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In this week’s video, Emerge’s administrative staff highlight the complexities of providing administrative support during the pandemic. From rapidly changing policies to mitigate risk, to re-programming phones to ensure our Hotline could be answered from home; from generating donations of cleaning supplies and toilet paper, to visiting multiple businesses to locate and purchase items like thermometers and disinfectant to keep our shelter running safely; from revising employee services policies over and over to ensure staff had the support they needed, to quickly writing grants to secure funding for all the rapid changes Emerge experienced, and; from delivering food on site at shelter to give direct services staff a break, to triaging and addressing participant needs at our Lipsey Administrative site, our admin staff showed up in incredible ways as the pandemic rages on.
We’d also like to highlight one of the volunteers, Lauren Olivia Easter, who continued steadfast in her support of Emerge participants and staff during the pandemic. As a preventative measure, Emerge temporarily ceased our volunteer activities, and we sorely missed their collaborative energy as we’ve continued to serve participants. Lauren checked in with staff frequently to let them know she was available to help, even if it meant volunteering from home. When City Court re-opened earlier this year, Lauren was first in line to come back onsite to provide advocacy for survivors engaged in legal services. Our gratitude goes to Lauren, for her passion and dedication to serving individuals experiencing abuse in our community.
Emerge Staff Share Their Stories
This week, Emerge features the stories of staff working in our Shelter, Housing, and Men’s Education programs. During the pandemic, individuals experiencing abuse at the hands of their intimate partner have often struggled to reach out for help, due to increased isolation. While the whole world had to lock their doors, some have been locked in with an abusive partner. Emergency shelter for domestic abuse survivors is offered to those who have experienced recent incidents of serious violence. The Shelter team had to adapt to the realities of not being able to spend time with participants in person to talk with them, reassure them and provide the love and support they deserve. The sense of loneliness and fear that survivors experienced was exacerbated by the forced isolation due to the pandemic. Staff spent many hours on the phone with participants and ensured that they knew the team was there. Shannon details her experience serving participants who lived in Emerge’s shelter program during the last 18 months and highlights lessons learned.
In our housing program, Corinna shares the complexities of supporting participants in finding housing during a pandemic and a significant affordable housing shortage. Seemingly overnight, the progress that participants made in setting up their housing disappeared. Loss of income and employment was reminiscent of where many families found themselves when living with abuse. The Housing Services team pressed on and supported families facing this new challenge in their journey to find safety and stability. Despite the barriers that participants experienced, Corinna also recognizes the amazing ways our community comes together to support families and the determination of our participants in seeking a life free from abuse for themselves and their children.
Finally, Men’s Engagement Supervisor Xavi talks about the impact on the MEP participants, and how difficult it was to use virtual platforms to make meaningful connections with men engaged in behavior changes. Working with men who are harming their families is high-stakes work, and requires intention and the ability to connect with men in meaningful ways. This type of relationship requires ongoing contact and trust-building that was undermined by the delivery of programming virtually. The Men’s Education team quickly adapted and added individual check-in meetings and created more accessibility to MEP team members, so that men in the program had additional layers of support in their life as they also navigated the impact and the risk that the pandemic created for their partners and children.
This week, Emerge features the stories of our lay legal advocates. Emerge’s lay legal program provides support to participants engaged in the civil and criminal justice systems in Pima County due to incidents related to domestic abuse. One of the greatest impacts of abuse and violence is the resulting involvement in various court processes and systems. This experience can feel overwhelming and confusing while survivors are also trying to find safety after abuse.
The services that the Emerge lay legal team provides include requesting orders of protection and providing referrals to lawyers, assistance with immigration assistance, and court accompaniment.
Emerge staff Jesica and Yazmin share their perspectives and experiences supporting participants engaged in the legal system during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, access to court systems was greatly limited for many survivors. Delayed court proceedings and limited access to court personnel and information had a great impact on many families. This impact exacerbated the isolation and fear that survivors were already experiencing, leaving them worried about their future.
