Need: End Violence Against Women of Color NOW!

In 1979 in the (still) segregated black neighborhoods of Boston, 12 black women were killed over a period of 4 months. The police and the mainstream media ignored these killings, claiming that the victims were most likely prostitutes and therefore deserved what they got. The members of a black lesbian feminist socialist organization called the Combahee River Collective responded to this blatant disregard for the lives of black women and sex workers by organizing publications, marches, vigils, self-defense classes, public art and a citywide coalition to respond to violence against all women.

Barbara Smith, one of the members of the Combahee River Collective and a comrade of Audre Lorde who would eventually found Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, sent Lorde letters and clippings about the murders and the struggle of black feminists in the Boston area to respond. At the same time black women were showing up dead in black communities in New York City (where Lorde lived) and in Detroit and other cities. In response to the widespread violence against black women within black communities Audre Lorde wrote a Need: A Chorale for Black Women’s Voices. Years later Lorde’s piece continues to be performed by collectives of black women and transgendered people seeking creative ways to respond to gendered violence. Lorde’s poetic tactics continue to help oppressed communities to move from silence to action and power in the face of internalized racism and violence.

To read Need along with an updated introduction Audre Lorde wrote explaining her intentions for the piece click need.

At Bennett, the Africana Women’s Studies students were inspired by Need to take on contemporary instances of violence against not only black women but also women of color all over the world. In the spirit of the roomful of African American and Afro-Caribbean women who created a vision to raise the voices of all women of color through Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in 1981, the students in my class at Bennett felt charged to respond to violence against all women of color with their brave poetic work. I am proud of these students for becoming warriors for their own healing and freedom. They challenge betrayal within communities and across communities. They demand individual and collective victory.

Please be sure to have friends, family, quiet time and space on call while you read the brave and sometimes graphic work of the students. They remain true to Audre Lorde’s insistence that our silence will not save us.

Sara’s Need
(Poet)
This one here
They walk over her body
Not looking down
As if she isn’t even human
If they don’t look she won’t be
And they won’t be responsible
That one there
She hides from arms
Arms that cradled her when she was young
Put band aids on her hurt knees
Arms with hands that found her in the dark
Alone and unarmed
Now she hides
In silence’s room
(Elise)
He use to love my lips
Said they held sunshine
Use to love my arms too
Said they held comfort
My tongue use to speak
Words of undying love
My eyes use to hold love
Now he despises them all
Said my lips smiled
At too many men
So he cut then off
Swore up and down
My eyes wandered
So he cut them out
Hated the way I talked to people
So next came my tongue
And lastly my arms
Said they might comfort someone else
I yelled for help
Yet help was out of town that day
Visiting someone else
All that came was rain
That washed away my tears of betrayal
Washed my blood
Down, down
To where the rats lay
For only they knew its value
(Grace)
When my bike was broken
I came to you
My dog ran away
You helped me find him
When I needed comfort
You were there for me
You held me, comforted me
You raped me
Man who was like father to me
Center of my world
Said my 16 year old hips
Was calling your name
Were made for your hands
And so you soiled them
What once was pure and sweet
Became the bitterness of vinegar
For its loss I cried
(Poet)
And no one cared for them
All turned their backs
Said it happened everyday
As if it made it better
As if it would make the pain go away
(All)
As if it didn’t matter
(Elise)
They defaced me
So I was no longer their sister
Their wife, their mother
I became IT
And IT never matters
(Grace)
They blamed me
Said I would be careful next time
Didn’t believe Uncle ______
Would do something like that
He loved me too much
He cared for me
He raped me
And so I sat in silence’s room
Afraid of the looks of distrust
Of his gloating eyes
Of the turned backs
For they use to love me too
They too held me in their arms
They too put band aids on my knees
But as soon as I spoke
(Poet)
But as soon as you spoke
(All)
I stopped being human
And so I didn’t matter
Cuz IT never matters
IT is never on the news
IT is never spoke about
Never gets a moment of silence
Never gets a candle lit
Only deaf ears, turned backs,
IT only gets uncaring hearts
(Elise)
And so no one spoke up for me
They just shook their heads
Said I must have been a hoe
Only reason they could come up with
Only reason a man would treat
An IT so badly
The crime became my fault
My fault my lips were gone
My eyes, arms, and tongue too
(Poet)
As so there she laid
Unable to speak for her self
Looked upon as a hoe
As an IT
By uncaring eyes, unkind hearts
Dead and still bleeding on ______Street
(Grace)
And that’s when I saw her
That’s when I came out of silence’s room
For in that pool of blood
Was me, my mother, my sister
In that pool was a human
And I stepped out of
Silence’s room
Unable to allow myself the comfort
Of my own fear
Of my own inactiveness
And I was free
And I could breathe
And they shunned me.
(Poet)
For against all odds
She spoke
For her sister, mother
Her aunt, and cousin
For every woman who couldn’t
That IT laying on _____Street
Was a woman
Every woman
(Elise)
And so she spoke for me
(Grace)
And so I spoke for us
(All)
And so she spoke
For all women
And took a leap
Out silence’s room.
*************************************
Event: Woman in Maryland lost her three children after her estranged husband took them to a hotel and confessed to killing them in efforts to get revenge on his wife for not wanting to be with him anymore. (March 2008)
Revenge
by Monica Naesea
What an ugly word that plagues our life
A word that can go as far as to take the most important thing from a wife.
Her babies my God what a price to pay
What revenge then is equal to this in any way?
Can we determine what revenge is indeed just
Or are we all victims of a practice that does what it must?
Where does she go now or do next
Can she go on without proper revenge perhaps a hex
A hex on the man that caused it all
Caused the future of her children to completely fall.
Or should she just wait and see the results
Like a hour glass watching it lose its salt.
I cannot answer this for her in a hundred years
But I can empathize and offer her my most sincere tears.
Tears of sadness for what is to come
I just hope God allows her revenge to be a just and fair one.
*********************

