By Andrea Bosco Stehle | Photographs from Mecca Gamble and Dan Folger
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we feel a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices our moms have made for us. Like many loving mothers, Katie “Peachie” Wimbush-Polk knew best when she relocated her military family to Pittsburgh to plant roots for her children in 1996. Fifteen years later, her son, Cameron Jibril Thomaz — aka Wiz Khalifa — would show the world his hometown pride with the release of his Grammy-nominated lead single, “Black and Yellow.” “Our family is close-knit,” she tells me. “I wanted my kids to have a connection to where they’re from and after two failed marriages, I decided that this was my opportunity.”
A “little girl from the projects,” Peachie learned from her mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother, endearingly known as “Madea,” slang for mother dear — a moniker dubbed long before Tyler Perry’s fictional character. “The OG Madea, if you will,” I quip. “Since 1948!” she laughs. “She was the matriarch; the angel of our family. She taught me everything I know and was instrumental in all of our lives.” Great-great-grandmother to a young Wiz, Madea laid the groundwork for the solid family structure that exists today.
Three years ago, Wiz expanded their tree and became dad to Sebastian, son of he and Amber Rose. This gift changed his world for the better. “He’s an amazing father. He’s really a natural,” Peachie says. “He’s an incredible human being and he’s very responsible. He’s smart and shrewd, and I think people misjudge him. I’ve been on an elevator with him where there is an older lady struggling with her bags and he’s the guy that reaches to help her. He’ll do whatever he can to make someone’s day better.”
He also remains driven and passionate about his career, a trait Peachie fostered even before he entered the music industry at age 17. “I always told him to listen to his intuition because it will never ever steer you wrong,” she says. “I would say, ‘If there is something in you that’s burning, please by all means do it. We live by the golden rule to treat others as you would want to be treated and to be good fellow human beings.” This rule is one that inspired Wiz to give back to his city and support Three Rivers Youth (TRY), a nonprofit that preserves and unites families, combats homelessness, enhances educational opportunities, and builds life skills for at-risk youth.
On Friday, May 6, at the Twentieth Century Club, Wiz will support Peachie, who will be honored as a mother who’s made a significant contribution to our community, alongside Eden Hall Foundation Executive Director Sylvia Fields and University of Pittsburgh Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff Kathy Humphrey, at TRY’s Nellie Leadership Awards Gala. A U.S. Air Force veteran and retired case worker, Peachie says her involvement was a no-brainer. “To receive this award is such a surprise and an incredible honor,” she says. “Pittsburgh is the place that raised me. I have a responsibility, and we all have a responsibility to pay it forward with whatever you have to contribute. The more you have, the bigger that responsibility is.”
Before we end our phone call, Peachie advises, “When you have little ones, encourage their dreams. Because when you do, sometimes the dreams you didn’t even know you had come true. I was really just my son’s cheerleader, and I would tell him he could do anything he wanted to.”
For details, to make a donation, or to purchase tickets to TRY’s gala, visit threeriversyouth.org.
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
Join honorary co-chairs Latasha and Charlie Batch for a strolling dinner among an English garden in recognition of philanthropic moms on May 6! Three Rivers Youth (TRY)’s Nellie Leadership Awards Gala will honor Wiz Khalifa’s mom Katie “Peachie” Wimbush-Polk, Eden Hall’s Sylvia Fields, and University of Pittsburgh’s Kathy Humphrey as mothers who’ve contributed significantly to our community. First founded in 1880 as the Home for Colored Children, the organization retains the same mission, passion for service, and commitment to youth and their families in Southwestern Pennsylvania today. “TRY improves outcomes for families and youth through several interventions and strategies, including family crisis counseling, emergency shelter, out-of-home care for adolescent youth, family foster care, drug and alcohol prevention and intervention, mental health treatment, and community outreach,” says President and CEO Peggy B. Harris, MPA. “TRY has been doing this work for over 135 years and remains an important partner in this region’s human services community aimed at making life better for all of us.” Reaching over 2,000 people yearly through approaches that address child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, mental health disorders, and poor educational outcomes, TRY regularly calls on the people of Pittsburgh to provide support. “It is wonderful to see how Pittsburgh businesses have financially stepped up to help support the programs and services of TRY, and it is extremely heartwarming to have Wiz Khalifa give back to TRY in honor of his mother,” says Lisa Mason Eck, owner of Extraordinary Events Group, Creative Fundraising & Event Production. This year, a special award is being given to Lowe’s Companies, Inc., for its generous makeover of three of the five group homes owned by TRY, valued at approximately $100,000! Says Wiz, “These are the people most in need and we’re honored to be there.” To attend the 2016 Nellie Leadership Awards Gala, visit threeriversyouth.org.
+ Wiz Khalifa returns to Pittsburgh on August 10 for The High Road Summer Tour with Snoop Dogg at First Niagara Pavilion. For tickets, visit ticketmaster.com.