Share Your Story of Silence: Words


For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

– Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

  1. I volunteer with a project for women refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, and encounter many, many of stories of silence.
    One key problem is lack of access to English language classes – even when these are available, women, who are predominantly primary care givers in the family, cannot attend due to e.g. lack of childcare.
    The consequences? Women are isolated, unable to communicate with others in their communities; women lack the language skills to gain access to vital services, e.g. healthcare; women lack the language skills to understand that their asylum application need not be as a dependent upon their husband’s application; women lack the language skills to participate in their children’s education; women lack the language skills to understand that they can speak out if they are suffering domestic violence, and that doing so need not affect their asylum claim…
    so many tales of women being literally silenced.

  2. (A Story of Silence)

    Dear Debra Lee:

    As two of the so called “Nelly Protesters,” we feel compelled to speak after the egregious presentation of “Hip Hop vs. America” on BET. Though purportedly trying to redress the sexism, misogyny, and materialism of hip hop videos, the program actually reified all of these by not engaging with feminist women panelists, or panelists that did not invoke a kind of celebrity worship. Once again the voices of young black women were marginalized in preference for a largely older black male voice of authority. Even the women panelists who were present were talked over and addressed less.

    It was very disheartening to hear Nelly completely misrepresent the events leading up to the so called Nelly Protest. Upon hearing about Nelly’s desire to do a bone marrow drive on campus, the Spelman Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance placed signs on campus calling attention to his misogynistic lyrical and video content. Apparently, the foundation had been to campus earlier that week and seen the signs that the FMLA put up all over campus. They scheduled an emergency meeting with the Spelman Student Government Association and requested that no protesters be at the drive. SGA could not provide this kind of guarantee. The foundation then left the room so that SGA could vote on whether or not the drive could continue if, at the foundation’s request, Nelly agreed to participate in a forum to address student concerns. Despite a unanimous vote to continue with the drive under the new stipulations, when the foundation came back they had already decided to cancel the drive. Our intention was to do exactly what Nelly stated on the program. We planned to have him come to campus and meet with a small group of concerned students, something he was unwilling to do. Not only that, we still had a bone marrow drive and all the students initially involved registered to donate bone marrow! The foundation was apparently so upset about this issue that THEY went to the press, saying that Spelman canceled the drive because of the video “Tip Drill.”

    Aside from this factual error, both Nelly and T. I. continued to skirt the issue of their own responsibility. Yes, America is racist and sexist. Yes, America is materialistic but that doesn’t make it right! That doesn’t mean that we as black women should have to negotiate a world that has historical portrayed us to be less than human and continues to do so in a genre that should counter that stereotype.

    We aren’t asking for “positive” images as we know that this does not necessarily ensure representations that reflect the multitude of ways black womanhood is embodied. But why is it that the only way T. I. and Nelly can talk about or depict us are bitches and hos? How does framing the conversation as though they are not talking about us make it ok? If you are talking about any women in a derogatory way it’s a problem.

    We understand that to some extent, rappers are the puppets and ideological whipping boys of a largely untargeted white capitalist power structure. We know that Philippe Dauman of Viacom, Doug Morris of Universal Music Group, and Andrew Lack of Sony/BMG names aren’t often mentioned when we discuss the problematic state of rap music though we do realize and wish to hold them accountable for their own culpability in all of this. Unfortunately Nelly and T.I. missed an opportunity to recognize their own role in supporting and perpetuating misogyny in hip hop on the program. Their role may be that of individuals, but it is still crucially important. It is absurd for these artists not to recognize their complicity. Seduced by financial incentives, these artists are participating in the production and distribution of these images at the expense of all black people.

    These images and lyrics, that suggest that black women are only hypersexual objects for male enjoyment are broadcast globally and are the primary images and representations of African-American women that people see. It reinforces stereotypes that white Europeans had about black women since we were “discovered” on the shores of Africa. Black men are portrayed as violent, brutal, equally hypersexual, and materialistic. It suggests that we have no hopes no dreams outside material gains and sex.

