Like millions of others, I watched the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony. The solidarity in the room was evident. Many of the attendees wore black in support of the #metoo and #timesup movement regarding sexual assault and inequality. Among the attendees were advocates who have worked tirelessly in this effort and have gone under the radar. It was wonderful to see them on the red carpet with those who have a celebrity platform, and that platform is being used to raise awareness and push for change. Sterling K. Brown’s acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Drama series pretty much summed up how I strive to be seen. And, then there’s Oprah Winfrey. How could you NOT be moved to tears, excitement and inspiration after THAT speech? I am printing out their speeches & placing them on my wall. My voice is here to stay!
I have replayed those speeches multiple times this morning and cried each time. Why? Because I’ve been planning for weeks to write what I’m about to share. Each time I would begin to write, I would stop. I think it’s because I didn’t think at this stage of my life that it wouldn’t matter. But, over the past few months, I’ve talked with other advocates and speakers near and far. I appreciate more and more that I’m not the only one who’s gone through this or may be going through it now.
I started talking about domestic violence and sexual assault more formally in 2010. I didn’t intend to do it on a regular basis. I’d just started a web design and writing business. It included a a cause inspired idea to sell t-shirts. They were created with the intention of me selling them and donating a portion of the proceeds to a particular agency. I shared my why and put together a proposal. I also met individuals who were already working in these areas and was even invited to a meeting to learn more about other women’s organizations and the possibility of membership to one in particular. I began speaking at more events, freely sharing my story and time. Here I was, telling my story and eager to work with and support any and every body I could in the hope of helping others. I thought everyone would be excited to see this humble, brave, bold survivor share her story and be willing to fight for the cause. Talk about naive.
The truth is, the agency I wanted to work didn’t want to work with me. I was told (so keep in mind that this is hearsay) that when someone brought my name up in a meeting, the director questioned who I was and why would they want to work with me. While there was interest by at least one person, the one that mattered never got on board and never responded to my direct phone calls or emails. Needless to say, I eventually gave up on the idea, and I never chose to say anything about what I heard. One, it was hearsay, and two, I got the answer I needed when I never got an answer. Months later, I would meet the deciding individual at an event and introduce myself. The response? I know who you are, shook my hand and walked away to chat with others.
And, I never received the formal application for membership. As I talked with different women in the room, it became painfully clear that I wasn’t an affluent member of society. Being in that room made me feel like a small black woman who had a good ‘survivor story’ but that was about it. But, when I made the decision to host my first domestic violence event, I was sent an email by one of those same organizers. I was told that there were already a number of DV events going on and not wanting to have any conflicts. I was asked to tell the individual more about my plans. I didn’t respond. Instead, I went forward with my plans to host the first of what would be several events.
I’ve encountered more of the same over the years. Sadly, I still have peers, and in some cases, even friends who directly or indirectly marginalize me. They don’t see the value of my voice or the sincerity and passion for which I operate. Unfortunately, there will always be those who met me when I was coming out of my victimization and that is how they will always see me. However, I’m not stuck in my past. I am proud of the way my past has given me strength, courage and direction.
I will keep doing the work with a smile on my face. I do it because I want to help as many people as I can to become holistically healed, self sufficient and able to speak their truth with confidence and support. I am inspired by the men and women who tell me I helped them in some way. I will never be popular, nor I have a desire to be. If I my words and actions have positively impacted others, I’m doing the right thing and for the right reasons. I came into this work with a boots on the ground mentality. My ultimate goal is to use that mentality in a way that will help to support policy regarding the intersections of domestic violence and other social justice issues. My voice isn’t going anywhere. As we enter into a new year, I’m excited about the places and spaces I plan to use my voice even more.