Mother Emanuel, Tree of Life and False Equivalents

In the wake of the hate speech these days which I believe leads to the kind of attacks we see from “Mother Emanuel” to “Tree of Life,” it is typical for those on the Right to make false equivalence. Specifically since the bombs were mailed and subsequently intercepted by authorities to the so called enemies of 45, Minister Farrakhan’s name has been linked as adding to the rhetoric that causes such heinous actions as seen over the last week.

Here’s the truth of the matter. I’ve watched Minister Farrakhan since I was a child. I’ve seen him speak in person during a panel discussion in Atlanta. At times, he’s been a brilliant orator. He’s spoken some harsh truths regarding America and it’s history of racism, murder, lawlessness and hypocrisy. This is an undisputed truth. Equally, I’ve also thought of him as a carnival barker. In public circles he’s mild, mannerable, measured and you’d be hard pressed to find someone with more of a majestic presence. In his wheelhouse as leader of the Nation of Islam, he can be arrogant, spiteful, and totally full of himself. This is in part because of the way the organization is top downed. Go to a service where he speaks, and it’s as if he’s a messiah. You can hardly hear the message because of all the hype men shouting him down egging him on, laughing at every joke as if Richard Pryor came back to life. Like most independent preachers, he doesn’t have checks and balances in his life. He has sycophants and loyalist- many who are willing to kill or die for the man… regardless of what he says or does.

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If you ask me, most intelligent black folk get this. Farrakhan is a complicated figure that way. He is an anti-Semite. If you listen closely, he ain’t crazy about Christians either. Still, if you black, you can’t honestly dismiss the good The Nation has done over the decades for black men and families. You also cannot dismiss the connection Farrakhan has had with other leaders in the Middle East. One can’t hate on his relationship with Muammar Gaddafi for instance, but name me a Middle East terrorist/dictator and I’ll show you an American ally at one time or another. But neither can you ignore the fact that Elijah Muhammad was a child molester. Of all my spiritual journeys there is a reason I never once thought about joining The Nation.

All of that brings me to this point. When it comes to hate crimes in and around the nation, ain’t nobody checking for Louis Farrakhan! Nobody is out here doing his bidding by shooting up schools, synagogues or other public places where innocent people are killed. If you ask Jim Jones, he may tell you that the Minister will scoop you up off the street for a little conversation about something you said about him. Hell he may do the same to me. But the last murder I’m aware of that he endorsed if not assisted in was that of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965. Perhaps there has been more, but none I am aware of.

So while the Right tries to Jedi mind trick the public by throwing his name out there with black elected officials who may have met with him, spoke to him or whatever, know that in terms of cause and effect in the real world, it’s all bullshit! Now when a member of the Nation of Islam shoots up a church, synagogue, school, movie theater, concert, or mail pipe bombs to Republicans then get back at me. Otherwise, GTFOH with that bullsh#! and get your fukn’ houses in order – and stay out of others!

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Dear Dr. Ford

I know you can’t read this. But I am writing to put this into the electronic atmosphere so that hopefully these sentiments can reach you where you need it most.

I don’t envy you today. I haven’t envied you since your name was leaked. For the last couple weeks your name has been scandalized and your words diminished. Not by the neighborhood, your school, your church or the office. But by powerful white men who make laws and craft legislation; whose ultimate goal is power, who see their potential Supreme Court nominee as a ticket to take back to their constituents so that they can say, “See! I gave you what you want. Elect me again!” Never mind that they claim to be the party of morality. They proved that to be false decades ago. But I digress.

