New York's Finest by J'son M. Lee
Life can be so unfair. Some people are born into comfort, while others struggle at every turn. Some have two parents, while others are reared in broken homes. There was nothing fair about Christine Hazel’s upbringing. The daughter of a drug-addicted prostitute, Christine learned early on that nothing in life is handed to you; you have to work hard to achieve greatness. After high school, Christine realized she was at a crossroads—either she could choose to be a victim of her circumstances, or she could choose to create the life she so desperately envisioned for herself. Christine chose the latter, eventually becoming one of New York’s finest.
Proud Times sat down with Christine to learn more about her fascinating story.
Christine, let’s start where it all began. Tell us about life growing up in the Cypress Hills Projects of Brooklyn, NY.
Growing up in Brooklyn taught me many lessons. It taught me about stamina, strength, and prevailing through hardship. I grew up in a household with many cousins, uncles [and extended family]. My mother was a single parent. Given her drug habit, raising my little sister and me proved a task greater then she could have ever imagined. I got the crap beat out of me on a regular basis. Not only was my mother a junkie, but she was also a prostitute. Those words still knock the wind out of me as I replay in my mind how hearing those words shattered my entire being as a child. My aunt said, “Well, Christine, your mother shoots heroin and she's a prostitute." I noticed my mother had severe mood swings, but I didn't know why. She would also go through extreme happiness; hours later she was blinded with anger. It didn't matter where I was, or whom I was with, she would physically lash out and take her anger out on me. It was a scary, dark and very lonely time for me. We lived with my grandmother in Cypress Hills Projects for the most part. There were many good times, but [my life was also] painfully disheartening. It was a constant struggle just to be alive. My mother, grandmother, uncles and other junkies in the neighborhood often got high together. They would be in my grandmother's room with the door closed, but you could hear the muffled sounds through the bedroom door of their fighting over the drugs, and fighting over whose turn it was to cop the drugs. Not more than ten minutes after they shot up, the door would open and one by one they would pile out of the room talking nice to each other—dancing, singing, snapping their fingers and wanting to conquer the world. I couldn't tell anyone about this as I feared more beatings. I recall my mother making me squeeze her arm like a tourniquet just for her to be able to shoot up—talk about a kid being frightened and mentally screwed! I was lost as a child. I hid most of my feelings about things, because I didn't feel I was important enough for anyone to care. I don't remember when the beatings began, but they stopped [around the age of] eighteen. After I graduated from high school, I made the decision to move out. My mother was still a very angry person, but I felt I did what I supposed to do—I graduated without getting pregnant. I thought that accomplishment would have made a difference, but it only put a bigger strain on my relationship with my mom. Eventually the amount of drugs my mother consumed, took its toll on her. She died at the young age of forty-two.
How did those experiences shape who you are today?
I wanted more out of life, and I set the bar high for myself. I wanted to be important, independent, self-reliant, and someone a child could look up to as a role model. I feel I've done just that. Those experiences, though mentally, emotionally and physically taxing at times, helped to show me how strong and resilient I am. They've also taught me to have integrity, especially when someone is counting on you. My mother's drug habit also showed me that she was not her real self. If things were different, she would have been different. I've always wanted the best for my mother, but those drugs had a grip on her soul. I know this now, and I've forgiven her. She was really sick, and though there were opportunities for her to get help, she still saw no way out. I've gotten the closure I needed, and that chapter of my life is closed. I like to think she is proudly looking over me.
Tell us about your work at the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
I am a twenty-year veteran with the New York City Police department. I'm currently in the Special Victims Division Unit, dealing with child abuse cases and sex crimes. We have some dangerous people in this world, but I do what I can. I pray what little I do, somehow makes a difference. I’ve been in many units in this Police Department, and I have no regrets. I like to think during my time on patrol, I was able to reach the youngsters that thought they knew it all and had it all figured out. Being a Police Officer isn’t an easy job, but we have a great many officers that care and make a difference. As far as being a gay Police Officer, it’s wonderful seeing there are many just like me. I’m proud of whom I am; I’m proud that I know many gay Police Officers.
In such a male dominated profession, was it difficult for you to find your footing? Has being a lesbian help or hurt you?
