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Self-Worth In The Age of Sexual Assault

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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 luv and dessert,

Leisa Monique

Who Are You Living For?

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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.

In luv and dessert,

Leisa Monique

Did you choose you or did someone else tell you who to be?

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.

You have been activated

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.
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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!

Same S@#& Different Year?

Depending on your perspective (and what I’ve seen on social media) 2016 was a challenging year for many folks. From the deaths of loved ones to career changes to the elections, many people were just ready for 2016 to be over. Personally, 2016 was a glorious year for me. I too experienced the deaths of loved ones including my youngest brother Rocky but for me, 2016 was one of the best years I have experienced for many reasons.

What made the year so glorious for me is my perspective on life. For one, I refrain from labeling anything “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, “better” or “best.” For me, these labels introduce judgment, judgment of our circumstances of life and judgment of the space that we are currently in. If you have followed my writing for any length of time you know that my perspective on life is that we are always right where we are supposed to be and that whatever is happening in our lives at any moment is exactly what is needed for our growth and our evolution into the person that we were created to be.

We tend to look at the events of our lives and try to categorize them or explain them instead of just allowing them to be and looking for opportunity in them. We compare our lives to the lives of others and how we think our lives should look instead of how they actually do look. This is the point where judgment and emotion comes in. We ask the question “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” We take things personally.

Whether you consider 2016 to have been a challenging year for you or whether you consider it to have been a great year, understand that 2017 will bring many of the same experiences with it because that’s how life works. People are going to die, careers will change, relationships will begin or end, and pain may be experienced, but so will joy.  It will be up to you to decide how you view these experiences. Will you view them through a lens of challenge, or will you view them as an opportunity to grow into your best self? Perspective is everything and it will determine whether your 2017 is much like your 2016 or if it will truly be the best year of your life.

We are imbued with the power to create the life that we want. What’s important to understand is that in this process of creating, any beliefs, fears, practices, or patterns that we hold onto that will hinder with our creation will be challenged. For example, if your desire for the new year is to save money, then whatever belief or practice that you have had in the past that has prevented you from saving money is going to come up in order for you to work through it to get to the place where you can save money. If you desire a romantic relationship but have experienced nothing but heartbreak in the past, then whatever beliefs or relationship habits that you have that have contributed to your heartbreak are going to come up so that you can work through them. Understand that it is for your good and comes up to help you get to the place where you can attract a partner that you can be happy with and sustain a relationship with. It is not here to hurt you.

When these things come up embrace them and know that you are right where you are supposed to be and that what is here for you in any particular moment is just what you need in order to get to the place you want to be.

2017 CAN be the best year of your life but it will be up to you to take the necessary steps to make it so. Making plans, setting goals, creating vision boards, journaling, and the like are all great ways to help create what you want for the new year, but they are only a part of  the plan. Understand that you will experience emotions, doubts, fears and many of the same things that you did in 2016. Also understand that it’s OK. Putting a system in place to help you through these times is one of the best things you can do to help make 2017 your best year.

I recommend a solid spiritual practice as part of the system you create for yourself to help you make this your best year. Whether that system includes meditation, prayer, writing, music, dancing, working out, baths, making luv, or sitting still (Daily Desserts is what I call them), work to put something in place to help you manage the challenges of the upcoming year because they will come! Remember our motto here at EMDF: “Live and enjoy life FIRST because the problems of life will always be there!”

Whatever you decide to put in place make sure it includes starting your day off with a Daily Desserts to help you get in a positive mindset to get you through the day. This is part of my personal practice and I can assure you it helps tremendously when life happens! Just remember that everyday is what you make it so while working to make this your best year ever, make ever day of this year your best day!

In luv and dessert,

Leisa Monique

Have We Forgotten?

Have we forgotten? That was the question I was asked this morning in a written piece sent to me by my luv as he quoted the Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” He reminded me (again) that today is the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy; it was 15 years ago today that terrorist planes flew into the World Trade Center and changed this country forever.

In his piece my luv, who is a 21 year Air Force veteran, spoke about how, for a moment, we all put aside our differences and lived up to the words of indivisibility in the pledge and came together as Americans. For a moment there was no divide along racial, gender, class, religious or political lines. For a moment we were one. One people feeling vulnerable and exposed. One people mourning the loss of lives and possibly the security we may have felt living in the United States of America. One people clinging to each other for comfort, peace and hope.

But what has happened to us? What happened to that moment of unity we shared when our country was rocked 15 years ago by the tragedy of 9/11? Was it, in fact, just a moment?

My luv mentioned in his piece that it seems we are more divided today than ever before. I agree. Whether it be race, political affiliation, religion, or just a difference of opinion on how we should protest or whose lives matter, we are divided and not always willing to see others’ side. Will we ever do better by each other?

Ironically, today is also the one month anniversary of the passing of my youngest brother Rocky who died from colon cancer. Roc was 4 months shy of celebrating his 40th birthday when he passed and only 37 when he was diagnosed; Too young, some would say, to be stricken with such a horrible disease as colon cancer. Roc was a cool dude and had friends of all nationalities. It was not uncommon to walk into the house and see white people, Latino people, Asian people and others who were friends of Rocky’s when we were growing up. He brought everybody home with him! He lived his life that way until the day he died. He luv’d people and they luv’d him.

In his song “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning“, Alan Jackson reflects on what many of us must have been feeling 15 years ago as we helplessly watched the events of 9/11 unfold. He also reminds us of Faith, Hope and Luv and that the greatest of these is luv. One month ago today, as it did 15 years ago, my world stopped turning when Rocky transitioned from this earthly realm into the realm of Spirit.

There was a time nearly 20 years ago when Rocky and I had a fight and our relationship was strained. With him passing and being physically gone, thinking on that time is painful but I find solace in the fact that that was a short lived time in our lives and that we put aside our differences and grew through that experience and luv’d each other anyway. We leaned on the luv that we had for each other and that experience brought us even closer than we had been before.

What I believe we as humans have forgotten is Luv! As cliche as it seems I believe it is luv that will bring us back to the togetherness we felt on September 11th 2001. I’m also believing that we in this country will put aside any difference we have individually and lean on the luv that we have for this country and each other and allow the memory of 9/11 to bring us closer and not divide us. I’m hoping that we will remember the luv and togetherness that we felt 15 years ago today and that we will do right by each other. Rocky would want it that way.