Lashanda Matlock had a bone to pick with her father, Pastor Bill Adkins of Greater Imani Church in Memphis, TN. Instead of having a heart to heart with him, Matlock took her grievances to the internet. In an open letter posted on Chicago Now, Matlock wrote about her absentee dad. She laments that even though she grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood in Memphis, Tenn., near her father’s church, he never bothered to interact with her.
There are times in life when you need to speak up, voice an opinion or just let it all out. This is one of those moments. I find myself at a crossroad, where the past and the present seem to meet and it is not a place I wish to be. Born in Memphis, Tennessee the illegitimate daughter of married pastor Bill Adkins, my life was nothing but controversy. I grew up in an upper middle class family that happened to be five blocks from my father’s church. He never visited, but I always knew he was there. At six years old I received a cease and desist order addressed to my mother for me to stop trying to communicate with him. At eight, he visited my elementary school but never approached me and merely watched from the shadows. By age ten, I was a figment of my own imagination. I didn’t exist, my last name was a lie and all records of me were buried in a black hole.
I can recall the exact moment when I screamed and fear took ahold of my face. The moment where I turned to my mother and begged, “I don’t want to do this, please let’s go home.” But my mother was firm and stood her ground. A woman who fought five years in court to earn me my last name from a frivolous paternity suit that stated I was 99.9% his child. A woman who endured the mocking grins, laughter and rage from an affair that produced me. But she had waited 17 years for this day, and dare I say, she even knew it was coming.
My stepmother walked into the room holding the hand of my half-sister, Taihia Adkins. Taihia is the same age as me and knew nothing of my existence but at the same time she knew nothing of hers. She was also the daughter of an affair. An act covered up and made to look like an adoption, but that was not the truth. The adoption was due to Bill’s first wife, known lovingly as “Big Tai”, could never have kids. I felt sadness looking into her eyes because we were in many ways the exact same.
After a few debutante outings, I felt the courage to tell her who I was. Needless to say, it was a disaster. “I’ve heard about people like you, going around making up these stories,” she said. But it wasn’t a story, it was a fact and I had proof. Three of the debutantes attended the same elementary school as me, and all recalled a man always visiting me, always watching us. Bill even went so far as to throw my class a pizza party in third grade. That was the catalyst due to they all remembered even in greater detail than myself.
Throughout the months leading up to my debutante cotillion my sister learned of the truth and she hated me for it. My father happily escorted her the night of our cotillion while I was left with a bumbling stepfather. But that is another story. After the cotillion, I’ve never seen my sister to this day.
Matlock recalls the last time she saw her father, in 2009, at the age of 29. As she started to run towards him to finally speak her mind, his bodyguard promoted her to stop once she saw him reaching for his gun. All she could so was yell to him that she forgave him, and he simply nodded at her.
Matlock ended her letter simply by saying:
So to a man who is a stranger and yet my father I say this: “Go to hell.” But, he’s already there, isn’t he?
Talk about airing your family’s dirty laundry.
“Yes, I’ve read the letter and I’m sad to have seen the letter. I’m sorry she is enduring such hurt, suffering, and pain,” said Adkins. In response to the allegations of having an affair, Adkins denies the accusations. “First of all, I was not married. She’s 33 years old and that was 1979. I was not married. I was not a pastor of a church. I was a Radio Announcer at WLOK Radio,” said Adkins.
Adkins does admit not being a part of his Matlock’s life and now he’s willing to change that. “I want to do whatever I can to help her, and if it’s acknowledgment that she wants, I’m willing to give it to her. I responded to her in email today and I simply said, along with my other children and my wife, come to Memphis, let me introduce you to the entire congregation,” said Adkins.
“I am sincerely happy that he wants to open an dialogue with me, and we can discuss both sides of our story, and maybe that should be dealt with in family counseling together first, before we go in front of a congregation,” said Matlock.