I said I don’t envy you. But make no mistake; I admire you! Since day 1 you have done more than was asked. Once your name was revealed you stood by your truth. You took a polygraph and passed. He didn’t. All while these same men, conservative Christian men continued to sully your name, dismissing you with statements like, “In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.” Then he had the nerve, the audacity to back it up with this choice of words, “So, my friends, keep the faith. Don’t get rattled by all of this. We’re going to plow right through it…” 

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“Keep the faith? Plow right through it?  Just like the judge the Senate Majority leader wants to hire, he sees you, Dr. Ford, as something to plow through. I can only imagine the frustration, the anger, the anguish. And yet here you are today ready to stand before a murderers row of elite oligarchs. This after they tried to force you into an ultimatum of appearing on Monday. This after refusing an FBI investigation that you requested. An investigation that is known to take only 3 days. This after refusing to subpoena the friend of the judge who was in the room. They all but have him in the witness protection program. Last but not least; your accusers don’t want to accuse you to your face themselves. They want to get another female to do it for them so that they can claim clean hands. Knowing all of this and yet here you are! Ready to stand in front of the entire world on a truth that you will have to live with forever.

I don’t know what will become of the judge after today Dr. Ford. Since you’ve come forward there are at least 4 other women who have as well. They won’t get the opportunity you will today. Even the highest office holder in the land have attempted to ‘slut shame’ one of them.  (I hate that phrase by the way but he literally is calling her a slut.) You Dr. Ford are courageous! Your actions today are ‘sheroic’ and to be praised. As many detractors as you have, there are many more who have your back. We are cheering you on, gritting our teeth as if we are in that lion’s cage with you. We will hang on your every word, every expression, every breath sending loving vibes of strength and encouragement. And at the end of the day, know that you would have shown some woman out there that it’s OK to stand up for yourself publicly- if she so chooses to do so.

Now go forth you bearer of girl power! Show them what you are made of! Be strong, be steady, be yourself!

With Love,

Those Who Love Equality and Justice

 

 

Mrs. Francis, Mental Health & Me (A Tribute)

Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

I remember the first time I went to see Mrs. Francis J. Thomas (Miss Francis) for therapy. I had done some group therapy regarding my personal lifelong battle with depression. It was time for some one on one sessions. It was scary looking for a stranger to trust with my deepest and darkest secrets. I looked online for someplace close and affordable. I called a Christian based counseling service because their fees were based on income. After leaving a message on the company line I got a call from Miss Francis. Since there was a group of counselors under this umbrella, I imagined a scene from, “The Wire,” where Miss Francis was sitting around along with other counselors waiting for her turn to be up in the rotation. If it wasn’t her turn, perhaps she picked up the voicemail and decided to give a f#@! when it wasn’t her turn to. Regardless, she called back and we set up an appointment.

Laying eyes on her I said to myself, “Aww such a sweet looking lady.  Her radiant spirit gleamed through her chocolate cheeks. Her smile was extremely welcoming. I felt safe in her presence. She asked me why I had come in. I paused, sighed, thought for about 30 seconds, and began to tell her my story as best as I could. This went on for about 20 minutes. The remaining 40 minutes featured her talking. She wasn’t giving me any advice or counsel. She was completing my story for me, expressing things that I could only imagine saying but didn’t have the words to articulate. I was amazed. I knew this was going to work!

There are several different themes I remember about our sessions. Like the time she challenged me in a way that I didn’t think was right. I yelled at her at the top of my voice because I felt that she was being so unfair. If I recall there were a few profanities as well. I was very angry. After a moment, I was sure she would toss me clean out of her office. But she totally surprised me. “Christopher! YES! Finally a breakthrough!”  

There were other times after leaving a session when I  said to myself, ‘Wow, that was an interesting thought provoking.’ Then in the next moment I thought, ‘Hey wayment! Did she just rip me a new one but was so smooth about it I had no idea I was getting my ass whipped? Yea she did that! She ain’t slick! Damn, I guess she is. She got me!’

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There is so much more I could say. Sometimes I didn’t have the money for the co-pay.  She took me anyway. She told me at one point that she was considering retirement because she had some health challenges. She would continue to see her ‘special’ patients of which I was one. Miss Francis and I grew incredibly close through the years we had together. So much so that she shared some of her own personal challenges with me. She told me she was a bit ill and wanted her son and I to meet one another. She gave me his number and said she would tell him she did so.

My favorite and most memorable phrases of her’s were:

“Christopher, you have to learn radical acceptance.”

“Ooooh, that’ a hallelujah moment! Pat yourself on the back.” (Then she would pat herself on the back to show me how.)