The Dunbar Village Dehumanizations

I hope this poem will be used in my communities to show the pain and suffering that is transmitted when we hear about what happens to our sisters. I hope that this will never happen again, and people will realize that it is a big deal. That something has to be done about the violence against women. That a woman is a big deal, a woman is a person, if we can’t take care of her how can we take care of ourselves? These atrocities makes us tired of living, but scared of dying.

Info. -10 African-American males raped, sodomized, beat up and blinded a mother and her young son. They did this for three hours..while neighbors turned a deaf ear. They forced the mother to perform oral sex on her son, and poured cleaning solution into his young eyes..blinding him for life. Yet because three of these vicious men don’t get bail…the black leaders are calling them “victims”. Yet again race takes the center stage.

Poet

Brothers, I see your hatred

Woman

I felt your anger

Poet

Brothers, I see your hatred

Woman

Why….why..Oh GOD ..why?

Poet

Sisters, I see your pain

Your confusion, your anger

When 10 brothers walked in

Community

Walked in or invited

it’s not any of my business

Woman

GOD, why..why…why?

three hours..three hours

they beat my boy

noone came ..noone helped us

Poet

Brothers, I see your anger

Sisters, I feel your pain

why do we downplay

what our brothers do

is it because our sisters are inferior

is it because we must be strong together?

when our sister’s thighs were pried open

when her son’s eyes were peeled back

Community

it’s not any of my business

Woman

Noone came..noone helped us

Poet

when they rode her back and front

when they emptied the cleaning solution

into her son’s eyes

blinding him forever

three hours…three hours

Community

soo..a woman was raped..so what?

Woman

these brothers they call them

voiceless, vulnerable victims

because they get no bail

Poet

Brothers, I see your anger

Sisters, I feel your pain

Community

It ain’t none of my business

Woman

three hours I was helpless

they took me…

they took me..

they took me.

Poet

when they thrust her head

down to her little boys groin

down to his bloody battered form

they stared as she sucked

Community

We had things to do

She’ll be okay

she’s one of a million

Woman

voiceless, vulnerable victims

What am i

what am i?

Poet

Sisters, I don’t see your anger

Brothers, I don’t feel your pain

Anonymous-

This woman is Black

So her screams and words go unheard

This woman is Black

So her tears continue to flow

Like a never ending water fall

To never be wiped away but just dried upon her face

(Banita)

Something just kept telling me that they were all possessed

Demons, I tell you all four

There is no one to tell me to stop

Especially there fathers

I am their father

I watched as their starving faces just vanished before my eyes

Now they are all dead

(Unknown )

I lie in a bath tub curl into a ball

Scared with me and my son lying in water

Trying to recoup from everything that I let happen to my son

Not knowing if they will come back

They wanted to set us on fire

But they didn’t have the tools to

So will they come back?

(Robyn)

When will it be the time to care?

Black women are subjected to violence a lot.

But why is the media not covering them?

Are we not worthy of that respect?

We are the victims of rape, violence, etc.

If it was a white woman then they would have 24 hour coverage…

(All)

We accept that we are black women.

But we don’t accept how we are treated.

We continue to stay silenced.

We do so much to get attention

But we never receive it.

The men in our lives don’t even care

Or are not even there.

So who will care.

(Unknown)

How can I speak out against the violence

Against women if I’m too afraid to step outside.

How can I open my eyes knowing that my son can’t?

Why didn’t I fight back?

Only if I didn’t open the door

This would have never happened to the booth of us.

(All)

How will we speak out if we are too afraid to?

