Welcome to Kisa! A Liberatory Blog By Black Feminists and Other Gender Justice Advocates Who Are Members of the BWTRC. Kisa! means "story" in Swahili. The meaning of the term Kisa is one of the African language words that has survived colonization and slavery throughout the French Caribbean including Haiti, Martique, Guadeloupe, St. Lucie, half of St. Martin and other places where a Creole is spoken, Kisa in many of these places still relates to story. For example, it is a way of saying "Say What", Tell Me", "Tell Me What", "What", "What did You Just Say", and of course "Story".

Mar 10th

We Can Take Back Our Lives

By Black Women's Blueprint

ATTENTION
This is a feminist campaign to democratize community education about sexual violence and to spread the word about how we can actually take action to end rape. Share the YouTube Link:

For ourselves, for our loved ones, and for those we don’t yet know. For all of those who have endured sexual violation. For the not-yet-born who are entitled to live free in a world where there is no rape, no sexual molestation, no sexual exploitation, no sexual violence of any kind against woman, man, child, or gender-nonconforming person. For all of us give to TAKE BACK OUR LIVES.

What you give will help print thousands of double-sided color postcards and posters in various styles, images, colors and messages; a Black Love Mixtape outlining strategies spoken by community; and "bystrander" strategy trainings?

  • With every $10 you donate, we commit to printing 25 anti-rape postcards about critical consent practices to share with you, and within your community.
  • With every $20 you donate, we will print 50 postcards
  • With every $30 you donate, we will print 100 postcards
  • With every $60 you donate, we will print 250 postcards
  • With every $100 you donate, we will print 500 postcards
  • With every $150 you donate, we will deliver free "bystander" strategy trainings which puts community accountability in the hands of community, and lessens the risk for criminal justice abuse.
  • With every $200 you donate, we will print 1000 postcards
  • For every $250 you donate, we will be able to share our self-published online and downloadable Black Love Mixtape”. crowd-sourced publication will contain responses that we've collected from over 350 community members who were asked "how do you think we can end rape in our communities?"

Some of the Cards Will Look Like This, And Others Will Vary in Color & Message.

At this very moment “we do not have time. We don’t have forever. Some of us don’t have another week or another day to take time…to discuss whatever it is that will enable [us] to go out into those streets and do something. We are close to death. All [of us] are. And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating”. - Andrea Dworken.

WHAT MOST OF US DON'T KNOW:
As stated by Andrea Dworken, we use statistics not to try to quantify the injuries, but to convince the world that those injuries exist. At Black Women's Blueprint we know that for every Black woman who tells someone she has been raped, 15 do not. According to the Department of Justice every two minutes a woman is assaulted and in fact by the time you have finished reading this invitation to stand by us in this movement, another woman or a girl will have been assaulted in this country. We Have To Take Back Our Lives, from constant uncertainty about our own bodily safety. We have to Take Back Our Lives from fear, from people, from spaces, from systems of oppression, and from states of being where as survivors of historical and present-day trauma, we are barely surviving. 

On February 8 and 9, 2014, Black Women’s Blueprint boldly took to the stage, arms locked with Black brothers in the movement to end sexual violation in Mother Tongue Monologues: For Truth Bearing Women, for Emerging Sons and Other Keepers of the Flame. 

WHAT NOW?

We ask you to join us in a powerful statement that the work must continue beyond the auditorium at the 415 seat Brooklyn Museum and beyond the Beautiful Glass Dome of the Palm HouseGive and Help Us Take Back Our Lives. We do this not only for us, but for our ancestors and for those of us still to come.

You remind us that as our ancestors moved through the world, they did so both in fear and with courage, and they will not be silenced.        

If you have ever been paralyzed by fear, uncertainty or ignorance, if you have ever been hurt or feel like you’ve hurt someone, if you’ve ever wanted to join a community that believes in your capacity to live free, to stop violence, to love wholeheartedly and without fear, now is your time to step up and show support, maybe for someone you were not able to support in the past.. It is time to continue to show support as people committed to stopping violence.

GIVE AND HELP US TAKE BACK OUR LIVES.

We do this not only for us, but for our ancestors and for those of us still to come.

Freedom in the poignant and infinite power of Black love must also coexist with freedom from sexual violence. Our bodies are not disposable. Our bodies are sacred and they are our own. We need to empower our everyday sisters and brothers to spread the message of our right to walk without fear in a rape-free world.

  1. When you open your wallet to contribute to give to Take Back Our Lives you send a powerful statement.
  2. Your donation will democratize community education about sexual violence and to spread the word about how we can actually take action to end rape.
  3. With your donation we will spread knowledge, we will take action, and we will insist on safety as a right, a standard, and an expectation.
  4. With your donation we will insist on and provide access to anti-rape information, and make these available to every single person in every community that you will help us reach. Information will no longer be in the domain of the few who create curricula, instead, we will make accessible language and education that can help all understand what rape is and what we can do to prevent it.

