Sharing our stories because #metoo

In the summer of 2016 I first shared my story, in part, on here. It was so beautifully empowering and frightening to serve these slices of my past with the world, molded and baked into a narrative that I had both felt at peace with, and ready to share with the world.

It was also the moment that I stopped blogging.

I hadn’t fully realized the impact that my words had on other people in my life, or that my story was not solely my own to share. There are so many others who are impacted by my choice to speak up. Their narratives are seemingly peripheral but are entirely central to the reality of that story, and that choice. The fact is, when I tell my story of sexual harrassment, sexual assault, and repeated rape, I also tell my perspective of the other people involved in those moments. I tell my perspective of the perpetrator, their friends and family who were sometimes complicit, and my own network of friends, parents, and loved ones who were apart of my navigation through that experience.

I know that I should, in theory, be able to share my own story when and how I choose, because my story is my own to tell. No one should silence a survivor in the reclaiming of themselves, their narratives, their voices. But when I shared my own story, I realized it wasn’t that simple, because we live in a world that still has not caught up.

I don’t talk about my family because I love them, and I respect that they are private people who desire to remain that way. I have plenty of other friends and loved ones who have asked for the same, and I try to do my best to respect their wishes. I also realize that is in direct conflict with my desire to speak my own truth. And, going back to my original statement, my actions do not exist in a vacuum. These actions impact, directly and indirectly, the people whom I love, admire and respect the most.

When I told my story that summer, I realized it resounded with many other women and non-men; those whom I had contact with, and those I’d never met or heard from before. There were many others who were silent viewers, steadily absorbing my blog and social media who have come up to me in person in the past couple of years to briefly say hi, and thank you. I still haven’t quite figured out adequately express how incredibly humbling that is, other than to say it often brings me to tears, and in the darkest moments, it reminds me surviving has an actualized benefit and purpose.

There were also people in my life, who have become integral to who I am as a person, who expressed shock, grief, betrayal and above all, dismay. More than anything, their reactions caused me to not only take down “My Story”, but to delete it altogether. At the time I became consumed in how the interaction between me and the world had harmed, rather than helped. And every moment afterward, when struck with a concept to deconstruct or a current event to respond to, the words stalled in my mind, blocked by the boundaries that this experience had erected. I’ve started to notice my fire slowly disintegrate over the years, flaring slightly for a moment here and there to only cool to embers once more. Not quite out – not yet – but not nearly as vibrant as before. I burned out, and “My Story” was the catalyst.

I think that’s apart of the evolution of an activist, and honestly, any writer. It began for me as a desire to tell a different narrative than what pollinates the national discourse on what a woman of color is, and what her challenges are. I wanted to share my own experiences, and create a platform for other women of color to share theirs as well. I wanted to dismantle the notion that “it’s not that bad”. It is that bad. It’s always been that bad. I can’t believe there are people in this community, in this state, in this nation who don’t realize that our young Black girls are being targeted. That young professionals of color are still struggling to get in the door, and once there, to stay there. That we are still not given the same grace that white, cis peers expect and are freely given, whether at work, in school, or dare I say it, in our communities and homes. I still have to justify my emotions, and essentially my right to them, to the people who love me most. And even then, I recognize the immense privilege that I have, that allows me the opportunity, resources and environment that gives me the space to be my own advocate in those moments.

Here’s the thing – I cannot remain silent. YOU can’t remain silent. We are our only hope to actualize progressive change. You and I.

At the Women’s Fund of Omaha Lead the Change Luncheon, with Aly Raisman, several moments resounded, but most explicitly the incredible need for you and I to continue to share our stories thoughtfully. There are many survivors, myself included, who cannot share the details. Many more are surviving in silence, unable and/or unwilling to own the moniker. But we know better, and have the capacity to do better. It’s up to us.

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So-Called Feminism

I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.” It was Audre Lorde who said that years ago, and it’s a reality I exist within today – a reality that the new government wants to completely erase. As a Black Feminist, I have been infuriated by what has been happening in this country. More than half of the voting electorate’s white men and women voted in their poster child of white fragility – a President who has consistently, happily dehumanized and excluded Black people, immigrants, people of Mexico, Central and South America, people who are not neurotypical and ablebodied, people who are sex workers, LGBTQIA+ people, and everyone who identifies as a woman.

