My Charmed Life

I rolled my eyes in disbelief when I got word that an online publication wanted me to write about my “survival story.” I feel so separate from that young girl who found herself in an abusive relationship all those years ago and there were sooooo many other things I could talk about. My survival story??? I write poetry. I write plays. I do healing work. Couldn’t I talk about that??? But I got myself together and wrote the article (the day before it was due). As karma would have it- they chose a more “relevant” celebrity focused story and only use a snippet of mine.

October is my birthday month. It’s also Domestic Violence Awareness month. As my favorite time of the year comes to a close….I decided to share a chapter of my life that changed so much of who I am and who I thought I was………

My relationship began like most abusive relationships. It started fast. He was nice, interesting and interested in me. Then, things changed. He started telling me what to wear and what not to wear. He wanted to control who I went out with and called me all the time. It seemed he always wanted to know where I was. I was young. I thought his behavior meant he cared. In a few months he was putting me down and calling me names. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought if I showed him that I loved him the behavior would stop. Then he started pushing me around. I still didn’t tell anyone because now-I was ashamed. I decided to end the relationship before it got really bad. Then he started stalking me.

The following is an excerpt from my book, Dirty Laundry: Women of Color Speak up About Dating & Domestic Violence. It’s a true account of one of the most frightening nights of my life. That night and the days that followed changed my life-forever.

 

“I’m sorry, I been dreaming about something a lot. I didn’t mean to and I woke up screaming, because I feel bad.

“What, Joaquin?” I asked.

“I can’t say,” he said.

Finally, I said half-joking, “About killing me?”

He screamed, “Yes.” and started sobbing.

From that point on, I went into strategic survival mode. I got up and dressed quickly. I walked to the door with the phone in my hand.

“Remember our promise. Don’t tell anyone. Okay?”

The right words came from a place wiser than my 21 years.

“I won’t, but why do you want to kill me?”

“I want to die, but I don’t want to be alone.” He said. “And your attitude was so cold. You were so mean to me.”

“So you wanted to kill me?”

“Yes, but I don’t now. Do you believe me?”

“Yes,” I said. “How were you planning to do it?”

“I was going to kill myself and have one of my brothers kill you. But I changed my mind. Do you still love me?” He asked.

The door was open, and I had my purse in my hand. “Yes.”

“Do you think I’m crazy?” He asked.

“No,” I said.

I heard something that sounded like a pop and I dropped the phone and ran out of my apartment. I ran to the parking lot, threw my clothes into the car and took off. The next morning I called my job to tell them what happened. My boss was very supportive. When I returned to work, she informed me that Joaquin had been calling for days. We came up with a plan that included giving the security guard his picture, changing my work schedule and moving. Some of my friends and family thought this was extreme. But I believed that someone bold enough to tell me how they planned to kill me should be taken seriously. It wouldn’t be long for people saw that my instincts were right.

According to a study done by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, the number one killer of Black Women ages 15-34 is domestic violence. In my experience, (professional and personal) black women are often not believed, not supported and are blamed (covertly or overtly) for the violence that is committed against us.

My father moved most of my things out of my apartment, but there were a few things left and my friend and I decided to go get them. My friend asked if we should call the police. I said no. I figured we’d be in and out quickly. Before turning onto my street, something told me to call the police. The officer that came had to be the rudest on the force. I had a feeling something was off and was afraid to enter my apartment. Terry who was older and White said, “She’s scared. Can you open the door?” He sighed, walked up the stairs, snatched my keys and begrudgingly opened the door. The next thing I knew, his gun was drawn. The last time I saw Joaquin, he was being taken from my apartment in handcuffs.

I wasn’t believed or respected by the police. In fact, I was questioned like I was the criminal. The courts didn’t protect me either. By the time I got the notice about Joaquin’s court case, the date had passed. But because I had good friends, a supportive family and a job-I was one of the “lucky” ones. I decided to move away.