      

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GIVE?

  • With every $10 you donate, we commit to printing 25 anti-rape postcards about critical consent practices to share with you, and within your community.
  • With every $20 you donate, we will print 50 postcards
  • With every $30 you donate, we will print 100 postcards
  • With every $60 you donate, wewill print 250 postcards
  • With every $100 you donate, we will print 500 postcards
  • With every $200 you donate, we will print 1000 postcards
  • For every $250 you donate, we will be able to share our self-published online and downloadable “Black Love Mixtape”. This extremely necessary and invaluable crowd-sourced publication will contain responses that we've collected from over 350 community members who were asked "how do you think we can end rape in our communities?"

At this juncture, your funds will ensure this collection receives visibility for its educational value and is freely available to those who are strategizing with us in this struggle.

Mother Tongue Monologues is an important beginning in telling these stories of resistance. But it cannot be the end. Your contribution will enable us to develop, print, and share critical educational resources that outline important strategies to end rape and promote love. We will distribute these materials in the days following Mother Tongue Monologues 2014. 

We will not walk freely in the world until we can walk without fear. We will not walk freely in the world until we can walk without fear.           

Last year, you gave to our Right to Love campaign and raised over $5,000 dollars in the fight to love without boundaries and without the threat and fear of violence. This year, we support truth-bearing women, emerging sons and other keepers of the flame and we Take Back Our Lives, because if we can dream of world without rape, then we can create it. 

Walk beside us in this struggle--donate NOW to educate and end rape

Who can we count on to publish these important messages if we do not publish them ourselves?  Join us on the journey towards a rape-free world. Donate now to support the production of critical anti-rape educational materials.  

WHAT WILL YOU GIVE?

WE THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FROM THE DEPTHS OF OUR HEARTS.

Nov 2nd

Did You Love Yourself Today?

By camelia

self love pic.jpg

Self-love is the most important love there is.  German social psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in his book the “Art of Loving” that self-love is love for oneself, caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself and knowing oneself. He also stated that it meant having appreciation of ones worth and value. Fromm believed that in order to truly love another person, a person needs to first love themself. Being a survivor of sexual assault or abuse can lead to negative thoughts and general feelings of negativity. Experiencing feelings of isolation, silenced, emotionally stuck, overwhelmed, sense of uncertainty and anxiety can become a revolving cycle. It makes viewing the positive and moving forward with healing seem unreachable. Practicing self-love is one way of ceasing the cycle and processing those negative thoughts and developing positive ones. Often times changing your thinking changes your outlook which in turns changes how you cope with life challenges.   Self-love can breed confidence, strength, peace, high self-esteem, focus, purpose and the ability to love others.  Yes we all have our moments but don’t let those moments control your thoughts and actions. It’s in those very moments you should pour some love onto yourself. Here are some affirmations/ phrases you can repeat to yourself in the mirror or anywhere you are to counteract the negative thoughts of those moments.


I love and accept myself  unconditionally.                                                             

I approve of myself and feel great about myself.                                                             

I radiate love and respect and in return I get love and respect.

I am free to make my own choices and decisions.

I am a unique and a very special person. Worthy of respect from others.

I deserve all that is good. I release any need for misery and suffering.

I consciously release the past and live only in the present. That way I get to enjoy and experience life to the full.

 

Don’t stop here other activities include journaling, expression through the creation of artwork and music, getting involved in your community, exercise, meditation and joining healing groups.

    It’s critical to remember that as individuals we are valuable and nothing can change that.

Oct 16th

So Much to Remind Us We Are Dancing on Other People's Blood

By Black Women's Blueprint
morganprimus.jpg
Inspiration From: Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis, Edited by Amanda Lock Swarr & Richa Nagar.

So Much to Remind Us We Are Dancing on Other People's Blood

Moving toward Artistic Excellence, Moving from Silence to Speech, Moving in Water, with Ananya Dance Theatre


Omise'Eke Natasha Tinsley, Ananya Chatterjea, Hui Niu Wilcox, and Shannon Gibney.

undercurrent, undercurrent, wave, up, stretch, out: arms move like this, and feet are toes and ball and sole and heel against the floor solid to the bone and then it isn't. pour one, two, three, four until water covers in quick rivulets and feet splash, leave curves of toes and movement that dissolve again. on the west bank of the mississippi, where slave women jumped ship to land in the love of their own kind, ten brown women are dancing together and i'm one of them. at rehearsal we've been dancing through eleven twelve one two o'clock and first my muscles thawed clumsily and now they're dissolved, warm lava ropes under skin and I'm not thinking half moon leg bend to come up arms undercurrent undercurrent wave.

