Women and Girls Lead

Women and Girls

Women and Girls Lead is a project with a global effort to empower women and girls to use media and storytelling to create social change. In 2012, KUED and SLCC Community Writing Center partnered to invite community stories of women’s changing roles in a global society. The topics range from appearance and hair to dreams deferred and equality. Through writing stories, essays, poetry and fiction, these women and girls have given voice to their hopes, fears and dreams, and in doing so have become more empowered. These excerpts celebrate women and girls and their work.

I am a 24 year old Latina and mother. As I am writing this, I am being housed as an inmate at the Salt Lake County Adult Detention Center. I am a woman who has suffered through the shackles of addiction. A woman who has gone in and out of one unhealthy relationship to the next, trying to find someone to love me because I could not love myself. Trying to make myself more lovable by losing those few extra pounds with the poisonous weight-loss remedy: Crystal Meth. I am not alone. As the days, weeks and months pass, I have seen hundreds of women pass through these jail cells. Some of which who have been so hardened by the hand that life has dealt them that you can no longer find the sparkle of the soul in their eyes. They have been abused, torn down and walked on by the predators in this world that prey on these lost women. The majority of us are drug addicts and have succumbed to a life in pursuit of that one thing that gives us just a moments relief, while at the same time, ruining our lives, tearing us away from our children and plunging us deeper and deeper into darkness. According to statistics, few of us ever make it out of the dark. I refuse to let that be me. I will not be another number counted in recidivism rates. In my darkest hour, I have found hope within myself through a deep desire to change my course, a positive attitude and knowing I will not give striving to become the mother my children deserve and the woman God created me to be. Here in jail, I was enrolled in a class which gave me a homework assignment that asked the question: “Would you have yourself as a hero?” After pondering that question for a couple of days, this is the answer I gave: ‘To me, a hero is someone who has overcome enormous obstacles in life while all the odds are against him or her. Someone who strives towards the greater good no matter the road blocks they may stumble across or hurdles they have to jump through without every giving up. A hero is someone who brings positive things such as love, hope, service and selflessness, as an offering to the world. Someone who stand up and fight for what they believe in, even if that belief is unpopular with the majority. A hero is a savior. It doesn’t have to be a savior to mass amounts of people. It can be a savior to only one person or even one’s own self. So, to answer the question: would I have myself as a hero? The answer I give is yes. Because I am the one who chooses the path I walk, the one who chooses not to give up when the road gets rough. I am the one who musters up determination within me when I become weary and I am the one who picks me up again and again each time I fall. And within myself, during my lowest points of life, I am able to find the strength of a hero to keep myself moving forward.’

Brown is my hair Brown are my eyes I’m 12 years old And just the right size My name is Isabella And you can see I’m very happy to be me!

I was born in Venezuela in a town called Maracay, the middle one in a family of three girls. My dad was a very hard worker and my mom stayed at home to take care of the house and of us, you know the typical Latin model role “women stay at home to take care of the house and kids, men are the head of the household so they have to work”; well I guess I have to say I am thankful for that because my mom was always with us. Our father also spent a lot of time with us and he was very strict and respectful, He only drank alcohol on special occasions. I never heard a discussion between my parents. My dad was very reserved and quiet. We grew with morals, values, and respect in our home. I had a boyfriend, the second formal boyfriend that I had brought to my house and I felt in love with. We were planning our wedding, but I got pregnant. I was 25 years old, I wasn’t a teenager, but because of my strict upbringing it was a very bad situation, so we decided to move forward the date of our wedding. It is almost unbelievable how my life changed in so little time. The relationship I had for five years which I thought was perfect and just how I dreamed about since I was a little girl , that I’d found the man of my life and I would have my house and babies and when my husband came home from work I would be there taking care of him, cooking dinner and watching my kids because I would have a family just like my mother did, and I will be happily ever after because I would have next to me somebody who loved me as much as I loved him, with all my heart, somebody that I will grow old with; well that never happened. How sad is that? He left me, he went to Brazil to work for six months and when he came back he told me that he didn’t love me anymore and he asked me for a divorce. He had a romance when he was working in Brazil with a coworker, and after two years he married her/ He thought I will never find out, I guess he was wrong. I came to United States in 2000. My little sister was already living here, along with my dad, and I started working very hard to raise my son while my mom watched him so I pretty much missed all my son’s first years. I had to work very hard of course, but I was blessed because I always had my family support. I lived in Florida at the time. I tried to contact my ex-husband but he didn’t care at all, I tried to get child support but the department was unable to find him. I moved to Utah trying to start over and one day, after a year living here, I was on my way to pick my son up from a friend’s house I slipped in the ice and hit my head. I was unconscious and taken to the hospital where they discovered that I had a brain tumor. This was on December 16, 2009, it was the worst Christmas ever: living far away from my family, not knowing whether I would be dying soon and thinking what my son would do if something ever happened to me. No, it hasn’t been easy being a single mom. I went through surgery and had the tumor removed. I had the miracle of Life, God has given me another chance. My recovery lasted three month. I gained a lot of weight after my surgery, getting to 200 pounds and size 16. So I set a goal: lost 34 pounds and got to size 10. I became a Zumba Instructor/ After a year I had a seizure due to a lot of stress because of my economic situation, and because I found out a lot of things about my ex-husband that I didn’t not about and it made me very mad. Last year I was out of work for three months until I started working again in August. It is hard being a single mom, especially when you don’t have the support from the other parent, when a father doesn’t care about his own son. I am a good mother, I know I have done a good job. It has been hard, but I am proud of myself and I think sometimes, why are so many kids lost? or parents that do not want to take the chance and start raising their kids with values and love? Maybe because some parents allow their children to smoke pod or have a few drinks inside their houses while they are young so kids don’t become alcoholics or addicted to drugs when their get older, perhaps the parents were raised that way, and they are wrong because it gets worse: they become alcoholics and try all types of drugs, or maybe because, parents got so busy working, thinking that work it’s more important that family, that they couldn’t come to their kids football or basketball games, or gymnastics practice, or they band recital, or any other activity or dreams they have, and they want it to do, so kids always feel without attention or love because there is always work first and make them feel that there is never support. As parents we have to support our children’s dreams so they can reach their goals and become better people. That way we don’t lose our kids on drugs or alcohol, they don’t become bullies trying to take their frustration on other kids because they don’t feel loved by their parents. This is the real love, and it has to start from home. If as single parent I can raise my son, everyone can do it.