The lay legal team demonstrated enormous creativity, innovation, and love for survivors in our community by ensuring that participants didn’t feel alone when navigating legal and court systems. They quickly adapted to providing support during court hearings via Zoom and telephone, remained connected to court personnel to ensure that survivors still had access to information, and provided the ability for survivors to actively participate and regain a sense of control. Even though Emerge staff experienced their own struggles during the pandemic, we are so grateful to them for continuing to prioritize the needs of participants.
Child and Family Services
This week, Emerge honors all the staff who work with children and families at Emerge. The children coming into our Emergency Shelter program were faced with managing the transition of leaving their homes where violence was happening and moving into an unfamiliar living environment and the climate of fear that has permeated this time during the pandemic. This abrupt change in their lives was only made more challenging by the physical isolation of not interacting with others in person and was undoubtedly confusing and scary.
Children living at Emerge already and those receiving services at our Community-Based sites experienced an abrupt shift in their in-person access to staff. Layered onto what the children were managing, families were also forced to figure out how to support their children with schooling at home. Parents who were already overwhelmed with sorting out the impact of the violence and abuse in their lives, many of whom were also working, simply did not have the resources and access to homeschooling while living in a shelter.
The Child and Family team sprang into action and quickly ensured that all children had the necessary equipment to attend school online and provided weekly support to students while also quickly adapting programming to be facilitated via zoom. We know that delivering age-appropriate support services to children who have witnessed or experienced abuse is crucial to healing the whole family. Emerge staff Blanca and MJ talk about their experience serving children during the pandemic and the difficulties of engaging children via virtual platforms, their lessons learned over the last 18 months, and their hopes for a post-pandemic community.
Written by: Anna Harper-Guerrero
Emerge’s Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer
bell hooks said, “But love is really more of an interactive process. It’s about what we do, not just what we feel. It’s a verb, not a noun.”
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, I reflect with gratitude on the love we were able to put into action for survivors of domestic violence and for our community during the pandemic. This difficult period has been my greatest teacher about actions of love. I witnessed our love for our community through our commitment to ensuring that services and support remained available for individuals and families experiencing domestic violence.
It is not a secret that Emerge is made up of members of this community, many of whom have had their own experiences with hurt and trauma, who show up every day and offer their heart to survivors. This is undoubtedly true for the team of staff who deliver services across the organization—emergency shelter, hotline, family services, community-based services, housing services, and our men’s education program. It is also true for everyone who supports the direct service work to survivors through our environmental services, development, and administrative teams. It is especially true in the ways we all lived in, coped with, and did our best to help participants through the pandemic.
Seemingly overnight, we were catapulted into a context of uncertainty, confusion, panic, grief and a lack of guidance. We sifted through all of the information that inundated our community and created policies that tried to prioritize the health and safety of the nearly 6000 people we serve every year. To be sure, we are not healthcare providers tasked to care for those who are sick. Yet we serve families and individuals who are at risk every day of serious harm and in some cases death.
With the pandemic, that risk only increased. Systems that survivors rely on for help shut down around us: basic support services, courts, law enforcement responses. As a result, many of the most vulnerable members of our community disappeared into the shadows. While most of the community was at home, so many folks were living in unsafe situations where they did not have what they needed to survive. The lockdown decreased the ability for people experiencing domestic abuse to receive support by phone because they were in the home with their abusive partner. Children didn’t have access to a school system to have a safe person to talk to. Tucson shelters had decreased capacity to bring individuals in. We saw the impacts of these forms of isolation, including increased need for services and higher levels of lethality.
Emerge was reeling from the impact and trying to maintain contact safely with folks living in dangerous relationships. We moved our emergency shelter overnight into a non-communal facility. Still, employees and participants reported having been exposed to COVID on a seemingly daily basis, resulting in contact tracing, reduced staffing levels with many vacant positions, and staff in quarantine. In the midst of these challenges, one thing remained intact—our love for our community and deep commitment to those who are seeking safety. Love is an action.
