How a Mother Sentenced to Nearly a Decade in Prison Built a Publishing Empire

Wahida Clark

Wahida Clark doesn’t have any regrets. The wife and mother was living in Decatur, Ga., a suburb east of Atlanta, when she was found guilty of money laundering and mail fraud.

The Trenton, NJ, native moved south to create a better life and to be closer to her husband, who was serving time in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, after he described the city to her as “…up and coming, the Black Mecca.”

A top salesperson working in Corporate America, Clark’s world suddenly turned upside down. She went from finishing her basement in her brand new home to an inmate working in a law library, nearly 400 miles from her baby girls.

“I served 9 ½ years in federal prison but I wouldn’t change one second. If I did, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now,” Clark opens up. “The hardest part was being away from daughters. My husband was incarcerated and luckily I had family members who came up to the plate and took care of them.”

While incarcerated, Clark started to build what she calls a “foundation” and what Wall Street would call a “business empire” and historians, a “dynasty.”

“One day, I called home requesting some money and a relative shared with me, ‘your house is in foreclosure, and your cars are repossessed. No one is able to run your businesses so we are packing your belongings and moving them home to New Jersey.’ It was my wake up call.”

Wahida Clark with her daughter Wahida

After reading through a popular hip-hop magazine, she noticed an article about an inmate who’d written a book. “I was sitting [in the library] and envisioned my name on the spine of a book; it was my light-bulb moment.”

That “moment” has flourished in to nearly five years of working nonstop since her release from prison in December 2007.  “I had to take care of my children; I needed to set up a foundation when I came from behind the prison walls. I didn’t know I could write. Once you put something in your mind to do something, the universe works with you,” she shares.

On the heels of releasing part three of the “Payback” series: Payback Ain’t Enough, Clark visits rolling out while on a book-signing tour. The book is set in Detroit and is a tale that weaves, murder, sex and drama. Shan, the principle character, is a single mom who comes into her own. Pregnant and the mother of a two-year old son, her life spirals out of control and goes haywire.

Clark continues, “This series was born when I was in the ‘hole’ [incarcerated]. I was in county jail in Lexington, Ky. The young ladies who came through there were colorful and compelling; I was inspired to write about them.”

A three-time New York Times bestselling author, Clark’s a “perfectionist” and aiming for the number one spot. Her husband and high school sweetheart, Al Dickens, is an author who’s famous for penning Uncle Yah Yah: 21st Century Man of Wisdom.

As for her daughters Hasana and Wahida, they’re now adults working in the family business handling everything from her tour schedule and website to the graphic design on her book covers.

When you ask Clark about being home with her family, she beams. What does motherhood mean to her?

“Motherhood means raising your children with a focus and purpose, and with good morals,” she closes. –yvette caslin

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