My healing began the minute my feet hit the soil of my new home. My new life was about the written word, service to others, creativity and the world of spirit. I devoured books by Wayne Dyer, Florence Scovill Shinn and others who talked about how our thoughts impacted our reality. Iyanla Vanzant taught me about black spirituality. Paula Giddings schooled me on black feminism. I hosted and attended sister circles and poetry readings. I surrounded myself with people who “got me” and released those that didn’t. I chronicled other women’s stories of abuse, volunteered at a home for AIDS patients, fed the homeless, did clothing drives, started recycling initiatives and became a vegetarian.  I worked on getting out of “my story” and re-wrote a new one. I took yoga, meditated, studied metaphysics, and questioned my ideas on love, family and my place in the world.

I joined the domestic violence movement cause I wanted to make a change. I spoke nationally/internationally and collaborated with some of the smartest women and men working on the issue of violence against women. Today, I’m a Reiki Master and artist. My healing practice is about helping folks move forward in their lives. My plays and poetry are about truth telling. I believe that every moment is a choice between liberation and enslavement and I choose liberation-hands down.

Zoë Flowers is a Reiki Master, actress, poet and playwright. Her poetry can be found in anthologies such as; Stand Our Ground; Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander, and Dear Sister Letters From Survivors of Sexual Assault and several online journals. Zoë is also the author of Dirty Laundry: Women of Color Speak up about Dating & Domestic Violence and a meditation CD entitled, Balance-An Evening Meditation for Activists, Advocates and Helping Professionals.

Thanks for the quote Hello Beautiful.com!

So Many Awful People Combine Blackface & Domestic Violence For Tasteless Ray & Janay Rice Costume & Janay Responds [PHOTOS]

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rayrice-costumeWe definitely saw this coming. The level of insensitivity that people have goes off the charts during Halloween. It seems that most are trying to aim for costume with offensive pop culture references to ruffle the feathers of many, as one snap of a photograph transcends them into a viral rabbit hole. This could certainly be said of the White couple in the photo above, who thought it would not only be hilarious to dress up like Ray and Janay Rice for Halloween, but do it in blackface. Janay has taken to Twitter to respond to the idiots who think it’s ok to laugh at her suffering:

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These two in the photo above were spotted by sports and political commenter Keith Olbermann, who shared the disturbing image with his followers. His followers immediately responded with a bevy of terrible Ray Rice costumes that seem to be flooding social media.

MUST READ: This Woman Gained Her Freedom Because Of Ray Rice’s Attack

Not only is there a proud daughter in the bunch who shared a photo of her insensitive father with the hashtag #mydadisbetterthanyours #rayrice, but there’s even a sick parent who dressed their child up in blackface and allowed him to drag a doll around that represented Janay:

Ok, so now do people think clever hashtags make everything ok? One woman shared a photo of herself and her two sons on Instagram and she was Janay Rice and even said, “hence the black eye,” and when she used the hashtags #domesticviolenceisneverfunny #butmycostumewas, she’s essentially ridding herself of the guilt she most certainly felt in even putting that jersey on in the first place. And to then allow her impressionable young sons to pose with her while she’s wearing a costume that obviously needs explaining to those young boys, it’s just…sick. And it’s perpetuating a nonchalant attitude toward battered women.

By now, we should all know the story of Ray and Janay Rice. Ray was seen on elevator footage hitting his then-girlfriend and now-wife. She fell unconscious to the floor of the elevator and Ray proceeded to drag her out. The footage sparked a large debate about domestic violence against women, especially from the hands of men of power, who never seem to have to suffer the consequences of their actions. Rice was made an example by the NFL and was cut indefinitely from the team and has subsequently lost every endorsement and pretty much any support from anywhere. Shortly after the “sh*t hit the fan,” for lack of a better phrase, Janay apologized for her role, making many of us label her a battered woman, who typically have the mentality that they are to blame.