She was a Christian counselor, but don’t get it twisted. We had some hard core raw conversations. She said some surprising things that blew my mind a few times.

One day I really needed Miss Francis. I called her cell phone on a Saturday with my ’emergency.’ She answered the phone and said, “I’m here for you. Just call me back in 20 minutes so I can get myself together.” She didn’t sound like herself. I asked her if she was sure it was really an OK time. She assured me it was. I did. She listened and counseled like she always did.

To my surprise and dismay, Miss Francis died two days later. She had Stage 4 Cancer and never told me. I was one of her very last patients, on one of her very last days on the earth, off the clock. In spite of her great pain and suffering she gave all she had to be there for her patient and friend. There is no greater gift one can give than this.

At her celebration of life service I found out that Miss Francis was a counselor of counselors. She was their teacher. It was a pleasure to speak at Miss Francis’ service and share with her family and colleagues how she touched my life and made me feel so special. She helped me gain my self worth, love and respect.

I share all this to encourage anyone who may need an ear and a voice to reach out for help. It’s a good thing and can definitely be a game changer. Take care of your mental health!

 

SEXplorations: Unwrapping #MeToo, Patriarchy, Sex, Power & Responsibility – Part 2 (A Series)

The Art of War (On Women

I’ll make this plain. It’s a fact that of all the women I know, more have experienced sexual assault of some sort than have not. Let me say this again: It’s a fact that of all the women I know, more have experienced sexual assault of some sort than have not. I’m 51 by the way.

Now just consider that a minute. I would venture to say that anyone reading this would say the same if they bothered to ask. I’ve had conversations with elders, friends, and close family members. I’ve sat in an intervention when one family member confronted another family member regarding an episode of abuse when she was a child. The look on her face, the pain in her voice, the tears in her eyes and the cries of her soul rang out. She was in her 40’s agonizing about something that happened before she was a teen.

According to RAINN every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. Further:

  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).4
  • About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.4
  • From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.5
  • A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims under the age of 18: 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17.

With this knowledge I’ve been disheartened with Black folk caping up for Bill Cosby. I’ve heard his defenders throughout his drug/rape accusations, trial and subsequent conviction. Even after admitting in open court that he gave women qualludes, drugs he would not take himself because they would make him sleepy. (Think of the irony in that statement.) Social media was on fire with Cosby defenders – all of whom happened to be Black.

Reasons Why Cosby Ain’t Guilty:

  • The women are hoes! They knew what they were doing!
  • The women waited too long. What about the statue of limitations? (This is the only time I have ever heard people reference a statue of limitations for any crime)
  • What about Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein and Trump? (Matt was fired for sexual harassment, not rape. There is a difference in coming on to someone on the job and actually drugging and raping them. But I digress) Harvey Weinstein is currently under investigation both in the United States and London for rape. As far as I know the self-proclaimed ‘pussy grabber’ has not drugged and raped anyone. But what does that have to do with Mr. Cosby’s actions or his victims?
  • I’m not for anyone getting raped. But what about the ‘REAL’ victims? (HUH?)
  • He tried to buy NBC. This is revenge! (This is the most ridiculous reasoning ever!)
  • These are white women, so who cares? (All of them are NOT white… but that’s piss poor to say the least.)

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On social media these comments have scorched across African-American Twitter and Facebook feeds. Figuring this to be a fandom issue, I tried to reason and add some balance. Mr. Cosby isn’t the first talented, accomplished or philanthropic person to have a sordid personal life. No one is asking you to curse The Cosby Show, Fat Albert, Little Bill, (One of my favorites) Uptown Saturday Night, or any of his other projects. A more recent example in the Black community is R. Kelly. He knows how to make hit record. And he likes to have sex with young girls.

Mr. Cosby’s contributions in the entertainment industry doesn’t make him a saint! I mean, he is the same Mr. Cosby that turned Black America out by telling her that she shouldn’t name her children, “Shaniqua, Muhammad and all of that crap…all of them are in jail.” He also inferred a Black boy stealing a pound cake should be shot. The irony is that it seems that if there were more Shaniqua’s and Muhammads on the jury, the Cos may have been acquitted despite the evidence.

