Motherhood and depression

I believed for nine whole years that I am not a good enough mom.  I kept telling myself repeatedly that being a stay-at-home mom may not be the best thing for me, but it is best for my family, for my child. I must be able to stay happy with this job, or what would others especially my husband thinks of me. Still, I could not help burying that deep-down desire of having some individual identity of my own as well outside of motherhood. A mom friend of mine used to wake up crying every morning and always thought that she was just having a bad day. She tried medications and communicating. She finally saw a therapist and joined a school to dig herself out of the darkness.

Like me or my friend, too many American women experience emotional crises as they navigate motherhood. Hormones are often considered the key reason for compromised mental health in moms, most of the challenges come from society’s gender expectations and responses to motherhood. Following are key reasons responsible for impacting the mental health of new or old mothers.

Sleep deprivation

Lack of sleep is the second name for motherhood, and moms contended with the years of interrupted sleep. The fact that no one wants to acknowledge that they are exhausted. This certainly leads to mental health issues, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

 

Mom guilt

Believe it not, moms are the most judged by society, by themselves. This guilt starts in pregnancy and grows only worse as family, in-laws, partners keep finding out flaws in mothers. Anything that goes awry with the child, mothers are to be blamed.  Moms are susceptible to feeling guilty all the time because they want to believe that they are the chief architects of their children’s lives.

 

 

 

Work-life balance

I read it somewhere that women are supposed to work as if they don’t have to mother, and they are supposed to mother as if they don’t have a career. These clashing and contradicting expectations take a psychological toll on women as millions of working moms sacrifice to balance each day. And whatever they miss, adds only to their guilt stock.

Discrimination at work

Women often face unequal pay or treatment. Work-life balancing already takes a toll, then mansplaining, and barriers to upward mobility create further mental health issues. Most organizational cultures reward men out of proportion, and this can be very subtle and hence difficult to fight.

Those stretch marks and that unfit body

Body shaming is another challenge that moms face. Instagram is full of pictures of celebrity moms stunningly fit and without stretch marks. The whole world tells them with a grin - if they can, why cannot you! This whole scenario contributes to a lack of self-worth, self-loathing, and eating disorders.

Domestic violence and abuse

A significant number of moms face domestic violence, and financial, sexual, and emotional abuse every single day. Even if they decide to leave a toxic relationship, the psychological trauma lingers, and they may be easily triggered.

Single motherhood

Millions of American children are currently being raised by single mothers. Most single mothers accept sleep deprivation, stigma, conflict with an ex, and financial insecurity as a part of the deal. Minimum wage keeps many single moms below the poverty line – even if they are working full time! These hardships often trigger anxiety and depression. Single moms are doing a great job but at the cost of their mental health.

and depression


The History of the Pride Month

Celebrating LGBTQ Community

It comes across as a moving question – did you choose your sexuality? If not, then why to object on others. The gay rights movement has seen genuine progress and change in the last century across the world, especially in the United States. Pride Month celebrates commemorates the struggles, the sacrifices created awareness of the deep-seated prejudices, problems, and inspired people to bring out the significant change.

The Stonewall uprising

Throughout history, periods of upheaval moments have often given birth to genuine progress and change, but the Stonewall incident or Stonewall Uprising proved to be the catalyst for achieving the “pride” in the movement.

A series of violent confrontations started on June 28, 1969, between police and gay rights activists outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Greenwich Village in New York City. As the riots continued, an international gay rights movement was born.

Before 1969, homosexuality or solicitation of homosexual relations was an illegal act in New York. Gay men, lesbians, and other individuals who were considered “suspects” were not allowed to mingle freely, so the bars were the only haven for them.

On June 28, people in and outside the bar did not retreat or disperse as they always did in the past. On this evening, however, the bar patrons fought back. It started when Marsha P. Johnson cried “I got my civil rights!” and threw a shot glass into a mirror (now known as "the Shot Glass that was Heard Around the World").

People started throwing bottles and debris and pushing the policemen. This was spontaneous united action by 400 people who fearlessly breached police barricades and set the bar on fire.

 

The crowd was scattered eventually. The riots outside the Stonewall Inn waxed and waned for the next five days. There have been many other protests by gay groups but the Stonewall Incident was the first time when the LGBTQ community witnessed the power of unity for a common cause.

