother on my mother’s side had 12 children. And so there was always love. I’ve always been shown love in my family, all of the children and all the uncles and I just, I wanted my baby.

TAJCI:
Wow. So tell me what happened to you that you ended up in such a hard place.

REGINA:
Curiosity happened. I was, like I said earlier, really promiscuousness and curiosity and being disobedient. Because of following the so-called popular crowd and being curious that ended me up being pregnant at 16 and having a baby at 17.

TAJCI:
Right.

REGINA:
And I also married at 17.

TAJCI:
Wow.

REGINA:
Yeah, I also married. And then that ended up in a very, very, very abusive relationship that I came out of in ’81, getting away from him then ending up really trying to figure out what was happening in the world, and ending up on the streets, well, like I said, starting from escort then going to selling drugs to using drugs and then into my own prostitution.

TAJCI:
It sounds like the abusive relationship, all you’re saying—the promiscuous lifestyle, trying to follow the other crowd, really forgetting the

REGINA:
Disbedience

TAJCI:
But forgetting who Regina is. This beautiful girl who says, “I want to be a beauty queen so that I can help others and inspire others.”

REGINA:
Right.

TAJCI:
So it’s a hard place to have that much disconnect and then it sounds like you were just pulled into the dark place.

REGINA:
I was and didn’t even know that I was being pulled. I was talking about, you know, the more I got curious about the marijuana, then I got curious about the wine, and then I got curious about cocaine and I was like “I’m not doing that any more because of the sores,” but then I got curious about cooking dope up and selling it and then using it. And I didn’t know that I was on a downward spiral.

TAJCI:
And all of that now put you in jail.

REGINA:
Jails

TAJCI:
On several occasion.

REGINA:
Yeah, back and forth, back and forth. In and out, in and out. And then in 1996

TAJCI:
And you mentioned to me when we talked before the show how jail felt like a deliverance.

REGINA:
It was

TAJCI:
A chance to start over.

REGINA:
In 1996 I went to jail for the last time and I wanted to go. I was on the street one morning and I was a known prostitute by now, right? And a police car came down the street and they did a U-turn and came back to tell me when they come back up the street I better not be out there. They’re going to take me to jail. But little do they know, I had just finished praying. I was like, “I do believe. But if you’re real, show me. And help me, help me,” because I didn’t want to turn one more trick, I didn’t wanna smoke one more piece of dope, I wanted freedom. I wanted to go home. I want to be a mother to my boys. I wanted to be a daughter to my parents, you know. I had just isolated myself from all of that. And so they weren’t going to take me to jail and so I reached down and I picked up a rock and I threw it at their windows and guess what? They took me to jail.

TAJCI:
They took you to jail.

REGINA:
Yes.

TAJCI:
Wow. When we come back we’ll talk about that turning point in Regina’s life that now gave her her life back.


TAJCI:
Regina, now you’re in prison, in jail. And now you’re turning point happens. The big turning point.

REGINA:
That day.

TAJCI:
The answer to the prayer.

REGINA:
He delivered me to jail. And you know, it was like, okay, God is not mad at me because he sent me to CCL. I was so happy to go in and get my little tetanus [shot] and the little TV stuff and then go to the unit and dress out and put on my little uniform and just lay down and finally rest. You know, just being up for days and nights

TAJCI:
And nobody was

REGINA:
Enduring the, you know. the different times that the rapes of the beatings or the robbings or just that whole lifestyle. I was so happy to start believing that I’ve got another chance. And the whole time I was there I did a program. I went into this program. It’s an alcohol and drug program called Chances. And I was just like how ironic is that? Thank You, God.

TAJCI:
Yes.

REGINA:
Thank you. He’s saying I get another chance, right? And while I was in the counselor’s office I had just made parole and I went into our counselor’s office and one of the girls that I have been incarcerated with happened to call in and I always say that that was not a coincidence that day. Because I was like, I was happy that I made parole but I was also scared as I don’t know what. And I was like I don’t want to go back out and live the same lifestyle. I don’t want to go and say I’m going to go home and be a mother to my children and end up back on the streets, you know. I didn’t want to do that so I didn’t know what to do. And when she called in that day she was telling me about this program because she had made parole too, right?

TAJCI:
Right.

REGINA:
And she paroled out and she was at this place and excuse my language, “I’m over here with all the hoes. This lady’s made a place for all the hoes,” right? And I was like, “Oh, I’m not doing that anymore,” and she’s just like, “No, no.” This is not like that.

