For Wanda B., founder of the social club Stud 4 Life, the word "stud" stands for "Solidarity, Trustworthiness, Understanding and Dependability"and those principles extend to the service mission of her organization.
Beyond Stud 4 Life's social events, charity work and various causesfrom marching for marriage equality in Springfield in the past to stop the violence walksWanda works security for CTA. She is also known for looking sharp, and readily gives due credit for that to her wife Stephanie Green, who she's been with for 24 years.
Windy City Times spoke with Wanda about her work in the community and the upcoming book chronicling her life.
Windy City Times: To you, what makes a stud?
Wanda B.: I can only speak for myself, but it's somebody who takes charge. I'm the aggressive one, the one that makes sure everything is okay and secure. A stud is just like a gentleman, really.
WCT: Tell us about the Stud 4 Life, which celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year.
WB: I started Stud 4 Life because I wanted to give back to the community. I wanted to adopt a shelter, so I adopted Clara's House, which is for abused women and children. I wanted to help the community and unite with studs, because we have been through so much.
My goal was for us to become a family and be able to talk about things. A lot of studs don't have any family anymore because they've been disowned. I wanted to unite us, really. We're very active in the [African-American] community. We've done walks to stop the violence, toy drives, anything and everything, we've done so much in these five years and it's awesome, too.
WCT: Can you tell me more about the walks?
WB: Every Saturday from 12 to 3and I know this sounds crazywe go on the dangerous corners and streets and we have a bullhorn and we say, "Blow to stop the violence." I made some signs about stopping the killings and all that. We have sno-cones and hot dogs and that brought people and they started to march with us. No police protection or anything, but that's okay. We talk to people about how to get off the streets, especially me because I'm from the streets. I talk to a lot of different gangs about getting off the streets and getting jobs, which I personally do myself every day after work.
WCT: Where did you grow up in Chicago?
WB: I grew up in the projects on 39th [Street]: Madden Park Homes.
WCT: How do you think the community has responded to some of the work you've been doing?
WB: There's been a lot of change, especially on 87th [Street]. A lot of guys have turned their lives around since we've started this, because I started a mentoring program, too. I just talk to people and they also come to me, too, because I've got that type of personality. I help them in any way that I can … and they tell a person and they tell a person. Now I've got too many people! [laughs] I love it, though.
WCT: I watched a YouTube video where you talk about the pressures and the struggles of being a stud. There was even mention of an encounter you had with your brother where he had an issue with you.
WB: Coming out as a stud, I've been shot at, I've been stabbed, I had to fight growing up in the projects to get where I am. Being a stud is not an easy thing to be, growing up out here. There's a lot of hatred. I've cried. … I've been through so much just being who I am but I have to be who I am. My brother feels like I'm trying to be more of a "man" than what he is. He has a problem with me because I "look like a guy," "dress like a guy" and I do all "guy" things. My relationship with my brother is still strained after all these years. I think he's getting better, but we're always going to have a strained relationship. My mother is what keeps us together.
WCT: What was it like when you came out to your mother?
WB: When I came out to my mother, it was hard because her best friend sexually abused me. So, I didn't tell my mother until I was graduating from high school. I tried to tell her earlier, but she wasn't really listening. When I finally told her, she was crying and stuff like that. She felt like she should have paid better attention and she should have protected me. After that, everything was cool [with her].
WCT: Tell us about the book you have coming out.
WB: It's called Leader by Fault. I chose this title becauseat 13, growing up in the projects [and] by me being a studall the guys had me doing "guy things" like fighting and all that, and made me a leader. I chose the title because the things that happened to me, as far as on the streets and being sexually abused, none of that was my fault. It tells the story of all I've been through and how I overcame obstacles, didn't do drugs and it's a very powerful story of where I was then and where I am now.
WCT: When did you start writing it?
WB: About 10 years ago. But I would start and stop because it's painful. I didn't want to hurt my mother because of the stories I was telling. I decided the time is now because it's not going to just help me. I know it's going to help a whole lot of people, especially the younger LGBT people that are going through this but don't know how to deal with it.
WCT: How can people get the book?
WB: Hopefully in the next couple of months, it's going to be on Amazon. And I'm going to have a book signing before the end of the year.
WCT: Any advice for young studs out there?
WB: You don't have to get high just to be a part of this lifestyle. It's dangerous out here. Always take advice from an older stud that's been there.
Find my mentoring program, where we can help you through the pain you're going through and the struggle. People can come to me about anything and can talk to me about anything. I mentor a lot of people on Facebook now. Whatever people need. I love my rainbow family and everybody knows that.
Follow Wanda B. at facebook.com/wandab.onamission.5 .