    It makes it seem as though black musicians can’t rhyme about anything other than sex, money, and violence. We are tired of trying to defend hip hop when it becomes indefensible. We are tired of hearing music that assaults our very humanity. We are tired of hearing girls complain about being assaulted in clubs, or by partners, or strangers, of being called bitches and hos, of being cursed out because we didn’t want to give someone a number, of trying to reason with record companies and artists and convince them their actions impact the daily lives of black women in this country and abroad.

    Now we find it is no longer a racially unifying act of resistance to challenge these images within the black community, but rather a divisive battle that pits black men against black women, artists and cultural critics, etc. The very title of the program “Hip Hop vs. America” presented a different agenda and encouraged this division which contributed to the defensive manner of some of the panelists. Spaces for unifying conversations and healing must be generated, where perspectives from women are equally honored and respected. Panelist who can speak to that sort of nuanced and complex conversation were not invited. What about hip hop scholars Joan Morgan or Tricia Rose, MC and hip hop activist Toni Blackman, self-proclaimed feminist men Byron Hurt and Mark Anthony Neal?

    We speak out because once again our actions were silenced and misread. We speak out because once again we are talked about instead of being included in the conversation. We speak out so that we can say we did, even if no one is listening.


    Moya and Leana


  3. I love you
    in a place where my
    tattered wings
    flapped you tales
    of regurgitated
    touches and
    violated games
    of duck duck goose.

    In nursery school. A place that is supposed to be safe. Oversized letters and cubby holes to put her strawberry shortcake bookbag and change of clothes just in case she wet her pants.

    I love you
    in a place where
    being hugged up
    was never
    misconstrued for
    past nap times
    when bed bugs bit
    and little girls
    were dips.

    Graham cracker snacks and mini-desks and chairs. Wide-lined grayish-brown paper and letters to be traced. Coloring sheets and she didn’t forget to write her heading at the top of the paper.

    I love you
    in a place where
    I buried my head
    in your scent
    crying a cry
    for myself
    trusting your ears
    to be active
    but your tongue
    not to repeat.

    Her favorite color was turquoise. Thick ponytails and hair-balls that clicked and clanged. Sing-song lyrics and games to learn numbers and alphabets. Learning how to tie her laces and which foot to put each shoe on.

    I love you
    in a place where
    I ask your
    to love you
    this way.

    She was violated by two teachers, and in time she trusted someone with her story. She loved someone in a place not to be silenced.

    (c) 2004-2007 veronica precious bohanan

  4. Silence Is Painful And Too Many Times Its Deadly

    Over the course of my life I have seen many injustices and remained silent. Everyone has their prolonged period of silence unfortunately not everyone chooses to end it. I say “choose” because we have more choices in our lives than we imagine, the problem is our willingly give others free reign on our destiny.

    When it comes to speaking out I’m not so sure we have a choice. It is more like a calling. It was meant for me to hear about the horrific gang rape involving a single mother and her son in a West Palm Beach housing project. I saw the story on a mid- Saturday afternoon cable news outlet and I never saw it in the mainstream media again.

    Women of color have been too appeasing for far too long and the consequence has been our own pain and death. We cannot sit back and wait until failure has occurred on the part of elected and public officials and media organizations to make our voices heard. We must shout once we see an injustice to ensure failure does not occur. The only way those who serve are accountable is if we make them accountable.

    The culture in which we currently live, or is it maintain and survive, will always exist as long as it is not countered with a demand for change. Change is not something that happens naturally. Its must be made, it must be demanded. We can make change through our choices, our voices and our dollars. Silence is not an option.

    It didn’t take long for me to see the parallels between the Dunbar Village gang rape victim and myself. I, like her, am a single mother of a young boy who struggles everyday to make it. Not standing up on her behalf was like not speaking on my own behalf.