I was really surprised when I was asked to speak… mainly because I was (a)surprised that they knew who I was and (b) in knowing who I was, surprised that they’d want me to speak to this crowd. I am not a “kumbayah” speaker; a “let’s all get along for the greater good” kind of person. I am not a “let’s move past our differences” person. I am not a “likeable” person. I am never going to be here to give you the warm and fuzzies. I am here to make you all uncomfortable, because I believe that is the ONLY WAY progress truly begins to form. Progress, for the sake of progress, only evolves the system of power, in turn permitting it to don yet another mask. The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, as Audre Lorde once said. Ima need y’all to evolve.

The process begins with acknowledging this system of unjust, inaccurate conceptions of humanity indissoluble from other forms of dehumanization in America. It begins by bluntly classifying white supremacy in all of its manifestations – white fragility, white privilege, colonialism and white imperialism. It begins by finally owning active and passive racism that are both working in tandem to empower and preserve white supremacy. It begins by acknowledging that whites only feminism is not true feminism, because progress only for white women is not true progress. It begins by realizing that any narrative solely told from the white narrative ignores that countless of other intersectional experiences, which could and should be told from a different cultural lens, are being alienated and excluded. It is about building and crafting a world that owns the simple truth that Audre Lorde once said, that “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

For example, I watched as the narrative around rape culture and sexual violence and harassment and misogyny and sexism were centered around white women all of last year in Omaha and on a national stage, and then, because I was known to these white women, they turned to me and asked, “Why aren’t you angry? You should be just as loud as us!”

Well, I’m pissed. But I’m not angry because you tell me I should be. I’m angry because white women continuously ask for my support in their perceived oppression and refuse to show up for nonwhite women when the time comes for them to be allies and true feminists.

I am angry, as a woman who has faced the agony of sexual violence, who has felt a lover’s hand raised in anger against her skin, who has been forced to endure a gyrating villain pressing himself into her, and has been told, time and again, that the color of her skin meant she could not, would not be able to cry out for justice. For vengeance. For retribution. For vindication. For relief from the shadows of these painful memories that will continue to haunt whether or not these individual perpetrators remain.

I am angry that when I talk about my experiences, the intersections of my race and gender are ignored and only my gender is acknowledged. I am angry that my Blackness is continuously erased in favor of white comfort, and that this experience is not unique to just me, but happens with my friends, my fellow activists and advocates, and every Black woman I’ve known.

To be clear – yes, white feminists, I am angry that a man who brags about sexual assault has now been inaugurated, but I am more frustrated with the fact that still, in 2017, you expect my concerns regarding gender to proceed that of my race, ignoring and invalidating that the two are so intricately tied that you cannot, should not attempt to, divide one from the other. Plainly stated: as a Black woman, as a woman of color period, my sexism is racialized and my racism is sexualized, and true feminism acknowledges the intersectional nature of individual identity and fights for a world where all of my intersections are given the equity they need to co-exist peacefully, without fear of harm, or dehumanization, or invalidation, or erasure.

We should all be true feminists. And that, that assertion right there, is a radical thought. True feminists understand that any direct action, whether you are an activist, an advocate, or a mix somewhere in between, is the only way to begin to dismantle the systems that oppress all of us. They understand that the “us” I refer to is pro-lesbian, pro-gay, pro-trans, pro-queer, pro-intersex, pro-asexual, aromantic and agender, pro-everyone who identifies on and off the spectrum. It is pro-cultural identities deemed as other by white supremacy. It is actively working to dismantle physical, mental and emotional ableism in everyday life as well as institutionally embedded constructions.

It is pro-hoe, pro-twerking, pro-sex workers, pro-choice, pro-people being able to choose what they want to do with their own bodies even when that means doing nothing or doing the most. It builds and preserves space for immigrants and refugees, and fights for their rights, so that they do not leave one oppressive regime for another, or worse, be forced back into the space they just fled.

True feminism understands that the criminal justice system is, in fact devoid of fairness or justice, and corrupt to its very core, and that the righteous frustration, indignation, pain and anger of Black and brown bodies is criminalized — has been criminalized — for centuries in the interest of preserving white supremacy.

True feminism centers nonwhite narratives — the stories of complex cultural identities like afro-Latinas and indigenous trans people; of melanin-blessed Black women, of culturally rich Taiwanese, of fiercely empowered Afghanis. True feminism has no “one-true religion” and owns that such a fallacy destroys, rather than builds, intersectionality.

