Last night I attended my first Take Back the Night event.

I cried.

I cried because I wasn’t aware. The truth is I wasn’t aware of what was happening outside of my own survivor bubble, as well as personal conversations with other survivors. Keynote speaker Feminista Jones had opened everybody’s eyes who was present last night. There’s so much that society does not know about. And we should know! We should educate ourselves. A black feminist woman of strength, Feminista hears the voices of the minority, and helps those voices be heard. America is so consumed by white privilege that the majority forgets how the rape culture has negatively targeted other cultures, and continues to ignore how sexual violence is attacking the lives of ALL genders, sexualities, ages, and race/cultures.

Feminista’s speech helped me think more about my own trauma, even some of the haunting details that I’d locked up within the dark corners of my mind long ago. Before I became comfortable with my own story, I spent 15 years afraid of the male gender. Even the boys who teased me in elementary school not only hurt my feelings, but also made me uncomfortable. Since my first few years of college, men have asked me right off the bat not only if I had a boyfriend, but if I was also married. I would lie and pick up my pace because honestly, if one is going to say, “Hi”, followed by, “you got a fella?”, it’s none of your goddamn business, and no thank you.

The fear and confrontations I faced since I was six years old has been part of my healing process as I fight within this male-driven society in which we all live in. While listening to Feminista, I learned that I did not fully understand how all genders and sexualities of color felt and feel toward their own experiences of sexual violence, and are at greater risk because of white supremacy. I cried last night because I was distressed by the truth of human beings believing it’s okay to harm human beings. How the news believes it’s okay to focus on white privilege problems by withholding information about sexual and domestic violence in all communities. THAT IS NOT OKAY!

I created I Am a Survivor Project because I wanted to take action and help build stronger communities. I’m still learning. I’m still learning how to help. Paul Loeb said in regards to social change: if one wants to take a stand, one should “proceed step by step, so that [one doesn’t] get overwhelmed before they start” (Loeb, Soul of the Citizen). A part of me wishes I took action with I Am a Survivor Project four years ago and attended previous Take Back the Night events. However, ever since I became openly comfortable in expressing my trauma, I still had some self-healing to do.

As we sat together at the beginning of last night’s event, some of us were strangers, but at the end, we became a community. We heard each other’s voices. Feminista asked each and everyone of us to achieve something this year: to reach out and help someone else. Feminista’s ending note took me back to the big-hearted stranger at the Women’s March who tapped my shoulder and asked if she could give me a hug because of what I’d vulnerably expressed on my protest sign. My goals for 2017 and the years to come are to create more powerful, healing, and community-driven moments like the moment I shared with a sister, build stronger communities, and continue to educate myself about sexual violence in all cultures.

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