Tag Archives: Sexual Assault

Allow Alice in Wonderland: Meditations on Self Sacrifice, Reflection & Moving On

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire Cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the Cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
— Lewis Carroll

Hey Speakerz. This week has been interesting, with the recent news blaring the words “rape” and “sexual assault” everywhere. I’ve been forced to deconstruct so much this week from my own experiences. I’ve realized that for survivors of these horrific moments, it isn’t as simple as “well, I experienced this about however many years ago.” It’s much more convoluted. Depression, inability to connect, difficult relationships with food, etc. can all come from these moments. How do we heal? So much of the healing is being able to name the problem and then continue to work towards a place of stability. Honesty with self comes first and foremost.

As a little girl, my favorite disney tale wasn’t the one with the Prince and Princess, it was actually Alice in Wonderland. I was a child of book learning and so I read every version that I could find from the Disney picture book to Lewis Carroll’s version to the gruesome original tale. I even got an Alice and Wonderland doll set and I painted all the dolls brown because I wanted the dolls to reflect my world, my life and where I seemed to often find myself. Growing up, I always considered myself more of an Alice. I didn’t fit in and spent much time alone, not out of a loneliness but because there was simply so much in my world that I saw that it seemed others didn’t.

As I grew older, I realized the real truth in that the world was Wonderland and I happened to take my role of Alice pretty seriously or maybe not seriously at all. Constantly getting lost, making turns, both right and wrong, which of course mean that “right” and “wrong” are relative. Maybe I’m also the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts all in one. Maybe I am both Alice and Wonderland. Oftentimes, I preferred my own insulated world because the outside one didn’t understand the intersections of black queer and female.

One thing about this wonderful wonderland of a world that we live in, is that with every day is a new adventure. We wake with a new choice of adventures in just how our days will turn out. As a teacher and lover of children, I’ve been on this journey of how to let children, especially black and brown children, embrace their Wonderland. In this journey, I realized just how often myself and the black men and women around me have lost our Wonderland. We speak so much about self care but really:

What is the process of self care?

What is the process of allowing our Wonderland to thrive whilst still thriving inside of this venture called capitalist/sexist/racist/oppressive America? 

How often do you truly put yourself first? 

How do you decide when to let your shadow self play? 

When do you take the time to connect? 

What is connection for you? 

What is an embrace? How often do you need one? 

When do you allow your thoughts to quiet themselves? 

If we don’t keep ourselves in constant awareness and reflection of the necessary, do we find ourselves in the mode of sacrifice? We want to be liked, we want to be loved and so we give in an effort to receive. But the only person guaranteed to receive you, is you. So what now? I had a friend tell me once that consistency is key. How often are you consistent with your selfhood? I’ve been forced to be self aware. As a rape survivor who can and is triggered, I have to deconstruct the triggering in order to survive the moment. But that’s my truth. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s.

Most recently with the full moon and new moons as well as planetary alignment, I’ve been talking with a lot of people who are saying that they’re in a mode of clean-house. I looked around at my own life and saw that I too had let people in my life and were holding them there for no reason. There was no reciprocity in our relationship. They didn’t reach out. Maybe they did and really sought to control me through their own unresolved issues. I’m not speaking of anyone in particular, but I am speaking of the relationships that we allow in our space that change our vibration, that cause us to sacrifice who we are and what we believe for a moment. None are good or bad, they simply just are.

What do you allow in your space and why? 

What is the process of moving on? 

It’s okay to be angry, to be sad, to cry, but move. Keep moving. Humanity is not meant to be lived standing still. What about Alice and her Wonderland?

Well, let’s tuck her safely in our hearts and remember that our own little Alice needs some play time and tlc at least once a day. Maybe the question is:

Where do you want to go and does it matter? 

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

Power, Pleasure & Patriarchy: Meditations on the Power in Silence & Speaking

My Dearest Speakerz! Another week has gone by and with it incredible changes and challenges in life’s ever revolving wheel. This week, among so many other things, I began to think most intensely on what it is to be a free spirit and just how essential it is to constantly and consistently deconstruct the programming of what we’re taught to reach the expansiveness of self. Let’s dive in!

I’ve always been a listener. I don’t prefer to talk on the phone much and if I answer the phone for you or pick it up to call you, count yourself lucky. I much prefer silence and reading much more than just what a person says with words.  When I listen, I try to do so with my whole self. How often do we listen to others? How much do we take in information from the words they say, to the language that their bodies speak, to the stories that their aura’s tell, etc. Once we take in their story, just how do we love them? Maybe the real question is, how do we listen to and love ourselves on the many levels that there are and love so deep that we see that self mirrored in others?

