TAMPA — At 19, Carolyn Moore thought she'd found the man of her dreams. He was a neighbor who was rescuing a friend from an abusive relationship.
They eventually married, but 10 years later she knew the relationship had to end after a series of horrific events.
He matted her face with black eyes, cheated with her best friend, and choked her for mourning the loss of her grandmother. But, it wasn't until he lifted her above his 6-foot frame and threw her down a flight of stairs that she made a realization. Staring at the protruding bone in her broken leg she realized: "Death didn't matter anymore." If this abusive act, or the next one killed her, it didn't matter.
"I knew enough was enough," Moore said in an interview earlier this month. "I was sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Although Moore made the decision to seek a divorce, her husband refused to sign divorce papers.
He went so far as to kidnap Moore's daughter from her present marriage. When Moore came to rescue her baby girl, he dangled her out of a car window and dropped her as Moore reached the car. Luckily, the girl survived.
Moore eventually got the freedom she sought, and with that freedom, Moore, now 50, decided to become a playwright and share her story.
She brings her stage production, Women Shoptalk While Real Men Wait, to Tampa's Centro Asturiano Theatre on May 5 in an effort to empower and encourage those in abusive relationships.
The setting of Moore's play mimics her real life occupation as a hairdresser in a barbershop. It is based on four sisters who are dealing with the death of their mother, abuse and beauty shop gossip. Moore plays one of the sisters, Burgandy. Many of the actors are victims of abuse and seek to help others through their story.
Despite the sad topic, the play is "80 percent comedy and 20 percent inspirational." There is a flamboyant hairdresser who knows all the gossip, a cheating sister, and a cruel husband. Moore's daughter Bless also performs in the play.
Celebrities such as Tamika Scott and BET comedians have been featured in her shows. Lenny Williams will star in Tampa's production in May. Moore's comedic style lightens the mood, yet she says the audience appreciates her painful struggles.
Moore was inspired by Tyler Perry to conquer her dream of becoming a playwright. She met Perry while he was working on his Madea: Diary of a Mad Black Woman. He shared his own stories of abuse with Moore, which gave her the push she needed.
Her first play in 2005 confirmed Moore did the right thing. When she walked out at the finale, she says the audience was in tears.
"That's when I knew I had to bring my story all over the world."
Out of the 17 shows she has performed, 15 have sold out.
Through the plays, Moore provides ways for victims to get help.
"There's a good healthy life after abuse," Moore said. "Tap into resources like restraining orders, shelters and abuse hot lines."
Those in abusive relationships can attend her plays for free.
Even after battling an abusive relationship and now multiple sclerosis, Moore managed to earn degrees in cosmetology and broadcasting from Pikes Peak Community College, Colo. She has also raised 11 children.
"If I can do it, you can do it," Moore preached.
Moore's small frame belies her strength and perseverance. When asked how she found the courage to share her heart wrenching story she said, "The play gave me courage."
Today Moore spends time with her husband, the Rev. Marcus Lahombre Moore, whom she calls her protector and the love of her life. But, it wasn't easy to trust again. "I pushed him at first because I kept expecting him to hit me, but he never did." She inspires people through her motivational speaking and plays. She has also published a book, When Enough is Enough and started her own magazine, Oasis Montage.
"Never go backwards," Moore said. "Remember your drive, ambition and goals."