Radical Transformation and Doing 180’s – A Story and An Invitation

Content warning: white supremacy

I grew up in a family that was steeped in Southern racism, not saying there was not Northern racism or West Coast racism, just saying it was a racism that was steeped in a legacy of slavery and exploitation that felt different than other parts of the country, at least to me, and at least in relation to what I was able to gather about the world through library books and encyclopedias at the time.

I grew up before the internet was in every house and became a teenager just as diverse faces started to emerge in prime time television. I spent much of my childhood in a small Louisiana town with my grandparents. When friends called my grandma’s house, she would ask what color they were before determining whether or not I could receive the call. I was told it would be better to bring a girl home than a Black man. My grandpa thought it important for me to know where the hanging tree was, pointing it out on our drives “to town”. I was a child and these are the lessons I was taught. There was us and there was them and ne’er the twain shall meet.

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Image source: nicklosdrilling.com

I spent the rest of my childhood in Houston, Texas where my experience was tempered by a desire from my parents to white-wash my experience. They moved us to the suburbs to escape our Mexican neighbors. Ironically, they could not escape our class situation so I grew up in the most diverse school in our suburban district – the one all the working class folks attended. I share all this because I used to believe the things my parents told me, my grandparents told me, the preacher at my grandma’s church, the teachers at my school (who shared a white-washed legacy of the story of Texas and Mexico), the other white kids around me – I believed it because it was what I knew, what information I had access to at the time – to me, it was truth.

My radical transformation came in the shape of punk rock music and culture. I joined local groups working on things like housing access and police brutality. I went to meetings where folks actually talked about all of this and I heard people of color speaking about their experiences. I started to learn about systemic exploitation of people of color in service of white supremacy and capitalism. I also learned about feminism and reproductive justice and it was like a mask I had been wearing for 16 years shattered. Needless to say, I was a radically changed person and I remember my mother telling me she did not like who I was becoming. But I did.

There have been a few twists and turns in my path since my first 180 in life and I continued to be challenged to learn and grow.

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Image source; moaablogs.org

I used to believe that our work to end sexual and intimate partner violence could be achieved in a vacuum. I did not necessarily have the words for that thought, but I used to think working on things like economic justice and racial justice and reproductive justice was work for folks like Virginia Organizing, Planned Parenthood, and the Richmond Peace Education Center. As a member of the Action Alliance, I remember taking my dots during a strategic planning session nearly a decade ago and diverting them from strategies like economic justice initiatives. I remember struggling to understand why that would be “our thing”.

Then, like before, I had a radical transformation. I learned from people who were talking about systemic oppression versus individual acts of prejudice. I learned about how self-determination and autonomy were often linked to one’s capacity to navigate a web of oppression and how financial exploitation was both a systemic tool and an individual weapon that hindered a survivor’s ability to determine their own path. It was such a lightbulb moment for me, that, much like when I first latched on to punk rock, it is so hard for me to remember the before, when I believed in another truth.

Because of these radical transformations and my openness to see the bigger thing of it, making the leap to seeing racial justice as a necessary part of our work to address sexual and intimate partner violence was easy. Easy for me. And because of my radical transformations, I can see how it can be difficult for others; for folks who have not had opportunities like I have had, to learn another way, to learn from others who have also moved on this path, to learn from mistakes, to be open to other truths. It can be difficult to see larger connections when the work of serving individual survivors and families feels so immediate and so enormous. It can be difficult to see the way to a 180 when the other side is beyond the shadow of the moon.

It can be difficult and yet I am inviting folks to try it. To consider what a world would look like if our efforts in service of a world free from sexual and domestic violence were linked up tightly in the work for liberation of all who are suffering from systemic oppression. It will require a radical transformation or revolutionary change which Brene’ Brown describes as “tumultuous, turning things upside down, you can’t go back”. She talks about vulnerability and courage a lot and I am inviting those of you reading this to dig in to your vulnerability and practice it, dig in to your courage and lean on it, and get ready for revolutionary change and radical transformation. We need to be in this together. Let me know if you’d like to talk!

brene brown

Source: Tibalsimplicity.com

Quillin Drew Musgrave is a Programs and Services Manager at the Action Alliance, a Board member of the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, and operates Harrison Street Café with their partner. Quillin is learning to engage the world from a place of connection and gratitude and gets great joy from seeing their child, StaggerLee, learn to navigate life as a four-year old.

 

The Action Alliance is hosting the The Warmth of Other Suns Conference  August 10-12. Come join the conversation.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

Meet Mariah Leonard

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
Everybody deserves to feel safe and I want to help ensure that. So many survivors are silenced or feel they do not have a voice. This needs to change. I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to be in this position where I am the one to pick up the phone and talk with people who just need a listening ear and someone who cares. I could not ask for a better position to be in for myself.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job? 
I want to learn various ways to assist survivors and how to better help them by educating myself about other agencies and get involved. I would like to take more training on different topics and learn everything I can. I feel like this job will give me so much that I can hold onto for life.