True feminism is dangerous, because of its mission to challenge the comfort of white supremacy that white Americans enjoy; where white is the default of normal, of human, of everything that it means to “be”, leaving all else to be understood as “other”. I am not an African American, because we fought to have the term ascribed to our experience, and found, once achieving the label, we were still seen as “Negroes”. I am unapologetically Black.

So true feminism is anti-racist, not simply non-racist, because true feminism acknowledges that the concept by another name is passive racism. Because in this white supremacist society, racism is institutional and individual, where both the victim and the victimizer obscure the harm being done until or unless there comes a time when active, vocal resistance to the contrary rises from both parties. And white supremacy reacts like a wounded animal once its fragile structure is challenged.

I’m so sorry I can’t offer you a less dangerous solution. I know that speaking out against oppression in all forms is alienating. You will feel alone at times – the kind of loneliness borne of doing the right thing in an inherently wrong world. But please, in those moments, recognize that feeling of isolation is the same island that every agent for change has been marooned upon in one way or another since time began. It is the same island that Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Nina Simone, Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison have been banished to. It’s the same island that has housed everyone from Martin Luther King Jr to Galileo, to Joan of Arc, to Queen Makeda of Sheba. Know that, in being alone, you are in good company, for you are marooned with the most influential minds of the world. And I am there with you.

So before I close, I want to leave you with this quote from Barbara Omolade, since we are in the time where we either fight against injustice or remain complicit within it: “No soldier fights harder than a woman warrior for she fights for total change, for a new order in a world in which [she] can finally rest and love.”

Fly Over Country.

By Angela Lapin

I never imagined myself moving to Omaha. It was a city I had barely started hearing about since my best friend moved here to start a family. Every time I came to visit, everything looked grey and quiet. The bars closed early, there was no green anywhere, the sounds were dim, people spoke softly and passion was not part of the sidewalks.

And also, where were the People of Color? Every room I found myself in was more homogenous than anything I had experienced before.

I grew up on the border in Texas and lived most of the rest of my life in South Florida. Being Latinx was a conversation about how, not if.

Following love, I moved to Omaha eight years ago. I immediately started making an escape plan. I would move to the west, to the east, /out of the country… I was an affront to everything overtly Midwestern. I am direct, I am confrontational when needed, I am loud, I get deep quick, I take sides and I walk into the world with all of my vulnerability showing. In Omaha that was equivalent to running through town naked with a chainsaw.

People would distance themselves from me with no explanation. I have always been very social and have had groups of people I connected with and I didn’t seem to find a space where that could work. Thankfully my best friend and relationship were here to ground me and see me when others couldn’t. I would get lost and angry and cry often in frustration.

It was the first time in my life that my Mexicanness was questioned so much. Places with a lot of racial diversity have a lot of racism but it is overt and direct. I found a new racism here that was full of willful ignorance:

  • “How do you speak English so well if you are Mexican?”
  • “Did your mother become a citizen before she died?”
  • “But you’re legal, right?”
  • “Where do I get “authentic” Mexican food?”
  • “Do Mexicans……?”

The questions weren’t intended to offend. It was all this curiosity. It was all this assumption. It was all this ignorance.

I tried to connect with groups of people I thought I would get along with based on my interests and I found that so many people hung out with the people they had known for twenty years and didn’t want to step outside of that bubble.

One day, I was still deliberating about my next steps. Would I stay? Did I belong here? Should I be here? I was having coffee with a group of beautiful Latina women who adopted me and immediately took me into their circle. They provided moral support, food, comfort, kindness, and a general badassery that made me have faith in the roots I was making.

I found a cheesy house decoration that day that said, “Omaha is my Homaha” and I bought it. I went home and told my partner I was ready to buy a house and grow roots into this fertile ground.

It took time but I started finding that all of these impressions of Omaha, although true, were not complete. I started finding my people; the People of Color, the queer, the fighters, the activists, the passionate, the artists, the dreamers, the creators. They were here all along doing beautiful things and they saw me.

What I love about Omaha is this:

  • This is a growing culture. Meaning that people grow their own food here. My garden here was the first time I had ever grown anything edible in my life. I found the power of soil and not leaving everything with the wind. I could stay here and nourish myself.
  • People here are strong. When there is a problem they don’t leave. They take their roots and make them stronger. They create community solutions. They form coalitions, create groups, have conversations, and connect with each other. They love and get angry when things don’t work and then start all over again.