listen, i'm not sure you heard. on the west bank of the mississippi river, where slave women jumped ship to land in the love of their own kind, ten brown women are dancing together and the name of the piece is duurbaar, unstoppable; duurbaar, a meditation on water on water and women and how both keep going and create ways to the horizon when you think none is possible. ten brown women dancing, don't just look, listen: odissi footwork jumps and plants and raises so you land strong and every cell of skin kisses earth and connects with her to make sound, because why should brown women land quietly when our own feet can be drums? in april i saw these women perform and when they turned their bodies into music i knew i wanted to do this. and, here i am, training and my body doesn't know this movement, struggles like legs walking through water before they lift and swim, my brown body is small and angular and wants to curve perfectly like a creek over rocks or the gold of an earring against a neck. so i come back, and back and back to rehearsals, glazed eyed almost trying, and one day i learn the whole of a dance with the company and i realize: they are brown women and i will be water with them. duurbaar, water as women's way of moving through the world and water as the world's way of moving through women.

the first act is cremation at the river, water as the cycle of departure and loss; the second act is tsunami and womb, bursting ocean as the violent eruption of energy and life; the third act is water bearers and the shouldered fullness of pots once empty, the work of carrying dreams and healing. yes, the work. this is the act i'm learning as we move on stage all hips and push with brass water pots and let them splash in small amounts until finally, backs to the audience and torsos curved like exquisite, ananya says, as it oveflows and we become all liquid and the light honeys us even though we can't see it. we dance, then, in the spilled water and she's right, it's beautiful, all the legs through the wet like play and love making shapes new each time. so filled on the west bank of the river the vessel overflows but that isn't the end: because to dance in cascaded water is work, moving legs so we glide without slipping, trying to find footing in a new element without losing the beat.
   women! ananya shouts. women! move more! torsos! remember this is not a ritual but we must make it ritualized, making meaning out of the everyday work of women's lives. your body is a surface, don't be afraid to let water and hands run over it. women! brown women, landed.

Oct 4th

"Make It Nasty"? No, Make It STOP!

By Amani

stop-victim-blaming.png

 

Back in 2012, rapper Tyga débuted his song, “Make It Nasty”, which was accompanied by X-rated music video. According to madamenoire.com and TMZ.com, a woman who was featured in the music video has filed a lawsuit against Tyga and his record label, Young Money Entertainment, for sexual battery, fraud, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. She stated that during the video shoot, the producers offered her large amounts of alcohol even though she was only 20 years old at the time. She also stated that someone wearing a rabbit costume began to forcefully gyrate on her and when she tried to get away another man grabbed her breast. In addition, she stated that the producers pressured her to be topless during the video shoot, promising her that her breasts will not be exposed when the music video was released. Interestingly enough, about a year ago three other women who participated in that same video shoot also filed lawsuits against Tyga and Young Money Entertainment for fraud, invasion of privacy and breach of contract for exposing their breasts in the explicit (uncut) version of the video, which was released to the public.

                The comments at the end TMZ report included things like: “what did she expect to happen? She asked for it by agreeing to participate in the video” and “…opportunistic hoes, they were not forced to drink or take off their shirts.” Victim blaming, which means holding the victim of a crime or abuse partially or entirely responsible for the transgressions committed against them, was the center of most of the comments in the report. Even though I believe blaming the victim is erroneous and despicable, the comments do not surprise me. The rap/hip-hop industry has a long history of perpetuating rape culture; the lyrics and explicit music videos tell our Black brothers and sisters, as well as the general public, that dehumanizing and sexualizing Black women is okay. Earlier this year rapper Rick Ross was dropped from his partnership deal with Reebok after releasing his song, “U.O.E.N.O.”, in which he brags about drugging and raping a girl. In the song he raps, “Put  molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it." There are loads of other rap and hip hop songs that promote rape culture and victim-blaming that are widely accepted. It’s sad most people ignore these lyrics and then turn on the women it’s affecting!

The unwanted touching and coercion that the women experienced at the video shoot were despicable and the intense victim blaming surrounding the lawsuits is downright unacceptable. No woman asks to be sexually assaulted and what we wear (or don’t wear) is never an invitation for sexual assault and harassment. Just because a woman chose to be in a music video does not mean she should have expected to be sexually assaulted. Many people are overlooking the real issue, the perpetrators, Tyga’s producers and personnel, are not getting blamed for their actions. In her book “Feminism is for Everybody”, Bell Hooks states that sexist thinking contributes to male dominance and the male violence it creates, and the American public has failed to come to realization and challenge patriarchy (p. 64). We see this way too often, a woman gets sexually assaulted and instead of society immediately holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions, they come up with every reason under the sun as to why the survivor “invited” and “deserved” the assault.