Genevieve Stone 6th grade 1-30-13 This is what I would imagine a conversation would be like between a twelve year old like me and a 12 year old from 1952. I interviewed my grandmother for information. 1952- Hello 2013-Hey are you lost or something? 1952-No my dad is just unpacking. We just moved here. He told me that I could take a break for a few minutes. I saw you here so I came over. 2013-Oh cool. Uhh.. what are you wearing? 1952-I was about to ask you that same question. I’m wearing my favorite poodle skirt and a lovely blouse. They’re neat, huh? 2013-Yeah sure. I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt. 1952-But you will get in trouble! It’s Wednesday! 2013-So what? 1952-You are only allowed to wear pants on Fridays, silly. 2013-OK. I pretty much wear what I want, when I want. 1952-Well, you’re pretty brave but don’t blame me when you get busted. Hey! My dad gave me a nickel for spending. Do you want to go get a big candy bar and split it? 2013-I don’t think that a nickel is going to cover it. 1952-Sure it will. What else do you people eat around here? 2013-I don’t know, like, pizza and stuff. 1952-What is pizza? 2013-You don’t know what pizza is!!! 1952-Nope. Never heard of it. 2013-You are crazy! Sorry, I’m not trying to be rude or anything. Changing the subject, what do you like to eat? 1952-Well, usually for breakfast my mom makes me toast with either hot Co-Co or egg nog. For lunch I have to run home as fast as I can, hurry and eat lunch (usually a bowl of soup or a sandwich), and then run back to school. For dinner, I love it when my mom makes homemade chicken noodle soup and fresh biscuits! Yummy! 2013-That sounds so good! 1952-I wonder where my dad went. 2013-You can use my phone to call him. 1952-You have a phone! I wish my family did. And anyways how would you reach him even if we did have a telephone? 2013-Well my phone is just right here. 1952-Wow! What is that? 2013-An iPhone. 1952-A what?? 2013-An iPhone. What year are you from anyway? 1952-It’s 1952. 2013-You are officially crazy! 1952-That makes two of us. What other weird things do you like to do? 2013-I like to hang out with my friends, go sledding, and ride my bike. 1952-Hey I like all of those things too, at least if by sledding you mean sleigh riding. 2013-Whatever. 1952-Last Christmas I got a book and a bike! It was the most that I have ever gotten! 2013-Why do you look so sad all of a sudden? 1952-Oh I was just thinking about my uncles. They are fighting in World War 2. 2013-I am so sorry about that. 1952-That’s ok, they are strong and I know that they will come home safe and sound. Well there’s my dad--I better get going now. It was nice to meet you. 2013-You too. Bye. 1952-Bye.

