Re’Gena Bell-Roberts was featured on the Steve Harvey Show as one of the Harvey’s Heroes discussing her book Walking on Thin Ice.
Re’Gena Bell-Roberts has a life story full of tragedy, pain and redemption. Confined to a wheelchair after she was shot at the age of 21 by a woman her fiance was seeing on the side, Roberts found a way to overcome her disability and, against considerable odds, create a nurturing and supportive environment in which to raise her triplets, who were just 2 years old at the time of the attack.
“You know, God gives you strength to do what you need to do,” Roberts said.
These days Roberts, who was an aspiring actress when she was shot, and managed to do some stage work even after she was confined to her wheelchair, is working on her autobiography and hopes to one-day see her story on the big screen.
In the meantime, she will get a little time on the small screen. Roberts will be featured Wednesday on the Steve Harvey Show in a segment called Harvey’s Heroes. Roberts’ daughter, LyNea Bell, one of the triplets, nominated her mother for the recognition.
Bell, 40, works as a talent agent for Media Artists Group in Los Angeles.
“We never had an excuse,” Bell said. “We couldn’t have an excuse because the example was right there. So it made it a lot tougher. You couldn’t cry, ‘No, I can’t.’ It was, ‘We have to.’”
The other triplets are Bell’s two brothers — McClain, an entrepreneur who lives not far from his mother in Southern California, and DeShae, who now lives in Seattle and is hoping to become a welder.
After she was shot in Seattle in 1974 while attending the University of Washington, Roberts briefly moved back home to Pasco, Wash., and in with her mother to rehabilitate from her injuries and get help with the children. But she quickly saw that was not going to be a long-term answer.
“My mother was working full-time and, you know, she’d (have to) get up all the time at night,” Roberts said. “And I saw this painful look in her eyes, like it was killing her. She was tired. And I made a decision that I was moving.”
Eventually, Roberts landed in Los Angeles, where her best friend from home, Cat Gibson, was living with one of Roberts’ sisters. Roberts was able to support herself financially on money she was eligible for through the Washington state crime victims compensation program.
Still, she had to cook, clean and manage the triplets, whom she called little rascals.
“They were a handful,” she said. “… plotting, doing what kids normally do.”
Roberts is a quadriplegic, but has limited use of her hands.
As the kids got older she enlisted their help, teaching them how to put the coins in the machines at the laundromat, and help her with the folding. After she arranged for an automobile with hand controls, a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, she trained the kids to collapse the chair and pack it in the trunk.
“We had a whole system,” Bell said.
Once the triplets got going in school, Roberts had more time on her hands and she went back to college, eventually graduating from UCLA with a history degree. Her mother came down from Washington to attend the ceremony.
“It was an accomplishment,” Roberts said. “My mom was very happy. She wore my cap and gown after I took it off. She didn’t graduate from high school. So she was very proud of me.”
Roberts was the first in the family to graduate.
The second act of her life, which followed, featured a move back to Washington where she jumped into producing, taking part in community theater and putting on gospel showcases. For a few years, she produced and directed the local Martin Luther King Day events.
She and Gibson formed their own production company. Everything was fine, as long as Roberts wasn’t part of a committee.
“I didn’t have the time to sit around in meetings,” she said.
But within a few years, that was exactly what she was doing. After moving the family to Seattle, she dove into government and politics, serving on the Governor’s Committee for Disability Issues and Employment, and later as a member of the Seattle Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.
For Roberts, acting and producing were replaced by organizing and advocating, although she still performs occasionally under the stage name Re’Gena Bell.
“What goes on behind the scenes in the city, that just mesmerized me,” she said. She ran twice unsuccessfully for the Seattle City Council, on a platform of helping the disenfranchised.
Today, she sits in her comfortable, nicely appointed home in Murrieta, where she has lived with her husband since 2004, and muses about her bucket list. A hot air balloon ride is next up.
Bell considers the full depth and breadth of her mother’s story, and marvels.
“This is why she’s my hero,” Bell said. “This is why I wrote in (to the Steve Harvey Show), because I look at all the things of this world, and I look at how much that she’s influenced our lives, and I am just so proud. And it’s right in front of me every single day.”