Sisters, try not to let victim-blaming belittle you as a woman or make you suppress your femininity. Although we see it everywhere (e.g. the news, TV, articles, and especially in our own community), we must remind ourselves that we have rights, including the right to dress as we choose and do as we please without having to be subjected to sexual assault and harassment of any kind. The fact that the women who filed the lawsuits participated in the rap video is irrelevant. Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault.

Sep 24th

Hearing to Speech, by Nell Morton, Elder Feminist, Oral Historian

By Black Women's Blueprint


Women Supporting Each Other Image

It was in a small group of women who had come together to tell our own stories that I first received a totally new understanding of hearing and speaking. I remember well how one woman started, hesitating and awkward, trying to put the pieces of her life together. Finally she said: “I hurt… I hurt all over.” She touched herself in various places as if feeling for the hurt before she added, “but… I don’t know where to begin to cry.” She talked on and on. Her story took on fantastic coherence. When she reached a point of most excruciating pain no one moved. No one interrupted. Finally she finished. After a silence, she looked from one woman to another. “You heard me. You heard me all the way.” Her eyes narrowed. She looked directly at each woman in turn and then said slowly: “I have a strange feeling you heard me before I started. You heard me to my own story.” I filed this experience away as something unique. But it happened again and again in other such small groups of women. It happened to me. Then, I knew I had been experiencing something I had never experienced before. A complete reversal of the going logic in which someone speaks precisely so that more accurate hearing may take place. This woman was saying, and I had experienced, a depth hearing that takes place before the speaking – a hearing that is far more than acute listening. A hearing engaged in by the whole body that evokes speech –a new speech—a new creation. The woman had been heard to her own speech.

While I experienced this kind of hearing through women, I am convinced it is one of those essential dimensions of the full human experience long programmed out of our culture and our religious tradition. In time I came to understand the wider implication of this reversal as revolutionary and profoundly theological. Hearing of this sort is equivalent to empowerment. We empower one another by hearing the other to speech. We empower the disinherited, the outsider, as we are able to hear them name in their own way their own oppression and suffering. In turn, we are empowered as we can put ourselves in a position to be heard by the disinherited (in this case other women) to speaking our own feeling of being caught and trapped. Hearing in this sense can break through political and social structures and image a new system. A great ear at the heart of the universe –at the heart of our common life—hearing human beings to speech—to our own speech.

Since this kind of hearing first came to me, I have tried to analyze the process, but it resists analysis and explanation. It traffics in another and different logic. It appears to belong in woman experience, and I have found it in some poetry and some Eastern religions. The Pentecost story reverses the going logic and puts hearing before speaking as the work of the spirit.

There is no doubt that when a group of women hear another woman to speech, a presence is experienced in the new speech. One woman described the “going down” as non-speaking—or speaking that is a lie. Even though she used the common vernacular she said she used it in the clichéd manner of her conditioning. It was the language of the patriarchal culture—alien to her own nature. “Coming up,” she explained, “I had no words. I paused. I stuttered. I could find no word in the English language that could express my emotion. But I had to speak. Old words came out with a different meaning. I felt words I could not express, but I was on the way to speaking –or the speaking was speaking me. I know that sounds weird.”While all liberation movements may be expected to rise with a new language on their lips, I have been particularly conscious of the new woman speech. Perhaps because it portends such vast changes of both a personal and political nature. It is as if the patriarchal structures had been called into question and the powerful old maleness in deity had been superseded by the new reality coming audible in woman speech.

The phenomenon of women speaking runs counter to those theologians who claim that God is sometimes silent, hidden, or withdrawn (deus absconditus), and that we must wait patiently until “He” deigns to speak again. A more realistic alternative to such despair, or “dark night of the soul,” would see God as the hearing one—hearing us to our own, responsible word. That kind of hearing would be priori to the theologians’ own words. It might even negate and ruffle their words and render them unable to speak until new words emerge. Women know hearing to speech as powerfully spiritual, and know spirit as movement and presence hearing us until we know and own the words and the images as our own words and our own images that have come out of the depths of our struggle.

Become a Member of The Truth Commission

Sep 12th

High School Love

By Falyne

Hearing women say that their husbands were their high school sweethearts makes friends and family give their oh's and ah's. Being told that a woman's high school boyfriend was her first and last is looked up to. Because being with more than one partner is such a taboo and when your a part of a religous faith you can get rebuked and silenced. But what happens when your in high school and the one that you "love", the one that is your protector quickly becomes your abuser?

No one wants to talk about the young couples who are just so cute together and who will one day have the prettiest babies, when the girl looks at her man with fear in her eyes, with black and blue marks along her back and arms.

The untold stories of young couples falling in love in high schools (even as young as junior high school), and this needs to stop being silently discussed behind their backs and brought to the light, that domestic violence is starting at the young age of school aged children who decide that they want to be in adult relationships with issues that they are nowhere near at the capacity ready to even deal with this harsh truth.