It was the winter of 1998 and I was 10 years old. By that time my parents were on their 4th divorce and 5th marriage… to each other. I was the only kid I knew that switched schools over 16 times and didn’t have a parent in the military. Being the new kid was never easy. Needless to say I was not a big fan of school. It was Friday morning and I was all cuddled up in my bed sleeping like a babe in Toyland when my alarm began hissing at me to get up and get ready for school. I had spent the night before conjuring up every sneaky idea I could think of to get out of school the next day. This was something I did on a regular basis. I had tried and failed many times but faking sick was my specialty. I decided that I would have a fever that morning. I jumped out of bed and put my forehead just above the heater vent for about 2 minutes. I passed the sick test with flying colors and my mother let me stay home from school. My mother usually let me do whatever I wanted. I got away with a lot. I thought she was just laid back but as I got older I recognized that she had more than likely just been too drowsy and damaged to argue. Unlike most mothers, mine was never telling me to clean my room or make my bed. At the time I couldn’t recognize the difference between a mother who was too laid back and a mother who was suffering from mental illness. I was upstairs in my room most of the morning. I was singing in front of my mirror when my ballad was interrupted by what sounded like Velcro being pulled apart over and over again. I Ehlers 2 decided to investigate. As I walked down the stairs I discovered an ocean of yellow and white and my mother just lying in the midst of it crying. My mother had gathered almost every phonebook in our house and tore out all the pages. I couldn’t even see the kitchen floor. She looked like she was drowning in a sea of paper and tears. She glanced up at me and saw the look of bewilderment on my face. In that moment the desperation just faded from her face and she smiled the biggest smile I’d seen her wear in years. She asked me to sit with her. Although I was a terrible swimmer I waded through the paper and plopped down on the floor beside her. My mother put her arms around me and said, “Dolly Dee, I love you a million oceans”, I wanted to laugh considering I was sitting in one. Frankly I was so mystified by what she was doing that I was a little frightened. I wanted to run back up the stairs and hide in my room. I really thought my mother had lost her mind. As I stared at her so ominously, she placed a yellow phone book into my hands. She told me to think of everything and anything that made me angry, sad, or frustrated. After I gathered my thoughts, she told me to rip out all of the pages. I felt odd but given the situation I thought I would humor her so I tore those pages out with more angst than I ever remember having. In a matter of seconds I began to cry. I didn’t know what I was feeling but whatever it was I wanted to feel more of it. I had a body high that I had never experienced in my life. My mother reached for another book and began to shred and tear alongside with me. We had both floated away to our own Bermuda Triangle. After we ran out of phone books I had a long talk with my mother. This was the first time I really saw my mother for what she was, Human. She opened up to me and it was then that I understood why my mother was destroying the phone books. It was a physical way of releasing Ehlers 3 her anger, sadness, and stress, without hurting anyone including herself. It was her restart button. This was cleansing to her, like waves washing away the footprints and dirt castles that people just left on the shore of a beach. That day my mother told me she had two mental illnesses, Manic Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. It was heavy information for anyone to take in, not just a 10 year old girl. I was already trying to hold on to the bits of my childhood I had left after the divorces and custody battles I had been privy to. That morning all that concerned me was finding a way to stay home from school so I could play rock star in my bedroom. By that afternoon all I wanted to do was fix my mother. That was 14 Years ago. The illnesses that were once just a part of my mother’s life have now completely consumed her. I spent most of my teenage years taking care of my mother and wishing for a normal life and a normal mother. 14 years of hating her for being sick. 14 years of resentment. I was so angry for so long that I missed out on the good parts. I missed spending time with what was left of my mother and her sanity. Since that day my mother has been in and out of mental health facilities and on every medicine East and West has to offer. Today my mother resides in an assisted living community in California. She is being treated for her illnesses with Electric Shock Therapy (a medical treatment most commonly used for severe depression). One of the main side effects for this treatment is memory loss. My mother is 54 years old and can no longer recall most of my childhood. I am 24 years old and I don’t recall ever having one.

Put down like I was Black History Month The mental enslavement of choice for recognition 28 days is that all we gettin’? Well let’s be clear There is 365 days in a year Yeah 365 days this year Each one of those days represent Black History From cotton fields To the block Way back to the motherland Black males you are the original man Never underestimate the power at hand I don’t need your certificate To know that I’m qualified for the position I come from greatness I am the creator Of life Math Music Poetry Hieroglyphics Astrology Science And what Western folks call religion But in all actuality it’s spirituality Moving inside of me Discerning right from wrong We sing songs Of liberation And dance to take our minds off of messed up situations Yeah, we be the cultivators Surviving the test of time With our melanin It’s only natural for us to shine So rise black woman and reclaim your crown!