As the world seemed to stop, the nation and community breathed in the reality of the racialized violence that has been occurring for generations. This violence exists in our community, too, and has shaped the experiences of our team and the people we serve. Our organization attempted to figure out how to cope with the pandemic while also creating space and beginning healing work from the collective experience of racialized violence. We continue to work toward liberation from the racism that exists all around us. Love is an action.
The heart of the organization kept beating. We took agency phones and plugged them in at people’s homes so that the hotline would continue to operate. Staff immediately began hosting support sessions from home telephonically and on Zoom. Staff facilitated support groups on Zoom. Many staff continued to be in the office and have been for the duration and continuation of the pandemic. Staff picked up extra shifts, worked longer hours, and have been holding multiple positions. Folks came in and out. Some got sick. Some lost close family members. We have collectively continued to show up and offer our heart to this community. Love is an action.
At one point, the entire team providing emergency services had to quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID. Teams from other areas of the agency (administrative positions, grant writers, fundraisers) signed up to deliver food to families living at the emergency shelter. Staff from across the agency brought toilet paper when they found it available in the community. We arranged pick-up times for folks to come to the offices that were shut down so that folks could pick up food boxes and hygiene items. Love is an action.
One year later, everyone is tired, burned out, and hurting. Still, our hearts beat and we show up to provide love and support to survivors who have nowhere else to turn. Love is an action.
This year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we are choosing to lift up and honor the stories of the many employees of Emerge who helped this organization stay in operation so that survivors had a place where support could happen. We honor them, their stories of pain during illness and loss, their fear of what was to come in our community—and we express our endless gratitude for their beautiful hearts.
Let us remind ourselves this year, during this month, that love is an action. Every day of the year, love is an action.
Written by Anna Harper-Guerrero
Emerge has been in a process of evolution and transformation for the last 6 years that is intensely focused on becoming an anti-racist, multicultural organization. We are working every day to uproot anti-blackness and confront racism in an effort to return to the humanity that lives deep within all of us. We want to be a reflection of liberation, love, compassion and healing – the same things we want for anyone suffering in our community. Emerge is on a journey to speak the untold truths about our work and have humbly presented the written pieces and videos from community partners this month. These are important truths about the real experiences that survivors have trying to access help. We believe that in that truth is the light for the way forward.
This process is slow, and every day there will be invitations, both literal and figurative, to revert to what has not served our community, served us as the people who make up Emerge, and that which has not served survivors in the ways that they deserve. We are working to center the important life experiences of ALL survivors. We are taking responsibility for inviting courageous conversations with other non-profit agencies and sharing our messy journey through this work so that we can replace a system born out of a desire to categorize and dehumanize people in our community. The historical roots of the non-profit system cannot be ignored.
If we pick up on the point made by Michael Brasher this month in his piece about rape culture and the socialization of men and boys, we can see the parallel if we choose to. “The implicit, often unexamined, set of values contained in the cultural code to ‘man up’ are a part of an environment in which men are trained to disconnect from and devalue feelings, to glorify force and winning, and to viciously police each other’s ability to replicate these norms.”
Much like the roots of a tree that provides support and anchorage, our framework is embedded in values that ignore the historical truths about domestic and sexual violence as being an outgrowth of racism, slavery, classism, homophobia, and transphobia. These systems of oppression give us permission to disregard the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – including those who identify in the LGBTQ communities – as having less value at best and non-existent at worst. It is risky for us to assume that these values still don’t seep into the deep corners of our work and influence everyday thoughts and interactions.
We are willing to risk it all. And by all we mean, tell all the truth about how domestic violence services have not accounted for the experience of ALL survivors. We have not considered our role in addressing racism and anti-blackness for Black survivors. We are a non-profit system that has created a professional field out of the suffering in our community because that is the model that was built for us to operate within. We have struggled to see how the very same oppression that leads to unconscionable, life-ending violence in this community has also insidiously worked its way into the fabric of the system designed to respond to survivors of that violence. In its current state, ALL survivors cannot have their needs met in this system, and too many of us working in the system have engaged a coping mechanism of distancing ourselves from the realities of those who cannot be served. But this can, and must, change. We must change the system so that the full humanity of ALL survivor is seen and honored.
