Let’s Bring the Peace Symbol Back

Let’s bring the Peace Symbol Back

I’m an 80’s baby which means most of my childhood memories are of the late 80s and 90s. I remember my pegged acid washed jeans, Saved By the Bell, hyper color shirts, and the peace symbol. I had a black cord necklace with a silver metal peace symbol, I had earrings that slightly dangled and multitudes of shirts proudly displaying the peace sign. I drew the peace symbol on the notes I passed back and forth with friends. And of course, anyone who grew up during the 60s and 70s remember it. The peace symbol was as ubiquitous as a heart. But where has it gone? I never see it anymore. Kids barely write with their hands, its all texting and emoticons. I asked my son to draw the peace symbol and he didn’t know how. So where did it go?

The peace symbol was originally designed in 1958 for a march in London. It was created in support of nuclear disarmament but grew to mean much more. It represented that we as humans, did have a choice. We had a choice that did not include bombing our enemies to death. It meant we have evolved past brute force and could choose peace.

It is like we have collectively said as a society, peace? What is that? We gave up on peace years ago. But why? Why can’t peace be our focus, instead of war? Why can’t we listen to Malala’s calls for world wide education instead of calls for war?

Peace takes time and patience. And we have none. We have gotten used to immediately getting what we want. We have become spoiled with next day deliveries and drive through windows and the internet. Peace also requires working together. Maybe we gave up on peace because it takes too long. It has too many steps and we don’t want to spend our precious time thinking up a lasting solution. We want something instant. War is instant. The moment we drop a bomb or issue a drone attack, the news shows us our results. Problem solved, people are dead, the world is safer.

I believe if we bring back the peace symbol that captivated generations, people would start to remember what it means. Peace means choosing to find common ground. Peace means searching for a solution that keeps everyone safe. Peace means even if you have been wronged, you think of the longer term consequences your actions will have, and choose what’s best for all.

In this age of instant gratifications, and the red and blue lines we’ve deeply drawn, does peace even have a chance? I believe a good first step is to bring the simple peace symbol back. Displaying the peace symbol will indoctrinate a generation once again. Remind everyone that peace is the better way. Can we choose to be peace loving Americans? I think we can.

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The Author, Victim Impact Statement

I wrote this blog post as a response to the Victim Impact statement read at the Brock Turner sentencing hearing, that caused national disgust at Turner’s light sentence. CNN’s Banfield reads Brock Turner’s victim’s Impact Statement Click the link to read the original Victim Impact Statement. I wrote this post to explain her impact statement from my point of view, and how society just doesn’t understand what a victim experiences. Since the victim decided to stay anonymous, she has largely been referred to as the victim.

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I won’t call her a victim. She is much more than that. Instead, I will call her the Author. The Author of a document so many of us have read. This Author’s impact statement highlights society’s shortcomings when dealing with sexual assault. This Author of a statement that has shed light on such a common but hidden issue in American society.

When she writes she had no power, no voice, was defenseless- it is because in the justice system a victim has little to no rights. It’s the law against the defendant. A victim does not get to hire an attorney of their choosing. The case gets assigned a District Attorney and that’s that. The defendant has all the rights. Rights to see what documents will be entered into the trial, a right to hear all testimony against them, right to an appeal, right to seek a plea. The only right this Author had was whether or not to testify and to write a victim impact statement. She chose to exercise her rights and it was a damn brave decision. A decision that has changed the country’s understanding of what it means to be assaulted. By testifying she told her attacker and his lawyers she would not be silenced. She empowered herself the only way she was allowed. She also stood up for all victims. She showed us that there is a way back to feeling powerful even after all she endured.

She writes that she had to focus on remembering all the details of her assault instead of trying hard to forget them and move forward with her life. The author had hoped her rapist would accept his actions as wrong and face his punishment by making a plea. But he did not. His family hired a lawyer so that he did not have to own up to being wrong. The Author uses this impact statement to remind her rapist that he traumatized her again just by proceeding with a trial. The helplessness she felt at trial was the same helplessness she felt waking up in the hospital. The rapist decided how that night would go, and he got to decide how court would go. I felt just as lost and powerless during the trial process for my rape. The questions from Harvard trained lawyers, the stares from my rapist, the lost sleep, the accusations, the character assassination, the hurt I saw in my sister and mother’s faces. It was like being raped all over again.