Give to me that which is mine and I will leave You and your desert clan In peaceful dark silence. I will return to the river of my birth and baptism. Hold tight to your memory of our time. I have to set the armor aside. My story will corrode the rust of our shared fabrication. Down canyon. Flow it will, down canyon. And be captured in the salty safe place From which there is no escape, less evaporation. To rise up out of the briny shallows between the legs of the Pink Feathered Creature. That did too spread the harlot’s wings. Pale skinned water woman. Called back from the Hidden door of Zion. Stone eyes watch you now. The lookout has returned. Climbed down off the cliff Splashed into the lacy water. She Who Watches She who Swims. Catch and release – shoot to kill. A deep dark depth is required to Protect the shiny silver flash of light. Can we make her bite? Can we make her anything at all? Get the nets! She’s going to try to swim the rapids! Surely she’ll be ravished against the rocks and Paralyzed by the cold! We will prevail. She will not escape our impaling traditions. We will scoop her out of her river home and Hold her high in the air until she Relinquishes her strange gilled beliefs. She will be brought ashore and Made to breathe only our truth of her. She is but a wayward uninitiated girl and Blind to the cleansing illusion. Left to her own devices She could navigate the rapids and: Be upriver from us Out of our riparian On her own and Closer to the source than we. 2 And I just kept swimming. Just kept stroking and kicking and breathing. For me to move through the gorge, Through the sacred gash of hard wet wind. I had to exhale the Exquisite Deception. The spray off the whitecaps was the River’s breath blown back in my face. Demanding my attention. Stinging lyrics accompanying the Pounding bass line of the cold. Rocking me out. Screaming at me to not succumb to the Fluid frigid coma that beckoned. One heaving vast open blank. Pulling at the last bit of solid about my body. Dispersing down into the deep still hunger. The spray sings of unfathomable patience I will have to churn. Can I follow the song of the River Spray? Flowing, waiting, hardening. Pulling, pulling, pulling and Breathing and kicking Through hundreds of thousands of Verses of River Spray Anchored by Basalt Cold. Can I stay? Will I keep going? May I ever leave this place? Yes In this dark monotonous moment I can stay. I can stay as the current envelops me and The blood in my heart Flows in murky harmony. I can stay and Stroke with icy fingers This second of the ancient chant. My frail single note of response “I am still here now”. Wind ripped from frothy Achilles heel. Stroke, kick, breath. Inhaling the oldest song I know. The River Is Stone Birthed by Cliffs Of Vertical Water I Am An Island Of Chilled Light In The Rocky Flame. 3 Breathing, breathing The River Spray. Palpating the prehistoric sea. Listening to my Great Great Grandmother Calling me home to the place Where the earth spreads open Becoming the Eternal Circle. Calling me home to the place Where I am: Cold free flowing water Rock hard and Ancient Fire Light.

Saving Women All Over The World Steinem, once said, “In my heart, I think a woman has two choices, either she’s a feminist or a masochist.” Feminist activism, Gloria Steinem, was born March 25, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio. Her father, Leo, worked as an antique dealer, while her mother, Ruth, worked as a journalist and a teacher before suffering from severe depression that led to a nervous breakdown. Gloria never attended school until she was 11 because she went on family trips that consisted of spending part of the year in Michigan and the winters in Florida or California. When Gloria was about 3 years old her mother had her nervous breakdown. Ruth had changed from a fun loving, book loving, energetic woman into a violent person who was afraid to be alone and who couldn’t hang on to reality long enough to hold a job. Around the age of 10, Gloria’s parents’ marriage ended in a divorce because of her mother’s mental illness. Her father went to California to find a job while her mother lived in Toledo. Gloria struggled financially for years because she was caring for mother. During, her mother’s experiences Gloria found a good understanding of social injustices that convinced her that women lacked social Cromar 2 and political equality. She was convinced this because her father was a traveling salesman that never provided financial stability for his family and divorced his wife, which made the situation worse. Her mother’s inability to hold onto a job was evidence to her of general hostility towards workingwomen and also interpreted the general apathy of doctors towards her mother as emerging from a similar anti-woman animus. She managed to get into Smith College because she scored so well on her entrance examinations. After college, she went to work as a journalist. She first started out as writing celebrity journalism for a bit but she became more interested in feminism after she wrote an article about the prevalence of illegal abortions. All her male colleagues tried to convince her not to publish it but she did anyways. Even though Gloria started writing celebrity journalism she expanded her writing into being an editor, lecturer, and a feminist activist. She also became interested in writing and lecturer of abortion, pornography, and women’s rights. Those are just a few of what she lectured about. Gloria had an abortion at the age of 22 and she kept it a secret during that time period. When she covered an abortion hearing for New York Magazine in 1969 it was a political awakening when she learned of the horrifying and humiliating experiences women endured when they attempted to exercise their Cromar 3 right to reproductive freedom. "It [abortion] is supposed to make us a bad person. But I must say, I never felt that. I used to sit and try and figure out how old the child would be, trying to make myself feel guilty. But I never could! I think the person who said: 'Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament' was right. Speaking for myself, I knew it was the first time I had taken responsibility for my own life. I wasn't going to let things happen to me. I was going to direct my life, and therefore it felt positive. But still, I didn't tell anyone. Because I knew that out there it wasn't [positive]." (Cooke) Gloria felt that on this day it was a “big click” and that’s when she began her life as an active feminist. It wasn’t until she did a hearing and covered the Webster v. Reproductive Health Services for New York Magazine in 1989 that turned her into an activist. "Making women seem anti-sex and joyless if we want the right to be sexual without being humiliated or hurt, and making men seem wimpy and undersexed if they prefer cooperation to domination, is clearly the tactic of choice for isolating anybody who tries to separate sexuality from violence and domination -- which is a challenge to male dominance at its heart." (Steinem) Gloria started speaking out against sexism since the 1960s and against pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse since the 1970s. She still Cromar 4 talks about being against pornography, sex trafficking, and related issues since she is a founding member of Women Against Pornography. Gloria is also currently on the Chair for the New York Anti-Trafficking Coalition. Gloria distinguishes the differences between pornography and erotica as, “erotica is as different from pornography as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain.” She agrees the distinctions between reciprocity versus domination and says, “Blatant or subtle, pornography involves no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating the other.” One of the most devastating arguments is: “Well, this is human nature, it has always been this way so it always will be.” To understand that for 95% of human history it was different is very helpful to me in believing that it can be different in the future. Gloria wrote an article on female genital mutilation that brought the practice in the American public’s consciousness because it reports there are 75 million women suffering with the results of genital mutilation. She says, “The real reasons for genital mutilation can only be understood in the context of the patriarchy: men must control women's bodies as the means of production, and thus repress the independent power of women's sexuality." Gloria also connected female and male circumcision during a 1997 forum on female genital mutilation in New York, saying “I would like to remind us that we all share patriarchy, which is the pillar of almost every current political system, capitalist or socialist. And it has a rock bottom requirement, the control of women's bodies as the most basic means of reproduction. . . These patriarchal Cromar 5 controls limit men's sexuality, too, but to a much, much lesser degree. That's why men are asked symbolically to submit the sexual part of themselves and their sons to patriarchal authority, which seems to be the origin of male circumcision . . . speaking for myself, I stand with many brothers in eliminating that practice, too." (McCloud) She also had a say about male circumcision saying, "These patriarchal controls limit men’s sexuality too... That’s why men are asked symbolically to submit the sexual part of themselves and their sons to patriarchal authority, which seems to be the origin of male circumcision, a practice that, even as advocates admit, is medically unnecessary 90% of the time. Speaking for myself, I stand with many brothers in eliminating that practice too.” Gloria Steinem speaks to a huge group of crowd from parents of both gender, to anyone wanting to have an abortion, and to anyone that is a victim or the abuser of any type of abuse. I believe that Gloria will be around for a long time standing up for what she believes in and to give women a chance that aren’t able to stand up for themselves.