A year and a half ago the relationship that brought me here ended. Everyone suspected that I would take that opportunity to leave and go on my next adventure. At that point, I was in love with Omaha; with the talent, with the dreams, with all the things that are missed when people disparagingly say “flyover country.”

This is my home now and I am going to fight for it.

We O.K. With That.

by Michelle Troxclair

 

—————

I grew up on hula-hoops and jump-ropes

Hopscotch outlines in my Grandmama’s driveway

Street-light alarm clocks

Mulberry bushes in the alley our after-school snacks

On crackers. Potato chips with hot sauce

Syrup sandwiches, Kix and Cheerios

Blue Charms suckers from F&L’s

Mr. Westbrook’s store, it was black-owned

He had chocolate coins and real ones

Pickled pig’s feet on the counter in old pickle jars

Grandmama had me bring her one every Saturday.

 

We watched the Lone Ranger with Pops on Sundays

And ironed our school clothes with crisp creases

Cuz we representin’ the family, so we had to be clean.

No matter. We had drunks on corners mumblin’ bout

Big brotha, who wasn’t a brotha, but formed white rocks

That broke the neighborhood, block by block

Big brotha drove black and white Fords topped

With cherries and berries on the prowl for rotten apples

And we always seemed to fit the description

Young, black and gifted—melanated meant criminally

Inclined and fine all at the same time

I loved them niggas regardless.

 

I came of age in knit leggings and big teased hair

And horny white men

Computers peeking over the horizon with cd’s and beepers

Drug dealers and pimps were uncles and cousins

They drove Bonnevilles, Cadillacs, LTD’s with ragtops

And Buick Electra 225’s—just like my daddy.

My daddy owned his own business too

He was a boss

And we didn’t know no different. Family was family

Including folks that didn’t have family.

Come get a plate!

Better clean your plate, “Cuz there’s kids starvin’ in Africa!”

 

I graduated know my blackness was a gift, just like

Raindrops in the summertime and the sway of my

Aunti’s hips

It was cool. It made me strong.

My grandmother, tough as beef jerky in concrete,

Coated in bronze

Taught me to hold my head up

Walk with my shoulders square

Look folks in the eye and don’t take no shit.

Call spades, spades and be thankful for your blessings.

 

Cuz this life ain’t yours. Take your place in the Queendom

Amongst the ancestors

In this city of white folks, named from Natives

We stay in our places, cause that’s what we were taught

Hell fire on the other side of 72nd Street and ain’t no

Hair grease, skins or paintings of Jesus with Locs.

And we were o.k. with that.

patriot

I grew up in a military family… so, when people talk about what veterans would and would not support, that is something that is very personal to me.

My family instilled in me so many values: honor, compassion, respect, patriotism, perseverance and always advocating for what’s right. I am who I am today is because of those principles.

I hate it when people that have not lived as a direct dependent or have served in the military talk about what they perceive it to be like, or try to ascribe what they believe our morality and lived experience to be. There are so many different subtleties of what it means to be military, and especially a military family that are not in the public eye. I will likely not share what they have been in my life, because my family is private and I try to respect that privacy, but there are several narratives other than my own to be shared.

However, one thing that I hope they wouldn’t mind me saying is that they fought for an America where the definition of patriotism is standing up for what’s right, what’s honest and decent and good and kind. It’s having a strong moral character, that leads and guides your path in life. It is at its heart compassion in action for marginalized populations, who have been historically targeted for demise and continue to be so.

I feel that we likely have a different perspective on patriotism then many people right now, especially those who are the loudest in media.

But before you share your comments and perspectives about the military today on Veterans Day, I’d ask you to think of veterans, and their lived experiences, from more than one perspective or narrative, especially you, my liberal friends.

Sincerely,
An Army Brat

Massa

by Olivia Johnson

A powerhouse performance artist, with a background in social work. Olivia is a writer of many mediums, with most of her work reflecting the call for social acceptance of women of color.

