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.
Inspiration From: Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis, Edited by Amanda Lock Swarr & Richa Nagar.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 email@example.com
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".
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:
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.
- 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
We 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Black Women’s Blueprint Launches “Truth Commission” to Address Sexual Violence in the Black Community, by Evette Dionne, ClutchBy Black Women's Blueprint
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?
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.
By Kalima DeSuze, Nicole Patin and Farah Tanis on behalf of the members of Black Women’s Blueprint
Reposted from The Feminist Wire. http://thefeministwire.com/
To Our Sisters,
To those who have survived sexual assault or any other form of violation along the continuum of categories of sexual violence reserved primarily for women, female body or not, we at Black Women’s Blueprint write you in solidarity, in support and in sisterhood. Many of us are survivors ourselves and/or come from families of survivors all over the Black Diaspora. We represent multiple generations of women weaving the pieces of their lives back together, seeking justice for harm inflicted by others and damage we had no stake in creating. We are on constant journeys towards healing, towards rewriting our personal narratives and toward reclaiming our bodies and ourselves. We know all too well what you’re going through. For that reason, we write you this public letter.
This is to all the girls, the sisters left in back alleys, in heaps on their bedroom or living room floors. It is to those left in building hallways, staircases, backroom parties and basement garages.
This letter in particular, is to our sister recently targeted by the Morehouse brothers.
Last night, we spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on our stories as well as your story. We want you to know that every woman, every girl in the space has been profoundly impacted and ready to act on your behalf. Today we think back to the time and space in our history where women banded together to fight sexual violence and deployed their collective voices, and with their pens and their letters, with testimony and sometimes through their marches, they denounced the violence against the women of their day and those who came before them. Rosa Parks although known for igniting the Montgomery Bus Boycott, her grassroots organizing work began with her investigating the rapes and torture of Black women in the South. Sister, she investigated and advocated to end the Jim Crow rapes—which were part of the systemic and wholesale attacks on African-American communities who wanted nothing but full recognition as citizens and as equal human beings. However today, we are under siege from within. Our fellow Black and Brown brothers have internalized racial oppression. They have picked up and refined the “master’s tools” and continue to abuse, to violate and divide. There is no pain as virulent as the one that is inflicted from our own.
For this, we stand with you.
Our prayers are that you know and understand you did nothing to cause this violence against you. Know that no matter what our state, what we wear, what we drink, eat or say, you did nothing to cause sexual violence against you. Despite all the rhetoric, we remain clear that you, that none of us deserve to be raped, ever. You and all of us should have the right to do as we please: get drunk, high, and even strip naked if we feel inclined and still be safe, still exist and still thrive in environments that consider your and our inherent value, and where those bent on inflicting harm are stopped in their tracks. You, as the human being that you are, should always be honored. Your ability to consent should have been assessed and respected. Your right to clearly grant or not grant access to your body should always be upheld. You bear no responsibility for any sexual violence against you and therefore, no matter what the public says, the burden is not yours.
No matter what is said and done in any form to describe you as having given consent, know and understand that consent means mutual agreement, based on a shared desire for specific sexual activities. Consent is an ongoing verbal interaction, taken one step at a time, to an expressed and honest yes. Cooperation, compliance, incapability, lack of awareness or silence is never consent.
Please do not be convinced of or confused by the colorful and what will be rather persuasive arguments that will be heaped upon you. For this, we enclose you in a circle of Sister love.
Sister you are not to blame. Sister you are not alone. What you choose to do for yourself from this moment on should be the focus and priority. You will need to be prepared for the onslaught of victim blaming that may have already begun, and that is common in almost all rape cases. The determination by those who will try to deter you will be fierce and unlike anything you may have ever experienced. Despite many of our denials, we all know we live in a deeply misogynistic world where the hate for women pervades every aspect of our culture and every system and industry imaginable. This misogyny is so pervasive that everyone including sister-friends may at some point and time say something accusatory, ignorant, and simply painful. Know that this is a manifestation of their internalized sexism and at times is a reflection of their own self-hate.
You may experience distancing from some, as they will try to assert directly and indirectly they are not like you. Do not personalize this, as they are still operating under the repressive social and cultural ideology that says women are supposed to act in ways that make others feel comfortable. In other words it is expected that we practice the politics of respectability even today, though it is not so relevant, nor has it ever been effective in preventing sexual violence, especially where Black women are concerned. Those expectations are not only unrealistic, they are repressive. Whoever says you should have, could have, would have, that’s their stuff; your healing takes precedence. Therefore, resist the downward pull this level of rejection will inevitably cause.