To be in reflection about how to change as an institution within complicated, deeply anchored systems takes great courage. It requires us to stand in the circumstances of risk and account for harm that we have caused. It also requires us to be precisely focused on the way forward. It requires us to no longer stay silent about the truths. The truths that we all know are there. Racism is not new. Black survivors feeling let down and invisible is not new. The numbers of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are not new. But our prioritization of it is new.
Black Women deserve to be loved, celebrated, and lifted up for their wisdom, knowledge, and accomplishments. We must also acknowledge that Black Women have no choice but to survive in a society that was never intended to hold them as valuable. We must listen to their words about what change means but fully assume our own responsibility in identifying and addressing the injustices that happen daily.
Indigenous Women deserve to live freely and be revered for all that they have woven into the earth that we walk on – to include their very bodies. Our attempts to liberate Indigenous communities from domestic abuse must also include our ownership of the historical trauma and truths that we readily hide about who planted those seeds on their land. To include ownership of the ways that we attempt to water those seeds daily as a community.
It is okay to tell the truth about these experiences. In fact, it is critical to the collective survival of ALL survivors in this community. When we center those who are listened to the least, we ensure the space is open for everyone.
We can reimagine and actively build a system that has a great ability to build safety and hold the humanity of everyone in our community. We can be spaces where everyone is welcome in their truest, fullest self, and where everyone’s life has value, where accountability is seen as love. A community where we all have the opportunity to build a life free from violence.
The Queens is a support group that was created at Emerge to center the experiences of Black Women in our work. It was created by and is led by Black Women.
This week we proudly present the important words and experiences of the Queens, who journeyed through a process led by Cecelia Jordan over the last 4 weeks to encourage unguarded, raw, truth-telling as the pathway to healing. This excerpt is what the Queens chose to share with the community in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Written by April Ignacio
April Ignacio is a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the founder of Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots community organization that provides opportunities for civic engagement and education beyond voting for members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. She is a fierce advocate for women, a mother to six and an artist.
The violence against Indigenous women has been so normalized that we sit in an unspoken, insidious truth that our own bodies do not belong to us. My first recollection of this truth is probably around the age of 3 or 4 years old, I attended the HeadStart Program in a village called Pisinemo. I remember being told “don’t let anyone take you” as a warning from my teachers while on a field trip. I remember being afraid that in fact someone was going to try and “take me” but I didn’t understand what that meant. I knew I had to be in sight distance from my teacher and that I, as a 3 or 4 year old child then became suddenly very aware of my surroundings. I realize now as an adult, that trauma was passed on to me, and I had passed it onto my own children. My oldest daughter and son both recall
Historically violence against Indigenous people in the United States has created a normalcy among most tribal people that when I was asked to provide a thorough insight to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls I
It is important to remember that there are 574 tribal Nations in the United States and each one is unique. In Arizona alone there are 22 distinct tribal Nations, including the transplants from other Nations throughout the country that call Arizona home. So the collection of data for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls has been challenging and almost near to impossible to conduct. We are struggling to identify the true numbers of Indigenous women and girls who have been murdered, missing, or have been taken. The plight of this movement is being led by Indigenous women, we are our own experts.
In some communities, women are being murdered by non-indigenous people. In my tribal community 90% of the cases of women who were murdered, were a direct result of domestic violence and this is reflected in our tribal judicial system. Roughly 90% of the court cases that are heard in our Tribal courts are domestic violence cases. Each case study may differ based on geographical location, however this is what it looks like in my community. It is imperative that community partners and allies understand Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls is a direct result of perpetrated violence against Indigenous women and girls. The roots of this violence is deeply embedded in archaic belief systems that teach insidious lessons about the worth of our bodies – lessons that give permission for our bodies to be taken at whatever cost for whatever reason.