We are all still slaves
Easily bought when that new cotton crop comes in
We are all still naive
Easily manipulated by a white man who believes he’s a God
We are all still children of God
Easily we forget that just as we forgot the jungles, the pyramids, the lions
We are all still, still, still
Waiting for the man to sell back our divinity
Still still, still
Waiting for the man to sell us that good gossip as truth
Still, still, still
Waiting for the man to sell our hearts to the devil for safe keeping
I watched them crops, planted the seeds out of my
love for what their potential could be.
I watched them crops, watered them seeds out of my
love for what their life’s purpose could be.
I watched them crops, weeded them stalks out of my
love for their someday that was yesterday’s stock
Still, still, still
I waited for the man to recognize my work
Still, still, still
I waited for the man to stop testing my faith
Still, still, still
I waited for the man to stop defiling my sisters in
quarters, while his wife waits in the big house
We are still slaves
Allowing this man, or any man, lay dominion over our
inheritance of chastity
We are still slaves
Allowing this woman, or any woman, to break
formation and forget her divinity
We are still slaves
Allowing this system to make us links in the chain of
the school to prison pipeline
But still, still, still
You… my beloved’s body is so…
Still, still, still
As he hangs from the tree of popularity
Still, still, still
My heart, I gave to him, rests in his clenched hands,
he tried to protect it
But massa, massa, massa
Had better plans for us
Massa, massa, massa
Had better knowledge of our twinstology
Massa, massa, massa
Had better pleasure making a show of our black love
By force
This whole existence has us believing
By force
We live, we work, we beaten, we work, we love, we
work, we hate, we work, we forgive, we work, we die
By force
We lose our clarity of them jungles, them pyramids,
them lions
Bye love
I take my steps towards your body
Bye love
I take my heart back
Bye love
I take steps away from you
Bye love
I’ll see you in reincarnation
Bye love
I hope we get it right, next time
Bye love
I drop the mirror down, feel nothing but my wings of
eternity
Bye love
I never lived my life in popularity
Bye love
I walk onto this divine path, full of uncertainty
Bye love
Massa had us all fooled
Bye love
Massa craved me to stay a fool
Bye love
Massa coveted my goodness
Bye love
I walk right past the fields I tilled with every
ounce of love from my body
Bye love
I walk right past the house that false promises
built
Bye love
I walk right past… massa
A broken, privileged, empty man
I walk, with my knowing, my knowing, my knowing
that I am my own destiny, my own divinity, my own
bravery
I walk, full of I am, I am, I am all that I am
I walk, with my God above me
I walk, with my Archangel Brother’s and Sisters
beside me
I walk, feet still sowing them seeds of lighted freedom
I walk, still, still ,still
Never to be a slave again.

We’re back.

Hi all, Morgann here.

I started this blog with a friend almost two years ago. It quickly grew, and while I loved the impact it was making in the community, I was quite frankly doing it alone and couldn’t keep up with the vision and success of it all.

But I also realize that because of this blog I found myself and my purpose, which was life-changing. Originally, this blog’s purpose was to explore the Black woman and non-man’s experiences in the Omaha metropolitan area; I realized that there were so many melanin-blessed people who I thought should also have an opportunity to share their story, their experiences, and we quickly shifted that mission to include non-white women and non-men.

It became, however, dominated by one voice – my voice – and that was never the intention. So now the hiatus is over, and the mission is back on track. This blog where you can see the world through a melanated non-man’s lens. It’s to explore intersectionality in all its beautiful manifestations. It’s to give people in our community to validate their experiences through creative expression. It’s to give evidence to reality of being in a community our non-white counterparts in other areas of the United States and the world sometimes forget exists. And it’s to create a safe online space to exist, because so many spaces are dangerous for people who are not white, and are not cisgender men.

I’m the editor here, and while I will still contribute content here, the majority of the content will be from melanated non-men in our community. Their stories are beautiful, inspiring, heart-wrenching and devastating. I am entirely in awe of these incredible contributors, and I cannot wait to share their stories with you. Their bravery and courage, their grace and kindness, their strength and unapologetic authenticity is all that is good and decent in this world. If you want to join by adding your voice, please reach out to me on the Contact page.

With that, I hope to get y’all good and SHOOK.

