Many of you who have followed my work know that I have been an advocate for women and girls my entire career. It’s why I write this blog. What you may not know is my work in domestic violence and sexual assault prevention. It is something I have done for many years in addition to my political career. I serve on boards and commissions whose work it is to not only bring awareness to the issue of DV and Sexual assault, but to advocate for policy and programs to serve victims.
Four years ago, R & B singer R. Kelly was due to appear in concert here in Las Vegas. You all may now be familiar with the years old accusations against him which include sexual assault of underage girls thanks to the documentary Surviving R. Kelly produced by Dream Hampton which recently aired on Lifetime network. Though the world was shocked to learn of his treatment of women and girls, some of us have been familiar with these accusations for many years.
In an effort to shut down the concert, I launched a coalition of concerned women who worked diligently to bring awareness to the singers alleged atrocities committed against women and girls and to shut down the concert. Though we were not successful in stopping the concert we were successful in getting media coverage and bringing attention to his alleged crimes. I’m proud of the work that the coalition did to stop the concert and I’m proud of the work we continue to do on behalf of women and girls.
Considering the documentary Surviving R. Kelly and the work I helped spearhead to stop his concert four years ago, I received calls from people asking what I had to say about the documentary and was I pleased that it aired. Rather than speaking on the documentary I have chosen to direct my energy to what is most important to me and that is doing the work to ensure that young women and girls (and boys too) understand their value and worth. I want to make sure that we are providing spaces and tools for young people to develop a healthy sense of self-worth and value. If you have ever experienced domestic violence or sexual assault you may feel like a part of you has been stripped away. You may feel like you have no value. I want to tell you that though you may have been victimized you don’t have to take on a victim mentality. Your experience does not have to become your story or your identity. Your experience of assault is not who you are. It is part of your experience, but it is not the totality of you. Your power is internal and comes from your Divinity. It can never be stripped from you nor can it be diminished.
If you need to, please get professional help to guide you through your healing process. Get whatever support you need to get healthy. But whatever you do, always know that no matter what your experiences are in life, they don’t define who you are.
How did you come to be who you are? Did you choose the person you are or did someone else-society, religion, your parents-tell you who to be?
Recently I served as a panelist as part of a discussion on black woman, stereotypes and the #MeToo movement. The discussion centered on the stereotypes associated with black women and how those stereotypes helped perpetuate sexual violence against black women and how those stories are or are not being told in this time of #MeToo.
During the discussion the topic of black womanhood came up, specifically, what it means to be a black woman. My response was that as women, we came into our womanhood in a patriarchal society and that our womanhood has been defined by others. Men. A society that is male centered and male dominated has decided what the standards for being a woman are and women themselves have perpetuated this standard. Men have decided the standards for what a woman should be, how she should dress, how she should speak, how she should behave, wear her hair, who she should date and most importantly, her sexuality. And all of it is based on the needs, wants and desires of males.
Question for you: Did you as a woman have a say in setting the standard for who you are as a woman or did you fall in line with what was dictated to you? Do you sit quietly when you really have the desire to roar because you have been told that a lady is not loud? Do you stand by when you seen an injustice being committed against others when the warrior spirit in you really wants to fight against that injustice? Do you forgo the short miniskirt that set your heart ablaze when you first saw it or do you choose the more “appropriate” longer skirt because society says that only whores wear dresses that short?
My point is to inspire you to think about how you became who you are. If you are not being the woman you really want to be then I encourage you to courageously explore who you really are, what it is that you really like and what womanhood means for you and start on the path to becoming that woman. Know that you are supported every step of the way by the Divine. After all, it is the Divine who created you.
Where do you get your personal power from? Is it from an external source like your career, the car you drive, the house you live in or the number of educational degrees you have on your wall? Is it from the number of followers you have on social media or the number of “likes” your posts elicit? Do you feel powerful when you delete someone from your friends list on social media outlets? Does it make you feel powerful to cause another person pain or heartache; to possess something that no one else has? To be able to say “I told you so?” Does it make you feel powerful to impede the progress of others? To stand in the way of their success?
You may be surprised at the sources of some people’s personal power. You might be surprised at the source of your own! We all want to feel powerful, to feel significant. But power that comes from external sources is fleeting. True personal power comes from within and is developed when one comes to realize who they are; it does not come from external sources. Understanding that your power source is internal and is based on your Divine nature and not on your personal possessions or any external sources is power in itself. Once you realize your true personal power, nothing is beyond your reach.
“Today I want you to become aware that you already possess all the inner wisdom, strength, and creativity needed to make your dreams come true. This is hard for most of us to realize because the source of this unlimited personal power is buried so deeply beneath the bills, the car pool, the deadlines, the business trip, and the dirty laundry that we have difficulty accessing it in our daily lives. When we can’t access our inner resources, we come to the flawed conclusion that happiness and fulfillment come only from external events. That’s because external events usually bring with them some sort of change. And so, we’ve learned to rely on circumstance outside ourselves for forward or backward momentum as we hurtle through. But we don’t have to do that any longer. We can learn to be the catalysts for our own change.” ~Sarah Ban Breathnach