Star King with her son Mendeecees.
Sometimes, when Lena King looks back at her life, she can’t help but cry. Incarcerated at age 12 for stabbing a cousin, she was in and out of a juvenile detention center for the next seven years.
“I cry sometimes because I missed out on so much, I missed out on a whole childhood,” King says. “But they didn’t hold me forever.”
King, who goes by the nickname “Star,” was stabbed by a rival five times in the face shortly after her release at age 19. The stitches were still healing when she encountered Chaka Cabell, a former gang member with an equally troubled past. “We met at a bus stop in Chicago; I was arguing and crying on the phone,” King says. “She asked me if I was okay.” It was the beginning of a friendship that would develop into romance and eventually marriage. King has a daughter from a previous relationship, but the young couple, who moved to Madison five years ago, dreamed of having a baby of their own.
The couple’s unorthodox path to creating a family is the subject of an upcoming documentary from Rodney Lucas, a hip-hop musician and entertainment entrepreneur. Lucas, who goes by the stage name F.Stokes, is Cabell’s brother. As a close family member, he was privy to the details of the couple’s journey and recognized the potential for their story to inspire others. The film, titled Ain’t No Babies in the City, will explore King’s and Cabell’s juvenile incarceration, their mutual healing and their quest to expand their family.
“Part of the overall message is bringing a sense of awareness to the neglect of young, African American women, and lesbians in particular,” Lucas says. “We want to communicate that we don’t always have to look like the family that lives across the street — we can make a family in our own reflection and with what we value in life.”
King and Cabell looked into adoption, but their criminal backgrounds and economic status proved barriers. They tried artificial insemination, but the ovulation-inducing medicine made King sick, and the procedure became too expensive. As a final resort, a supportive male friend volunteered to father the child, and King gave birth to a son, Mendeecees, three months ago.
“I never take no for an answer,” King says. “There’s always a backup plan, always another way.”
Lucas is raising money on the website Indiegogo to fund the documentary, which he intends to release in March or April. He’s about one-quarter of the way to his $12,000 goal. The campaign ends Jan. 16.