Most recently, I’ve had many conversations with beautiful, intellectual, strong men and in most of the conversations, I’ve shut up and just listened and let people show and tell me who they are. They’ve been incredibly breathtaking, heart-warming, soul-clenching experiences and yet within these conversations has been much patriarchy present. I hate to admit it, but I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t.

Patriarchy:

a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
  • a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.
  • a society or community organized on patriarchal lines.

Where men hold power most simply in a conversation is that their voices are louder, their rib cages wider, their diaphragms more power- filled. They can speak over everyone so that they are heard with almost no strain on their vocal chords. This oftentimes leads to silencing for women. Processing active silencing is something that has been with me since college and before to my early days of living. Having a loud and deeper toned voice allowed me to burst through many a space, but still, what hurt lives in my diaphragm from having to exert that extra push?

As a woman, and more specifically as a black queer woman, I face so much of the patriarchy on a very regular level. I’m only recently learning, with a phase of being more attracted to men than women at the moment, how to really love, admire and uplift men, specifically men of color, through the patriarchy. With this, has come less of a need to fight and stand up for myself immediately with my vocal chords. I realize that my actions say so much and so I’ve learned to truly listen deeper than I ever have before. Many times, listening is perceived as submission, but really it can be a place of firm strength. Within my silence is great power. There’s mystery that you can only uncover with my permission. Learning to build rather than to just take over is something that I’ve learned is hard for men dealing with issues of patriarchy. There’s so much to unpack and unlearn dealing with masculinity (hyper/hypo) that it affects the very core of who we are as human beings in learning how to build.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to dance in various styles and spaces. While dancing, I was constantly told by men, “Let me lead!” And I thought, whoops, did I just take over? Then I questioned further. Shouldn’t the dance of life be a constant give and take? Why can’t I lead when I know the way? When the music moves me, shouldn’t I move? What is it to follow not from submission, but from assuredness? If gendered norms did not exist, would this moment?

I’ve spoken about this before, but both of my sexual assaults were perpetrated by black men that I trusted. So many black women that I share space with have similar stories. I truly believe that the only people that should speak about the experiences of black women being sexually abused, should be black women. Now hold on, I don’t mean that only black women should acknowledge the presence that sexual assault plays in the black community. I mean that the experience of being assaulted, molested, etc. that is distinctly hers, should be able to spring from her mouth without fear of retribution. We should be free to tell our stories as we wish. At the same time, there shouldn’t be an expectation that I have to share. Some women want the mic and they should be allowed to have it. Some women don’t and they shouldn’t feel shamed for that.  Everyone else, shut the hell up. It’s not your experience. Black womens’ wombs belong to them and not to you. We have been policed for far too long. Our sexual autonomy is our own. How to help? Active listening and unlearning of the patriarchy.  How do we allow women the space to heal and men the space to process? How do we process love?

When it comes to pleasure, what are the ways in which men and women assert themselves without permission? In my world, consent is key. There is nothing sexier than asking me if you can kiss me or touch me in certain places. How have we programmed men to take what they want without regard? In what ways have we programmed young women to hate sex when in reality, sex is a big part of who we are and should be embraced in whatever form be it heterosexual, homosexual, polyamorous, asexual, etc. Something that I find isn’t often spoken about are ” Emotional Triggers”.

Emotional Trigger:

An Emotional Trigger is a response to a. person, situation, event, dialogue, reading, film, or other content providing entity, that. provokes a strong emotional reaction. Often. we are not self aware when we are triggered, and fall into reacting prior to sifting through. our strong emotional response.

With this understanding of what is is to be “triggered” in a moment comes with it a freedom. We can move past and through our triggers when we understand what they are, how they affect us and that we are not victims to the system. We human beings make up the system and it’s time for listening, shifts in power and pleasure and much more love.

So here’s to pleasure, a firm grasp on power dynamics and well, self love.

Love Always,

Damali Speaks Xx

Feeling the Spirit, Support & Giving Birth to A Nation

Hello Faithful Blogosphere! I know, three posts in 2 days, someone call help! But in all seriousness, exploring LA and the downtime that being unemployed presents, gives me so much time to think, write and of course…blog. The main topics of today’s blog entry include: Religion or lack thereof, support and what it looks and feels like to me and the recent buzz around Nate Parker and Birth of A Nation. It may be long, but hold on to your seatbelts because I promise it will be worth it!