 

 

Stonewall: the symbol of resistance 

What happened at Stonewall bar was the first, but this incident became the symbol of solidarity among the LGBTQ community and sparked a new fire of activism for the new generation.

Older groups such as the Mattachine Society, which was founded in southern California as a discussion group for gay men and had flourished in the 1950s, soon made way for more radical groups such as the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA).

In addition to launching numerous public demonstrations to protest the lack of civil rights for gay individuals, these organizations often resorted to such tactics as public confrontations with political officials and the disruption of public meetings to challenge and to change the mores of the times. Acceptance and respect from the establishment were no longer being humbly requested but angrily and righteously demanded. The broad-based radical activism of many gay men and lesbians in the 1970s eventually set into motion a new, nondiscriminatory trend in government policies and helped educate society regarding this significant minority.

 

How Pride month started

A bisexual activist Brenda Howard, who was known as “the Mother of Pride” organized Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year after the Stonewall Riots. This turned into the New York City Pride March and became the catalytic event for similar parades and protests worldwide.

A talented designer Gilbert Baker designed an all-encompassing flag on the request of a gay politician Harvey Milk to be presented in the Pride March in 1978 in San Francisco.

President Bill Clinton was the first to officially recognize Pride Month in 1999 and 2000. Then, from 2009 to 2016, President Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. In May 2019, President Donald Trump recognized Pride Month with a tweet announcing that his administration had launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality.

 

 


Rape Culture in India

Rape Culture in India

In the last over a decade, India has acquired a new title – the rape capital of the world. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), over 4 lakh reported cases of crimes committed against women in 2019, up from 3.78 lakh in 2018 and 3.59 lakh cases in 2017. 88 rapes take place as per a report NCRB - and this is just 10% of all crimes against women. Experts say that picture could be far worse as most such crimes go unreported in the country, and the conviction rate is below 30%. 

Several gang rape cases caused widespread outrage across the nation and highlighted the fact that how pervasive sexual violence is in the country. The cases that shook up the entire nation – Unnav rape case, 19-year-old lower caste woman was gang-raped by four upper-caste men, Kathua rape case (2018), Hyderabad rape and murder case to name a few. In 2012, the heinous and ghastly Delhi Nirbhaya rape case exposed the grim reality of bestial crimes against women in India. In this case, a 23-year student was raped and brutally murdered. The barbaric nature of the crime appalled the country and brought worldwide attention to the rape crisis of India. The government sought to appease the widespread street protests in many cities and lawmakers were forced to refer this case to a fast-track court, and the judgment was pronounced in less than a year. The law concerning violence against women was amended by the Parliament. The maximum punishment for rape resulting in death (or vegetative state) of the victim was modified from life imprisonment to include the death penalty. Other laws related to sexual crime were made stricter, in the hope that this would deter people from committing such crimes. 

This case caught international headlines, and the convicts, after a supposedly historic judgment, were executed after 10 years. Right after two weeks of this judgment, a 23-year-old girl from North India was assaulted and doused in gasoline before setting her on fire. In the wake of such cases, India made the law to hand out the death penalty to the convicts of sexually assaulting a child under 12 years of age. Unfortunately, these laws do not seem to create fear for the abusers and rapists, and the number of these ghastly crimes against women is only increasing.

Who is responsible?

Culturally, Indian society is a patriarchal society where women are considered as secondary citizens. This “value” gets etched in children’s psyche from a very young age. The birth of a boy in a family is a highly celebrated occasion while on the birth of a girl child, the mother is often subjected to abuse. The demands and desires of a boy are considered superior to that of a girl child. Sex-selective abortion, high levels of female infant mortality, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, lesser wages for women, unsafe workplaces, domestic violence, maternal mortality, sexual assault, and neglect of elderly women… the list just goes on that highlight the patriarchal nature of Indian society. Marital rapes are very common too but hardly reported to protect the family honor.

Indian society highly stigmatizes the victims of sexual assault or rape and victim shaming is very common. What she was wearing, what time she was traveling alone, were her gesture suggestive, or maybe she was smoking or drinking to give wrong signals to offenders, and the list goes on.