When the Author writes of her first shower after her assault, it reminded me of the first time I looked in a mirror after my rape. The face I saw in the mirror looked like a stranger. I did not know what was missing at first but I soon realized it was my identity. She writes that she wanted to take her body off like a jacket. My body seemed foreign and tainted too. I felt like my body was a crime scene. I felt as though my soul left my body because it could not bare the emotional trauma of the rape. It took me months to reconnect to my own self, my own body. The Author writes she was terrified of her own body and I feel her pain. She was terrified of the loss of control over her own body.

I also was the not so proud owner of gray sweat pants and sweat shirt. It haunted me from my closet where I buried it so I did not have to face the physical reality of my attack.

Reminding everyone that she was wearing a sweater shows she still had to defend herself, her character, her integrity. Every victim I have ever met has been asked “What were you wearing?” A victim’s choice of clothes has long been a narrative and it needs to end now.

The Author wrote directly to her attacker because in stranger rapes, a victim rarely gets a chance to speak directly to their attacker. They are forever entangled but are complete strangers. I’ve often wondered if I should count my rapist as a sexual partner. You know when a doctor or your girlfriends ask you how many, what’s your number? Do I count the stranger that entered me without consent? Someone I didn’t know at all. After years of court dates and trails, I felt intertwined with my attacker but never got to say what I really wanted to say. The Author took her only chance to say what she felt was her absolute truth. The truth she did not get to say during the trial. This approach was all too real to me. I was so desperate to thrust my truth upon my attacker, I almost drove to the jail he was being held in. I imagined him sitting in a cell and getting called to the visitor windows. I pictured him walking down to the window where I sat and upon seeing me, terror set into his face. I wanted to say all the things I never got to in court. All the truths that only him and I knew- despite what he testified to in court. And afterward I would somehow feel better, lighter. I never went. A friend talked me out of it. I now know I am not alone in wanting to speak to my attacker. The Author did and its one of the raw reasons we all listened. We have all been a part of her reclaiming her truth. 25 pages of truth from a point of view none of us ever want to understand, a point of view that too too many will come to understand, a point of view that America desperately needs to understand.

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What I’ve been up to

I haven’t written in my blog recently, mostly because I am focused on writing my book and participating in various writing projects. I now plan to post more frequently about women’s issues, politics, and sexual assault.

Short list of projects I have worked on recently:

What I Need to Say by Morgan Carver Richards, my letter is on pg.70/71

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/577112

You Can Help, A Guide for Family and Friends of Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Assault by Rebecca Street
End the Silence Campaign, An online forum for prose, poetry, and visual art dedicated to ending the silence surrounding sexual violence
Equal Pay Day: The real cost of pay inequality, Catalyst

http://www.catalyst.org/blog/catalyzing/equal-pay-day-real-cost-pay-inequity

Brave Miss World, A flat tire is a rapist’s opportunity

http://www.bravemissworld.com/share_your_story/a-flat-tire-is-a-rapists-opportunity

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Top Ten actions for new bands

Setting up your business
1. Establish a name, logo, and contact info. Buy a domain name and create a website.  Create facebook, twitter, gmail, and pay pal accounts. Reserve practice space and establish a schedule.

2. Clearly mark ALL equipment (especially cables) with band name and phone number. The drum kit logo is a must! Also create ID badges for managers or band helpers.

3. Decide what type of band you are. All members must agree. Are you a band that wants to play locally and plans to stay locally? Are you a band that wants to become famous? Do you play covers, originals, or both?  (many local bands start out playing 60% original, 40% covers.)

4.Determine business roles for each band member. Try to use each member’s strengths when deciding their role. At least one person should be in charge of Marketing, Booking shows, Equipment, and Money.

5. Now that you are a real band, focus on your music. Read at least one book on how to create a successful record. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars recording a song that has a long intro or runs more than five minutes long –  the music industry will reject it. These books will help you understand what music becomes famous and what is wanted by the industry.

6. Create a set list. (Take note of what equipment you practice with so you don’t forget anything the night of your first gig.) The set should be at the very least, 45 minutes. I encourage bands to perform at least one new song a month, even if  it’s a cover. Eventually you should have 2 hours of songs.

7. Practice. I say this because so many local bands do not practice enough. Local bands should practice at least once a week on show weeks and twice on weeks with no shows. Once that set list is perfected, its time to book a show.

8. Book your first show. Contact colleges, universities, newspapers, charity events, bar and restaurant owners and booking agents and any music venue about your new band. See if any of them would let you play-even for free.