TAJCI:
Oh wow.

REGINA:
And she said, “Girl, this is run by a priest,” and she’s like, “It’s a two-year program and you can come. We don’t have to pay our rent. We don’t have to do anything.” She’s created this for us, right? And I was just like, “Okay. Two years under a priest?”

TAJCI:
What was your first thought?

REGINA:
No. I don’t think so.

TAJCI:
No.

REGINA:
Because it was like, in my mind I have stereotyped her. I had thought about this black shirt and the white collar and I’m gonna be in confession everyday and the Lord knows I got a lot to confess to Him. I don’t think so for two years.

TAJCI:
And you’re talking about Becca Stevens.

REGINA:
I’m talking about Becca Stevens. Oh my goodness.

TAJCI:
Who is the founder of Thistle Farms.

REGINA:
She is the founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms. And Magdalene started with just five of us. Five women that she was thinking about. While I was on the street praying and asking God for help, He had already used Becca to create a place for us to come off the streets.

TAJCI:
Yes. Okay. So tell me about the house.

REGINA:
We walked in, there’s furniture and there’s beautiful furniture and plants and we walk through and then I’m walking into this bedroom that has got beautiful comforters and curtains. And I walked into the kitchen and they’ve got real dishes in the kitchen. And I’m looking at the glasses, the pots and the pans and I started to cry. And the girls were just like, “What are you plucking out for? Why are you crying for?” And it was like for the first time in a long time I remembered what home was like. I remember that I had a home and I felt safe enough, I felt home, you know? And I was just like, “Man, do y’all realize where we just came from? We just came from metal cots in prison.”

TAJCI:
Yes.

REGINA:
“We just came from abandoned houses.”

TAJCI:
And here it is for you because you’re worth it.

REGINA:
Right. But here goes the hit that I still didn’t believe that this was free because we just come from people that don’t do that. And I was like, “Who is this lady? Who is Becca Stevens? Who is this priest? Really, a priest and there is not a hook to it? We don’t have to pay nothing for real? We don’t have to do anything for real?” So it was like about six months I was looking for this hook that was never there.

TAJCI:
And that’s what unconditional love is all about.

REGINA:
It was unconditional love and we didn’t know that.

TAJCI:
Yes. Yes.

REGINA:
And she taught us that. She gave me a key to come into a house to live. And it wasn’t like she didn’t live there. We live there together, us five women. And I told Becca, I said, “What you did was you taught me how to trust myself.”

TAJCI:
Yes, because she trusted you.

REGINA:
Yeah, she trusted me enough to let me live there and do the right thing even when I thought nobody was looking. And then i

TAJCI:
And now you are the princess, Regina. You are restored. And you are reaching out to others. How many women did you help pull in?

REGINA:
Oh my goodness I cannot count. But the thing is is that, this one face is the face of many that are wanting to find a way out. I remember telling Becca, my brother when I first got clean had me some cards made, right? That said: women in recovery, we do recover. And every time I used to see one of the girls on the street I would give them a card and I was just like, “You all call me, call me because I know this lady and she’s trying to help us off the street,” right? So it will be like about three or four o’clock in the morning and they would start ringing the phone at the house I was at. And my other housemates would be like, “Becca, she’s on the phone at four o’clock in the morning.” And I started telling, “Becca we gotta do something. You need to get a big house.”

TAJCI:
Yes.

REGINA:
“You need to get a big house because these women, they want off the street.” And she was just like, “What do you want me to do, Regina?” I was just like, “I don’t know. We’ve got to do something.” And we created an outreach to just like take the women lunch on the street, toiletries, safe sex packet and not to beat them over the head. She showed me what real love was. It wasn’t about condemning somebody, “You need to go to church. You need the Lord. You need to be in the hospital somewhere.” But it was just loving somebody right where they were.

TAJCI:
Yes.

REGINA:
She taught me how to do that and to go and just let them know, “When you’re ready, we’ll be here.

TAJCI:
Thank you so much for bringing that message to us.

REGINA:
You’re so welcome.

TAJCI:
When we come back we have a little bit more from Regina Mullins.


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TAJCI:
We’re talking to Regina Mullins who’s got an amazing story of ups and downs, of life’s darkness and hope that love heals. So now we’re going to go a little on a lighter side and have some fun with already one word answers. Are you ready?