Initially I kept to myself, but my brethren took notice at the obvious differences in me. But like anything else, I stood firm in my convictions, and I didn't allow anyone to disrespect me. I held my own. There were some challenging moments in my career, but nothing that I couldn't handle, and nothing that would cause me physical or emotional harm. I was hired to do a professional job, with respect, and integrity, and that's how I operate.
In addition to being a Police Officer, you are also an author. How long have you been writing?
I want to say sometime around 2004. I was at a venue in Washington, DC, during their Gay Pride celebration. At this venue a poetry slam was being held. The artists were both men and women, and they were absolutely phenomenal. They were loud, confident, passionate, aggressive and passive. Some pieces were very sad. All I could think about was, I wish I could write that way to impress the ladies—to have that much control with words, but in the most romantic and erotic sense. That would be so dope, because the femmes were eating it up at the event. So I started journaling and developed a flare for the flow.
You recently published Silhouettes of Nubian Whispers: Voyage Into The Erotic Mind. Tell us what the book is about?
In August 2011, I had my works published. It is a collage of erotic poetry and prose encompassing some of my fantasies, hurts, flashbacks and other people's disappointments and sadness. It's my first book. I've never taken any college courses in the skill of writing. I have a natural gift and I am grateful for the love and support that was given to me as I was creating it. I know my writings need fine tuning, but I also know they are thought-provoking and entertaining. I love the research that was done on my book—the countless hours of my personal time it took to create these menageries. I took alot of time creating it. I wanted the book to have that appeal the minute you saw the cover. It was meant to draw you in. It was designed for the reader to just sit back and relax with her partner (and maybe a glass of wine and some fruit to feed one another) as each page was read and turned. It was created for the reader to just run wild with their imagination, and just simply become the character. I will never forget this journey. Silhouettes Of Nubian Whispers is my baby.
How have people responded to your book?
When I was creating this book, I would often call my friends at all hours of the night, saying "I just wrote this piece, can I read it to you?" (laugh) My friends enjoyed it, and I enjoyed them enjoying it. I just wanted to be an author. I was very happy with that fact. I didn’t push as hard as I needed to get my book on the map. I guess I automatically assumed that just because the community knew me, I would be given the support I felt I deserved. Boy, was I sadly mistaken. This comedian I know—she is lesbian as well— said the LGBT community would be the last ones to show support. She said you have to think outside the box. She told me to reach out and request certain friends on her page and to tell them she recommended me, and see how that worked. I did, but unfortunately, they were looking for writers who wrote music. I appreciated her help just the same, but she certainly opened my eyes. I feel my book could have done better had I committed myself to some good networking outside the circle of folks I knew within the gay community. I am happy that people continue to purchase my work. It's not a best seller yet, but the ones that showed me support, it really counts in my book. I appreciate each and every person who has supported my debut project.
Your book appears to be very personal. What lasting impression do you want people to have after reading it?
This book was personal for me. I wrote a piece about someone losing their life. I wrote another piece about my best friend’s friend. She and her wife had been together for over eight years. Suddenly, her wife’s illness required portions of both of her legs and arms to be amputated. She thought her wife was going to die because that’s the prognosis the doctors had given. She was so devastated; we all were. My best friend, her wife and I sat around the table and cried, and although I didn’t personally know this person, I felt the pain and agony through my best friend’s emotions. After a few moments, I got up. I had never seen my friend cry that way. She was heartbroken. I dedicated a piece about that incident. There are a lot of good pieces in this collection. I hope what resonates is my passion and the pain that's being expressed. I stripped myself of my flesh and exposed my vulnerabilities.
What’s next for you?
My next goal is to complete my very first suspense novel. It entails a lot of very focused and controlled writing, building on one plot. This project is very challenging because I'm accustomed to short stories which take on whatever direction I choose. I want to do audio books so my readers can hear the passion behind my pieces. I’m almost done with my second book of poetry. Clearly erotic poetry is my favorite pastime. I’m loving this journey, and I hope this article opens a doorway to bigger and better things.
Christine, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you for your candor. I’m sure your story will inspire our readers. Best wishes on your journey!