Blonka Winkfield—Howard University alum with a master’s degree in molecular and cellular biochemistry from CUNY Stony Brook—is an executive at The Learning Program in New York, a savvy socialite, and a stern but cool mom. Her family is a unique, proactive unit consisting of her ex-husband, her ex-boyfriend, and their respective daughters. While she is single and a mother (herself reared by a hardworking, ambitious mother), she abhors the label “single mother” and its unfair perceptions.
“I don’t like it,” says Blonka. “I don’t like the denotation of it, I don’t like the connotation of it, I don’t like the stereotypes. My mother grew up in the deep south picking cotton half the year, going to school half the year. As soon as she graduated from high school, she left the South and moved to New Jersey,” determined, married or not, that she would create more for her daughter.
Blonka calls her upbringing a community raising. “My nana (who’s my grandmother’s sister) and her boyfriend and her kids, we were always all together.” When she and her mom left New Jersey and moved to Atlanta, the same sense of family ensued. “Her sister was there, so I was also raised by my aunt and her husband as well.”
This gave Blonka’s mom some freedom. “As a single parent, my mom was able to go out with friends and actually do stuff, because she had so many people to support her. She was able to have a life of her own while raising me,” she says admiringly. “My mother was a big proponent of exposure.”
Blonka’s mom didn’t make a lot of money initially, but she made sure that if there was a free opportunity for her daughter’s life to be enriched—whether it was ice-skating or guitar lessons, for example—she took it. “I was very appreciative of that, whether I liked the lessons or not.” For Blonka, her mother’s efforts encouraged the idea of being bright and well-rounded. “Raising me, she had a ‘know what you know and know what you don’t know’ mindset. I like that. If she didn’t know something, she would ask a neighbor or a friend.”
Blonka and her mom definitely had a practical, familial bond. Connecting emotionally was their struggle. “We laughed a lot in my family, but my family was just not an emotional batch of people. My great-grandmother who raised my mother wasn’t that way; hugging, kissing wasn’t really happening.” Blonka says she and her mom largely communicated through notes on the bathroom mirror. “Now we’re buddies, but back then, any big discussion was relayed through notes… from either of us.”
Meet the Winkfield-Hamilton-Allens!
By the time Blonka was a pre-teen, her mother got a great new job. “I got all the things I wanted or needed. We moved on up like the Jeffersons. The whole [affluent] Black Atlanta thing kicked in. Life was very good.”
Blonka revealed her sexuality to her mom at the young age of 15, and in their usual style— the aforementioned note taped to the bathroom mirror. “I have no idea what made me decide to tell her that. My grades were excellent, I had a job, extracurricular activities, I thought everything should be golden.” Blonka’s mom didn’t receive the info well. She didn’t say much, but asked Blonka’s cousin to have a talk with her. But by her junior year in high school, she was living her life her way, and even had her first girlfriend.
The first day Blonka hit Howard University’s yard, she met her future husband, Ted Hamilton. “We had a chemistry class together. We became really good friends. Ted was the only person I told at college that I was bisexual.”
She loved Ted, and he loved her, but walking down the aisle years later, “I was not sure at all. I felt like this was the adult thing to do and you have to make compromises. That’s how I justified it.”
Married and living in New York, they worked together at a celebrity-studded restaurant, Manhattan’s Soul Café, as assistant general manager (Blonka) and manager (Ted). “That was challenging. There were all sorts of temptations and I was his boss. It took a toll.” Eventually, the couple decided to divorce.
During the course of the marriage, Blonka received her master’s degree and birthed a baby girl, Blake Hamilton. Four years later, she had another daughter: Sasha Ché Allen (called Ché). “Motherhood changed me dramatically in some ways,” Blonka admits. “Overwhelming at times. I had to figure out everything. Now I get why my mother was tired all the time.
“The money piece: my mother was always writing on the back of an envelope, adding and subtracting money. I would be confused looking at her thinking ‘What is she doing?! She’s like Rain Man over there! What’s the big deal?’ Now I get it. As a mother, you worry