    After my interview with a West Palm Beach TV station about the video I made and my acceptance to attend a commissioner’s meeting next month, I became apprehensive about stepping to the forefront. Who am I? Why me? What do I have to say that warrants a platform? Who do I think I am?

    I quickly got over that with the help of friends and fellow women of color who know what I know. This is bigger than me; this is not about me. It’s beyond individuals and it’s about a culture of change. If women of color won’t take the stand who will?

  5. I survived…yet so many others have not.
    I escaped…yet so many others have not.
    I live…yet so many others do not.
    I try to forget…yet I cannot not.
    The bruises are gone. The wounds have healed. The scars have faded. But the pain is still a reality.
    They said it had to have been something I did wrong but I found out that I was just being me. I was too strong. I was too smart. I was too determined. It was evident that I was destined and purposed to be SOMEBODY. He needed to make sure that I wasn’t. Slap, kick, hit, fist, open hand, foot, whatever….
    Who could I tell? No one. No one, that is, but the Lord. My strongness, my smartness and all of my determination continued to rise and I survived – no longer silent but free.
    Please God, no hatred, no bitterness, no unforgiveness within me. I MUST remain free. Free to move at your command. Free to share. Free to help another sista. Free to be me.

  6. This is written by a young black female high school student. Her name is Shamerea, age 14.

    Abusing me constantly, hurting me so strongly mentally and physically. He thinks that because I don’t say anything that I won’t fight back. I curses me out until he gets hoarse.

    Confusing me with his heat of raging fire and desire to hurt me, to destroy me, to kill me.
    I feel like a long lost puppy after he has had his way with me. I try to defend myself but it won’t work.

    Refusing to let go of the pain and the gain of freedom from this monster. Screams and cries is what I’m running from I can let go ,but I won’t never forget.

  7. This is written by a young black female high school student. Her name is Chelsea , age 14.

    She loves you
    She can’t see past your eyes
    When you hit her
    She always wonder why
    She takes it and takes it
    Like nothing happend
    She feels the pain
    through her viens
    Why are you hitting her
    Can’t you she that she loves you
    But now you have made
    a hurt that never heals
    and never can
    but she felt as if you
    were the man

  8. “Holloween”: The Morning-After Poem

    I still feel the echo,
    My voice cursing
    This drunken 6 ft. something
    White man walking out
    Of the door
    After taking his
    Football hand
    To grab my ass from my
    Rectum upward.

    I came to the Halloween party with a halter
    Spandex denim catsuit
    To be Foxy funked out
    In an afro wig and retro threads,
    A black ghost,
    When I had my guts gored
    By football hands
    Thinking I was his
    Foxy brown black nigger whore.

    I saw two blonde-haired twins in their
    Pseudo-lesbian stance standing in
    For the prostitute. Red-lipped Marilyn
    Twisted her way through the crowd with a bottle of bubbly,
    Her breasts bubbling over, her white skin
    Blending in
    With her white halter dress. I ad-
    Dressed my Maryland
    No-listen-to-hip-hop roommate why
    She tagged her white tank a “wifebeater” without question, I asked her
    What it meant that her closest friends coming in as “Heaven” and “Hell” were free to take
    Center-stage tag-teaming
    Jeanie, Austin Powers and whiteman as himself
    In a striptease dance

    Which we all consumed,
    Looked, laughed and frowned
    Because we thought we were somehow not them. I wasn’t
    Drunk, like them
    I sipped root beer.
    I wasn’t high, like them
    I got off
    From humming hip-hop in the corner
    From two speakers from a homemade CD
    The horror hostess called a “party mix” that I was mixed up in
    ‘Cause somehow drunken ass football hands
    Who felt me up from the asshole up
    Thought I was his real-life blaxploitation ho
    From them 70s shows done over in them rap videos.

