Beating the Odds
Louise is a success by any measure. The SFSU alumna is a published
author, the owner of two popular East Bay salons, and a frequent speaker
on issues concerning foster care. But her success didn't come easy.
Louise spent her childhood bouncing from one foster or group home to the
next -- more than three dozen in all -- until the age of 19 when
she was released from the foster care system and "dropped into the
lap of world."
Determined to succeed in life, Louise applied to State with plans to get
her degree in social work. When she checked into Mary Ward residence hall
carrying a garbage bag full of her possessions, Louise stood in disbelief
as parents unloaded their precious cargo and "handed out credit
Although she felt disconnected from college life, she continued to act
"as if," -- as if she belonged, as if she knew what she
were doing. She told herself, "Figure it out, honey, or things will
gobble you up."
Louise eventually learned to trust in her abilities and take care of herself.
She found inspiration in Angela Davis, who was a lecturer at SFSU. For
Louise, being at SFSU was less about preparing for a career and more about
finding her footing in the adult world. "College was my home,"
When Louise left SFSU in 1987, she no longer wanted to be a social worker;
it was too close to home. She made entirely different plans.
to beauty school part time while working on-call at a suicide prevention
line. "I don't mean to make light of it," she says,
"but I would de-escalate one person while someone else was under
Last year, the in-demand hair stylist published "Somebody's
Someone" (Warner Books, 2003), the first book in a two-part memoir.
She also became a daughter.
In 1975, Louise befriended a social worker named Jeannie Kerr. After getting
to know the bright young girl with the sparkling personality, Kerr tried
to become Louise's foster mother but was turned down by the courts
because she is white and Louise is black. The two lost touch. After 25
years of separation, the publication of Louise's book led to their
reunion. At the age of 40, she was officially adopted by Kerr.
Now Louise lives with her son, 17, and her partner in Walnut Creek, a
block away from her mom. "I am here because I believe in love,"
she says. "I refuse to be defeated."