For men, the list of excuse starts with “men will be men”, and can justify the act as protecting culture, family honor or teaching a lesson to a rebel. A minister from the government even suggested on an occasion that women should give in while being raped so the rapists do not commit a heinous crime after the act or murder the victim. A judge even stepped ahead, and said that because a smaller number of marriages taking place due to coronavirus lockdown, it is natural for men to rape to fulfill their sexual desires.

These highly offensive remarks again highlight the deep-rooted social prejudice against women and emphasize how Indian society objectifies women, and how men are just born superior to women.

The increasing socioeconomic divide

India today is one of the fastest developing economies in the world. But benefits of the accelerating economic growth and the westernization of culture due to globalization are not reaching all social and economic classes equally. The upper-middle-class and rich class are the biggest beneficiaries of globalization and have accelerated the adoption of western-style dressing. This socio-economic and cultural divide is going broader by the day and manifesting in terms of the increase in the crime rate. In many rape cases, the convicts confessed their intention of teaching the woman a lesson for ‘hurting the Indian culture’ by wearing pants or staying out till late. Ironically, men are never punished for wearing western attire or not acting exactly what the culture teaches.

Caste dynamics seep into every aspect of Indian society. Cast-based rivalries, and sometimes religion-based ones become prime motivational reasons for sexual violence. Sexual violence against marginalized groups including tribal people and lower caste (who form the bottom of social hierarchy) is very prevalent.

In such cases, rape becomes the show of power and an exercise to show the lower-class people their place and vulnerabilities.

The awakening of hope

After the widespread outrage against the sexual crimes, protests by thousands of people across the country demanding justice have pushed for strong penalties in the long-running court proceedings. More cases are being reported the government is being called on to address the broad pandemic of sexual crimes against women.  

 


The History of the Pride Month

Celebrating LGBTQ Pride

It comes across as a moving question – did you choose your sexuality? If not, then why to object on others. The gay rights movement has seen genuine progress and change in the last century across the world, especially in the United States. Pride Month celebrates commemorates the struggles, the sacrifices created awareness of the deep-seated prejudices, problems, and inspired people to bring out the significant change.

The Stonewall uprising

Throughout history, periods of upheaval moments have often given birth to genuine progress and change, but the Stonewall incident or Stonewall Uprising proved to be the catalyst for achieving the “pride” in the movement.

A series of violent confrontations started on June 28, 1969, between police and gay rights activists outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Greenwich Village in New York City. As the riots continued, an international gay rights movement was born.

Before 1969, homosexuality or solicitation of homosexual relations was an illegal act in New York. Gay men, lesbians, and other individuals who were considered “suspects” were not allowed to mingle freely, so the bars were the only haven for them.

On June 28, people in and outside the bar did not retreat or disperse as they always did in the past. On this evening, however, the bar patrons fought back. It started when Marsha P. Johnson cried “I got my civil rights!” and threw a shot glass into a mirror (now known as "the Shot Glass that was Heard Around the World").

People started throwing bottles and debris and pushing the policemen. This was spontaneous united action by 400 people who fearlessly breached police barricades and set the bar on fire.

 

The crowd was scattered eventually. The riots outside the Stonewall Inn waxed and waned for the next five days. There have been many other protests by gay groups but the Stonewall Incident was the first time when the LGBTQ community witnessed the power of unity for a common cause.

 

 

Stonewall: the symbol of resistance 

What happened at Stonewall bar was the first, but this incident became the symbol of solidarity among the LGBTQ community and sparked a new fire of activism for the new generation.

Older groups such as the Mattachine Society, which was founded in southern California as a discussion group for gay men and had flourished in the 1950s, soon made way for more radical groups such as the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA).

In addition to launching numerous public demonstrations to protest the lack of civil rights for gay individuals, these organizations often resorted to such tactics as public confrontations with political officials and the disruption of public meetings to challenge and to change the mores of the times. Acceptance and respect from the establishment were no longer being humbly requested but angrily and righteously demanded. The broad-based radical activism of many gay men and lesbians in the 1970s eventually set into motion a new, nondiscriminatory trend in government policies and helped educate society regarding this significant minority.