Zoe Flowers, New York-based director of domestic violence prevention, chimed in on the disheartening story. “In my experience, (professional and personal) Black women are often not believed, not supported and are blamed (covertly or overtly) for the violence that is committed against us,” she said. “Whether you agree with her decision or not Janay Rice was the victim of a crime. And instead of receiving support and empathy, she is ridiculed and mocked. And people wonder why survivors stay…”

Domestic violence is a tangled web of emotion, blame, shame and confusion. Many of us can only speculate what it’s like to be a pawn in that dangerous game. Yes, Halloween is a fun holiday and it’s exciting to dress up and have people guess what you are, but there’s a plethora of costumes–no matter how they play into pop culture–that should be avoided. We could all take a moment and tap into our humanity and see that certain actions, should at least be given a second thought.

What do you think about the Ray and Janay Rice costumes, beauties? Sound off in the comments below.

Great Performance at The National Black Theatre

   “Sometimes I Hear Voices-Voices from the bottoms of oceans where black bodies chose to rest- Give me liberty  or give me death… They jumped.” Zoe Flowers

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10531181_10204608451714224_765310723_nThe Cast of From Ashes To Angel’s Dust (Sherri Pullum, Vesta Walker and Chantal Maurice), tore down the stage at the National Black Theatre last Thursday night!!!! They seem to embody my words more and more each time they perform!!!!! Love these women!!! Be on the look out From Ashes to Angel’s Dust is coming to a theatre near you!

 

We also had big fun on the red carpet!!!

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From Ashes to Angel’s Dust is coming to the National Black Theatre!!!!

Redemption. Forgiveness. The Power of the Human spirit. Second Chances. This is Diamond Ruff!!!!

NEW DR HBF NBT FLYER

Come check out it’s New York City premiere this Thursday night at the The National Black Theatre: Institute for Action Art s as part of this year’s Harlem Book Fair!!!!!!

The women of From Ashes to Angel’s Dust: A Journey Through Womanhood will be there too performing excerpts from our show!!!

Don’t miss it! This Thursday! Red Carpet event starts at 6:00pm! Visit http://www.diamondruffmovie.com for details!

 

Peace Is a Lifestyle!!!!

Join me this Saturday at the 1st ever Peace Is A Lifestyle Conference!! I am excited and honored to be part of this important conversation!!!

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Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: BUZZ BRAND MARKETING 1180 Avenue of the Americas |8th Floor |New York City, NY 10036 | 212.360.0399 Marisa King-Redwood, mking@buzzbrandmktg.com Chevonne Robinson, crobinson@buzzbrandmktg.com
BK Nation, Life Camp, and Fordham University partner on First Annual “Peace Is A Lifestyle” Conference

June 10, 2014, NEW YORK, NY–On Saturday June 28th from 9am-3pm, BK Nation, a new national organization, and Fordham University, in conjunction with Erica Ford’s Life Camp, a leading force in the anti-violence movement, will host the First Annual “Peace Is A Lifestyle” Conference at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus in Manhattan. The day-long gathering will feature speakers representing diverse sections of the population, as well as activists, advocates, academics, elected officials, and concerned community members of all ages. The conference will tackle serious issues plaguing our society including gun violence, hate crimes, bullying, and violence against women and girls. Not only will the conference identify problems but guests and speakers will explore possible solutions and what action steps our communities can take going forward as a city-wide movement for nonviolence and peace.

Kevin Powell, acclaimed writer and activist, and president and co-founder of BK Nation, will be the keynote speaker and feels very strongly about the plague of violence in our society:

“With talk of yet another hot and violent summer in America’s urban centers, BK Nation and I are very determined to help find solutions and alternatives in all forms. Bringing together youth, elders, community members, and the area’s leading anti-violence leaders is a critical step in the movement for peace. We are humbled and honored to partner with Fordham University and Life Camp on this effort.”