    I walked in the house
    Party with goddamn Madonna
    In her ultra-mini, black lace tights and a peek-a-boo tank
    Surrounded by her
    Entire blonde ambition, erotica entourage touring
    All around me, but
    Drunken ass football hands stationed right on top of me,
    Right as
    One of the number one raps raped me
    In the background, I became (her)
    Tone-deaf hearing
    But the curse
    Words I could have said
    If my blackness were not drowned
    Out by all the white noise,
    By drunken ass football hands
    Walking up-
    Out the door

    Hi-fiving his fratboylike buddies bragging
    He finally got the opportunity
    To fondle the foxy brown black nigger whore
    From his virtual


  9. Phila. Bar slams judge in rape case
    Teresa Carr Deni had its support for a third term. Then she reduced a charge to theft of a prostitute’s services.

    By Joseph A. Slobodzian

    Inquirer Staff Writer

    A city judge who reduced a rape charge to “theft of services” in a case involving a prostitute assaulted at gunpoint was harshly criticized yesterday by the head of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

    Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni’s handling of the case was an “unforgivable miscarriage of justice,” said Jane Leslie Dalton, the bar association’s chancellor. “The victim has been brutalized twice in this case: first by the assailants, and now by the court.”

    Dalton’s criticism came just 28 days after the association recommended that voters Tuesday retain Deni for a third six-year term.

    That recommendation, however, came before Deni’s ruling in the preliminary hearing for Dominique Gindraw, 19. Dalton’s remarks yesterday were clearly aimed at voters who may not have been aware of the case.

    According to testimony, a 20-year-old single mother agreed to an hour’s worth of sex with Gindraw for $150 on Sept. 20. When she arrived at the address, Gindraw allegedly asked if she would also have sex with his friend; she agreed for an additional $100.

    When the friend arrived, according to testimony, he had no money and was armed. The woman said she had been forced at gunpoint to have sex with four men.

    Deni dismissed the rape and sexual-assault charges and held Gindraw for trial on a charge of “armed robbery for theft of services.”

    The District Attorney’s Office has since refiled rape charges against Grindraw in Common Pleas Court.

    Deni, 59, first elected to the $148,596-a-year judicial post in 1995, did not respond to a telephone message for comment left on her chamber’s voicemail.

    A week after the hearing, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jill Porter quoted Deni as saying in an interview that the woman had consented to sex, and that her complaint “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”

    Women’s and victim advocates around the nation have heavily criticized the judge, and there has been some grassroots organizing against Deni’s retention.

    Dalton said Deni’s ruling and comments showed that she misunderstood “what constitutes rape in Pennsylvania.”

    Dalton said the law permitted any woman to change her mind after consenting to sex “regardless of the circumstances. We cannot imagine any circumstances more violent or coercive than being forced to have sex with four men at gunpoint.”

    “In the final analysis, it is up to each individual voter, in the privacy of the voting booth, to make his or her own decision as to whether Judge Deni should continue in her present position,” Dalton said.

    The bar association’s executive director, Kenneth Shear, said that under association rules, Dalton could not revoke the association’s Oct. 1 recommendation, which was made after a poll of lawyers who practiced before the judge and deliberations by the association’s nonpartisan Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention.

    Shear said that the commission had a “due process” obligation to speak with the judge about criticism before issuing a recommendation, and that Dalton had wanted to read a transcript of the hearing before commenting.

    “There just was not enough time,” Shear said.

    A copy of Dalton’s statement was sent to the judge before it was made public, but bar officials have received no reaction, Shear said.

  10. Adaptation of a never sent letter intended for my old friend.

    Sept. 21, 2007

    Hey Girl:

    I’d like to ring a neck over the audacity of them refusing to release Bell still. But…. audacity is what started the problem…

    You know… I feel like I’m so distant from people and have become a stranger to more friends over this thing. I like to warn people beforehand if I must deliver some intense info, so here’s the warning, ok?