 

How Pride month started

A bisexual activist Brenda Howard, who was known as “the Mother of Pride” organized Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year after the Stonewall Riots. This turned into the New York City Pride March and became the catalytic event for similar parades and protests worldwide.

A talented designer Gilbert Baker designed an all-encompassing flag on the request of a gay politician Harvey Milk to be presented in the Pride March in 1978 in San Francisco.

President Bill Clinton was the first to officially recognize Pride Month in 1999 and 2000. Then, from 2009 to 2016, President Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. In May 2019, President Donald Trump recognized Pride Month with a tweet announcing that his administration had launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality.

 

 


Depression in mothers: a growing crisis

Maternal depression is a major public health problem in the United States, with an estimated 1 in 10 children experiencing a depressed mother in any given year. Professionals who work with mothers and children should be aware of its prevalence and its detrimental effects. (NCBI Resources)

I believed for 9 whole years that I am not a good enough mom.  I kept telling myself repeatedly that being a stay-at-home mom may not be the best thing for me, it’s best for my family, for my child. I must be able to stay happy with this job or others, especially my husband thinks of me. Still, I could not help burying that deep-down desire to have some individual identity of my own outside of motherhood. A mom friend of mine used to wake up crying every morning and always thought that she was just having a bad day. She tried medications and communicating. She finally saw a therapist and joined a school to dig herself out of the darkness.

Like me or my friend, too many American women experience emotional crises as they navigate motherhood. Hormones are often considered the key reason for compromised mental health in moms, most of the challenges come from society’s gender expectations and responses to motherhood. Following are key reasons responsible for impacting the mental health of new or old mothers.

Sleep deprivation

Lack of sleep is the second name for motherhood, and moms contended with the years of interrupted sleep. The fact that no one wants to acknowledge that they are exhausted. This certainly leads to mental health issues, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

 

Mom guilt

Believe it not, moms are the most judged by society, by themselves. This guilt starts in pregnancy and grows only worse as family, in-laws, partners keep finding out flaws in mothers. Anything that goes awry with the child, mothers are to be blamed.  Moms are susceptible to feeling guilty all the time because they want to believe that they are the chief architects of their children’s lives.

 

Work-life balance

I read it somewhere that women are supposed to work as if they don’t have to mother, and they are supposed to mother as if they don’t have a career. These clashing and contradicting expectations take a psychological toll on women as millions of working moms sacrifice to balance each day. And whatever they miss, adds only to their guilt stock.

Discrimination at work

Women often face unequal pay or treatment. Work-life balancing already takes a toll, then mansplaining, and barriers to upward mobility create further mental health issues. Most organizational cultures reward men out of proportion, which can be very subtle and difficult to fight.

Those stretch marks and that unfit body

Body shaming is another challenge that moms face. Instagram is full of pictures of celebrity moms stunningly fit and without stretch marks. The whole world tells them with a grin - if they can, why cannot you! This whole scenario contributes to a lack of self-worth, self-loathing, and eating disorders.

Domestic violence and abuse

A significant number of moms face domestic violence, and financial, sexual, and emotional abuse every single day. Even if they decide to leave a toxic relationship, the psychological trauma lingers, and they may be easily triggered.

Single motherhood

Millions of American children are currently being raised by single mothers. Most single mothers accept sleep deprivation, stigma, conflict with an ex, and financial insecurity as a part of the deal. Minimum wage keeps many single moms below the poverty line – even if they are working full time! These hardships often trigger anxiety and depression. Single moms are doing a great job but at the cost of their mental health.


Rape Culture Widespreading In India

Rape Culture in India

 

In the last over a decade, India has acquired a new title – the rape capital of the world. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), over 4 lakh reported cases of crimes committed against women in 2019, up from 3.78 lakh in 2018 and 3.59 lakh cases in 2017. NCRB reported 32,033 rape cases which translate to a shocking 88 rape cases a day -- and this is just 10% of all crimes against women. Experts say that picture could be far worse as most such crimes go unreported in the country, and the conviction rate is below 30%.