I have personally witnessed these types of relationships in schools that I have worked in but because the act of violence was not witnessed within the school walls, the administrators, teachers and staff ignored this.

What would I like to personally say to these girls?
Sweetheart you do not deserve to endure this abuse, honestly no one does. Love is not a punch in the face or to your side. Love is unconditional and does not hurt you. Don't stay for the sake of saying you have someone who loves you because if he loved you he would build you up not break you down. I would hold her and let her know that she is strong enough to walk away, and she deserves the peace that walking away from this relationship will give to her. 
 
So if you know a young girl who is in an abusive relationship please pass on my message or if you are that young girl please know that you do not have to continue in this abusive relationship.

Sep 8th

Support, Safe Space and Counseling for Sexual Assault Survivors

By Black Women's Blueprint

Dear Sister or Brother, There is Support, Safe Space and Counseling Is Available to Help Us All Live Our Lives to the Fullest.

Offering Counseling and Therapeutic Programs to Support Survivors of Sexual Assault and Abuse Is An Act of Sisterhood and An Act of Revolution.

Black Women's Blueprint provides caring and compassionate counseling and groups for sexual assault and abuse survivors. To contact a certified therapist or to make a referral for on-going counseling, sister circle, healing circle or support group contact us at 347-994-9102 or send an inquiry to Naimah Johnson, LMSW counseling@blueprintny.org

From Living Life Counseling: 
Many adult abuse survivors do not fully realize that their current life struggles may be associated to their past abuse history. Sexual abuse is unacceptable and traumatic and  living through a period of physical, sexual, or severe emotional abuse can leave psychic wounds that can be harder to heal than a bodily injury. Survivors may even experience flash backs associated with these painful events. Other survivors may experience opposite reactions, such as obsessive sexual thoughts and compulsive sexual behaviors. Also, male survivors who were abused by men may carry additional burdens due to patriarchal beliefs about "manhood".

sexual abuse counseling Betrayal may also be felt when a child is abused by a relative or friend, or from a non-abusing adult who did nothing to protect the child. This may lead to feelings of loss and grief towards caretakers which later may transcend itself into a fear of intimacy and mistrust towards one’s self and others.

Years of unspoken shame and guilt can lead adult survivors to re-victimize, punish, and abuse themselves with alcohol, drugs, promiscuous sex, compulsive gambling or through self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts.

Healing from the Pain


At Black Women's Blueprint we believe the path to healing from abuse involves having ourselves go through a support and counseling process consisting of:

  • Telling our story
  • Believing it happened
  • Believing the abuse was NOT our fault
  • ­
  • Dealing with and processing our anger
  • ­
  • Understanding how the abuse affected our lives
  • Grieving our losses
  • ­
  • Correcting destructive, hurtful, unhealthy behaviors stemming from the abuse
As a result of abuse, our thought processes can become distorted and lead to unhealthy behaviors. Once we identify the thought processes we are able to help recognize the underlying beliefs leading to the destructive patterns of thinking. For true emotional healing to occur it is critical to work through the process of understanding how the painful events of our childhood shaped a distorted view of ourselves as adults.

abuse survivorWe will work together with you to walk you through the steps of sexual abuse counseling using experiential techniques that get to the root of the deep-seated emotional wounds. Once you are aware of how and why you developed certain perceptions of yourself many years ago you can begin refocusing your view to a more healthy reality.

We know that abuse, whether it is emotional, verbal, or sexual can have devastating repercussions throughout our lives. To live the life you truly desire, consider taking the next step to talk to a professional counselor or therapist to get the caring help you need. If you know someone that would benefit from sexual assault counseling you may want to refer them to our website.

How to Contact Us

Our staff can begin helping you immediately to begin living the life you truly desire. To contact a certified therapist or to make a referral for on-going counseling, sister circle, healing circle or support group contact us at 347-994-9102 or send an inquiry to Naimah Johnson, LMSW counseling@blueprintny.org

Aug 19th

"The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape": Black Feminists Respond

By Black Women's Blueprint
“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” – Harriet Tubman.

Dear sister, foremother, ancestor, Harriet Tubman. In the midst of yet one more battle for our Black bodies, this most recent battle being waged over your name and yours/our histories as Black women, as your Black children and your descendents, we HONOR your memory. We stand in awe and reverence of your bravery, your legacy and the inheritance you have left for each of us to claim—freedom, humanity and dignity.

Born Araminta Harriet Ross, Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist who subsequently made more than thirteen missions to rescue several hundreds of Black slaves using The Underground Railroad. Yet this past week, Mogul, Russell Simmons found it fit to release a destructive web video titled the “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.” The skit in the YouTube video gives a narrative in which Harriet Tubman and an enslaved Black man hatch a plan to film the Master ‘having sex’ with Harriet Tubman.