I often find myself frustrated by the lack of discourse of how we are not talking about ways to prevent domestic violence but instead we are talking about how to recover and find missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
In November of last year the Trump administration signed Executive Order 13898, forming the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indian and Alaskan Natives, also known as “Operation Lady Justice”, that would provide more ability to open more cases (unsolved and cold cases) of Indigenous women directing the allocation of more money from the Department of Justice. However, no additional laws or authority comes with Operation Lady Justice. The order quietly addresses the lack of action and prioritization of solving cold cases in Indian Country without acknowledging the great harm and trauma that so many families have suffered with for so long. We must address the way that our policies and lack of prioritization of resources allows for the silence and erasure of the many Indigenous Women and Girls who are missing and who have been murdered.
On October 10th the Savanna Act and Not Invisible Act were both signed into law. The Savanna Act would create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans, in consultation with Tribes, which will include guidance on interjurisdictional cooperation among tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement. The Not Invisible Act would provide opportunities for tribes to seek preventative efforts, grants and programs related to missing (taken) and the murder of Indigenous peoples.
As of today, the Violence Against Women Act has still yet to be passed through the Senate. The Violence Against Women Act is the law that provides an umbrella of services and protections for undocumented women and transwomen. It’s the law that allowed us to believe and imagine something different for our communities that are drowning with the saturation of violence.
Processing these bills and laws and executive orders is an important task that has shed some light on larger issues, but I still park near the exit of covered garages and staircases. I still worry about my daughters who travel to the city alone. When challenging toxic masculinity and consent in my community it took having a conversation with the High School Football Coach to agree to allow his football team to participate in our efforts to create a conversation in our community about the impact of violence. Tribal communities can thrive when they are given the opportunity and the power over how they see themselves. After all, we are still here.
About Indivisible Tohono
Indivisible Tohono is a grassroots community organization that provides opportunities for civic engagement and education beyond voting for members of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Written piece by Boys to Men
While there has been much debate about civil war-era monuments, Nashville poet Caroline Williams recently reminded us of the often-overlooked stake in this issue: rape, and rape culture. In an OpEd entitled, “You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body is a Confederate Monument,” she reflects on the history behind the shade of her light-brown skin. “As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.” Her body and writing function together as a confrontation of the true results of the social orders that the U.S. has traditionally valued, especially when it comes to gender roles. Despite the robust amount of emerging data that links the traditional gender socialization of boys to a range of public health crises and violence, today, across America, boys are still often raised on an old-school American mandate: “man up.”
Williams’ timely and vulnerable exposé on her own family history reminds us that gendered and racial subordination have always gone hand in hand. If we want to confront either, we must confront both. A part of doing that is recognizing that there are very normalized objects and practices that litter our daily lives today in America that continue to support rape culture. This isn’t about statues, Williams reminds us, but about how we want to collectively relate to the historical practices of domination that justify and normalize sexual violence.
Take for example, the romantic comedy, in which the rejected boy goes to heroic lengths to win the affections of the girl who is not interested in him—overcoming her resistance in the end with a grand romantic gesture. Or the ways that boys are lifted up for having sex, whatever the cost. Indeed, the traits that we often ingrain into young boys every day, connected to long-standing ideas about “real men,” are the inevitable foundation for rape culture.
The implicit, often unexamined, set of values contained in the cultural code to “man up” are a part of an environment in which men are trained to disconnect from and devalue feelings, to glorify force and winning, and to viciously police each other’s ability to replicate these norms. Substituting my own sensitivity to the experience of others (and my own) with the mandate to win and get mine is how I learned to become a man. Normalized practices of domination link the story that Williams tells to the customs that are present today when a 3-year old little boy is humiliated by the adult he loves for crying when he feels pain, fear, or compassion: “boys don’t cry” (boys discard feelings).
However, the movement to end the glorification of domination is growing, too. In Tucson, on a given week, across 17 area schools and at the Juvenile Detention Center, nearly 60 trained, adult men from across communities sit down to participate in group talking circles with around 200 teenaged boys as a part of the work of Boys to Men Tucson. For many of these boys, this is the only place in their life where it’s safe to let down their guard, to tell the truth about how they are feeling, and to ask for support. But these sorts of initiatives need to gain much more traction from all parts of our community if we are to replace rape culture with a culture of consent that promotes safety and justice for all. We need your help expanding this work.