(Banita)

I was left to take care of 4 growing girls by myself!

One father is dead and the other might as well be dead

He does not even pay child support.

Maybe I just made a excuse to call them demons

Because in the end I am a single black female

Who cannot live with government money with 4 children.

They were going to die anyway

Because I could provide for them with what they need.

(Banita & Unknown)

We are women who are hurt by black men?

They leave us, hurt us, and disrespect our lives

We don’t matter to them

So why were we created.

Response to Need

by Taryn-Nichelle J. Dove

Yosuni: I looked, only me for a while, I wanted the MAN, your MAN, to have a MAN, but I am a girl, and I thought he’s probably got an American girl with blond hair and blue eyes, and hips and legs for days, and gorgeous, and beautiful, and not Japanese. Not like me with a girl’s body, oh how I want to be a woman, for HIM, for me, for just a moment, so he can look at me, and kiss me, and make love to me, whatever that feels like, just to be loved and wanted and desired and chased and loved and loved

Woman: Don’t look, don’t wonder, and don’t think about HIM, why do you capitalize ‘him’? Why do you give ‘him’ power? Why do you want to be a woman for ‘him’? Why would you change yourself for ‘him’? You don’t even know ‘him’ Don’t be loved, don’t be wanted, don’t be desired, don’t be chased, don’t make him go insane over you and don’t make him go insane over you and don’t…

Yosuni: I looked at him again today, stared more like it, just walked and stared and stared and walked some more trying to pretend that I was busy looking for something, or lost something, but still he didn’t look up or down or to the left or right, just into space, I’m so unnoticeable, but if I was older and prettier maybe he’d look up, what could make him look up?, that’s what I’ll try to figure out tomorrow and tomorrow.

Woman: look, leave, go home to mama and daddy, leave and be a young girl, leave and spend your time playing, the last years of your life, and leave and leave and…

Yosuni: Today I did the same thing as yesterday and the day before that and the day before that, and he looked up, and said that I most have lost something important because I’ve been in the same place at the same time for two days now, and I laughed and he said I had a pretty smile, and he wished all the girls in America had a smile as pretty as mine, he’s charming, I know he’s not being serious, me fourteen have a prettier smile than all the American girls?, I know he wasn’t being serious, but I liked it anyway, still anyway

Woman: NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO you don’t listen, listen to me, hear me, hear me, hear me, please leave, run, and never look back, never go where he is, never speak to him, and never look at him, and never think about him, and…

Yosuni: We went on a tour today, or I showed him around Okinawa, the fishermen and their boats, we didn’t go into town, too far, and I told him the country is better because you can breathe, and he laughed, he laughs at all my jokes, he says I am the funniest little girl he’s ever met, and I said I got mad because I’m not a little girl and he kept making fun of me saying I had no breasts like a woman and hips and probably had never even kissed a boy, and that wasn’t true, I have breasts, small but they are mine, and mama says they will grow bigger when I am older, and he said how much older, still making fun of me and still making fun of me

Woman: that sick bastard, that pervert, that monster, that man, that man that man, no he’s not a man, what man takes what isn’t his? What was pure, what was hers, was hers and never again, and never again, never again whole, never again complete, never again pure, and…

Yosuni: Today I took him to the sea, where the water and sun meet, like kissing, they touch, and go on forever and he started making fun of me again for saying kissing, what do you know about kissing, and I said some stuff, because I kissed a boy in my class on a dare, but he said have you ever kissed someone older than you, and I said all the boys older than me have girlfriends and they don’t think I’m pretty because I am so skinny, but he said you would fit right in because all the girls in America are skinny, and I like skinny, then he touched my legs and, then my thigh, and then tried to take my panties off, and down and off and down and off and BLOOD and hunger and BLOOD and hunger and

Woman: I am lost, she is lost, we are lost, and pretending to look for something that was stolen and lost, stolen and lost and stolen and stolen and stolen and I want it back and she wants it back and we can’t have it back, like where the water and sun meet and kiss and go on forever, and forever, and forever, and it just starts with a stare then a kiss and a stare and a kiss

While looking online, specifically CNN.com, there was a story whose headline read “U.S. Marine charged with rape.” The marine was charged with raping a 14-year-old in Tokyo (Okinawa), Japan earlier this year. This reminded me of the many incidents between Americans and residents of foreign countries. Immediately I was affected by this story. I know how it feels letting your guard down only to be betrayed anyway. I hope this incident will alert communities in protecting their young women from predators, especially in foreign countries. For women of color, our chastity is rarely ever protected leaving us vulnerable to society. It is because of this that many young girls are being raped, molested, and sexually abused today. All women should be concerned with the wellbeing of every other women, regardless of culture, ethnicity, speech or any other factor that may divide us.

Published on June 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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