Reparations and Absolution

Anyone with even an introductory understanding of the egregious predations of racism in American culture would conclude that we have a collective duty to engage – now – in the repair effort.

Financial reparations will acknowledge and redress the Black/White wealth gap – the denial of opportunity, the theft of assets – beginning with slavery through succeeding generations of Black families. The vast scale of the debt puts it squarely in the domain of the federal government.

For many Americans, the challenge is to know how to contribute to ensuring payment of that long-overdue bill within a movement riven by militant disputes.

Closure is another matter. After four centuries of relentless systemic marginalization of Black people, our society cannot pretend that closure can be fully achieved.

In the face of such profound damage, absolution may neither be given – nor received.

Perhaps closure is not about forgiveness.

It’s about transforming our relationships going forward.

It’s about welcoming those connections we can have, where trust is the fragile bridge we all must cross, where the paths that open are maintained with humility and courage.

It’s about allowing our knee-jerk attitudes to be laid bare, and taking our lumps, and moving ahead wiser and more loving for the effort.

As with so many critical human endeavors, women can and should lead.  The bond we share derives from withstanding the millennia-old subtle, overt, violent, disorienting, undermining, objectifying ways of men. The cultural encoding exempts no one.

Women are uniquely capable of achieving the scale and depth of such a cultural change. But only if we gather ourselves together. Only if we agree that no more time will pass without validating our lived and spoken truths in the endeavors we jointly create.

We can sit back and wait for the haters to die off, or we can seize the opportunities conferred by joining and elevating a sisterhood. Therein lies our power. It’s high time to gear up.

Howl We Do It Revisited

The Howl We Do It / Full Moon Sisters Movement has not caught on (yet), probably a tad too visceral in 2012. But here I am, ten years later, revisiting the idea because it’s in-your-face enough to gain traction.

Excerpts from the first blog post in 2012:

A young mother in Congo, the “rape capital of the world,” offers a detailed account of a horrendous gang rape in front of her husband, who is then murdered. The trauma ends her early-term pregnancy. Her legs are shot so many times that one must be amputated.

This woman, made a penniless beggar by the horrific assault, painfully tells her story with no likelihood of receiving emotional support. A note at the end of the article states that her “identity has been concealed for security reasons and because rape carries strong social stigma in the region.”1 As if there is a place in world where rape does not carry a stigma.

And, from around the world, statistics that vary widely from source to source:

  • A woman born in South Africa stands a greater chance of being raped than of learning how to read.
  • A UK study concluded that between 75 and 95 percent of rape crimes are never reported to the police.
  • In the US, victims 12-years and older survived a total of 125,910 rapes or sexual assaults. (2009 statistics). At least 50% of victims never report to police.

My question: Why haven’t women taken to the streets, raging en masse to end the trauma meted out to them and their sisters around the world?  How could we possibly be cowed into silence?

It makes me wanna howl. I tried it one night. Alone on the rooftop, I ended up whimpering quietly like a wounded pup. To be honest, it scared me to summon that primal noise.  But, when I got with a few other women, at night, at the beach, we could let go. Out there, maybe nobody heard us but we could hear ourselves growling, yipping, barking and howling our pain, our protest. It felt like releasing a grievance that, unspoken, would eventually main my soul.

Think of The Howl as pro-woman activism, as public theater, a compelling aural reminder that women will not suffer quietly the violence inflicted on them. 

The full moon, the symbol of women’s rhythms, is the perfect occasion for The Howl.

Imagine the reaction of urban (or suburban or rural) neighbors to a few minutes of women howling every time the full moon rises. Then, The Howl ripples through time zones around the world.

The first couple times, folks are wondering WTF and perhaps feeling a little nervous. We state our message clearly through public media and blogs and social media and even on street corners: The Full Moon Sisters – a global movement – howls every full moon around the planet until the violence and rape and laws controlling our bodies stop. 

Today – Ten years later:

Howling sounds threatening if you mean it to.  And that’s good, considering the egregious violations imposed on women. Howling rises from the locked room in women’s hearts, the place where we are worthless. Howling asserts we are more valuable than all the shit we endure.

It’s not over when we lose, it’s over when we quit. New tactics required.

Are we ready yet?  Howl We Do It!