A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || February 17, 2010 || 1:38 pm

I love Maggie, Dammit.

What compels an activist to become someone who champions a cause?

Discovery + dissatisfaction. The birth of activism rests in the finding of oneself in the place where discovery of an injustice meets up with a rage or pain (or both, usually); activism is at that cradle of epiphany where fact and emotion collide and a dissatisfaction rises up. The status quo is no longer palatable and near-suddenly there is an almost inexplicable desire to change the circumstance that stirred those initial feelings of sorrow and/or fury.

What constitutes an activist?

A voice with which to speak out and heart that gives life to the voice, pushing it outward from oneself, even if that potentially scores the activist negative or spurious societal labels.

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I have mentioned Violence Unsilenced here before. It is a place for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to gather to themselves those thoughts that they have long fed, to unleash and push out of the nest their stories, to finally let fly burdens they have long nurtured for fear of judgment and shame.

Every time I read one of the stories over there –and I have read every last one, trust me– I come away satisfied, because in the telling (and whether they know it or not) the authors become activists. This may be their only activist behavior in their entire lives, but it’s so huge because others see it and are emboldened by it.

And there are amazing feats of activism that go on continually over at VU. There is the woman who has lost her child and grandchild, the sixteen-year-old boy eloquent beyond his years, the woman left broken and bleeding in a public bathroom, the man who saw his mother battered and battered and battered. They all took the upsets of their pasts and articulated them; they let words that had been framed up by their experiences fly into the world so that eyes and hearts would be opened and awareness would be gained.

Ripping the tape labeled ’stigma’ away from your mouth is unsettling and can rattle you to the core. For weeks after I hit ’send’ on my piece I walked around with a nervous tic in my middle; my emotions stammered and couldn’t find purchase anywhere. I was baffled at this, because I am one of those infuriating people who is always so battle-ready and cocksure. In a break from my usual self-sufficiency I e-mailed Maggie, who reassured me.

Maggie has been reassuring former victims for a whole year now; Today is Violence Unsilenced’s one-year anniversary. In celebration Maggie asked us, her first-year contributors, to send a photo proclaiming we had spoken. What came of it was this gorgeous video, and I watched it this morning, marvelling. I was overtaken by surprise: “We just look like everyone else.”

We DO look like everyone else, save for two simple facts: We are survivors and we are activists. We are emboldened by and shine under Maggie’s standard.

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And here in its entirety is the post that I gave to Maggie last year, which just so happened to run at the end of October. October is, incidentally, Domestic Violence Awareness Month:


Here now is my collarbone, which still slips uncomfortably as a result of being pinned under his knee for half an hour: “We have to talk,” he said to me, his face six inches from mine, “I don’t think you’re really hearing me.”

Here is the back of my left hand, held to the table and used to extinguish a cigarette. I see the scar every day of my life but I don’t always register it. When I chance to ponder it, though, I recall the hiss of his words: “I bet you’re listening NOW.”

Here is my nose which –in concert with my stomach– suddenly and startlingly betrayed me in the middle of a grocery store a handful of years back: Bent over and retching, I realized my nose had objected to the scent memory of plumeria and pikake flowers mingling. Responding to those objections, my stomach took up arms, recalling the way that shame and frustration and hurt and profound, profound disappointment collided within it….this while I was pinned immobile to the carpet with my arms beneath me, being forcibly sodomized, the tumble of spilled flowers surrounding my face.

Here is my cheekbone, which remarkably never saw the light of day under flesh I was sure would eventually split open.

Here is the back of my neck, which grows inexplicably tight of its own volition from time to time, even on my happiest and most peaceful of days. It remembers a myriad of things, I suppose, having been the mechanism for shoving my head toward a corner or a rail or a shattered glass that my errant fingers clumsily released too soon….

Here also is the meat of my back, covered then in smooth, unblemished flesh; both had the misfortune of repeatedly meeting a nailhead that sat anchored in a wall they were slammed against again and again.

Here is my windpipe. It remembers that one sweatshirt, twisted and pressed into service as a ligature device.

Here is my ribcage. Then tense, it wanted for a tender embrace devoid of any poor resolution.

Here are my lungs, which drew ragged breaths into themselves, seeking control over the system by regulating its breathing.

Here are the tender bottoms of my feet, once aching and carrying what we here in the South call ’stone bruises’…that kind of bruise that results from sharp rock striking hard on barely-protected tendon and bone. My feet were careless in their placement that night as I fled across the frozen late November gravel toward my neighbor’s waiting porchlight, her arms extended just beneath it.

Here oh here is my heart, which slowly regained its equilibrium via the tenderness from other men of a different ilk; they were the ones that said things like, “You have the best laugh of anyone I know,” and “None of it was your fault,” and “I know it’s not mine to make right, but let me try.”

Here now is my voice, which once was only used when pressed into song as a mechanism of self-comfort but now resolves itself toward never being silenced again.

4 worked it out »

  1. Bejewell 2.17.2010

    I just love you.

  2. Rene 2.17.2010

    I’m so grateful for you, your words, what Maggie Dammit has done at Violence Unsilenced. So grateful.

  3. Jettomatika 2.18.2010

    Thank you, ladies.


  4. muskrat 2.21.2010

    i’m a fan, too. dammit.


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