My name is not mine It belongs to my father Seems he owns me simply because I’m his daughter But his name is not mine It is my father’s Not my Mother’s But his and his and his and his and his And if someday I wed I’d be asked keep his or take his instead Not mine Or hers Never hers And if I broke the norm to take my mother’s Love him though I did It was his Her father’s Not hers or hers or hers or hers or hers How many generations must be Before a name is washed clear of the he? Did Eve have a name that was ever her own? Johnson Thompson Gustafson Jones? Was there ever a woman or man named Evedaughter? Was there ever a woman not named for a father? I am uncomfortable in this skin It is mine But bears the name of him And him and him and him and him It does not belong here But no other does either It seems I belong fully to neither Myself Or him I know not MY name So can’t speak the word that would free me And even though we share a gender I bear no name that reflects my mother Or maybe…if honest…I do I do bear something other Like she I bear his distain His hurt Anger Pain She smiles, but he’s broken He damns himself As well as this frame Perhaps that’s why women don’t bear their own name It seems we’re expected To bear instead Shame A bruise on our body A tear in our soul And pass on that name And never feel whole Or one with ourselves One with Earth Mother Always bearing the name of the other Mankind. We are woman born of woman Yet marked by man Claiming us Making us less Never equal Never at rest I think it’s time we stopped playing the game I think it past time We should bear our own name.

