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Tonia May Taylor was born and raised in Harlem to a two parent household. She is the middle child of 3 girls. She also has half siblings on her fathers’ side. Ms. Tee, what her father affectionately began calling her, became intrigued by Harlem’s fast life lifestyle. Her dad was a very disciplined Jamaican man and her mother was a sweet, not so disciplinarian from the south. She was raised around good morals and work ethics. She was raised around celebrities like Kim Fields and Al Fann who put on shows in her old block on 133rd and 7th Avenue. Seventh Avenue is where a lot of Harlem’s “Street Legends“ hung out in places like Smalls Paradise and Mr. B’s. These were landmarks that you would see in the old Blaxploitation movies like Super Fly and American Gangster. Although she was raised to be respectful and to take her education seriously, she yearned for that popular street life; a life that she kept hidden from her parents. She was able to keep that balance between staying in school and living that street life that she desperately yearned for.
In keeping up with the streets she found herself in situations that almost ended her life at a young age, but I guess we can say that it was GOD’s grace that kept her safe. In all that she went through she managed to raise her daughter as a single parent, not because the father was a deadbeat, but his life in the streets caused him a long prison term.
She didn’t allow any of her circumstances to determine her life’s outcome or the outcome of her child. She was the victim of a push in robbery and was shot on another occasion and made it through. She obtained 2 college degrees and became successful as a Realtor. Like her mother, she always had a passion to help others. She worked in Independent Living programs assisting youth for 12 years. Now she’s dedicated herself to assisting those with Mental Illness and for the past 3 years has joined a program that houses homeless Veterans.
She can now add author to her resume. In 2015 she started her own publishing company, Royal-T Publishing, another name coined by her late father Keith, which is where she published her memoir “Harlem Heroin(e)- My Love Affair With Harlem Street Life and The Men Who Ruled It”.
Her memoir is a fascinating depiction of how no matter what background you come from, what morals you’re given or the education you may have, outside influences has a way of throwing your life in a direction that you are not prepared for.
Read and take this journey through HARLEM with Ms. Tee.