Religion. It’s such an interesting part of our existence as human beings on this planet, isn’t it? I grew up in a Black Catholic family. For those who don’t know, basically the catholic religion with a whole lotta gospel music. It’s basically the same as Baptist Christianity with a few variations. I went to Sunday school, made all the sacraments, and went to Catholic middle and high school. Through all of this, I never not once connected with the religion or “felt the spirit” as my peers did. I hated reading the bible and I wondered where the words from women of the time period were. I hated that men were represented so strongly in the religion with only Mary, the mother of Jesus as a representative. I hated that the body and sex were seen as sin and not ways in which humanity connects and finds freedom. I yearned for my spirit to feel some sort of connection to something. Needless to say, as soon as I went to college, I stopped going to church all-together. Does this mean that I started going against the things I knew to be right? Nope. My moral compass worked just fine. So why did I need religion to guide me? I found spirituality. As Ntozake Shange said “I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely.

For anyone out there who is religious, I do not mean to down your beliefs. I simply mean to say that those specific things that I endured did not work for me and my soul. I believe there to be many pros for religion as well as cons. The cons were just too weighted for my spirit to take flight. This is a perfect lead in to talking about support. What is a support system? According to Merriam-Webster, a support system is:

Support System (noun):

the group of family, friends, colleagues, or professionals available to help a person or organization when required.

As the ambiverted soul that I am, I’ve always had many friends, or rather people that I believed to be my friends. I’ve always been a big ball of energy, sometimes out of control and oftentimes just wanted to spread and receive hugs and love. In my life, I’ve experienced such profound levels of support while at the same time experiencing such levels of hurt. I used to have the hardest time with discernment. I always want to believe that people are good, so they must be coming to me with positive wishes right? WRONG. Not everyone is your support system. Support systems grow like trees. They start small and through storms and heat waves and droughts, they are tried and tested, but if they make it through, they continue to grow. Some don’t make it. Some break and snap and wither and die. In moving across the country, I’m learning just who my support systems are. I’ve had people contact me from high school to wish me well and offer an ear and instead of being spiteful or too strong, I’ve rested upon that ear, that shoulder and the warm vibes of love. Friendship knows no time. Years can pass and you can not hear from people and then all of a sudden, people can re-appear. Some of those people are good for you, some aren’t. At best, family, wether made or born into will be there if you let them.

At this point, I’m going to put a TW or Trigger Warning for those that might be affected by conversation of sexual assault. 

When I first saw a film with Nate Parker, I was a teenager and it was The Great Debaters. I thought he was cute, didn’t really understand why Jurnee Smolletts’ character would be into him but I was like “eh, support the black man I guess.” Then I saw Pride, The Secret Life of Bees and Beyond the Lights. In each, I thought his acting was on par, his looks pretty solid. I saw that he was married to a white woman and as a black woman who dates all kinds of people, I thought nothing of it.

 

Then, Birth of a Nation happened. As an Africana Studies major, I had studied Nat Turner and fell immediately in love. This man who was enslaved and took his life into his own hands. This man who fought back, who rebelled without apology, who sought freedom with everything in his heart and soul. I saw the trailer and absolutely lost my mind. This was a movie that I could sit in theaters and feel proud of. It told the truth, despite the wealth of slave narratives that seemed to be springing up, told by various points of view, very few of which by American Blacks.

Then, I heard of Nate Parker’s sexual assault history, and my heart dropped to my feet and never returned to my chest. It all made sense. Of course he had a sexual assault history, of course he’s married to a white woman, of course he makes these historical films to attempt to redeem himself when really all he’s doing is asserting his patriarchal evidence of oppression towards black women. I don’t wanna psycho-analyze or attempt to pretend that I either know or care about the inner workings of his life. My greatest concern is the willingness to support him, regardless of this history.

As a two-time sexual assault survivor, I  CAN NOT and WILL NOT support Nate Parker or any project that he is a part of. After reading transcripts and articles galore of both his involvement with the woman he assaulted and his responses to being outed, I realized that this is the norm. The black community will support the black man and leave out black women. Until this changes, we will continue to be raped and shoved into corners only to be forgotten about and oppressed by seeing our rapists unpunished onscreen.

Black women give birth to giants and then have our motives questioned. Black women birthed this country. After all, Nate Parker’s mother is a black woman. Why is it that to convince men to not commit crimes against us, we attempt to remind them of where they sprang from? Shouldn’t it just be enough that we are here, we are a part of them, we deserve love and respect with our brown skin, our deep gaze and our hurt hearts?

Miles Davis, the classic womanizer that he was, still is revered among musicians and non-musicians, black and white alike. What makes us so willing to uplift these men who clearly not only don’t care about our well-being but willingly dismiss our needs? Black women are the most likely to commit suicide and the most likely to be sexually assaulted. Who will stick up for us?

I am astonished that the conversation is taking place. I’m overjoyed that there are so many articles and vlogs and chats going on about this, but ultimately, what speaks is where we put our money. Don’t go see the film. Resist oppression.

Until Next Time Xo