    There’s one thing about me that most don’t know, but I think it’s ok to tell you about. I was assaulted my freshman year in college, when I was 19. It was bad ’cause my family felt, at the time, that I wanted to go out and experiement without taking responsibility, and they didn’t want to hear different. So…I went to my congregation to talk to someone older and responsinle about it about it, and their first question was “Was he black?” That tripped me out. Not, “Are you okay,” or “can we help with anything?”, you know.(not So long after that I walked out on the church community thing. i’m not even all that smitten w/ Chistianity in general anymore, after all the hush hush stories I heard from the children on the husband’s treatment of their wives in some of my favorite families.)

    Then when I went to the piggies (I’d of called them police officers at the time),unfortunately not right away ’cause I was scarred/shocked, you know, they asked the same thing first, “was he black?”. They said, “then how do we know that he isn’t really your boyfriend?” (What the…!!!) So anyway, I wasn’t able to press any charges but only could go so far as to get a restraining order requested against the guy.

    Kind of a batty story huh? But that was major/ it really changed me. I was thinking about it… I can’t help feeling a little conflicted when talking about relationships because I started dating maybe 2 & a half years after that. MOF I was in touch with you a little bit after that time, in about ’02, but I kind of drifted away from everybody- that was around the time I just started working a lot. Crazy life.

    In general, I’m pretty, pretty good now though. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anybody because of that. But, I’ve been wanting to find ways to focus on appreciating life from the perspective of a girl that is so undervalued in society that crimes of that magnitude aren’t even acknowledged. It made me want to appreciate myself to the extreme extent that I found out then- that society in general does not appreciate me, specifically as a Woman of African descent. I mean, what makes people assume that it’s natural/ acceptable for a black man to assault a black girl, or further that for a black girl to be in such a situation is normal and ok? That’s the craziest part of all. From realizing that in reality,that is what a lot of music and stuff promotes (eg. “come give me a hug, end’s up getting rough” 1 example) that young girls should be sexualized as guys see fit for their amusement… well- to me the guys, girls and everybody are caught in a seriously funky web. I guess you understand what I’m saying.

    (I trust you with that info ’bout myself… (& because I know people wonder why I’m not the exact Ann they remember or expected and just don’t understand why that is, you know? but that’s it.)

    As always,

    Ann Onimus (otherwise known as Me)

  11. Hello all,

    I think this is not only a very good thing that you’re doing but more importantly, a much needed one. I live in Montgomery, Alabama and had work with the State Highway Department. We have been involved in a Class Action Discrimination Lawsuit for the past 22 years. You would not believe the type of things that we are still being subjected to in this day and age.

    I have always been taught to stand up fro my rights and when I did so on this job, I was quickly labeled as a “troublemaker”. They quickly transferred me to a black supervisor who they knew had been in trouble for sexual harassment. This man sexually harassed me for (2)years, (10)months, and (14)days and they never did anything about it until the stress almost killed me…literally. I also had to call on the so-called leaders here to have them to get involved. But of course they were men too didn’t seem to be able to see the real pain and degration that this sort of things do to black women. furthermore, they don’t seem to take what happens to black women in this country serious enough.
    After this black supervisor finished with me, they sent me to a white supervisor, known for his racial klandetic behavior. The hell I went through is undescribable. I met with the Director, wrote the Governor, wrote my Congressman, and all to no avail. But if I had been a white woman, none of this would have happened, and if it had, all of the people I contacted would have been all over the situation. I finally had to leave after (12)years because my doctor said the stress was taking too much of a toll on my health. Now,two years later, and being (51)years old, I am still fighting for justice. But the sad part is that other black women are going through the same thing at the hands of these Klansmen. White attornrys want big money up front to fight the cases and black attorneys are either afraid of them or “in their pockets”. Black women are going to have start a national movement to fight this continued racism and discrimination against us. We can no longer wait for someone else to fight our battles.
    I have contacted the 100 Black Women and a couple of other National Groups in seeking help in getting some relief for black women at this particular State agency, and anywhere else in this state and city where women are suffering in silence. If you can be of any assistance or have any information as to who can, please let me know. God Bless

  12. Hey loved ones,
    Thank you for sharing these powerful words. If anyone wants to participate in a podcast project for 2009’s Be Bold Be Red email brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com. I would love for you to record your voice…reading these words or speaking out about violence as it effects us as womyn of color. The sooner the better. If I could get your pieces by Oct 20th that would be great!