 

❤ always,

Morgann

agency in self-definition: my ‘slut’ walk

by Billie Mari Grant

There are about a trillion quotes about being remembered, leaving a legacy, or making a change. Okay, that may be hyperbolic but I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say a good grip of folks want to make an impact. I chose to believe that this is most often coming from a good place. Maybe that is because for me, it is. I’m almost 25 and can name at least 25 people who have had some impact on my life. Joy Urbach, my primary school gifted teacher. Howard Bridges, my older brother. Elle Woods, the protagonist from Legally Blonde. That’s just off the top of my head cutting out the go to folks like my stellar mother, Sandra or my amazing past partner, Jacob. Someone who maybe I don’t always want to mention is Harrison. The first person ever to rape me. For some reason I am compelled to leave out his last name. I think it is more for me than for him. My continuing attempt to distance myself from him. But, I cannot ignore what he did to me or the trajectory his actions set my life on. The first time Harrison touched me I was maybe 15. It was my first or second year of high school. It was New Years and I had come over to comfort him after he posted about needing support on MySpace. I know I’m showing my age. I try to be the kind of friend that responds to any proverbial bat signal.  This one had my name in it! He told me later that he had hoped for the girl with my same name…but she’d been busy? So I come to his house. He’s been drinking and offers me something. For the greater portion of high school I was a pretty “good” kid. I tried hard in school, participated in extracurriculars, and didn’t engage in behavior deemed “unladylike”. I didn’t smoke, drink or have sex. I turned down his offers several times until I accepted a bowl of cereal. It was getting late and I was definitely tired. He suggested I spend the night as the buses probably weren’t running (not true) and it would be too far for a young lady to walk…too dangerous (the irony is killing me too). I tried to sleep on the couch in his room but he said it made it seem like I didn’t trust him. This sent him into a tailspin. No one likes him. Girls didn’t think he was good enough. That’s why his girlfriend had broken up with him. He was a loser and his family had left him to watch his baby brother while everyone else had fun. I tried to comfort him. Told him I did trust him and went over to lay in bed next to him. We cuddled and it felt harmless. Until he started moving his hand down my side and across my abdomen. When he got to my panty line I pushed his hand away. He started kissing my ear and telling me to trust him. That he thought I was beautiful. That he wanted me. I rolled onto my back and he kissed me. Then…so fast his hand was in my underwear and his fingers were tearing through my folds. I was holding on to his wrist… Trying to pull out his arm. Trying to pull my body away but he was on top of me, grinding and shoving his finger inside. It burned. And I thought he’d made me bleed. He told me I was just wet and that it meant I wanted him. At the time I had no other information and believed him. Dawn was breaking outside the egress window and he’d had his fun. He said he was tired and feel asleep instantly. I lay there. Wondering what I had done. Why I had let this happen. Asking myself if I’d liked it and getting the response of pain from my vagina. After what seemed like hours his mom knocked on the door and came in. She said hello to him and to me. Like it was no big deal that I was in his bed. The one she was sitting on talking about bowling. After she left he told me to leave because he needed to get ready to go hangout with his family. It was a tradition and I wasn’t invited. I left and felt so shamed. So uncomfortable with my body. My skin. My insides. Everything. It was probably cold out but I don’t remember. I remember the sun and how it felt too bright.

During

high school I would be raped again. Once by a Latino man in a red dodge charger who said he was from New York and was asking for directions and again by Harrison. I would make a mistake and believe his apology. I would think he was trust worthy and be proven wrong. I would look past his statements of ownership over my body. I would ignore the sexual (and racially insensitive) illusions he would make to his younger brother while we watch a commercial about chocotacos. I would agree to have sex with him after having too much to drink. I would tell him to use a condom and try to stop when he took it off. I would tell him it hurt and push against his chest. I would struggle to breath after he covers my face with a pillow. I would cry thinking my body betrayed me as my vagina lubricated itself against his intrusion. And it would end. He would tell me I needed to sneak out so his parents didn’t know and I would climb over a fence. He would apologize telling me I am the best sex he’s ever had and that he thought I wanted it rough. I would not forgive him. I would try. But after he continued to suggest anal sex as a makeup activity I would give up for good. Four years later in Omaha, Nebraska I would first name these encounters as rape.

This was radical.