Several gang rape cases caused widespread outrage across the nation and highlighted the fact that how pervasive sexual violence is in the country. The cases that shook up the entire nation – Unnav rape case, 19-year-old lower caste woman was gang-raped by four upper-caste men, Kathua rape case (2018), Hyderabad rape and murder case to name a few. In 2012, the heinous and ghastly Delhi Nirbhaya rape case exposed the grim reality of bestial crimes against women in India. In this case, a 23-year student was raped and brutally murdered. The barbaric nature of the crime appalled the country and brought worldwide attention to the rape crisis of India. The government sought to appease the widespread street protests in many cities and lawmakers were forced to refer this case to a fast-track court, and the judgment was pronounced in less than a year. The law concerning violence against women was amended by the Parliament. The maximum punishment for rape resulting in death (or vegetative state) of the victim was modified from life imprisonment to include the death penalty. Other laws related to sexual crime were made stricter, in the hope that this would deter people from committing such crimes.

This case caught international headlines, and the convicts, after a supposedly historic judgment, were executed after 10 years. Right after two weeks of this judgment, a 23-year-old girl from North India was assaulted and doused in gasoline before setting her on fire. In the wake of such cases, India made the law to hand out the death penalty to the convicts of sexually assaulting a child under 12 years of age. Unfortunately, these laws do not seem to create fear for the abusers and rapists, and the number of these ghastly crimes against women is only increasing.

 

Who is responsible?

Culturally, Indian society is a patriarchal society where women are considered as secondary citizens. Children internalize this “value” from a very young age. The birth of a boy in a family is a highly celebrated occasion while on the birth of a girl child, the mother is often subjected to abuse. The demands and desires of a boy are considered superior to that of a girl child. These values are programmed in the Indian mindset. Sex-selective abortion, infanticide, and discrimination continue through adolescent and adult life with high levels of female infant mortality, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, lesser wages for women, unsafe workplaces, domestic violence, maternal mortality, sexual assault, and neglect of elderly women… the list just goes on that highlight the patriarchal nature of Indian society. Marital rapes are very common too but hardly reported to protect the family honor.

Indian society highly stigmatizes the victims of sexual assault or rape and victim shaming is very common. What she was wearing, what time she was traveling alone, were her gesture suggestive, or maybe she was smoking or drinking to give wrong signals to offenders, and the list goes on.

For men, it starts with “men will be men”. A minister from the government even suggested women give in while being raped so the rapists do not commit a heinous crime after the act or murder the victim. A judge even stepped ahead and said that because a smaller number of marriages taking place due to coronavirus lockdown, it is natural for men to rape in a bid of fulfilling their sexual desires.

These highly offensive remarks again highlight the deep-rooted social prejudice against women and emphasize how Indian society objectifies women, and how men are just born superior to women.

 

The increasing socioeconomic divide

India today is one of the fastest developing economies in the world. But benefits of the accelerating economic growth and the westernization of culture due to globalization are not reaching all social and economic classes equally. The upper-middle-class and rich class are the biggest beneficiaries of globalization and have accelerated the adoption of western-style dressing. This socio-economic and cultural divide is going broader by the day and manifesting in terms of the increase in the crime rate. In many rape cases, the convicts confessed their intention of teaching the woman a lesson for hurting the so-called Indian culture by wearing pants or staying out till late. Ironically, men are never punished for wearing western attire or not acting exactly what the culture teaches.

Caste dynamics permeate every aspect of Indian society. Cast-based rivalries, and sometimes religion-based ones become prime motivational reasons for sexual violence. Sexual violence against marginalized groups including tribal people and lower caste (who form the bottom of social hierarchy) is very pervasive.

Here rape becomes the show of power and an exercise to show the lower-class people their place and vulnerabilities.

 

The awakening of hope

After the widespread outrage against the sexual crimes, protests by thousands of people across the country demanding justice have pushed for strong penalties in the long-running court proceedings. More cases are being reported the government is being called on to address the broad pandemic of sexual crimes against women.

 


History of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2021

Sexual Assault Awareness Month April 2021

 

Preventing sexual assault or sexual violence from happening is a community-wide effort and responsibility. The movement to end sexual violence began with (and continues to be driven today by) community advocacy, student activism, and grassroots community organizing. In cultivating this social change Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) has been playing an important role. Observed each April, SAAM is a campaign that aims to increase awareness about the causes and risk factors for sexual assault and empower individuals to take steps to prevent it in their communities. The SAAM campaign works with a variety of non-profit organizations and foundations to spread the message of awareness and prevention through educational programs, public events, and petitions for legislative action.