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
A pumpkin because it is used in so many things and is loved by just about everyone. Pumpkin bread with a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks is the perfect combination on a fall day.

What is the latest book you have read and would you recommend it?
Left to Tell. I would highly recommend this book. It is written by a woman describing how she survived and somehow kept her strength while in hiding during the genocide in Rwanda.

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?
1) There are some pretty great restaurants here. Shyndigz for one has the best dessert, specifically their chocolate peanut butter cake!
2) I am close to the mountains and the beach.
3) I love history and Virginia is full of it.

What would be the title of your autobiography?
“How Did that Happen?: Trying to Figure Out How I Got Where I Am”

185620_10150161686131495_6825047_nWhat is the most incredible view you’ve ever seen?
Standing on a mountain top overlooking Syria is the most beautiful and treasured view I have. I have seen many things, but it is definitely my favorite.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance? 
The people here are fantastic and supportive, the environment is welcoming, and I get to spend my time listening to people who are taking a huge step and reaching out for help. I think I have the best job.

Mariah Lenoard is Crisis Hotline Specialist at the Statewide Hotline through the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. They work part time with Goochland Parks and Recreation and volunteers with Comfort Zone Camp and Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services. Mariah loves to read, watch Netflix, and workout. 

Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline – 1 (800) 838-8238 | 24/7
Confidential chat  … Text (804) 793-9999
LGBTQ+ Partner Abuse & Sexual Assault Helpline – 1 (866) 356-6998
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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

 

We Can Do Hard Things

 In the wake of recent headlines, you may be asking yourself, like many of us: What can I do? Where do I start?

 Violence against African-Americans is not new – but these days it is in the forefront of the media and our growing collective conscious. We, as Virginians, can look back across history and see the cumulative effects of trauma experienced by African-Americans. We see this compounded over time and connected to experiences of and responses to sexual assault and domestic violence. We wonder about our capacity as individuals, as advocates, as communities to make lasting change, to create space for healing. We think – this is too big, too hard. We think, what can I possibly do anyway?

Our response is this – everyone can do something. Not everyone can or will march in rallies. Not everyone will work with legislators and policymakers. Not everyone will write inspired editorials that capture national attention. But everyone can do something.

i can do hard things       ***********************

We invite you to commit, right now, to spending August 10-12 in Richmond with us at The Warmth of Other Suns conference.

This groundbreaking conference is the first of its kind in Virginia and is a must-attend for anyone working in the anti-violence field. It is not limited to people of specific ethnic or racial identities and it is not limited to people who are far along in anti-oppression work.

You will learn. You will think. You will engage. You will be inspired. You will consider again and again (and then re-consider) the connections between racism, oppression, privilege, and violence towards our African-American communities in Virginia.

And by doing all of these things, you play a vital role in preventing, healing, and ending the violence that has afflicted our communities for far too long.

We look forward to a time of deep learning, connecting, reflecting, and healing together with a diverse and thoughtful group of participants.

Please join us – be a part of something bigger than yourself and take action with us today.

Warmthofothersuns.org

richard wright

To check out other training opportunities, click here.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

Meet Emily Robinson

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?

In a world that often silences and disbelieves survivors, supporting those who are experiencing the effects of violence feels like the most important, urgently-needed work I could be doing. I am so happy and honored that I am able to be there for people experiencing trauma; to hear their stories and to validate their humanity and their feelings.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job?

I want to learn more about the various programs across Virginia, the communities they serve and the different types of help they offer. I hope to always be improving my advocacy skills so I can give folks who call the hotline the best possible support.

What is the latest book you have read and would you recommend it?

I just finished a book called The Medieval Home Companion, written by a Frenchman as a guide for his young wife in the 14th century. I would not recommend to folks who are not already interested in medieval domestic life. Though, if you have been searching for an inscrutable recipe for linen-stamping ink made from oak galls and axle grease, definitely hit it up.

 

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pinterest.com/Guinea Pig Cages

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?

This is the most challenging question in this interview. A bell pepper, maybe? They’re super versatile and guinea pigs love them.

 

 

Describe the magazines on your coffee table?

There are always a lot of 90s-early 2000s zines on my coffee table, and I have a huge collection of old Maximum Rock and Roll magazines from that era, so those are always around. I usually read Terrorizer and Decibel (metal magazines), and have a subscription to TapeOp, a magazine about home recording. I love corny/trashy history magazines, too – the kind that treat Richard III like a teen heartthrob.

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  • Richmond is one of the great American metal cities. So many of the best metal bands in the world right now are from right here (Inter Arma, Cough, Windhand, Prisoner…).
  • I am proud to live in a city where so much great community organizing, anti-violence work and resistance is happening.
  • I am from Tennessee, but a lot of my ancestors came to America from England via Virginia in the 17th century. I like being able to research that piece of my family’s history at places like the Library of Virginia.
  • It is wonderful to live somewhere with a truly great, free art museum like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

 

What is the most incredible view you have ever seen?