Pot-shot jokes at lynching, and Harriet Tubman’s seduction of the slave Master, in which she says, “all these years I’ve been acting like I don’t like our special times together, tonight that’s all going to be different” and the mock sex scene all offer a million different elements to show how deeply disturbing this video’s trivializing of a history of pain and ongoing struggle is to those who view it, and feel the intergenerational trauma of rape.

We can’t afford for our skins to be “thick enough” Mr. Simmons as you state yours is. We can’t afford to sit by and laugh at this skit. People who are committed to racial justice, to ending rape and rape culture cannot afford to have such a tolerance towards a satire of the history of our ancestors; one that evokes the use of rape as a tool of domination, and its continued felt realities today. We can’t afford it because we need that critique to remain diligent. We need to remain diligent in our fight because these realities persist and we can’t ignore them.

Akeel St. Vil, Commissioner on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and Black Male Ally at Black Women’s Blueprint further states: When Russell Simmons said in his apology in response the egregious nonsense that is the skit “I’m a very liberal person with thick skin and it’s hard to offend me,” I was disturbed by what this shows about the state of our culture and society. Simmons’ so called apology and/or statement reveals the strength in people’s ability to abandon critique. It shows the lack of care and it signals yet again, that we are in crisis as a community. It is unnerving that many of us still hold the imaginative power to not let the degradation of one’s ancestors, one’s experience, the experience of other human beings with rape, and the trivialization of the history of rape in racial and gender domination--to not let this offend us. This is extremely saddening to me. It means that this is the price that people of historically marginalized and exploited identities, like, Russell Simmons himself is willing to pay to participate in many realms of this broken society—dissonance to the lived realities of their ancestors and their contemporaries. Or maybe Russell Simmons is actually just wholly unconcerned with that history and that reality. I don’t know, but I’ve heard from several people, not only on the topic of this video, but in other context as well, that their skin is “thick enough” to deal with racism, sexism, the rape of Black women and girls in their midst and more broadly, to deal with and handle marginalizing elements in a distanced and unaffected way.

We at Black Women’s Blueprint demand that Russell Simmons find the humanity that is within him, fight for it, connect to it. Hold on to it by practicing the constant acknowledgement of it in those who came before him as well as those who will inherit his own legacy.
Jun 12th

Black Women’s Blueprint Launches “Truth Commission” to Address Sexual Violence in the Black Community, by Evette Dionne, Clutch

By Black Women's Blueprint

BWB

AS SURVIVORS, SCHOLARS, ACTIVISTS AND BLACK FEMINIST LEADERS, WE THANK CLUTCH MAGAZINE AND WE DEEPLY APPRECIATE EVETTE DIONNE for providing the clearing and opening the space for what many healers refer to as "the depth of hearing that takes place before the speaking". Evette Dionne we are honored that you have provided this voice via Clutch Magazine to Black women, survivors of sexual assault and Black Women's Blueprint.  You are helping us tell it--that we have launched a Truth Commission and that we are creating revolutionary spaces that resist the idea that we are invisible. Much love from all of us. Farah Tanis, Executive Director.

By Evette Dionne,

Black Women’s Blueprint, an organization that “provides the personal and political spaces as well as the resources needed for women to engage in intersectional advocacy at the grassroots and societal level,” has launched the “Truth Commission.”

The grassroots initiative was developed to address the impact of sexual violence on black women. This is an important issue receiving minimal attention. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) found more than 18 percent of black women endure rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.

Black Women’s Blueprint found 60 percent of Black girls experience sexual abuse before turning 18 and the Black Women’s Health Imperative released a report estimating 40 percent of black women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

Sexual assault and rape is an epidemic. Brooke Axtell, a Forbes contributor and women’s rights advocate, writes: “The pervasive nature of this trauma could translate into an increased risk for Black women and girls to experience depression, PTSD and addiction, common symptoms experienced by many survivors of rape.”

The trauma is compounded by a classist, sexist and racist society that renders our pain invisible.

Lori S. Robinson, author of I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse, writes:

“No race, ethnic group, or economic class is spared from sexual violence or the myths and misinformation that complicate the healing process for survivors. But in addition to our higher victimization rate, African Americans are less likely to get the help we need to heal.”

Robinson also notes that less than 5 percent of black sexual assault victims seek counseling and more than half suffer in silence. “African-American women are raped at a higher rate than White women, and are less likely to report it. We have suffered in silence far too long,” she writes.

The Truth Commission is intervening to “demand more public and private support for primary prevention strategies at the grassroots community level that will stop violence against women and girls before it occurs.” Black Women’s Blueprint intends to use the initiative to launch an education campaign that provides support and education to survivors, their families and urban communities. It is designed to orchestrate anti-rape strategies in black communities.