REGINA:
Okay.

TAJCI:
What brings you the most joy?

REGINA:
My boys

TAJCI:
One thing you’re most grateful for?

REGINA:
God

TAJCI:
Your biggest fear?

REGINA:
Not being heard

TAJCI:
if you could be anywhere in the world right now you would be?

REGINA:
With my mother and father on the General Jackson. That’s a lot of words. I’m sorry.

TAJCI:
 That’s okay, that’s okay. No problem.

REGINA:
I keep forgetting one word, one word.

TAJCI:
No problem. Your favorite comfort food?

REGINA:
Turnip greens

TAJCI:
Top thing on your bucket list?

REGINA:
Hawaii.

TAJCI:
Nice. I‘ll go with you. If you could go back in time what would you take with you that you have today?

REGINA:
My courage.

TAJCI:
Tea or coffee?

REGINA:
Coffee.

TAJCI:
Lavender or roses?

REGINA:
Roses.

TAJCI:
Singing or dancing?

REGINA:
Singing

TAJCI:
Chips or cookies?

REGINA:
Cookies.

TAJCI:
Last photo you took with your iPhone or your phone?

REGINA:
My mom at Mo Town

TAJCI:
All the world needs is?

REGINA:
More love

TAJCI:
If I could abolish anything from the earth it would be?

REGINA:
Hatred.

TAJCI:
This year I claim?

REGINA:
Victory.

TAJCI:
Yes. Wonderful. Okay, Regina, I have an email from a viewer, Ana from Germany. Ana writes, “Living near the Czech border sometimes driving over to Czech for shopping or driving to the nearest gas station I often see those women standing beside the roads. And my heart feels like bleeding. Not because the women decided to stand there for whatever reason they have, but that their country and society, their community is not willing to keep them from rape and abuse. Fifteen years ago our national government made prostitution a legal business as they claimed to get the women out of darkness of illegal criminals. But what happened? Even more prostitution developed and only the state even earns the money from it in social insurance.” So the question is, have you ever heard from women caught in prostitution that they expected better circumstances and treatment in their situation if prostitution was legalized?

REGINA:
Yes and I think… I have heard that. I hear women talk about if they legalized prostitution how would the government be any different from a pimp?

TAJCI:
Yeah.

REGINA:
You know? And one of my answers—because I’ve got many suggestions or what I call solutions—would be that when we really find out you know or when we really realize that we cannot make a profit off of somebody else’s body or even trick them into the lie of believing that they can profit off of their body and it’s going to be okay, we’ll come up with more solutions

TAJCI:
Yes

REGINA:
And trafficking… we can end trafficking also because we can’t, you know, it’s not okay to sell my friend or to treat my friend into thinking that you’re doing something good when it’s unhealthy for you or you can end up losing your life while I make a profit off of it. That’s not good.

TAJCI:
Yes and I think, you know, that change has to be really deeply cultural, like you said.

REGINA:
A lot of times what you find is that it starts with the young kids

TAJCI:
Yes

REGINA:
There’s no telling what has happened to a lot of our young girls because in this field right you’re just coming in going back into the valley, so to speak. You find out there’s a lot of abuse with the girls and the little boys so we have to go back and revisit those pains, those scars

TAJCI:
Absolutely, absolutely.

REGINA:
And deal with it.

TAJCI:
And we also have to look at the whole. What is the message that the media is saying? That the music, the pop music that you know

REGINA:
All of it.

TAJCI:
Yes. All of it is portraying and saying to these young people. Thank you so much. Regina.

REGINA:
You are so welcome. Thank you for having me.

TAJCI:
Absolutely. Thank you for your courage and for sharing your story.

(song)

TAJCI:
Are you someone that needs healing? Are you someone that needs to be told that you are worth it? That you, too, can have the path of healing no matter where you’ve been? Or perhaps you know someone who who has been there and you would like to know how to reach out to them and how to tell them that yes, love heals everybody. I invite you to share this episode and Regina’s powerful story with them and also log in to ThistleFarms.org where you can look up their stories. You can also see how you can get involved, attend a workshop, maybe invite Regina and other women as a speaker to your community to bring healing and understanding how can we, you and I, make a difference. Visit Waking Up Revolution for more inspiration and to engage with us. Thank you so much for watching. See you next time.