I have known about this day for quite sometime, but I have been resistant to posting about it because of the tirggering effect that occurs for me when I write about my experience with violence.
In October 2007 people all over the United States gathered physically and in spirit to speak out against violence against women of color. Some of us wore red all day and explained that we were reclaiming and reframing our bodies as a challenge to the widespread acceptance of violence against women of color. Some of us wrote powerful essays about why we were wearing red and posted them on the internet. Some of us gathered with bold and like-minded folks and took pictures, shared poetry and expressed solidarity.
This year, on the first anniversary of the Be Bold Be Red Campaign, we invite you to make your bold stance against the violence enacted on women and girls of color in our society visible. In D.C., Chicago, Durham, Atlanta and Detroit women of color will be gathering to renew our commitment to creating a world free from racialized and gendered violence, and this time, we’ll be using a new technology called CyberQuilting to connect all of these gatherings in real time. To learn more about CyberQuilting, which is a women of color led project to stitch movements together using new web technologies and old traditions of love and nurturing, visit www.cyberquilt.wordpress.com.
I must admit that I am part of a troubling statistic in that not only have I had to deal with physical abuse, but twice I have been subject to sexual assault in my life. The last 15 years my life have been free of violence, and yet it still follows me like a persistent shadow that refuses to fade.
To this day with the exception of my children, I don't trust anyone enough to touch my neck. I am very easily startled and cannot stand it when people are standing behind me. Being in a line with the inability to see who is behind me can be a triggering experience for me. The insensitivity with which this is greeted often makes me angry.
I don't want to have to say to people don't sneak up on me. It's not a joke it reminds me of being assaulted. I shouldn't have to admit to such a violation to get someone to respect my space, but I have come to learn that because I am black and female, many do not feel that I have the right to exist without invasion. Violation and black womanhood seem to be synonymous.
It does not comfort me to know that many of my sisters share the same fate. This is a burden I would be much happier to carry on my own. I don't speak about what occurred to me very often because I find that it leads to terrible flashbacks, but I feel compelled to speak today to say that this violence needs to end.
After all of the years that have gone by, I have stopped hoping to be healed or getting any kind of closure. I am very much wedded to my anger and I believe that I will die with it. Something inside me has been permanently broken and it cannot be undone. The person that I would have been lies buried in a shallow grave and no amount of mourning for her will breathe life and hope into her.
Oddly enough my body does not carry any psychic memory of what happened but I am sure somewhere it suffers still from the scars that have yet to heal. Most of the pain I deal with is of a mental sort. A song, a smell or an image can take me to places that I never care to revisit. Unlike Alice my personal rabbit hole leads to place of such great pain. Even in my own home, where I have lived for many years there are times that I will remind myself that I am safe here, that no one in this house is going to hurt me. If there was a way to erase my memory I would do it in an instant.
When I walk down the street, or raise my voice in protest few would look at me and know that I too share a legacy of violence that is all to common to WOC globally. I know that I come across as confident and quite self assured but in quiet times when there is nothing to distract me, I once again come face to face with the reality of what happened to me. I cannot stand silence because inside of it I hear the echoes of my own screams. I remember tears that I shed in that moment because I have never since that day been able to cry for what was taken from me.
This is my story, this is my pain. It stalks me like an ever present predator, forever nipping at my heels anxious to consume me. I ask you to please wear red today not only support of me but for every single woman that shares this unspeakable burden.