On October 25, 26, and 28, Boys to Men Tucson is partnering with Emerge, the University of Arizona and a coalition of devoted community groups to host a groundbreaking forum aimed at organizing our communities to create significantly better alternatives for teen boys and masculine-identified youth. This interactive event will take a deep dive into the forces that structure masculinity and emotional well-being for the young people in Tucson. This is a key space where your voice and your support can help us make a huge difference in the type of culture that exists for the next generation when it comes to gender, equality, and justice. We invite you to join us for this practical step towards cultivating a community in which safety and justice are the norm, rather than the exception. For more information on the forum, or to register to attend, please visit www.btmtucson.com/masculinityforum2020.
This is just one example of the large-scale movement to cultivate love’s resistance to ordinary cultural systems of domination. Abolitionist Angela Davis characterized this shift best when she turned the serenity prayer on its head, asserting, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” As we reflect on the impact of domestic and sexual violence in our communities this month, may we all have the courage and resolve to follow her lead.
About Boys to Men
Our vision is to strengthen communities by calling men to step up to mentor teenage boys on their journey towards healthy manhood.
Our mission is to recruit, train, and empower communities of men to mentor teenage boys through on-site circles, adventure outings, and contemporary rites of passage.
Cecelia Jordan is a community rooted teacher, poet and transformative justice practitioner. Her organization, Love in Public, develops authentic learning experiences for justice-oriented organizations.
“Do you think your great-great-great-great grandmother was raped?”
-This is my father’s question in response to the bold statement: I have raped colored skin. I flail in the sea of misogyny, and explain, “an enslaved person cannot consent.”
“Well I’d hate to think a Black woman couldn’t make a white man fall in love with her,” he says. I am disgusted.
He retorts, “I just don’t see what any of that has to do with domestic violence.”
I am a Black queer masculine-of-center woman, an educator, a restorative justice practitioner, a sister, an auntie, a granddaughter, a niece, an unapologetic hood nerd, poet and survivor. My life purpose is guided by a not-so-simple question: how do we heal from harm to embrace a politic of care and build systems rooted in love? If “love is what justice looks like in public,” as Dr. Cornel West says, then we must focus our efforts on those most impacted by injustice. This will require us to step out of our comfort zones, and extend compassion to the people who experience generational harm and are denied access to resources. If we, as a society, cannot believe that Black enslaved women could be raped by their masters and overseers, how can anyone fathom that Black women are currently victims of intimate partner violence?
When a Black woman is harmed, they will blame our attitudes, our clothing choices, our pasts, and assume we don’t feel pain. The fact is, our attitude, our unapologetic commitment to unbridled truth, is built in response to society’s abrasive apathy. We still talk about slavery in connection to violence because Black women are still dying in the hands of systems, and because we all make up systems, Black women are dying in your hands. You are responsible for the relics of slavery and colonization. You are responsible for your thoughts, actions and behaviors toward Black women. You are responsible for believing us, or continuing to uphold contrived, inhumane, hypersexualized fantasies where Black women and girls are harmed because we make rapists fall in love with us. All of these anti-Black ideas must be uprooted.
In Circle, where space is held to uncover shared values and build relationships, I’ve learned two things: most non-Black people are not in deep relationship with Black folx, and once “made aware” of this reality, most admit to causing massive amounts of harm. Intentionality does not reverse the impact of the harm caused: pushing Black women out of their jobs, using Black friends to discuss racism, adopting Black children to not seem racist, teaching Black students to be respectable, ignoring racist jokes amongst family, leaving anti-Black behavior at work unchecked. Seemingly quiet personal adherence to such rules at the expense of Black life is to be expected in a society that follows the rule of law at the expense of Black life.