As for these discussions, Mr. Cosby’s defenders didn’t budge. And it got me to thinking as to the real reasons why. Is it because of race? I’m sure it is to a degree. But I followed up by asking an additional question. “Would you discredit your own mother if she among the 60 accusers?” None have yet to give me an answer.

At the end of the day, the most disturbing yet realistic answer is that they just don’t care about sexual assault or rape. How many stories have you heard or read about Black girls telling their mother’s that an uncle, a step father, a mother’s boyfriend or the local preacher have touched their child or worse only to have the mother call their own child a liar? I don’t have an explanation for why this is such a common story. Is it some sort of legacy from slavery where enslavers ravaged the bodies of our women and we became use to it?

I don’t know. But for the sake of our evolution going forward, this needs to be reckoned with. And we need to be able to think more completely. I’m open to listening.

Caping Up for Corruption: How Harvey Exposed Joel and His Osteens

Social media is a funny thing. It’s like the weather. It can be massive, beautiful, serene, rough, deceitful, unpredictable and most of all persistently undefeated. If you live long enough surely you will witness or experience all of it’s glory and terror.

Such is the case as Hurricane Harvey laboriously rained down on Southeast Texas causing gargantuan flooding previously unseen in the history of American soil. As the death toll increases and the displaced are multiplied by tens of thousands, copious amounts of citizens in the affected areas have transformed themselves into super heroes. Untrained in the skills of rescue they have pulled people from the dredge of the water’s unmerciful all-consuming invasion. People have been snatched out of vehicles, homes, rooftops, taking nothing but the clothes on their backs. A furniture store owner converted his warehouse into a shelter. He reassigned mattresses slated to be sold for profit into beds to comfort the displaced and afflicted. A multitude of citizens from around the country have converged to the flooded areas, donated monies and or supplies providing for basic human needs. As calamitous as Harvey’s wrath has been, like other grievous events in American and human history, ordinary citizens have shown extraordinary amounts of resolution to help mostly total strangers simply out of conscious.

And then there was Joel Osteen and his Lakewood Church. As the floods increased and dry spaces decreased, Lakewood’s building (formerly the Compaq Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets) was reticent to open it’s doors to the displaced. Twitter got ahold of that story and tore into the mega church pastor shaming him before the world. Subsequently, Lakewood’s PR team reacted quickly in claiming on its own social media spaces that the church was flooded. They even went as far as posting photos of a flooded building to news stations to illustrate they’re inability to open its doors. Where the PR team failed is in not recognizing the aforementioned point. The internet is undefeated. I could have told them that lie would be quickly dispelled. It took only hours to confirm that the building was not flooded on the days in question and the church had to backtrack. Lakewood was pressured into opening its doors. Mr. Osteen made the rounds on network and cable news programs claiming that the church was open and willing to serve their suffering neighbors all along.

The intent of this article is not to criticize Mr. Osteen. I’ve already done that within my social media spaces. I’ve expressed that it’s all fun and games when you get to play ministry and collect the spoils thereof. But when it comes to receiving dirty smelly and desperate strangers into your well maintained and polished made for TV acropolis, that’s a reality of alternative dimensions. Regardless of how I feel about his initial decision, its his building to do with it as he pleases.

Or is it?

What struck me as much as the contempt I feel about Osteen’s initial inaction, was the comments I read from his Christian followers to the righteous criticisms he received. Their response was not to encourage their beloved minister to action. Instead, they yielding a shield to protect Osteen from his Twitter beating and made excuses for why America’s pastor didn’t step up. First it was the flood that was initially claimed by the ministry spokespeople. After that was debunked it was how Lakewood was not staffed to handle such a magnitude of people. “Remember the Superdome,” one exclaimed, referencing the debacle during Hurricane Katrina. I even read where Christians challenged the Muslim community by asking, “How many mosques were opened to house the displaced and why aren’t they being taken to the woodshed?” That statement received many affirmative responses. “Good question,” many chimed in. One person even Google searched how many Mosques are in the Houston metropolitan area.