9. Once you are a gigging band, start registering for music conferences locally and regionally. It’s a great way to gig swap in different cities. Also, many times the judges are in the music industry. Continue to promote your band! Hang up fliers anywhere legal!

10. Now that you have a following, it is time to record music and create merchandise. Merchandise and CDs should be ordered in small runs. I know several companies that specialized in short run CD duplications with demo sleeves. Pick your two best songs to focus on. These songs should be short (under 3 1/2 minutes). They should be the songs your audience likes the most, not what your band likes to play the most. Merchandise items to consider ordering are baseball hats, cigarette lighters, stickers, shirts- NOT underwear.

If you followed these ten actions you should be a band with a name, web presence with fans and shows- and a record.

Comment if you want me to expand on any particular subject.

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Music

This is the fourth blog I have written about music. I guess I felt my past blogs did not explain the emotional importance of music to me. I accidentally watched Glee last night and Gwyneth Paltrow sang Turning Tables by Adele. I am not going to lie, I cried. Not because the song has a particular meaning to me but because the piano and the vocals together was amazing. It made me realize I have turned my back from music, the same feeling a church goer might have after turning away from church.

I used to depend on music to get me through the worst of times. I dedicated a lot of my time to supporting and managing local musicians. Helping create and promote music from start to finish fulfilled me in a way nothing else could. I went to live shows and concerts as much as I could afford. I was part of the local music scene and it made me feel like I was part of something greater than myself. Once written, music has the power to live on forever in people’s memories and hearts just like a fairy tale. It can be sung over and over and can mean something different to each person that hears it. That is the power of music. It is not even addressing the power, courage and talent it takes to get up on a stage in front of people and perform a piece of art that comes straight from the heart of the musician. In many cases, this is one of the only ways a musician can feel whole. It is part of their emotional design. Not to mention the often ridiculous amount of criticism musicians face from family for pursuing their dreams even if their dream is just to perform at a local coffee house.

Music is an art form that allows us to feel what we are already feeling and helps explain those feelings and lets us know we are not alone. Someone else feels what we feel too. Someone else has the talent and courage to sing that feeling out loud and that is the power of music. Just one song might have got me through, one band’s album repeated over and over carried me when I couldn’t go on, and the power of that will never leave me. That is what music is to me. The power of the human soul to explain to other’s lost in the same sea of emotions. Long live music, my one true religion.

  Link to Gwyneth’s perofrmance.

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Spring

My son came home today from 4th grade and said, “You know what? I just realized, its Spring!” I automatically laughed and asked him what made him think of that and he said, “Because it’s finally warm outside.”

 I don’t think he noticed my daffodils and tulips blooming or the occasional wasp flying around or the fact every morning you can hear birds chirping away. These are things I notice, not a 9 year-old boy. Still house bound and very limited in what I can and cannot do, I feel like I have missed the coming of Spring. And to a small degree, played a part in my son missing the signs of Spring. Usually, I would be taking both my boys to parks, going to DC, or even just playing outside more.

It’s a time of rebirth for the Earth and it feels like everything ‘springs’ back to life. That concept is a great one applied to my situation. I need to spring back. Whenever I feel held back or less than what I know I can be, I have this urge to prove to everyone, especially myself, that I can make a comeback.

And, I know I will.

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Purpose

In the past two weeks on the couch I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my life and the events that have come to pass. Such common phrases have been said to me, ‘This to shall pass’ or ‘Everything happens for a reason’ which made me question, What reason do these events have?

I think for the most part people say these phrases to get someone through a hard moment in time but so often people do not learn the lesson of the event. They just get through it and go back to life as it was before. I think I need to learn a lesson. Now, I know that sounds like something a Mother says to a child but how often do we command ourselves to learn something new from our own life?

 A wise man I know told me ““I can choose to be a person who has resulted simply from what has happened to me OR from what I have chosen to be and do, about what has happened.” What a profound statement. Choice? I have a choice? This is not something I had thought about before. I always feel like life is thrust upon me and I have to ‘deal’ with it. No more. When hard times come, I am going to make a commitment to myself to look beyond the event and investigate the lesson to be learned. I feel that this is the only way to be better prepared for the next time ‘something’ happens for a reason.

