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Why we need more voices to speak the unspeakable.

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My Community Radio Storytelling Fellowship with Making Contact (MC) has come to an end and I’m confident that my voice has been heard!   I am happy to have had the opportunity to be one of the first cohort of fellows to participate in what was both a challenging and engaging project, which I want to dedicate to Kimberly Robertson (may she forever rest in peace) and to all of the black female (including transwomen) victims and survivors of violence.

My challenge stemmed from my topic about the unspeakable and perpetual violence against women, particularly black women, violence so normalized as to render us silent, invisible, and for far too many, dead.  Having to tell my personal story of domestic violence and sexual assault was hard at times.  While I had believed these experiences I’d survived were behind me, that I had moved on from the pain and suffering of those awful moments, I found myself struggling to tell the story without the memory of it consuming me.

I would choke on the words as they tried to release themselves from my heart and my throat.  I would feel anxious about opening up those wounds and being left vulnerable while reliving the helplessness and despair that was once my life, a life exposed to violence.  Yet my desire to resist, challenge, and disrupt the status quo mindset that if it happens to black women it can’t be a crime, fueled me to see this project to its completion.  It is a small contribution to a very critical and complex issue that needs our attention and further discourse.

Image from Her Resilience Project

Image from Her Resilience Project

This fellowship engaged me in dialogue with other powerful storytellers and agents of change.  It brought me into the company of the Her Resilience Mural Project, where the lives of women affected by violence in Oakland, CA became a clarion call for healing and a push for community and political discourse because this has to end and it won’t end if we don’t address it, if we continue to ignore this pandemic of trauma and death.

I was inspired and lifted through these conversations with artists and organizers, many of whom had also survived violence and/or had friends and loved ones who survived or were murdered.  At times these voices were strong, clear, resilient and no longer afraid.  Other times, I can hear, see, and feel the tears, the pause manifested from the pain of retelling, of memories that can keep us bound and gagged and unresponsive.

In those moments we found solace in spaces carved out for us to safely say what had been almost impossible in a society that would rather we not speak our truths.  I am forever changed by these rich experiences and the new relationships they’ve rewarded.  Thank you Hazel Streete, Gabrielle Rae Travis, Nicole Gervacio, Angelica Padmavati, Shana Lancaster, Kimberly Smith, Nikita Mitchell, Melissa Valentine, and Vicky Valentine.  Your voices rang through like a mighty roar.  You all’s passion for justice is remarkable and so necessary.  I would not have been able to tell this story without you.

Additionally, Making Contact hosted a Twitter chat, #VAW (violence against women) on May 21 that included a panel of insightful and dedicated cultural workers/activist/warrior women: Alisa Bierria from Incite! Women of Color Against Violence; Thandisizwe Chimurenga from the Ida B. Wells Institute; Maisha Johnson from Everyday Feminism; Esther Lucero from the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health; Karen Tenorio from Mexico.  It is super imperative that we continue to highlight all forms of violence against women, including our LGBTQ community also fighting for their lives.  You can find a transcript of that conversation here.

Finally, I’d like to give a huge thanks to the outstanding crew at the National Radio Project, sponsors of Making Contact and the Community Radio Storytelling Fellowship more here.  It was your guidance and support that enabled me to capture my experience and my love of social justice into the story that will be shared with your national audience of listeners.

Special thanks to Laura Flynn, my producer for this segment, who demonstrated so much patience and time to helping me from start to finish with my story outline,  managing my 10-week timeline, instructing me on Adobe Audition and the art of writing a script read more.  Kwan Booth, who tutored me on managing social media. Lisa Rudman, Andrew Stelzer, Jasmin Lopez, and George Lavender, your roundtable brainstorming at conception and generous and thoughtful critiques at the birth of this work has been invaluable.

Thank you all!

Making Contact’s readers and listeners help make it possible to keep vital grassroots voices on the air each week, so please consider making a donation to keep this program funded and continue to elevate voices like mine, Lateef’s, and Aqeuila’s (former MC fellows).

We can’t do this without you!





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