  13. “love”
    wrriten by Olives Chen
    (trigger warning)

    I believe in love.
    because when I was a little girl love was such a simple concept.
    it existed in the ways that I,
    at 7 years old, idolized my older brother.
    everything he did, I did too.
    it existed in friendships
    that were supposed to last forever
    it existed in day dreams,
    in Saturday morning cartoons,
    in secret crushes in the first grade
    but as I got older, love began to manifest itself
    in different ways

    I still believe in love,
    but only cause I no longer love, him.

    no longer do I confuse
    gray lines of self acceptance
    with gray lines of sexual intimacy.

    no longer do I remain silent,
    because its
    my mind,
    my body,
    my right.

    no longer do I allow
    for the assumed entitlement
    he thought he had
    to my mind,
    my body,
    my right.

    he, would confuse his own gray lines
    of a masculine identity
    with sexual conquest
    why else before
    my mind or heart mattered,
    he was curious to see how far he could get me to
    spread my legs.
    and most people wouldn’t call that rape, per se
    but, having a clear conscious
    of my own being,
    of my own worth,
    used to be distorted
    distorted through the ways
    I used to see myself in the women
    who are
    and are what society
    would define as perfection

    now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against sex.
    I believe in the right for two individuals,
    who could be strangers, or lovers,
    expressing themselves sexually with each other

    but I am against it when someone cannot
    separate their own being
    from how this world defines them to be

    you see,
    me being proud
    of being asian,
    of being a woman
    is different than they ways
    that society might define me as an
    Asian American women.

    finding ways to define your own being is no easy task.
    but once I stopped loving him,
    and began finally to love me,
    I knew I was stepping into the right direction

    but loving me was hard
    I did not always feel
    the beauty that runs through my veins,
    I did not always know
    the soul
    that lived deep within
    my heart.

    there was a moment in time
    when I felt caged,
    trapped by the darkness
    of my own heart.

    searching for an answer
    when I could only see words
    put to sentences
    that never made sense.

    nothing made sense,
    until I started to get flashbacks of
    bright lights.

    flash backs of bright lights
    that hung over the bathroom mirror
    that I,
    5 years old,
    would stare into when
    I tried to wash my grandfather’s semen
    from my hands,
    I tried to wash away the memories of my grandfather
    I did not want to remember,.
    but little did I know
    my grandfathers semen
    would permanently scar my hands,
    and seep into the fabrication of my being

    these flashbacks of bright lights
    blinded me into a disillusion,
    as I woke up,
    15 years later
    in a labyrinth
    of distant memories and nightmares
    distant memories and nightmares
    that were actually a reality I was unable to face.

    a reality of

    I tried to run, as I felt a dagger
    traveling through my veins
    ripping up parts of me
    as it came closer and closer
    to my heart

    love is what broke through these my cement walls of self hate
    love is what rearranged the broken chords of my heart beat
    to the most beautiful melody I have ever felt
    loving me, is the reason why I believe in love.

    but, you see, it doesn’t end there.
    I was not and am not alone, and neither are you.

    demons of the past live in us all.
    sometimes we forget about their existence,
    but sometimes these demons will creep up
    on our consciousness when we least expect it.

    at moments when your demons get the best of you
    remember, you are not alone.
    I have been there too.
    our experiences may be different…
    but I have been in a place where I felt the demons within
    dancing to my heartbeat
    spinning the world faster
    than I could keep up

    remember, you are not alone

    love is what connects me to you
    love is the melody of which our hearts beat to
    love is the song that runs through the veins of humanity
    the song that can only be heard through truth
    a truth we are all struggling to see
    but a truth that does exist,
    sometimes in the darkest parts
    of our soul,
    to be set free.

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