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Anger

For the longest time I never had anger. All growing up and in my early twenties, I was never angry. I might have been disappointed, frustrated or annoyed but never angry. I know what anger is now that I am thirty. It is a powerful emotion that can trap me. I believe in karma and I know anger is dangerous. Even if I never outwardly display my anger, it is still deep-rooted in my soul. This raw emotion that I have little control over is something I have to live with every day. Real anger is not violent or exciting. It’s the quiet thoughts you would never say out loud but they replay in your head over and over whenever you try to sleep or are alone. Yes, that my friends is anger.

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Laying around

In the course of a week, I do so many things that I take for granted. Driving, walking to the park, playing with our dog, giving gabriel a bath and putting him to bed, cooking and baking, even just climbing into my bed are things I miss. I am stuck laying on the couch watching tv, reading and sleeping. It is amazing how much I used to want to relax and now that I am forced to, all I want to do is to go back to my old routine. Sometimes, life makes you realize just how great you have it and how much you have to lose.

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My Grandmother’s story

My Grandmother is one of the most important women in my life. Not only have her caring words carried me through hard times, but her story gave me hope that I too could be happy.

My Grandmother and her family moved from Tennessee when she was young to Washington, DC. There were 6 children. They lived in a 2 bedroom row house on 17th Street in South East DC. It was 1933. 4 girls shared one bedroom, and 2 boys and her Mother and Father shared the other room. My Grandmother got married to my Grandfather Wallace and moved back to the south with him. They did not last long down there before they moved back, this time to District Heights, MD. They had 3 children, Susan, David, and Thomas (my Dad). My Dad was only 6 months old, and it was days before Christmas when Wally died of cancer. It was the 50s and my poor Grandmother was left with 3 kids to feed so she went to work. Her parents moved in with her to help raise the kids. She made it through somehow. To this day, I cannot imagine how scared she felt and  how alone she must have been.

She persevered through that hard time and stayed true to herself and her happiness. After over 10 years of being a single working Mother, she met the only Grandfather I knew, Eugene. Now, this is funny because my Grandmother’s name is Jean. So they became, Gene and Jean. Oh, how he loved my Grandmother- and she loved him back just as much. They were married very quickly and eventually moved to Sterling, VA.

Even though she found love again, My Grandmother still had another horrific event to live through, losing her daughter. I never met my Aunt Susan. She died years before I was born. She was still in her 20s when she passed away from cancer. She was a nurse, a wife, and my Grandmother’s only daughter. This is a Mother’s worst nightmare. I cannot think of the pain that it caused my Grandmother. After making it through all of the hard years, and to finally be happy and in love- just to lose her daughter. It must have felt like she had to start all over- repairing her heart, holding herself up even though she wanted to give up.

I say all of this because my Grandmother is full of sweet, kind, gentle, loving wisdom and sentiments. She is the first to say, “It’ll all come out in the wash” or “I bet you that you cannot smile!” which of course made me immediately smile. Growing up I loved going to her house and spending time with her. Some of my favorite memories of her house are making cookies, doing crafts, going on walks, watching Shirley Temple movies, and banging nails into wood in Grandpa’s workshop.

She passed her compassion, her love of life, and her determination to be happy no matter what on to me. I will always think of her as my hero. I recently asked her what her greatest accomplishment was, and she thought about it for one second before replying, “Being a mother and grandmother.” It was at that  moment I knew that she was right. Her life changed mine. Her life changed my children’s lives because of the things I pass down from her. My older son now quotes her, saying “I love you all to pieces”- something she would say to all us grandchildren.

When I was a single mother, my Grandmother helped me in more ways that I can count. She let me live with her, she gave me money, she made me food, she took care of my child but more than any of this, she was a living example of not just surviving hard times but as someone who took her pain and turned it into hope. Hope that she passed on to me.

When I met my husband, I immediately realized he was like my Grandfather in many ways. We got engaged 6 weeks after meeting each other,  just like my Grandparents. Gene and my husband are both from the North and have similar personalities. My Grandmother knew I had met Bryan but she didn’t know we were thinking about marriage when she called me and asked if I wanted her and Gene’s wedding bands. It still brings a tear to my eye when I think about slipping my Grandfather’s ring onto Bryan’s finger to see that the band fit perfectly.

My Grandmother was married to Gene until 2002 when he passed away. I miss him dearly but his life, just like my Grandmother’s changed me. He was my example of a good, loving husband. And I recognize him in my husband every day. I hope my children recognize my Grandmother in me. In this way, my Grandmother’s life achievement will pass down to the next generation.

Love you Grammie.

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