On hosting the event, “Here at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) it is our mission to promote human rights and social justice. It is in the spirit of this mission that we hope to be a catalyst for social change. In the wake of the violent acts that are taking place, both here and around the world, people in our communities are feeling hopeless. We are increasingly aware of the violence, but unaware of the groundbreaking work that’s being done by leaders in the anti-violence movement. With this conference we endeavor to go beyond talking about the problems, to formulating viable solutions moving forward, and providing opportunities to join existing initiatives towards peace. Our amazing partnership with Kevin Powell, Founder of BK Nation, and the other community leaders involved with this event is a testament to what can be accomplished when we work together. “ –Priscilla Dyer, GSS Special Projects Administrator & Jade de Saussure, Program Coordinator for GSS Continuing Education Department (Conference Planning Committee Chairs).

The conference has already attracted a few dozen organizations that will be there tabling with useful information as well as the Huffington Post and Global Grind as media partners. Attendees will also be treated to the talented spoken word artists from Urban Word NYC, an arts education and youth development organization; as they share pieces on stopping violence and how violence itself has affected them. Urban Word NYC is located at 242 W 27th St in Manhattan.

The event is free and open to all and will take place in the Pope Auditorium at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus located at 113 west 60th Street. For more information email dyer@fordham.edu or call 212-636-6623.

WE DID IT!!!!!! AND ITS ALL BECAUSE OF YOU!

$30,517. That’s right. $5,517 OVER our goal! Your loving support has helped us raise this money and we are bursting with gratitude. The girls we serve are one step closer to freedom, and it is because of YOU!

We have identified our group of young girls that have been trapped in this horrible sex trade. They are so excited to enter this program. Our founder Brittanie has been meeting with them regularly for the last few weeks: playing games, reading books, watching movies, having meals, things 10 year old girls should be doing–not selling their bodies for in brothels for 20 cents. Your donations are literally helping these girls right now to leave this life and prepare for a life of nurturing, healing, education, and freedom!

We will keep you updated on the progress of the program and how the girls are doing. We hope you are as excited as we are!

In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter at @artnaboliton or like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/artandabolition?ref=br_tf so you can keep up with our efforts to rescue, heal and empower survivors of child sex slavery!

We wish each and every one of you Infinite love and gratitudel!! AND don’t forget to spread the word about http://www.theartandabolitionmovement.org/#!whatwedo/csgz!

Thanks Again!

Space Made!!!

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Preparing the bedroom for 2 girls whom we rescued yesterday from being sold to men 7 nights per week out of their home by their mother. I think spending their nights tucked away under this pink flowery blanket will be a lot more fun for these kiddos They will stay in my home until we launch our Safe Homes program soon.

Every $750 we raise over our goal will house a girl like these 2 for a full year in one of our Safe Homes.

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If you’ like to give to this program you can do so for only the next 15 hours now at 

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. We Surpassed Our Goal!!!!!!!

10456271_759848166587_4500572292324425170_nThanks to the 391 Backers who backed our kickstarter campaign and helped us surpass our $25k goal!!! Right now we’re at 25,873.

But you can still help!http://kck.st/1sSaugD

Every $100 past our goal pays for clothing and shoes for a child for one year.

Every $500 past our goal helps to provide medical, therapy and dental visits for one year.

Every $750 past our goal houses a survivor in our “Safe Homes” program for one year.

Every $1000 past our goal covers school tuition/books/supplies for one girl for a year.

You have 37 hours to help us keep girls safe!!!!

Donate now! http://kck.st/1sSaugD   #bringbackourgirls

Light A Candle Sex For Sale

This is reprint from my comrade and sister in abolition Brittanie Richardson’s blog

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Firstly they have been crazy busy. I am so sorry for being so behind on emails, fb messages, voxers etc. I promise to get caught up soon. I read them all and they warm my heart. Just haven’t had time to reply.