You will experience backlash and public scrutiny for airing the Black community’s dirty laundry. Unfortunately, our community continues to hold onto an ethic of silence and false loyalty to harm-doers who dehumanize us, and themselves. Ours has proven to be a community which refuses to admit that sexual assault is rampant that it happens to us, in our churches, in our homes and on our historically Black Colleges and University campuses. Collectively, we all strive to distance ourselves from images, rumors and stereotypes invented to construct our identities for us. Sexual assault reminds Black communities that some of our people are fallible, imperfect, and yes, violent. Sexual assault reminds Black communities there are those who will choose to rape us and that we all, at some point will run out of excuses for not acting, for not holding each other accountable.
You will most likely be blamed for incriminating a set of pristine and promising Black men. Folks will even go as far as to say you’re aiding and abetting the systemic and intentional mass incarceration of these Black men. But through it all, be clear about this: you have a right to protect and defend your body, your self, and you have a right to speak against sexual violence.
Our work here at Black Women’s Blueprint has been to act and speak against the very sexual violence too many of us have endured within our own communities. We’re constantly writing, responding to fighting words on behalf of women and girls who are survivors of rape, defending our right to dignity, to safety and demanding harm-doers be held responsible, repositioning the blame on the rightful parties—actual harm-doers, ill-defined masculinity, power and privilege and rape culture. The work is ongoing and relentless. We’re committed to doing this for all of us. We’re committed to repeating the call for justice, to repeating the demand that each person act to end rape and rape culture beyond the twenty-one times scientists say it takes for a message to be internalized by a learner, by members of our communities, campuses, and by families where we should be safe.
It is unfortunate that we live in a society where Black men still rely on the conquest of Black women to affirm and reaffirm their value, manhood, and existence. Within this context, rape is an abuse of power. It is disheartening and is indicative of a much more difficult and deeper issue to address: the internalized oppression our brothers have failed to uproot even as they benefit from one of the premier institutions of education for Black men. The true embarrassment is that these young men are not being taught that the possibility of their existence should not include within it, the domination of another, let alone the domination of their Black sisters. However, that is the history of America. It is the template from which we all live and exist because many of us have not done our work. Clearly, the work has not been done. This recent incident is a constant reminder that no one will teach our brothers and sons about the rights of Black women and girls and no one will come to our defense, but us.
For that, we offer you the armor of Black feminist sisterhood whether or not it has come from anywhere else.
For this, we will mobilize on your behalf and on behalf of the millions at your side.
Sister, you may be about to embark on one of the toughest battles of your life. You will need to summon the souls and spirits of your ancestors and cloak yourself in the warrior ethics of our foremothers.
We respectfully speak your name Sister. You are brave, worthy, and have sisters in the movement to end sexual violence against women and others who are targeted with frequent regularity.
There will be days when you don’t feel like fighting and that’s ok. You have a multitude of people worldwide behind you, at your left and at your right, in front of you and for sure under your feet as you stand on the shoulders of the fiercest warriors whom across centuries have fought to end sexual violence.
We FIGHT for you and for us, until there is peace.
With militant and abiding love,
Black Women’s Blueprint.
This written piece is a collaboration between Kalima DeSuze, Nicole Patin and Farah Tanis on behalf of the members of Black Women’s Blueprint. Black Women’s Blueprint is a national Black feminist organization founded by Farah Tanis. It is committed to amplifying the voices of women of African descent in all their diversity. It provides the personal and political spaces as well as the resources needed for women to engage in intersectional advocacy at the grassroots and societal levels. The organization’s flagship initiative is its Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Sexual Violence In Black Communities. We work to end Rape/Sexual Assault in Black Communities and on Historically Black Colleges and University Campuses (HBCUs). Our Truth Commission combines civil and human rights research using a critical participatory action model, engages in documentation including oral history, community organizing and aggressive public education to prevent sexual assault on Black women and girls. Teach-ins utilizing film, music and dance, theater and other art-making engage men, women and gender non-conforming people in critical conversations around Black sexual politics as well as the systemic dimensions of violence against women and inspires them to action to prevent sexual assault. Black Women’s Blueprint also administers the Gender Justice Fund and is home to the Museum of Women’s Resistance (MoWRe).