There is one thing that powers me to look past the stars into the universe. That is a feeling, the best feeling in the world. It is the one when you are in the spotlight, putting your heart on the floor. It’s about finding what you love that makes it so special. It’s the funk and the style that brings the beauty and elegance of the amazing free flowing feeling to your gut. This feeling makes you want to never quite. There is no greater feeling then moving to a piece of music and letting the rest of the world disappear behind it. There are so many words to describe dance. Dance is beautiful, flowing, and elegant. It’s a wild breath. It is my sweet graceful world. When I think of dancing, I think of it as a dream, perfect, flawless, ME. The styles of dance-jazz, ballet, hip hop- describe the way we are. It describes our personality and the way we live. It doesn’t matter how good our technique is, our extra objects, but the way we dance the style. We have to live out our attitudes in a positive, grateful way. “I could not adequately describe the way dance makes me feel. It as though I had somehow found the way to severe the chords to holding me to this earth and just for a moment, I felt like I could fly.” You have to dream and image yourself in a place you want to be. Every thought of yours is a force, a real thing that empowers you to do anything. Dance lets me find myself through every out reached finger and toe. It gives me the power to be whatever I want however I want. You first have to find yourself to find your joy, but finding your joy is a big part of finding you. You also have to learn your passion because eventually your passion and joy will lead you into your purpose. The darkest part of night is before dawn. All of us at one point feel sad or not wanted, but finding your purpose helps with the positive feelings. I can see the light down the road when I’m dancing. It is a good goal to reach for and achieve. Get to the light and the darkness of dawn is no longer dark. The joy that you find yourself is your light and you can let that to take over the darkness, the bad attitude that can bring you down. Even if you know what you love to do, you have to listen to your heart. Your heart is everything. It is every part of you. I put my heart and soul into dance and I become a single breath in which my heart takes. Your heart is connected to your thoughts and your thoughts are everything. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” As I enter the dance floor I have butterflies in my stomach. It is ok to be scared. That is part of life. Though, when we are scared we are showing others another path to go down. Every single one of us gets scared at one point or another. It could be because of a choice you have made or a choice you have not made. We get scared from the simplest things like hearing the music, but God has given us a gift that he wants us to share. It is there and it is waiting to be shared with the world and with a single breath and a thump of the heart you prepare and jump for it. You have to dance from within and let your inner light show the true you. Take your passion and make it happen. Show the world what you are worth. You might not be there yet but you are farther then you were a week ago. You can be powerful not because you have to be but because you want to be.

walked down the hall, gently tugging my fingers through the tangled mass of soft red curls. I sighed. It had been a long day, and I still had two more class periods until I could go home and curl up in bed. I kept my head down as a teacher walked past, avoiding any form of contact. I didn’t like to be around people; it felt like everyone mocked my pain. I knew I was being ridiculous. Not even my best friend knew just how sad I was most days. It was a daily battle with myself to even get out of bed. I had been feeling so down for a long time, and I didn’t understand why. I had long grown accustomed to walking around as a ghost of myself, and not a single person on Earth knew. There were only a few small things that could make me happy‐ volunteering as a teacher’s aide in a first grade classroom was one of them. I took a deep breath as I walked up to the door, covered in bright paper and 26 pictures of smiling children. I gingerly place my hand on the cold metal of the handle, pasting a smile on my face as I turned it. I stepped into the classroom quietly, and almost immediately I was greeted by a chorus of “MAGGIE!” I genuinely grinned as a few of the first graders came running over to me. I knelt down and hugged each of them quickly, then ushered them back to their seats as I began my daily routine. I made my way up and down the aisles of desks, helping the kids who were having a hard time with the math work. As I glanced across the room, my attention was immediately drawn to a boy named Jacob. He had his forehead resting against his palms, muttering angrily to himself. I went over, concerned. Jacob was a special needs student. He had severe ADHD, and a slight touch of autism. I knelt down next to his desk. “Jacob? What’s wrong hun?” I asked, gently tapping his arm to get his attention. He immediately jerked up, looking at me. “I can’t do this stupid math! I’m not smart!” he said, frowning deeply. He was getting really frustrated. Usually when he had an episode like this, he was sent to the special education room until he had calmed down. I refused to let him be sent away again. The teacher, an older woman known to her students as Mrs. Sherwood, started to come over to remove Jacob. I shook my head, and she understood. I would take care of Jacob so she could continue teaching. “Jacob, why don’t you and I go sit at that back table over there and I’ll help you with your work?” I suggested, gesturing to the hardwood table at the back of the classroom. He frowned again. “Okay, but I’m not going to do this math!” I stood, offering him my hand with a smile. “Come on, I’ll help you.” He took my hand gingerly and grabbed the worksheet off of his desk. I led him over to the table and sat down, patting the chair next to me. He sat, putting his paper down. “Okay Jacob, let’s try the first problem, okay?” “No, I don’t want to!” “Please Jacob? Just read it to me.” He sighed and rolled his eyes, looking at the paper. “The… story‐“ “Store,” I gently corrected. “The store has 9… bananas. If Bill buys 6… bananas, how… many are left?” he read. I smiled and nodded. “Perfect job, Jacob! Okay, so what do we do next?” “I don’t know,” he whined. “Here, how about I help you? Write a 9 right here.” I pointed at a blank spot on the page, just below the problem. Jacob did as he was instructed. “Now, because it’s a subtraction problem, what do we need next?” “A dash?” “That’s right! A dash!” I gave him a small high five as he marked the paper. As the class continued, I couldn’t keep a smile off my face as Jacob became more and more relaxed. He got a lot easier to work with, and by the time we were done, he was smiling. He stood up, going to hand Mrs. Sherwood the paper. She glanced over it quickly and smiled. “This is perfect Jacob, good job! Everyone, a round of applause for Jacob, he did his math page perfectly!” Everyone clapped for the small boy, who blushed and went back to his seat. I was getting ready to leave for my next class as the first graders all filed out to go to recess. Mrs. Sherwood grabbed my arm at the door. “Maggie, I just want to thank you for the work you did with Jacob today.” “Well, you’re welcome, but I just wanted to make sure that you didn’t have to stop the class.” “No, really, Maggie. It means so much to me. That was the first time I’ve seen Jacob smile like that all year,” she said, her voice caked with emotion. A small tear slipped down her cheek, and I suddenly felt myself being over come with emotion. “You’re welcome, Mrs. Sherwood,” I said, my voice cracking. She smiled and sent me off to class. As I thought about what had happened that day with Jacob, I realized that I was happy for the first time in I don’t know how long. I wanted to keep feeling like this. I was proud that I had been able to help someone succeed. I had helped someone that everyone overlooked. I had helped someone just like myself. I wanted to keep doing this, for the rest of my life. The feeling I got watching those kids succeed and overcome their challenges inspired me to keep fighting to overcome my own challenges. I was ready. For the first time, I wasn’t empty. Teaching Jacob how to succeed had filled me with something I couldn’t describe. Maybe I should become a first grade teacher, I thought. I liked that idea a lot.

