I have discovered a key nutrient that has cultivated me as a human being, survivor and activist; community.
This January, I had the honour of being one of the speakers at the Women’s March in Vancouver. As I stood on the stage, I was mesmerized by the mere fact that I could not see the end of the crowd. I was looking out into a sea of people and signs of every shape and colour. Children perched on their parents’ shoulders stared at me intently. A young girl approached me after I spoke and said, “My mom thinks you are a very strong lady.” Perhaps it’s the survival of the kindest, not fittest, that will in the end, prevail.
Because the U.S. Election was emotionally draining for me, I found being involved in the Women’s March therapeutic, and it drove away feelings of isolation when women connected with me after I spoke, disclosing that they were survivors too. In fact, one woman as it turns out, is from my neighbourhood, so, in true millennial fashion, we went for Starbucks and chatted about trauma, art and what it means to be a survivor in a world that still blames us for the violence perpetrated against our bodies. You see, we are social beings, hardwired for human connection, and as I have come to learn over time, healing cannot be done in isolation, it takes community.
How did I get from suffering in silence to sharing my story behind a microphone?
Like anything that grows, it all starts with a seed; an idea.
I first came to know of Theo Fluery when he played in the NHL for the Calgary Flames; his anger displayed on the ice was a mirror image to the aggression I expressed during my field hockey games; I played not so much to complete the match, I played so that I could fight and subsequently, get ejected. At the time, I did not know that Theo was, just like me, a survivor of childhood rape. I’m fortunate to be one of those people that can pinpoint the exact moment when their life was proverbially changed. Mine happened in between text in Chapter 1, page 2, paragraph 4 of his 2009 book, “Playing with Fire.” Four sentences affirmed me that I had everything within me to make the best out of the cards I have been dealt with. When I was able to meet him in 2013, I asked him naively how I could do what he was doing (public speaking). His response – “Just start a conversation.” I was dumbfounded by how simple his answer was, yet it still sounded so complicated. And like a seed that needed water, sun and air to grow, blossom and bear fruit, I started having these conversations. The “fruit” or outcome from the seed Theo had planted was my first TEDx talk which was appropriately titled, “Breaking My Silence: Healing Thrives In Conversation.” Since that talk, I guess you can say I’ve developed a so-called “green thumb”, treating shame and other aftereffects of rape like weeds – every time I feel it creeping up on me, I “pull” it out – I write or talk about it.
If we are in fact hard wired for human connection, then social change IS a part of the human existence. Post U.S. Election, more people are activated now, which is amazing because being uncomfortable is often the catalyst for change. I know one thing is for sure; Donald Trump is leading many people to their “awakening” much faster than Hillary Clinton would have.
When symptoms of hate shows up in your community, what do you do? Well, when offensive posters were found near a New Westminster church, MLA Judy Darcy was activated by love and accountability and organized a rally on January 26 at City Hall. The true essence of leadership is interconnectedness.
Another leader in our New Westminster community is Iman Abdulla, Women’s Representative at Douglas College. Due to the college repurposing the Women’s Centre, the executive members wanted to create a safe and inclusive moving space for all self-identified women to support, grow, and learn from each other. Iman is also activated by love and accountability.
In her powerful keynote address for the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., Gloria Steinem stated that “we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams.”
If it takes just one person to start a movement, then can you imagine 15,000 people leaving the Women’s March in Vancouver and activating themselves to their greatest potential?
We have the power to create change and healing. We have the power to activate the change we are seeking collectively.
I believe that every issue that harms society is rooted in trauma. If we are indeed all bonded by trauma, then that means we are also bonded by healing and community. Seeds; a metaphor for life and renewal. Perhaps, like a seed, we need to grow and blossom to become reborn.
What activates you?
*Iman can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Douglas Students’ Union Women’s Collective.
If I Am…
How do seeds sprout from asphalt?
If I am in fact
The rose that grew from concrete
Able to survive without earth’s nutrients
While placed in between slabs of stone on a
No sun, no water
I grew and blossomed past my foundation of
Hot coal tar and concrete mix
Surviving off the wear and tear of the shoes of passersby
If I am that rose that grew from concrete
Inconsistent with the Law of Nature
Then doesn’t that make me a god damn miracle?