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Kuzuri Reid said she is the only woman on her construction team. She has been working in construction for about two years. At work, she wears a hard hat with Betty Boop on it, makeup and faux lashes. (Photo by Maranie Rae Staab/PublicSource)

Kuzuri Reid is exactly what her mom, Anita Reid, wanted her to be. Beautiful, smart and tough. She writes poetry and lives alone. Her four kids are all grown. Kuzuri has two jobs: as a cook and as a construction worker. She is the only woman on her construction team. At work, she wears a hard hat with Betty Boop on it, makeup and faux lashes.

I spent Mother’s Day with Kuzuri at her suggestion. It was the only day she was free for an interview. We sat at a kitchen table at her apartment, talking about motherhood, what it means and how our mothers influenced us.

I learned quickly that Kuzuri’s life journey follows her mother’s. Four years clean in July, Kuzuri, 47, confesses that for a time, she turned into her mother: abandoning her children, chasing a high first and living second. Today, Kuzuri says she can only lead by example and that bonding with her adult children isn’t easy: You know they say it’s like instinct. But I don’t believe that. You definitely have to learn. Kuzuri also identifies as a lesbian and much of her pregnancies have been a result of casual sex with men. I was the surrogate mother. I just had them. I never wanted kids. I never got to know them. I was just too caught up in using where I couldn’t abort it. Thank God for family because that’s who had them. She describes her relationship with men as a business transaction or unfortunate circumstance. In short, motherhood isn’t something Kuzuri chose for herself.



Voices Unlocked is a project telling the stories of Pittsburgh-area residents whose life experiences have been shaped by the penal system. 

Meet the people behind this project July 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Alloy 26 in Pittsburgh. We will have food, refreshments and a jail cake. Register here!

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