 

History of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), but its history goes way beyond that. In the 1970s activists organized events on the national level to reduce sexual assault and violence against women and tried to bring this once considered a taboo, open for public discussion out of shadows, and shed light on the widespread problem of sexual assault.

In 1971, the first rape crisis center, Bay Area Women Against Rape was opened with the goals of providing counseling and advocacy for survivors and community education. This opened the way for more groups and organizations to form and in 1976, the first Take Back the Night Rally brought attention to Sexual Assault related issues. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against the Women Act (VAWA) to treat domestic violence as a crime, not as a private matter. VAWA was also designed to strengthen legal protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence as well as expand services to survivors and their children.

The First official Sexual Assault Awareness Month once again brought the issue into public consciousness and revived the events and support groups that raised awareness and provide resources to survivors and those at risk. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) supports a network of over a thousand rape crisis centers. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center was established in 2000 by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Center for Disease Control. In 2001, the NSVRC coordinated the first formally recognized national Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign and still facilitates it today.

 

Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes any type of unwanted sexual contact — either in person or online — including sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.

  • Forms of sexual violence include:
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to others without consent
  • Nonconsensual image sharing
  • Words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent
  • Sexual violence represents a range of behaviors

Sexual Assault Awareness Month April 2021

Sexual Assault Awareness Month April 2021

 

Preventing sexual assault or sexual violence from happening is a community-wide effort and responsibility. The movement to end sexual violence began with (and continues to be driven today by) community advocacy, student activism, and grassroots community organizing. In cultivating this social change Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) has been playing an important role. Observed each April, SAAM is a campaign that aims to increase awareness about the causes and risk factors for sexual assault and empower individuals to take steps to prevent it in their communities. The SAAM campaign works with a variety of non-profit organizations and foundations to spread the message of awareness and prevention through educational programs, public events, and petitions for legislative action.

 

History of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), but its history goes way beyond that. In the 1970s activists organized events on the national level to reduce sexual assault and violence against women and tried to bring this once considered a taboo, open for public discussion out of shadows, and shed light on the widespread problem of sexual assault.

In 1971, the first rape crisis center, Bay Area Women Against Rape was opened with the goals of providing counseling and advocacy for survivors and community education. This opened the way for more groups and organizations to form and in 1976, the first Take Back the Night Rally brought attention to Sexual Assault related issues. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against the Women Act (VAWA) to treat domestic violence as a crime, not as a private matter. VAWA was also designed to strengthen legal protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence as well as expand services to survivors and their children.

The First official Sexual Assault Awareness Month once again brought the issue into public consciousness and revived the events and support groups that raised awareness and provide resources to survivors and those at risk. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) support a network of over a thousand rape crisis centers. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center was established in 2000 by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Center for Disease Control. In 2001, the NSVRC coordinated the first formally recognized national Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign and still facilitates it today.

 

Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes any type of unwanted sexual contact — either in person or online — including sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.

  • Forms of sexual violence include:
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Exposing one’s genitals or a naked body to others without consent
  • Nonconsensual image sharing
  • Words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent
  • Sexual violence represents a range of behaviors

Life is beautiful even through a tragedy

 

-- by Jeffrey Gregory

Every child deserves loving, caring, protecting parents, and a beautiful world full of opportunities and possibilities around them. Unfortunately, some children receive abuse, neglect, and loneliness from their families and surroundings instead of affection and nurturing. One of my collogues, Ms. Keeks is one of those unfortunate children who had to endure assaults and neglect throughout their childhood, yet this 21-year-old young woman is among a few inspiring and courageous women who not only came out with their stories but also find compassion and understanding for others in the scars of their emotional wounds.

 

Meet Keeks

 

The early years of Keeks’ childhood life were wonderful. She was the happiest child around without a care in the world, as most young girls should be. However, the innocence, the happiness were shattered when a dark and deep family secret came to light to the five-year-old Keeks. She learned that she was adopted, and after learning this scary news her life turned upside down, in all the wrong ways.

