Sometimes a spirit moves in LaChantia Anderson.
It could be during the day or even in the wee hours before dusk.
When it happens, her writing utensils are always close by.
The Austin resident, 39, isn’t a classically trained poet, but she has been blessed with the gift of written expression.
“Like the movie ‘Waiting to Exhale,’
I’m ready to breathe and tell
And ask a few questions as well, like:
Why does a flower eventually lose its smell?
That’s why I write this poem.’
Once she starts writing, it all comes out. Her writing canvas has mostly served as a catharsis after portions of her adult life have been spent homeless in different cities and the loss of her mother to cancer in February 2019.
She and her two teenage daughters Azyria, 16, and Aishiah, 14, — she has three adult children in other parts of the country — live in an East Austin apartment and are charting an upward path toward happiness after a rough road in the last decade and a half.
“Poetry is a gift from God,” she says. “I’ve internalized a lot of things, even with my mom. I hold stuff in, and once I start writing, it’s like taking a deep breath.”
While her own words have served as a comfort in the past, LaChantia, called “Chant” by those close to her, has always been fascinated with words and numbers that are indecipherable to laymen.
“When I was 9 or 10, my granny got us a computer, and I loved computers,” she says. “I always wondered what these different scrambled up letters and numbers and all that stuff meant when my computer messed up.”
That’s right: The poet has a passion for coding. While working and living with her daughters in a San Diego motel in 2016, she would notice ads on city buses about IT classes that were available. She signed up for an online course and began to hang out at an internet cafe where there were lessons on how to create Android apps.
“I was trying to follow the directions, and after a while, I started learning about the different languages like CSS and HTML,” she says. “Now I’m teaching myself Python.”
She eventually left San Diego, then went to Las Vegas and spent some time in Atlanta before moving back to Texas to tend to her dying mother.
Once in Austin, she worked for nine months in the kitchen at the Texas Empowerment Academy charter school. She was a self-appointed hall monitor and mentor to some of the students.
Things were going well. She was able to get an apartment over on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but then she was laid off in June because of COVID-19-related downsizing.
A temporary construction job with Amazon ended, and with money tight, she had to pawn her laptop to help meet the bills.
Nevertheless, she attacks life with a smile on her face and a dream in her heart. She wants to go to Austin Community College, where she began working on a computer science degree. She’s also interested in internship opportunities in the field while she learns her passion.
“I just want a good job at a great company one day,” said. “I will be 40 next year, and I’ve put all doubts behind me. My kids will always need my support through life. They’ve seen me at my lowest, and they need to know you can come through anything if you keep the faith.”
LaChantia Anderson’s wishes:
A new or gently used car and car insurance; tuition at Austin Community College for computer programming degree; financial assistance for rent and utilities; queen-size bedding and linens for everyone; towels; Walmart and H-E-B gift cards; gift cards for clothing and shoes; financial assistance to retrieve her belongings in storage; vacuum cleaner; rugs and curtains; laptops for her and her two daughters; bakeware; pots and pans, plates and cups; arts and crafts supplies; a bookshelf; shoe rack; washer and dryer; bicycles for both girls; a TV; a musical keyboard for Azyria; a PlayStation 5 and military games for Aishiah; and cellphones for everyone
Wish list available at Target.
Nominated by: Salvation Army Austin, 4613 Tannenhill Lane, Building 3, Austin, TX 78721. 512-933-0600, salvationarmyaustin.org
Its mission: To provide “wraparound” services designed to assist homeless women in ensuring that homelessness is brief, rare and nonrecurring.