I couldn’t resist the urge to respond. *Paraphrasing: “Yes that is a great question. Now follow that up with how many mosque can seat 16,800 like Lakewood can? Hell how many can seat 1000? You act as if people are picking on poor ole Joel. But there are substantially more churches in any major American metropolitan city than there are mosques. Yet they don’t have the capacity to house as many as Lakewood even if they have managed to avoid being flooded. Therefore they are not being criticized. The issue is not Joel it’s the space he has access to and previously denied to the incredibly needy. What I find troubling is that instead of standing up for your fellow American citizens who are struggling in harm’s way, most who have lost all of their worldly possessions, with no place to go after the waters recede, souls who Jesus cares about according to your faith, you would rather defend a man who initially lied about providing a temporary safe space to them, than to encourage if not demand he live up to the true calling of the ministry. Why is that?” 

So far, crickets.

But this is a consistent theme in religious circles. Parishioners and people of faith are often so protective of their leaders that they often allow them to get away with heinous acts. They refuse to hold them accountable thereby making them untouchable. Accountability is a two way street. But often the faithful fork over the integrity they are charged to have as they occupy the pews on Sunday morning. When those outside their faith in turn point out malfeasance, instead of reflection they offer deflection.  This is how an Eddie Long could maintain a ministry despite his predatory sexual relations with young men he was supposed to be mentoring.  It’s how a Creflo Dollar can ask his church members (most of whom are of lower to middle class) to pay for a private jet. It’s how a Mark Burns, Steve Parson and Harry Jackson, just to name a few, can sell their ministerial souls to capitalism and Donald Trump, no matter what #45 he says or does, and maintain a thriving African-American membership. They exchange the charge of being fully functioning parishioners to become cult-like sycophants. This isn’t just a national issue. It’s a local one as well.

I argue that if you love Joel and respect his ministry, challenge him when he’s wrong and help him to be a better minister. This could have been a lesson for him. But Christians dropped the ball in their defense of him and allowed Twitter to become the taskmaster instead. Many won’t even admit that he lied about the flooding. How crazy is that? The church missed an opportunity towards spiritual growth. The “World” did their job for them. Mr. Osteen doesn’t get better as a minister or a leader because he can hide under the blanket of being bullied by the world.

A great friend of mine often says, “You get the leadership you deserve!” This isn’t just for ministry. It’s for politics as well. Far too many of us stand by and offer nothing of substance to shape a leadership that will work in our interest, and then complain about the results.

It’s OK to hold leaders up and esteem them; including those in ministry. However, we must be careful to kill our sacred cows. If not, we become willing sheep ready for the slaughter.

Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say

I borrowed that phrase from a song on Ice-T’s 1989 LP.  It’s a short way of saying that while speech is free the consequences are not so much. We learn this at an early age. If your parents or a teacher says or does something you don’t like, even as a child no one can bridle your tongue but you. You can read your mom, dad, or Mrs. Jenkins their rights from Genesis to Revelations if you want to. I can tell you if I did that as a youngen’ I would have paid a rather painful price. Tell you something else too, the constitution wouldn’t have saved my black ass either.

And so it is in life we learn the balances and nuances of free speech. Daily we decide what we find worth saying and what is not. This doesn’t just apply for situations regarding authority. It applies to everyday life between friends, colleagues, and lovers. Wisdom teaches us that all things that can be said shouldn’t be said. Then there are times when conscious forces to say what is unpopular to the masses. Take Colin Kaepernick’s for instance. His free speech protected under the constitution does not protect him from being blackballed from the NFL.

This leads me to the controversy surrounding Missouri State Senator, Maria Chappelle Nadal.  Recently she decided to express her desire that President Trump be assassinated. Predictably she has come under fire and find herself in the cross hairs of the governor. He wants her senate seat.

I no longer reside in Missouri so I am not privy to the daily heartbeat of the area. From reading articles it seems that she is taking quite the political beating. I have gotten some feedback on social media. My African-Americans friends who have commented are unanimous in believing that she should resign. I totally understand where they are coming from. Further I resonate with WHY they believe it.