It’s maybe not the most “incredible” –- it’s not from a great height or across a vast expanse, etc. —  but my favorite view is Primrose Hill in London.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance? 

I love how the staff here looks out for, cares about, and celebrates one another in very sincere ways.

Emily is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance. She volunteers with Girls Rock! RVA and Knoxville Girls Rock Camp, and is a board member of the international Girls Rock Camp Alliance. She is a musician, knitter and armchair medievalist.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

Supporting Survivors – A Hotline Responder Blog

It is July 1st, 2016 on a humid summer morning in Richmond, Virginia. Staff and hotline workers are gearing up for a special day at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. Today, for the first time in over 30 years, the 24/7 Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline is being answered solely here in Richmond, Virginia at the Action Alliance. Prior to this date The Action Alliance shared responsibility of answering the hotline with Project Horizon in Lexington, Virginia.

The day starts quiet as my coworker and I arrive at 7:45 to start our day. I call Project Horizon staff one last time to check for messages from the overnight shift. The overnight hotline staff worker expresses to me how busy of a night it was and wished the Action Alliance all the best with the hotline. I expressed my gratitude towards her and for the entire staff at Project Horizon for answering the hotline and supporting us.

My coworker and I unforward the lines and log into ICAROL, the system that allows us now to chat and text with survivors 24/7.  I made a cup of coffee, took a deep breath, and prepared for the busy day.

 

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The day starts off with a few calls here and there from domestic violence/ sexual assault programs across the state taking their lines back and checking for messages. I hear my coworker take a call from a survivor checking in for shelter in the Chesapeake region. She talks to her, gets her information, and calls the on call for the program in that area to relay the information that this survivor is in need of shelter.

Outside of the hotline room I hear the commotion of my colleagues getting ready to present a webinar to the new and existing programs that wish to utilize our hotline services. Currently the Statewide hotline answers for over 20 programs, which will increase with the signing on new programs starting July 1st.

The afternoon quickly approaches and I receive a call from a survivor of intimate partner violence who had questions about how to get a protective order. I listen to her story, provide emotional support, answer her questions and explain the process of obtaining a protective order, and safety plan with her. I also provide her with the number to her local domestic violence program and let her know what services they could provide to her to offer her additional support and encourage her to reach out to an advocate if she feels comfortable.

As our conversation begins to wrap up I hear my coworker answer the PREA line. PREA stands for Prison Rape Elimination Act and allows us to speak to incarcerated individuals who are experiencing sexual harassment or sexual assault. My coworker listens to his story, informs the caller what the PREA line does, collects his information about the harassment he is experiencing from a correctional officer, gets his consent to make a PREA report.

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My coworker and I document our calls in our call sheet and VADATA and starting chatting about what we are going to eat for lunch. Our conversation quickly becomes interrupted by a call coming in from the LGBTQ line.  In addition to the PREA and statewide hotline, we operate a 24/7 hotline for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

While I am on the phone, my colleague receives another call from a survivor from the Fairfax area who was recently sexually assaulted by her boyfriend.  When I hang up from the LGBTQ line I almost immediately get a call from someone in the Virginia Beach area looking for shelter. However, this time it was single female looking for shelter due to homelessness. My tummy growled as I connected her to local homeless services and shelters in her area. While we are a hotline for survivors of violence we get many calls that are not related to violence and still are a resource for those folks.

We quickly eat our lunches at our desk, talk about our pets, and discuss who is working the late night and overnight shifts for our first official weekend that is 24/7. We talk about our plans for the 4th of July Holiday. I let my coworker know that I am working July 4th among many of my other colleagues as well.  Working on a 24/7 hotline for survivors requires willingness of staff to work holidays and weekends that are often spent with families and friends.

The day continues in this fashion for the 8 hours that I am scheduled to work. My coworker and I receive calls, chats, and texts from survivors from survivors, family, friends, and professionals from all over the state seeking support for the violence they or someone they know have experienced.

Our work on the hotline is not always straightforward or easy, it is full of complexities. We hear about pain, anger, trauma, and sadness on a daily basis but our role is critical. We offer compassionate and trauma informed services and crisis intervention to callers around the clock and I am honored and privileged to work with survivors and the incredible the hotline team at the Action Alliance.

 

To reach the hotline call: 1.800.838.8238

To text us text: 1.804.793.9999

To chat: http://www.vadata.org/chat/

To call the LGBTQ hotline call: 1.866.356.6998  (Please note that you can also reach the LGBTQ line through our chat and text feature as well).

Jennifer Gallienne is a Senior Hotline Crisis Specialist and Outreach Specialist here at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has worked at the Action Alliance for 3 years and supports anti-violence work through other community organizations as well. 

 

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org