 

“My life turned to hell,” Keeks said. “Physical and sexual abuse and other major changes came into the picture and I began saying ‘I cannot wait to die.”

 

After finding out about her adoption Keeks felt like nothing more than just a pawn within the family unit, just going along with other people’s moves. Keeks would be psychically beaten up leaving her severely hurt, and not to mention the emotionally abused. She would always be told different forms of the truth about who she was and where she came from.

 

You are probably wondering how could this happen to such an innocent young girl? These are questions we will never know. This type of abuse to young children leads to future terrible trauma memories and can lead to severe depression or suicide. Keeks said that in her darkest of times she would go to the local train tracks to find peace and solace. “I would always go to the train tracks; it was my safe space,” Keeks said. “I even once tried to kill myself there.”

 

Keeks remembers a time in school where she wrote a suicide note in class along with a poem to go with it. Thankfully, the note fell out of her pocket and her teacher found it and told another teacher about it. After getting caught Keeks ripped up the note in the smallest of pieces so no one would be able to place it back together to read what it said.

 

After being taken to the hospital for suicide watch, the hospital staff worked desperately to place the ripped-up note back into place. Luckily, they got the note “fully” together and discovered the pain, suffering, trauma, and abuse Keeks was living with. She had no choice but to be put into a mental hospital.

 

Through all the trauma and abuse, Keeks still found ways to keep herself occupied and busy with her hobbies. She enjoyed reading books and writing stories. She realized her writing skills when she just four by writing short stories of the home life she wished she had. Keeks also found serenity in writing poems to get her emotions out and express herself what she had experienced throughout her young life. For some people, writing comes easier as the expression of their inner selves, and Keeks is one of them.

 

“My aunt hated that I wrote so much that she would take my journals and expose things to people,” Keeks said about her aunt. “A lot of the time my writings would get me hurt, so I had to write in secret and never share my writings.”

 

It is called Sweet 16 for a reason, and that is just what it was for Keeks when she was 16 when she was put back into foster care. For the past 11-12 years of her life, she had been living through the horrors of abuse from family, dealing with decisions on whether to live or go on and even had to live on the streets when her aunt kicked her out and told her to never come back. Because of her emotional distress, Keeks almost got expelled from school and was put into foster care, which saved her life.

 

Before we go into what Keeks did next, let us acknowledge the woman who helped shaped that lost 16-year-old girl - Ms. Lizzetta, Keeks foster mom’s best friend.

 

“We shared an unspoken understanding between us since the day we met.” Keeks reminisces about the time she spent with Lizzetta. Being angry at the world for everything she had received so far in her young life, Lizzetta was there to offer her shoulder to cry on. She was the only one to sit down and talk with Keeks. “She was the first person I opened up to about the sexual abuse I experienced for years,” Keeks said. “She and I walked a similar path, so she knew how to help me, letting me be vulnerable enough to talk but conscious enough to not force me to talk if I broke down.”

 

Though Keeks never really lived with Lizzetta, though she did want to adopt Keeks. However, because she was still living in foster care with her aunt holding custody the state was only concerned with reuniting Keeks with her “family”, as it was in the state’s best interest for families to be together.

 

One week later Keeks was sent to a foster home in Cleveland, Ohio. Immediately, Keeks knew this was not going to be an ideal situation for her. Not long into her stay in Cleveland Keeks was raped by her childhood rapist, who just so happened to live on the same street. To make matters worse, Keeks would be sexually assaulted again by another person and would now be sent to another foster home. With no help from caseworkers or her foster parents, Keeks had to find a way to succeed on her own after being separated from Lizzetta.

 

She found a way.

 

After graduating high school in Ohio, Keeks decided to attend Youngstown State University where she wanted to major in psychology. A large reason Keeks decided to stay local was due in part to her grandfather who was very sick, and she knew no one would give their time of day to help him. But Keeks decided to stay and help. That is who she is. Unfortunately, after three weeks into college, her grandfather passed away.

 

This led Keeks down a rough road for a bit while she self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, but she found a way to dig herself out of her hole, and she found a way to thrive. She finally found ways to cope with her childhood traumas.

