Monday, April 28, 2008

Report Back From The SFWAR Walk Against Rape


That was a powerful experience.

Of course.

Thanks and Money Raised
First of all, I have exponential gratitude to those of you who pledged, passed on the info, and supported in so many other ways. Because of you... I was able to blow away my goal of $250, and i raised :::$700::: y’all. That is going towards helping out the only community based rape crisis center in San Francisco, its something to feel really good about. so many of you were apologetic about “only” pledging $10 or so, but clearly, it added up! Almost 50 people donated to this cause. I was gonna list your names to big you up, but a) i handed in my forms and don’t have copies of them and b) its possible some of you would prefer to not have your name listed for some reason or the other. But it felt so good to walk up to the check in table at Embarcadero with a phattie phat envelope. And i glimpsed other funds that others raised, and got more of a perspective... I would say that the average amount that most people handed in was $75. The whole Walk made $35,000 (record breaking amount for the walk so far in its 3rd year!!) and a couple hundred people participated. So... THANK YOU for contributing such a sizable percentage to this cause!

Men and the Walk
I was pondering the place my maleness had in this, so many people gave me money based on their enthusiasm around a man doing this walk. It was pointed out to me that since I have such an awesome and loving community, and that i do organizing work, that those factors definitely make it add up too. But i am still pondering how to utilize my maleness to get real counter-patriarchal work done.

I did end up walking alone (ie, not a part of a team), which was a powerful experience.
I would say that a couple hundred people walked, and i saw less than ten men. Middle school students walked too, and i would see young boys walking, but in terms of grown men, not many were to be seen. The fact that no other men walked with me intersects the personal and political in complex ways. Men definitely contributed to the cause financially, by forwarding my emails to other folks, and in other supportive ways. At least one male friend declined walking because he was actually already engaged in time consuming feminist work. Also, i had less than two weeks to mobilize folks, and sent out mass emails instead of being able to call and talk to people. Also, heads are busy, a lot already contributing to an array of good causes. But after seeing how much i can contribute to this cause as a man, and how not visible we are in this important issue that affects everyone, I take this as an indicator that i now have a whole year to mobilize men of color to show that we care about these issues, and break stereotypes that some of us are more likely to be perpetrators than activists.

I was definitely welcomed by many, curious women approached me and asked me questions. I was even interviewed with a DV camera and mic by SFWAR documentarian Amal Kouttab. I was a little flustered, gathering my thoughts at times around this intense subject as to “why i am doing this”, but what came out felt real, and was received well. I will definitely post a link to the SFWAR documentarians when they finish editing!

The Walk Against Rape
Before leaving my house, I did my morning meditations, prayers and honoring of my ancestors. It was in that meditation that I realized that I was walking for my ancestors/egungun, acknowledging the legacy of rape that was intrinsic to slavery. It deepened my purpose immensely. I left my house breathing deeply, and took BART (walking under the ground...) with this new drive in my consciousness pulling me towards this walk. I could feel them with me, and some of you know that i have already done walks for ancestors. A familar sense of intent and connection suffused me.

At the walk, the SFWAR director of counseling Lisa Thomas-Adeyemo (pictured above) started us off with more meditations and centering, and she too evoked the ancestors. I opened up my bottle of water, and poured a cooling and honoring libation on the ground.
And then, we walked the 3 miles from Embarcadero to Dolores Park in the Mission, chanting “End The Silence, End The Violence, Walk Against Rape!” and “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Yes Means Yes and No Means No!” and many other chants, done in call and response form with a woman leading from a bullhorn. We even did chants in Spanish when we walked through the Mission.


~It was a GORGEOUS day. Not a cloud in the sky. So many of us felt really blessed by that.

~Intervening when construction workers couldn’t hear what we were saying, so i walked over and told them its a walk against *rape*. One commented in that “lets bond over misogyny” kinda smirky way that if there were more prostitutes on the street that there wouldn’t be any rape. It was said a lot more derogatorily than that. I kinda let it go through me, and said “but whatever the case, no still means no, right?” He looks at me, pauses and repeats back to me “No means No.” I said yes. I smiled and walked away- and then heard him start chanting NO MEANS NO! awesome.

~Another intervention where a pre-teen schoolboy put a pre-teen schoolgirl in a headlock *while in the flow of the walk*. It was clear that they were friends, though the girl was visibly in pain, and shouting for him to stop, and also saying “why do you think we are doing this walk stupid??” He smiled, enjoying his power over her. I walked over as he released her and simply said to them “Is everything ok over here?” The boy shot me an annoyed “don’t try to school me” look. I repeated, “Is everything ok over here?” The girl nodded and looked down. The boy looked away. I continued walking close to them, and saw the girls' mom pick her up at a gas station. I lost track of the boy.

~Loved the people who would wave from buses, fists out of windows, male and female, the bus drivers who honked with fists of solidarity, and all the other cars who honked... we would all cheer so loudly! felt good.

~Walking under the highway overpass, and having our shouts and cheers amplify and echo tenfold :)

~Running into my really cool neighbors during the walk. Also, running into people who only recognized me as dj fflood :)

~Reaching the finish line at Dolores Park. The shared sense of accomplishment was really beautiful and powerful. The park welcomed us with applause, and there was a finish line banner with balloons, and a dj pumping Kool and The Gangs “Celebration” :)

~Amazing testimonies and art was shared on a stage... what was really impactful for me, and remains one my more profound moments at this event, was when one woman shared that she was the product of a rape. She went into poetry sharing how her mom went into labor pains, experiencing joy and rage with each contraction. She then referenced her own survivorship. The layers were intense, almost too much to even hold. I salute that woman for sharing her story. Other acts included song, spoken word, dance, and closed out with Lisa Marie Rollins (you go girl!!) backed by Paul Edward Hunt Jr on guitar and Shark Marius on bass... and the crowd on handclaps! It was tight. They kicked it off with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Funkier Than A Mosquitos Tweeter” (peep some of the blazin' original here). man. Definitely the most fun i had at this walk. :)

In Closing

So yes, that is more or less my report back. Thanks for reading this far! And like I said, I am looking forward to doing this again next year, and galvanizing brothers around this too. I think it is important for all men to model to other boys that violence is not okay, that there are healthier ways to exhibit strength, and that no means no. There’s a lot of messages out there that we are competing with. Thank you all so much who sent me notes of love and support in the mail, with emails, and encouraging words. and thanks for the donations, the hugs, and the smiles. I feel really connected to this work, and I am thankful that my ancestors spoke to me about the depth of this issue. It became clearer. I was walking for the healing of survivors and perpetrators. I was walking to give more resources to those in crisis. I was walking because if i say i love women, then it must be more expansive than the realm of romance. And I was walking to honor my ancestors. Ashe’.


Diana Pei Wu said...

thank you fflood! for the stories, for the power of your observations .. for making meaning ...

richard said...

and thank you diana! for the affirmations, for reading the stories, for you... and for coming to shake it at my party saturday! :)

Beth Rose said...

I felt like I was at the walk reading your post! Very moving. The construction worker...I love that he started chanting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about who/why you were doing this walk and how you went about it! :) Beth Rose

richard said...

Thanks Beth Rose! It felt good to write that. People seem to particularly like the construction worker story :) And thanks for your donation as well!