When I was younger my perception of being bullied was skewed. I only thought being bullied consisted of getting your lunch money taken or getting stuffed in lockers. It wasn’t until junior high school when after years of depression and confusion my parents insisted that I meet with a therapist. As we began to talk, it became apparent that a lot of my feeling of self-hatred came from the bullying I received as a child and that I was still receiving to a certain extent. I didn’t think that I was any different than the other kids at my school until it was brought to my attention that: Yes! I was indeed different! My skin was darker than most of the other kids. My mom called me her “Georgia Peach” and I wore that nickname like a badge of honor—until I reached the 1st grade. One afternoon, we had the 6th graders come read with us. My “partner” refused to read with me because I was black and black people “smell funny.” I acted as if this comment did not affect me but after most of the class had heard they too began to join in making fun of me continuously for being “too black” or having hairstyles that “only black people wore.” They would ridicule me and tell me that I wasn’t good enough to play with them, that their parents wouldn’t let them or that they didn’t want my “black” to rub off on them. After hearing these comments repeatedly, I began to believe there was really something wrong with me! At church, I was told that God made Cain dark as a “mark of shame.” So automatically I believed that I was bad and should be ashamed of my skin. These feelings of feelings of shame and embarrassment went on for years and instead of talking to someone about it I became more introverted. It took me a long time to get to the point that I could honestly say I love myself. For the longest time, I believed that I should be ashamed of who I was. Even in my adulthood I come across people who make comment about my skin color but now I proudly tell them I love myself just the way I am. I am so grateful that today I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “I am a strong, beautiful African American woman and I am proud of who I am and where I come from!” I am finally comfortable in the skin I’m in.

I suddenly stop at the entrance of the train station and recall the frequent cold chill of the air rushing through the corridor as I stand where I have many a time stood. Memories flood into my mind as a beam of light from the front of an oncoming train would,as I remember the little things of what I experienced here. The passionate glance from lover to lover, the young woman sitting on the train alone,with a dazed stare. And a rough and unexpected bump of shoulders from two strangers with more in common than they think. One of these strangers was me, Arrogance. As I had filled my previous day with pretentious comments and conceited thoughts I swaggered down the long passageway to my evening train. Along the way, I sighted some of my colleagues at work. Ignorance walked uprightly past me,without a single glance my way. Innocence, an acquaintance that I never bothered to speak to smiled warmly at me and enthusiastically waved. I smirked back and gave a disinterested' nod and went on my way. There is Mercy,giving a homeless man a dollar bill,even though she knows that this man has already stolen her credit card in a heartfelt embrace. But the person that really matters is called Understanding. He is the one that I brushed shoulders with on my evening commute. Ironically,no one understands Understanding. He becomes pesky at times,when he asks repetitively how life has been treating you,how your day is,and what he can do to help. After we collided I angrily shouted "Excuse me Understanding! Some of us have places to be;how incredibly rude!" And as I turned to stomp away, I noticed that he had stopped dead in his tracks and turned to look at his mocker. As his face slowly came into view,I noticed it was drenched in salty tears,freshly spilt, and eyes bloodshot with a look of pure despair. But,I paid no mind to the matter and haughtily walked away. On the train, I continued with my normal routine of reading the newspaper and sipping on my hot coffee. Then,suddenly,I experienced a feeling I have never felt before. I now understand it to be what is called empathy. Empathy for old Understanding and his unexplained tears.I looked up from my newspaper and gazed upon the tunnel walls as they flew past me. And I dazed off in a moti6nless state of deep thinking. I became so completely still I could feel the burning blood cells course through my veins as they scurried desperately to find a familiar environment. Everything was a rush and my heart was pounding with such ferocity and anger that I felt that it will burst from my disgraceful body. For once,my restless mind was at peace and paused from the continual work of constructing thoughts of the impossible and improbable. And for once I thought of Understanding and why he might be so distraught. He was always happy and happy to be around. It finally occurred to me that he was sitting right next to me,and I put my arrogance aside and asked him why he was so distressed. He said "It is because of people like you,who frankly,don't understand." As I came to terms of what I had done to dear Understanding, I started to feel the pain of his realization that no one cared for him,even though he has cared for everyone. I have felt this pain many times before. In an insane moment of courage summed up of seemingly uncertain thoughts, I did what no one has done before. I stood up on the Train to Nowhere and walked out the doors. It seems as though at that very moment,my life started, and my full consciousness of reality came into view. I realized at that moment that I had been imprisoned by a jail I built myself. A metal train, which embodied my anger,hate, confusion and need to feel appreciated. Stepping off the Train to Nowhere meant I was on the Train to Somewhere. And as Igazed at this new world, I noticed a familiar face behid me. It was none other than wise old Understanding and he was as taken aback as I was at this new world,a world of opportunity and hope instead of despair and, well, arrogance. More people started to follow our brave leap of faith. Even Ignorance filed through the train doors. No longer is anybody better than the other. I finally took upon the new name of Empathy. Ignorance became Wisdom. There was Compassion,Respect,Appreciation, Affection,Desire, Hope and Joy. And we started over,together. And now,as I stand here at the entrance to the Train Station to Somewhere with the wind against my back, I reminisce upon the good,the bad,and the ugly of mankind. The kindness of an enthusiastic wave to a downtrodden colleague,and the pain when you realize that you are not always right. But what matters most of all, is the strange mixture of surety and fear,bravery and cowardliness, joy and sorrow, when you realize that something has to change. And the only way to change it is to change you