Women of color are encouraged to participate in the Truth Commission through four simple steps:

Take an Anonymous Survey about Rape

Black Women’s Blueprint has developed an online survey to gauge general knowledge of rape. It takes less than five minutes to complete and requires no name or other identifiers.

Attend an Organizing Meeting

The organization hosts several events each month. A full calendar is available at Black Women’s Blueprint’s site.

Join the Live Free Campaign

Black Women’s Blueprint is using social media to brand the commission and expand its reach. A Facebook space has been created for Black women to do what we have been historically denied – to name, lay claim and share what our bodies mean to us on our own terms, using our own language.” It encourages ownership by asking participants to do three things:

Step One: Fill in the blank: My Body, My _____

Step Two: Post a picture of yourself that signifies your relationship with your body

Step Three: Include a personal manifesto to explain your declaration on body autonomy, body integrity, rights, healing and informing.

Chime in Clutchettes and gents. Will you support the Truth Commission?

Jun 3rd

Are Men Ever Allowed To Say No?

By Black Women's Blueprint

At a time when horrific stories about sexual violence are practically an everyday occurrence, it must be acknowledged that the vast majority of these stories mostly target women or children. Society maintains the patriarchal status-quo by ensuring media images of females and children are the customary visual representation for sexual prey or the vulnerable. Film, music and culture itself is transmitted in ways that make it explicit, masculinity is equal to invulnerability to sexual assault.  These cultural messages discourage male victims from calling a rape, a rape, and from broaching the subject of their own victimization for fear of being viewed as effeminate, infantilized or having their sexuality questioned.

According to the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center, “an estimated 92,748 men are raped each year in the United States and most sexual assaults of males are perpetrated by other males.”  Rarely do men come forward with their accounts of having been victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault, whether at the hands of other men or at times, at the hands of women.  When violation is disclosed by a man, it is often years after the actual trauma has occurred and after silence and pain has wrought havoc on various aspects of his life.  In a society that teaches boys even as children, in their earliest years, sexually abused males will not likely get the recognition and support they need from other men and their communities, is it any wonder more men do not come forward or acknowledge they were sexually assaulted.

There is a serious need to complicate the recurrent theme and narrative around sexual violence when it comes to men and boys as victims. This brings us to the disturbing case of Danny Brown; a 32 year-old rapper from Detroit, who allegedly “received oral sex” onstage during a concert with over 700 onlookers in Minneapolis last month.  In an open letter, Brown’s tour mate, Kitty Pryde unleashed her rage about the obvious biased and lack luster response to what she accurately labeled—sexual assault.  While we appreciate Kitty Pryde for taking a clear and decisive stance on this incident when in other media silence prevails, we are also concerned about some of her sexual politics.  However, today that is not the subject of this piece. On many counts, Kitty Pryde got it right when she said the following:

“I’m mad that a person thought it was okay to pull another person’s pants down during their performance in front of about 700 other people. I’m mad that a person thought it was a good idea to perform a sex act on another person without their consent. I’m mad that nobody made her leave. I’m mad that Danny had to actually wonder what he was supposed to do at that point. I’m mad that when I went home and said I had no respect for that girl, I was attacked for being a “slut-shamer” (after literally leading a girl to his hotel room at 3AM at her request) and, even more outrageously, for being jealous of the girl who sucked his dick. I’m mad that when two dudes pulled my pants down onstage, other people got mad too, but when it happened to Danny the initial reaction was like one big high-five. I’m mad that people are treating "The Thing" like it’s some legendary event. I’m mad that even though they know exactly who the girl is, nobody in the media will even talk to her. I’m mad that I get a bunch of emails a day asking me to talk about my best friend’s “misogyny” and “classless behavior”, from people who have heard only rumors and seen only one very blurry and inconclusive iPhone photo. “

 Kitty raises critical points. Common sense would tell most that getting in someone’s pants without their permission and proceeding to molest their genitals is sexual assault, if the artist on stage were a female “Danielle Brown” and not Danny Brown.  Specifically, is there an assumption of consent simply because Danny Brown is a Black male artist who frequently spits raunchy and often borderline pornographic lyrics?  If we compare Danny Brown to other folks who produce sexually explicit work, i.e. exotic dancers, porn stars, writers of erotica, would it be permissible for someone to sexually assault them without their consent?  So, the question is why is it ok for this to happen to Danny Brown? Why is there no real interrogation of the broader implications, if not the deeper meaning of the incident itself and the silence surrounding it?   

Folks are also basing their response to the incident on their perception of Brown's “machismo” in dealing with the aftermath of "the thing." Particularly, in his response to Kendrick Lamar, another well-respected hip-hop artist, who tweeted Brown for clarification about what actually happened, Brown replied that he hadn't even missed one bar while the whole thing went down.