They have also been the most joyful and heartbreaking couple of weeks I’ve had in quite a while. I’d say this experience has been very equal parts joyful and heartbreaking. I get home each night and either fall on my bed overcome with tears of gratefulness for the amazing day I had seeing His glory be made manifest in His little princesses’ lives, or I come home and never make it to my bed before I fall to my knees from heart ache as hot tears cascade down my face as I reflect on the horrors I saw that day happening to His precious children- in the brothels, in their homes, in the hidden places. For the past few weeks we have been recruiting girls for our program. We have been looking for children ages 16 and under who, because of poverty and/or pressure from their caregivers, are being forced to sell their bodies for their basic needs like food and school fees. Believe it or not, at first the process was really slow. We couldn’t find any girls who fit our criteria. After so many people had told me about the issues of children being sold for sex in the slums of Eastlands, we looked and looked and looked and didn’t find any. But then we realized we were looking in the wrong places. We were looking in the places we found girls in Mtwapa like popular night clubs and street corners. But all the girls we found there were like 18 and 19 years old. Still horrific and unjust, but not what we were looking for for our program. We went back to the drawing board and after exhausting all other options and almost giving up on Nairobi and deciding to go back to the coast to work, we decided to give it one more try. But this time we decided to break all the rules. We decided to go recruiting in the areas everyone told us was too dangerous and that the girls are “too far gone” and “beyond saving”, the places everyone warned me not to go and where many of our team members were afraid to go. We dedicated one weekend and sent two members of our team in. They went into little hidden brothels, nightclubs, and “guest rooms” really deep inside the slum. By Monday I had interviews set up with 12 of the most beautiful children in Kenya whom she had found there. Some of them were still drunk from the night before and a few quite hungover. One of our team members had literally dragged some from their drunken stupors to our office for their interviews. I looked at these girls and immediately my heart leapt with joy. I knew they were not “too far gone” or “beyond saving”. They were perfect! They were His! And He delights in them and therefore He WILL rescue them because He promises to. The realization that He decided to use us to do so wrecked me right where I was standing.

Over and over and over in the interviews I held 10,12, and 13 year old girls in my arms as they told me stories of being sold by their parents to men for as little 20 American cents. In the room right next to where I was conducting the interviews the rest of the children were playing games and doing art projects with two of our part time team members who live in Ethiopia, but have partnered with us in this work. Twelve times I went into the other room, called a girls name, she put down her crayons and cup of juice with a big smile on her face, then came into the office with me and one of our community workers and squirmed in her seat as I asked her “who brings money home for food in your family?” Almost simultaneously as the next question fell from lips tears would begin to fall from her eyes. “Where do you get the money from?” I’d ask. “wanaume (men)” she would say as her squirming became more like looking for a way of escape and her tears and snot began to wet her shirt. “Come here, honey” I’d say. I would hold her in my lap and press her head against my chest. It was painfully obvious that these children had never been held before. If your mother is selling you for a bag of flour it’s likely that you don’t often share an embrace. I would hold her and hold her until her body finally relaxed and she blurted out everything between heavy sobs. Time after time these small precious little girls would tell me about how every night their caregivers force them to go out and “find money”. Many of them are violently beaten if they don’t bring home anything. Many of the list of services the girls offered were the same:

One small bag of roasted peanuts: 35 cents

“shika shika” which is where a man can touch the child wherever he wants: 60 cents

sex: anywhere from 20 cents to $1.19

After a full night of “work” these children come home with a little as $3.50 and swollen, painful, infected vaginas. Each time the story was the same. And each time it broke my heart.

But even as I was sharing in the compassion and heartbreak that I know God feels as He also sits with me and listens to these stories, I also shared in His hope. I know its really strange and my whole team was looking at me like I was crazy. But after each session, the more my heart broke the more my joy also increased. I had the gifts of hope and joy so active in me because I could feel God’s presence and I knew that He had bought these girls to me not just to sit and listen to a sad story. But because He has a plan! He saw their suffering and sent people in to rescue them!! He heard their cry and He answered! He is the great rescuer! He is the great emancipator! He come for His children in the dark places!