It felt liberating and entirely terrifying. It felt uncomfortable to be so vulnerable. Until…I felt their support. The women sitting around the table would shake their heads and hold my hand. They would echo what I have now learned. That it was not my fault. That I didn’t want it. That I don’t have to forgive him. And that it was rape. It was wrong. It IS wrong. These women made up some of the SlutWalk planning committee of 2014. That is the first year of having Kristin as the lead organizer and it would be my first SlutWalk as an identifying survivor. This last year I took over leadership of SlutWalk. I made this choice quickly, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. But knowing that this was something I was feeling called to do. This remains one of the best choices I’ve made since moving to Nebraska. I had a few things I was really excited to do with SlutWalk this year. I wanted to included clinics from North and South Omaha. I wanted to include as many folks as wanted to be included from bands to agencies. I wanted to create a space that included and supported survivors of color, undocumented survivors and male identified survivors. This last bit about inclusion was really important as it is something SlutWalks all over the world have been working to do. Furthermore, last year we had several uncomfortable and frankly pissed folks who didn’t think we did the best we could have done. We appreciated the critical examination and this year organized and hosted two forums for folks to come tell us what they liked and didn’t like about SlutWalk last year or SlutWalk over all. From those as well as a meeting we had shortly following SlutWalk 2015 we were able to further identify areas of improvement. These certainly weren’t things we hadn’t acknowledged but these conversations gave the community the opportunity to also offer up possible solutions. I also met with a few people personally to discuss their issues with SlutWalk. We held our poster making party at an alcohol free, all ages venue with access to bus routes and also offered rides from the event. We welcomed Boner Killerz to the stage for their first performance and had intentional conversations about language when necessary. The event itself went fairly well sans a lack of power, however we were lucky and thankful to have amazing acoustic vocal peformances as well as spoken word performances. We close out each SlutWalk with an open mic. For many, this is the most impactful portion of the afternoon. It is a time where we, as survivors and allies hold space for one another. I realized I hadn’t provided any tissues so I ran to my car for a giant pack of napkins. The heart, passion, and truth that exists during the open mic is…contagious. It made me feel like I was not alone. It reminded me I move with thousands. When I think back to that day, to some of those moments…my skin tingles. I remember their knowing and supportive eyes. I remember their respect for boundaries and the many requests for hugs acknowledging that not everyone is comfortable with touch. I remember the pronoun buttons that were gone in a snap and am thankful for UNO providing markers and nametags so folks can continue to feel affirmed if only between noon and 2 p.m. on a random Saturday.

…and I

remember being a teenager waiting for the bus. Twice. And thinking, I am a bad person who makes bad choices. A bad girl who sets bad examples. 

That parallel is where I see my impact. The difference between who I am now and who I was then is the reason I organize SlutWalk. It’s the reason I organize, period. The children I saw at SlutWalk are the reason I organize. The people of color I saw holding signs proclaiming that they are not to be exotified is why I organize. The survivors finally having a place, a moment to breath and be affirmed in their truth is why I organize.

I began working with SlutWalk three years ago because I want to be a sex therapist. I think it is important people are having conversations about their bodies. I truly believe a level of familiarity would go a long way increasing our comfort with sex and sexual conversation. I believe that survivors have a unique relationship with their body and first need to reclaim it as their own before they can begin to heal.

I organize SlutWalk becuase it is not about “them” it is about “us.” It is about moving as a community and holding each other up. It is about acknowledging where everyone is in their journey and being honest about whether or not you are in a place to best aid them. It is about moving back and creating necessary space for groups that continue to be marginalized regardless of the topic. I organize SlutWalk because every year being a part of an us helps me grow. It helps me heal. I hope my impact is that by intentionally organizing SlutWalk I can help someone else to grow and heal as well.

About Billie:

Billie Mari Grant has lived in Omaha for just over 3 years. In those years she has become a recognizable activist in many communities. She is a core organizer for CHEER (Comprehensive Health Education and Equal Responsibility) and the creator of Period.Productions, an alternative printed resource currently focused on creating a comprehensive sexual health zine (The Talk) to be nationally distributed. She is as board member of Friends of Planned Parenthood, and Queer People of Color (QPoC) Nebraska. She works as a facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League and is currently leading an after school program at a local middle school. Billie has volunteered regularly as a facilitator ans panelist for GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) and Inclusive Communities. She is an intern 28th Nebraska Appleseed where she assists with development work but primarily looks at access to women’s health care for immigrants. Last September, she was named Omaha Table Talk’s Facilitator of the Year. This June, she was awarded the Community Impact Award by Heartland Pride. She some how still finds times to binge watch Netflix and Freeform and even walks her dachshund chihuahua, Winston…sometimes.