Safety is an unattainable luxury for Black skin. Domestic Violence Awareness Month gives us a haven to address this unspeakable truth alongside the always-present elephant in the race conversation: what about Black on Black violence? Yes, Black women are four times more likely than their white peers to be murdered by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and twice as likely to be killed by a spouse. We are harmed by our cousins, uncles, brothers, friends and lovers. Black on Black violence, or interpersonal violence amongst Black people, is symptomatic of a society that creates educational, medical, media, and legal barriers on Black life.
To be Black woman is to be a constant shield and target. Holder of a society’s pleasure and pain. To be strong, eloquent and cold. To be confident, beautiful and bitch. To be mammy, maid and slave. To breastfeed the child that will later be your master. To be violated but nobody calls it violence, just a symptom of a violent society. To be too much and never enough. While our institutions fortify this violence, its roots can be found in the bloody soils of chattel slavery. Here, in our closest interpersonal relationships, we are socialized in abuse. Though less visible, our relationships are confederate monuments, too; they reap terror through our family structures, work systems, and our lives.
In the U.S., Black and Indigenous women face higher rates of domestic violence than women of all other races. The rules that govern our society make it clear that our criminal legal system is not interested in consequences for people who hurt women. Instead, it is designed to incarcerate and re-enslave our people through a Constitutional loophole. If we consider the 13th Amendment to be a systemic noose, then our criminal legal system is a slave monument constructed upon the belief that some are more worthy of humanity than others. Old sayings like “what happens in this house, stays in this house” serve as a reminder that our culture is not only rooted in silencing victims, but in protecting the village; in the hood and the modern day slave quarters where the boys in blue enter like overseers and deliver their so-called version of justice.
Our current version of justice is inherently violent, inhumane, and outdated. We see that violence seeps through domestic soil and grows more domestic violence. In the present-pain of a massive epic fail, we do not want our harmers fatally punished, incarcerated or disposed of—we want healing. And still, when Black women decide to break the silence, we are too often dismissed or made complicit in racist attacks on our people. We fight for scraps of hormone-induced power because it feels like we have none. We stay in abusive relationships because we are always trying to save our people.
We will know what justice looks like when we know how to love Black people, and especially Black women. Loving us is not about returning to the goodness of whiteness, but about acknowledging the violence of white perversion and the falsities of its “truths.” Imagine a world where Black women heal and create truly just systems of support and accountability. Imagine institutions made up of individuals who pledge to be co-conspirators in fights for Black freedom and justice, and commit to understanding the layered foundation of plantation politics. Imagine, for the first time in history, we are invited to complete Reconstruction.
In this generational war on Black people, it is Black women who face violence on multiple fronts. In honor of this month, and in the days, months and years to come, make time to see and listen to the Black women in your life. Don’t speak, don’t argue, just remember you can never even begin to imagine the immense amount of unspeakable pain we carry, both epigenetically and in this lifetime. Be of service and stay late to help; don’t ask for uncompensated labor. Buy lunch and cook dinner; gift money, for no reason at all. Learn about the true history of this country—about systemic violence and anti-Blackness. Talk to your folx and find ways to hold people accountable. And above all, build deep relationships with people committed to communal transformation, radical policy change, and resources every system in this country needs.
Every interaction with a Black woman brings either the opportunity to address domestic violence and slavery, and atone for systemic harm, or the choice to continue to follow violent societal norms. Know that this awakening will change everything. We must change everything in the name of love, of future, and in the spirit of Black women who continue to carry our movements toward justice.
To take action, visit Love In Public and help provide safe learning and healing spaces for Black folx during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in the months to come.
About Love In Public. Love in Public provides authentic and tailored learning experiences to justice-oriented organizations to build strong relationships, center the identities and experiences of those most pushed to the margins, and catalyze those findings to inform a path toward organizational change and sustainability.
We integrate critical pedagogy, restorative justice, and healing practices into our learning work which is based in theoretical understandings of Black queer feminism, Latinx Critical Theory, Tribal Crit, and more. Together, we engage in simulations, poetry, speech, and opinion writing workshops, gallery walks, improvisation theatre, deep listening activities, and circles.
Untold Stories Series 2019
For decades, the issue of domestic violence (DV) lived in the shadows as a taboo topic.