Dr. Martin Luther King Jr!
Dr. Maya Angelou!
Names you’ve heard.
Just judging by who is mentioned during Black History Month, it might seem that, in order to make history one must make a name for oneself.
That is how you make history.
Well my fellow Survivors I submit to you that though it may seem that way, making history is not about making a name for yourself.
Making history is about making a life for yourself so that you can help others to make a life for themselves.
This is How You Do It
If only I had a dollar for every time that someone has said to me with great pride, “Yes, I too was abused but I walked away and never looked back.”
As if doing so was worthy of an Olympic Gold medal.
Or at least an honorary degree from someone or somewhere who told them that was the single and only key to survival.
Yes, I am fully aware that that is an option for all Survivors. I am aware that society, including some faith communities, family members, and “friends”; would really like it if WE all considered that the option.
What I don’t appreciate is the lack of respect, shaming, and nastiness asserted against Survivors who are open to our other choices for survival. The ones that science proves are actually healthier, more effective, bring greater peace, and have longer lasting effects.
Some of us can also choose the paths of open healing, accountability, and justice. And we can do that even though it may make others more uncomfortable.
But since we are the ones suffering, and can no longer tolerate living in that high level of pain, the rest of y’all will have to find a comfortable position and deal.
A Chosen Path
The courageous people who made up the civil rights movement like Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Maya Angelou, and Nina Simone chose such a path.
1.They acknowledged that damage was done.
I know that there is pressure from everywhere to “get over it”.
“Don’t look back.”
Not just, forgive, but “hurry up and forgive” so we can all move on.
But all of this will never change the fact that anytime that you have sustained exposure to violence you have indeed sustained heavy, heavy, damage that anchors you to that pain.
And we can’t even put it on everyone else now can we?
Acknowledging the damage would mean that we would have to acknowledge that we were/are victims.
That would scald us beneath the surface. Can we handle that?
Champions of the civil rights movement recognized this. It took a tremendous amount of courage. I do believe that there were moments of fear and trepidation. Many of them.
I also believe that within every Survivor lies a courage only he or she can search and rescue.
2. They took an assessment of that damage.
If people don’t want us to acknowledge the violence, they certainly do not want us to look at what the violence has done to us. The impact.
They don’t want us to see that maybe the fact that we never only seem happy but never really are happy is because we forgot how to be. We forgot how to be ever since we were with someone we loved who hurt us, violently. That is the day that our happiness watch stopped.
Maybe the fact that we seem confident and self-assured but deep down inside we are terrified because someone raped us when we should have been outside jumping rope.
Maybe the fact that we seem like the life of the party the guy everybody likes but inside we believe that if people knew the real us they would hate us because we were someone’s punching bag and sex tool when we should have been in school.
The heroes and sheroes of the entire civil rights movement put their lives on the line when they gave witness and testimony through song, poetry, written works, protest, and testimony.
They were shouted at, slurred, boycotted, threatened, arrested, beaten, and raped.
It is our turn to make history. Making history is about making a life for yourself so that you can help others to make a life for themselves.
So we gotta going.
How change happens
Change doesn’t happen because hateful, oppressive people wake up one day and look at people they hated, I said hated, and decided to like them.
No Sir. No Ma’am.
Throughout the entire history of humanity, the despised, the hated, the oppressed-fought, labored, and persevered.
You fight by way of art, strategy, intelligence, endurance, gained by way of storytelling, wisdom, elders, education, and most importantly, faith.
We will not see a sizeable difference in the number of victims of child sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence victims until we realize that we aren’t waiting for hearts and minds to change.
Because what the champions of the Civil Rights movement did once they acknowledge the damage and accessed the damage, they exposed it by telling their stories.
Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
BE the Change
I didn’t mention this phenomenal woman but she has done so much for sexual violence, Ms. Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah Winfrey has often encouraged us as parents and adults to take accountability for the society that we now have when it comes to sexual violence and how it treats victims and Survivors.
For example: We must stop saying “they” and “it”. We must stop saying the “justice” system is a mess.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the realization that the transportation service flourished and profited off of the users of the system. Therefore, it needed the people. People.
You can despise the people, hate the people, and even continue to attempt to oppress the people. But you still need the people, because you need their money.
People, WE are the justice system. It is not a set of buildings and books. It does not run us. WE run it.
It is made up of, run by, and serves people.
If we don’t like it, we have the power to come together and change it.
If people who rape children aren’t punished rightly and justly, WE are the people.
If people who rape adult men and women aren’t punished rightly and justly, WE are the people.
If people who commit acts of physical, mental, stalking abuses upon their husbands, wives, children, and dating/civil partners aren’t punished rightly and justly, WE are the people.
On this last day of 2016 Black History Month, do remember, we all can make history. It all comes down to making a life for yourself so that you can help others to make a life for themselves.
Tonya is a Social Justice Info Expert with over 23 years experience. She holds a BS in Organizational Management & Development. Her cat MiaBelle is her co-writer.
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