What Senator Chappelle-Nadal did was irresponsible, dangerous and childish. Someone in her position surely should know better than to post something like that on any form of social media. However, I am not sure whether I believe she should resign or be ousted. There used to be a time when common sense told us what was a fireable offence and what was perhaps cause for censure. I could go for the low hanging fruit of what was said and done to our 44th president. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson who screamed at President Obama calling him a liar during a joint session with congress. Jan Brewer put a threatening finger in the face of President Obama. There was a T-Mobile manager who did the same to me a few weeks ago. I almost gave him a 2 piece. The police was called. Montana candidate Greg Gianforte actually assaulted a reporter shortly before he was elected to congress.

But even if we were do discount these examples, we need go no higher than the person of interest himself, president #45. He started his campaign of slander years ago questioning the citizenship and therefore legitimacy of president #44. During his official campaign he told a crowd, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

There are so many examples of malfeasance since his inauguration in January I don’t need to list them all. They have been well documented. His latest exploits have been to defend and encourage white supremacist’s to continue their barbaric behavior. American citizens have been assaulted, beaten, injured and killed. #45 has been the ringleader. Even David Duke acknowledged that he takes his ques from #45. It can be strongly argued that the blood that has been shed falls on #45’s hands.

And let’s not forget his is currently being investigated for illegal dealings with the Russian government. By all accounts there appears to be overwhelming evidence that he is an enemy of the state; a traitor to the country he is supposed to lead.

That leaves me in a quandary. Two things #45 have in common with Wilson, Brewer and Gianforte.

  1. They are Republican, while Chappelle-Nadal is a Democrat
  2. They have not been asked to leave their respective offices.

The second part is what’s most relevant here. Best believe members of the GOP are NOT giving up they’re seats of government. They are determined to keep each and every advantage through local, state, and federal politics.  Yet I am supposed to believe that Chappelle-Nadal should resign from her seat because of what she ‘hopes?’ I’m supposed to accept that it’s a righteous act to remove her from the committees she serves on? I’m not saying I know the answer quite honestly. What I am saying is that there needs to be a clearer moral compass to judge these things on. That’s unrealistic. Therefore, perhaps Democrats should stick together and be just as determined not to lose any of their seats as their GOP counterparts are. Sometimes in order to succeed, those who play the game must understand how that the game is being played, then play accordingly.

 

Are You Ready To Stop Running (Fellow Blogger Witchy Wisdom)

This is Part 2…

In last weeks exercise, we talked about being alone. I know that is a scary thing for most of us, but it is a necessary stage for growth. We spend most of our lives running from our fears, when really we need to stop and take account of where we are, so we can start running towards our dreams.

The Devil indicates smothering desires that help us run. And they work, for a bit. They say in program that it works until it doesn’t, and generally we know when that is, we’re just too afraid to stop. Taking accountability is not an easy task, especially when you’ve been running from it your whole life.

I don’t know about you, but running is exhausting. It feels great at first, because you’re getting an instant reward. But when you keep hammering the pavement and chasing the initial high that brought you so much joy from escape, and realize it never will be fulfilling, your little demons start to catch up to you. And then, running feels like life or death.

It takes a lot of Strength to stop and face those demons. To look at them in the face, accept them, and shake their hands so you can move forward. It’s not an easy task, but it is essential if you want to flourish. Otherwise you’re just trying to escape the inescapable: the truth.

The universe doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. But it takes courage to stand still. Shifting the motion from backpedaling in fear to propelling forward in desire is a thing of beauty. But there must be an instant of complete motionlessness in order to do that. Dig deep, find your bravery, stand still, and stay witchy ( *)

As a side note: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As I have shared in my blog, I am a survivor. I am hosting on my Instagram page (@witchywisdoms) an awareness challenge that asks anyone (survivor or not) to post a selfie with the hashtag #istandwithmysurvivors so that those who have been sexually assaulted will know they are believed and loved.

In addition, I have created an anonymous tumblr thread for survivors to ask me questions directly, post a thread of their own, share their story, and offer community. I will keep this thread open for as long as it is needed. I’ve also created a new tab up at the top of my page titled “Safe Space” where you can find the link. Be brave and be strong ( *)