We process and view life through the lens of our own experience. Our environment growing up, our values, beliefs, teachings and personal ethics all shape our opinion of the people and events around us.
The problem comes in when we only see life through the lens of our own experience. We all could benefit from each of us getting outside of ourselves and viewing life and events through the lenses and opinions of others. After all, each of us has something valuable to add to our collective experience.
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.
In our society we have been conditioned to believe that we must live for others, to make others the center of our lives. Whether it be our children, our spouse or partner, our career, our ministry works etc., for many people, our value comes from dedicating our life to serving other people. Parents build their lives around their children and “live for them.” Some people build their lives around their career and everything they do is to further their career or business. Some wake up in the morning and immediately begin to think about what they can do to make their business or career better; how they can make their company better or make their clients or employer happy. We dedicate our days to providing for our children, driving them to where they need to be, building them up emotionally, making sure they have everything they need or everything we didn’t have when we were their ages. We live to be in service to our churches, houses of worship, pastors, fellow parishioners and members of our communities.
But what happens when the things we are living for are no longer there? What happens when we separate from our company? What happens when your children leave home? As unfortunate as it may be the possibility that a child may die before a parent is a real one. When the things we are living for are no longer there who will we live for then?
It is our nature to want to do our best and to have others think highly of us and to be pleased with us and the work that we do. We want to make others happy. But we must live for ourselves. This is not to say that we must neglect others in our lives, but it is to say that we must be our own center of our life. When we make ourselves the center of our lives and do things for us that make us happy, others will feel the effects of this. It is okay to think of yourself and what you want when making decisions. It is okay to consider how decisions that others are asking us to make will affect us. We don’t have to wear ourselves down to do something that others are asking us to do if it will affect us in a negative way; if it will cause you stress, disturb your peace or cause a burden for you it is okay to say no.
As we head into a new year, I encourage you to look at your life and ask yourself who are you living for. If the answer is not yourself then I hope that for the new year your goal will be to make yourself the center of your life.
A few years ago I was asked to speak at a women’s empowerment luncheon. Naturally, my message was about the innate power that women possess to make and create change, why women don’t use that power and how to recognize and activate it. During my address I made the declaration that if the trajectory of the world was going to change, it would be by the hands of the world’s women. When women got tired of the violence, the miseducation of our children, childhood hunger, sexual assault, political policy that benefits only a few and other things happening in the world and took a United stand, we would begin to see things change in the world. I still believe this today.
There has never been a time in history where women’s voices, their gifts, talents, skills, strategies and our powers are not more needed than they are right now. Our world is in peril but the tide is definitely shifting. Women have been activated. All around us we are seeing women and girls get on the front lines of change. We are demanding that the powers that be hear us. As a matter of fact, we are becoming the powers that be. More women are running for elected office and assisting women in getting into elected office than ever before. We are seeing a sharp rise in the number of African American women who are choosing to run for office as well. We are seeing unprecedented numbers of women and girls engaging in activism and challenging the status quo.
On this International Women’s Day, I encourage you to find your place in this time of change. You are here for such a time as this! You are well equipped to do what you have been placed in this world to do. You are smart, brilliant, powerful, strategic, skilled, talented and gifted so that you can do what you what you have been called to do. Take your place sister! You have been activated!
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
I don’t think I need to say much more! It’s Monday, embrace your freedom to decide what kind of week you will have. Don’t allow anyone or anything to dictate how your day, your week or your life will go. Know and be who you are. And above all else, take time to enjoy the “desserts” of life…first!