They try to contain me, but I rebel. They say I should be kept, managed, straightened with chemicals that give me a caustic smell. They lay track after track over me, in an attempt to bind my true beauty. My curls ache at the injustice of being contained. What did I do to endure so much pain? For I was born of everything natural and good, but yet still, not understood. So here I wait, beneath all this shit, creeping through the crevices of my bondage, like a flower outstretching, reaching toward the light. And yet still I have the nerve and courage to fight. I cannot be discovered for if I am, I am laid straight to look just like them. Well it might surprise you, but I know my truth. I know the bend of my curl, the twist in my tress. I know that through all the abuse I do not stress. Patiently I wait, for I know my truth will soon shine. My strength and beauty grow exponentially through time. Something instilled in me that can’t be taken away. I laugh at the measures they’ve taken to contain, something so innocent and beautiful as a mane. I know deep down they see, the strength, the rebellion, the truth in me. They desire themselves, to be free. They fear the day their liberation awakes. For it calls to them to step to the plate, to let go of all insecurities. To stand with head held high, and say I will not be bent and configured by what you say. Today and I choose to show the real me.

Am I less of a woman Because of the way my titties hang? Would you call me illiterate Because at times I speak with slang? Nah homie! Can you tell I eat a lot of sweets Just by looking at my teeth? Or is it all the spaces in between That hurts your eye sight to see— Each pimple or blemish on my face Represents me None identical but all so unique Yeah I know I may not be without flaw physically Still I stand strong on my own two feet As I back slap society every time I speak Refining the spirit that dwells within Accepting other for their characteristics And not the shade of the their skin.

I have been a personal assistant in the legal field for about three years now. It has been a great experience and ultimately I do believe that I will end up working with the law in some way for my career. I have however found a few status quo attitudes and stances within the attorney and lawyer world that I would happily see change as the years go by and social movement takes place. What I have seen comes in two forms and are as follows. First, it is a fact that currently there are more women attending law school then men. However when you look at the attorneys that are locally pulling in the most money, handling the biggest cases and are far more likely to make partner or associate the vast majority are men. I am not saying that the men who hold these positions do not work hard to have them, I am simply stating that I would like to see more women in a position of power when it comes to office dynamics. Most of the jobs held by women in the legal field are that of personal secretary and assistant. These jobs are obviously valuable and nothing to be discouraged with. But, again very few large decisions are made by women in the legal field, and very few women are revered as game players. Secondly, I have noticed the stigma that if a man is a hard-nosed business person then he is considered to be cunning and looked up to. If a woman tries to throw her weigh around to be herd she is considered to be a mean hearted hag. This has to change. In business and especially in the legal field you have to be willing to stick up for yourself. Women cannot be made to look like bad people just because they are working hard to make sure that they are being treated fairly in all things legal. It is time to drop the old stereotypes of the past and move forward. Women in business are every bit as capable as men. Let us all change our opinions in hopes that a new tomorrow will allow everyone to succeed.