From that batch of 12 we took 8 into our program. Some of those girls although their stories were completely unjust, didn’t fit our criteria. So what came next for the 8? We have an extensive authentication process that we do in order to make sure that the stories these kids are telling us are true. We do this not only because the stories are so horrifying that they are almost unbelievable, but also because many times children here are so desperate for help that they will say anything if they think they will get a meal out of it. So our recruitment team, social workers, pastor, community worker, project manager, and myself all have different roles in the authentication process where we do random house visits, night visits to clubs the kids work, undercover surveying of the girls as they are being sold, interviews with their caregivers, neighbors and friends, surprise visits to their schools, medical examinations etc etc. We are almost to the end of that process and are about to officially begin our programming in just 2 weeks.

Well… at least that’s how it’s supposed to happen. As you all probably know by now I have the tendency to break rules. Although the programing isnt supposed to officially start for two weeks I have already begun to spend many of my days with these girls just doing life and giving them little pieces of a childhood when I can. We have begun feeding them and having “family nights” which are so much fun. Our oldest girl is even in our full time care right now because after learning from us about her value and being fed daily she refuses to sell her body anymore so her mother kicked her out of the house. I never mind taking in another one of Abba’s favorite girls, even though my friends always yell at me and tell me we can’t afford it. We can’t. But He can :)

So as I said I am wading in the waters of both joy and heartbreak and seeing the fruit of both. The fruit of joy that compels me to love more, to keep going, to get out of bed and work even when I am completely exhausted like I have been for the past week. Its all worth it for the joy :) Also the fruit of heartbreak which compels me to love more as well, especially myself. It compels me to slow down when necessary and even to stop and take a break when I need to. I was hoping to take a little vacation earlier this month, but wasn’t able to. So I am taking one at the beginning of next month. I am so excited. I’ll be traveling to South Africa to see two of my best girlfriends. Spending time with them is always so refreshing. They were both married in December and I was a bridesmaid in both weddings. Im really looking forward to just relaxing and being girly and normal with two of my favorite people on the planet. Balance is so important.

I have also began a ritual of a lighting a candle every night. I light a candle and I unpack my heart. I give back to God everything that doesn’t belong to me: the stories, the responsibility to help all of them, the fear, everything. What a privilege it is to be able to light that candle. As I’m lighting my candle countless girls are preparing for another night of abuse and pain. But that too, I give to Him. He is the savior and I am not. He is the savior an I am not… Amen.

If you would like to donate to the rescue and rehabilitation efforts for our girls you can do so at the following link. Tuesday is the last day to give and we must receive 100% of our $25,000 goal for any of the donations to be processed. We are 72% of the way there. I really appreciate your support . https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/898632450/art-and-abolition-summer-arts-camp

 

To Whom Much Is Given-Much Is Required

   countdown_02Sometime I ask myself why am i working so hard for battered women that i don’t even know? why do i drag myself out of my comfortable bed, off my couch and comfort to travel across the country to sit and be and talk with people that i often don’t agree with and sometimes don’t even like:) Why do i go so hard for projects half way cross the world when i have my own projects and my own dreams that i want to see realized…
i am not perfect-i can be judgey and self righteous, i have blind spots and it’s really hard for me to release grudges

but in the end I am a servant….I know that I AM here because someone thought my life was worthy – someone worked in a field and kept me in mind, someone said yes when they really wanted to say no….someone gave a damn about me before i was even born….but more than all of that, i do a ton of shit that i don’t feel like doing because I feel in my bones that what happens to one of us happens to all of us

and then i read words like this “Over and over and over in the interviews I held 10,12, and 13 year old girls in my arms as they told me stories of being sold by their parents to men for as little 20 American cents.”

this is crazy to me- i know we all have so much pulling at us – we have bills-we have responsibilities- i get it- but we are soooo fortunate in this country – we are so lucky that and we pretty much don’t have worry that someone is going to snatch us off the street and sell us or our children for 20 cents…..this shit is real…so real….so real that we want to turn a blind eye- and turn up the tv or buy another cup coffee -but we cant – this is happening and you can do something to help…today here http://kck.st/1sSaugD

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