Many folks are taking this response as evidence of Brown's consent and are suggesting that he was proud of what happened.  With such justification for not naming the incident a sexual assault, it is easy to miss the broader and more complex issue—rape culture in a society that says as long as sexual assault victims don’t look like Danny Brown, all is well with the world. It is reaffirmed that men cannot and should not speak out after sexual assault. It spreads the false assumption that men and boys who complain are not man enough, and those who are victims are gay or will be.  Others can take comfort as a collective manhood is rescued, and patriarchy and its derivatives, sexism, homophobia and other systems set up to reinforce this notion of male invulnerability are upheld. Ending sexual assault can remain low on our priority lists because it doesn’t really affect everyone.

Only in a culture built on misogyny, which thrives on an ill-defined masculinity and the normalization of sexual violence in music, movies, jokes and advertisements, could someone be given oral sex without any apparent consent, and there not be any question about whether this was sexual assault.  Only in such a society can a woman open a man’s pants without his permission and just take him, and her actions be seen as a source of pride for Brown, rather than the act of sexual violence that it is.

It is also important to note that Kitty Pryde’s open letter takes issue with the race of the woman who assaulted Brown, referencing a racist society which does not take kindly to Black men laying hands on white women.  In that respect Kitty, you are correct. Not only would an attempt by Brown to physically push this woman off of him last month likely end in backlash, but historically Black people have been left with implicit memory of strange fruit hanging from Southern trees—Black men hung even under suspicion of glancing at white women.  Emmett Till, we speak your name.

Let’s continue to complicate the conversation by talking about that very history—long standing hypersexualization, objectification and the demonizing of Black men by white America. Historically, Black men have been framed as lacking sexual restraint with propaganda through books and films like “Mandingo”. In addition, the brute caricature portrayed Black men as innately savage, animalistic, destructive, and criminal, deserving punishment and even death and the idea was extended that “brutes” were terrifying predators who targeted helpless victims, especially white women. That among other propaganda provided the argument needed to support lynching. Unfortunately, the caricature of the “brute” and the “Mandingo” Black man rumored to only draw power not from his achievement but from sex, still prevails today not only in the psyches of the victims of this rumor, but in the psyches of outside observers and contemporary society.

 It is within this context that men in Black communities attempt to construct a definition of masculinity and manhood.  It’s become understood if not internalized, that to operate outside any of the above ascribed characteristics will call into question one’s sexuality. In the case of Danny Brown, any naming of what occurred on stage a sexual assault would not only call into question his manhood but in a capitalist society, it would threaten “dem dollar bills”.  So it’s not shocking that after a white woman jumps on stage, and apparently without his consent takes him into her mouth, Brown dismisses this by saying he didn’t miss a bar. 

Our professional knowledge and experience with supporting survivors of sexual assault indicate that Brown may be reacting much in the same way many survivors react in the aftermath of an incident such as this. For Brown, identifying as a victim of sexual assault could well mean dealing with all the definitions and interpretations society assigns to victims both male and female. For Brown it may mean facing the relentless, stigmatizing, dismissive and judgmental line of questioning that often follows disclosure of assault. For Brown, it may well mean having to answer triggering questions, worrying about whether or not to go to the police, and confronting issues of power and control in very complex ways.

If we also consider what it takes to survive in the world of hip-hop, notorious for its support and validation of some of the most misogynistic and homophobic rhetoric today, it is no surprise that Brown isn't calling himself a victim or treating what some are calling "the oral sex thing" as anything other than a rock star moment that adds to his status as a legend, increases his exposure, and helps him sell more records.

However, we believe there is still a chance to alter the narrative. In response to Kitty Pryde’s repetitive question in defense of her friend, “what was Danny supposed to do?” We want to offer Danny Brown an opportunity to turn this thing right side up and call it what it is, sexual violence.

If we dare to dream what could be possible at this moment, we’d imagine Brown could use this explosion of attention to directly challenge the patriarchy and homophobia that keeps men and boys silent about sexual assault and their own victimization. Brown could use this opportunity to challenge the widely held notion that sexual assault is not a men’s issue.  He could begin conversations about violation and objectification, male privilege, white privilege, the entertainment world and the need to interrupt rape culture. 

Danny Brown could open a space for a much needed conversation about consent. He could use his platform to educate the masses about what consent is, to any sexual act private or public. At this moment he could not miss the opportunity to bolster the movements by so many genderqueer, transgender and other folks, and by so many Black male anti-violence activists to redefine what we’ve been taught masculinity is.  And yes for himself he could use his current position. He could use this moment to challenge the idea that his rejection or objection to non-consensual oral sex should put his “manhood” into question, and he could drive home the message that to object is in fact a basic right. 

 

Contact Black Women's Blueprint at info@blackwomensblueprint.org