 

One day, Keeks came up with the idea to help people who have been in her shoes. She came up with the idea of a project called “Kickin It Wit Keeks”. She started the project because when she would go back to foster homes, detention centers, old classrooms, etc. she realized if she were to talk to these kids who were dealing with similar traumatized pain, maybe it would help them; and her. One random day one of her kids was visiting and told her ‘you know it’s always fun kicking it with you. That was the moment “Kickin It Wit Keeks” began.

 

“I would share my story of where I started and where I’m currently standing”. Keeks said.

 

One day at school, Keeks decided to skip class to attend an MC Lyte event on campus. Keeks was a huge fan, so she couldn’t miss it. “It was one of the best decisions I could have ever made for myself,” Keeks said. “She told a little bit of her life story and the barriers she had to overcome to get to be the woman she is”. Keeks was even lucky enough to meet her idol and snap a few photos with MC Lyte in the process.

 

Keeks found the courage to leave Cleveland for Detroit because she missed Lizzetta, and Keeks being Keeks will do just about anything for her little sister and her family.

 

While living in Detroit, Keeks started doing some charity work during the holiday season. Her cause targeted to help the homeless in Detroit. One December she decided to take up fundraisers for the Detroit Rescue Mission, who planned one giving them $1.95 for one meal; All Keek’s donations were quadrupled. Keeks set her goal to raise $585, after the effect of quadrupling that $585 became $2,340. Enough for 1,200 meals.

 

Today, you can find Keeks establishing her transitional housing center for young children that will provide them with the necessities and resources needed to have a fair chance growing up and not to have to worry about surviving. Keeks would like to continue growing with WeTalkRadio Network and working with everyone else on the team.

 

“I am learning so much here from Ms. Kia and everyone else on the team who have other outward effects on different aspects of my life,” Keeks said of her time working with WeTalkRadio Network. “This has given me the tools I didn’t know how to come up with on my own for my other endeavors, it is a great experience!”

 

10 years from now Keeks sees herself as a well-established professional with many entities thriving to provide for children and young adults. Also, Keeks will be making “Kickin It Wit Keeks” a nonprofit foundation.

 

We all have scars inside and out, we all have freckles from emotional wounds and broken hearts, but Keeks is the one who has adorned herself with tattoos on her scars as she sees the beauty of the character as the grace point between what hurts and what heals, between the shadow of tragedy and the light of joy.

 


The extraordinary Maya Angelou

Celebrating Women's History Month

Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou known as Maya Angelou was an American author, civil rights activist, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet and award-winning author best known for her award-winning memoir,I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing– the first American best seller by an African American woman. Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009.

Early life

Born on April 4th, 1928 in St Louis, Missouri, Angelou had a difficult childhood. She and her brother Bailey had to live with her father’s mother in Arkansas after their parents split up. Not only she experienced firsthand racial discrimination during these early years, but she was also sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of seven. Traumatized by this incident, Angelou stopped talking and stayed virtually silent for five years. During this silence, she found her love in poetry.

Angelou as the first black female cable car conductor

During the World War II Angelou moved to San Francisco, California, where she received a scholarship to study dance and acting at the California Labor School. Angelou became the first black female cable car conductor – a job that she held briefly.

Angelou as a singer, artist, and activist

In 1950s, she landed a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess, later appearing in the off-Broadway production Calypso Heat Wave (1957) and releasing her first album, Miss Calypso (1957). Soon she became a member of the Harlem Writers Guild and a civil rights activist and she organized and starred in the musical revue Cabaret for Freedom as a benefit for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also serving as the SCLC's northern coordinator.  In 1961, Angelou appeared in an off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Blacks with James Earl Jones, Lou Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson. In 1973, Angelou went on to earn a Tony Award nomination for her role in a play – Look Away and an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the television miniseries Roots in 1977.

Angelou as an editor and a freelance writer

 

Living first in Egypt and then in Ghana, Angelou worked as an editor and a freelance writer in 1960s besides holding a position at the University of Ghana for a time. In Ghana, she also joined a community of "Revolutionist Returnees” exploring pan-Africanism and became close with human rights activist and Black nationalist leader Malcolm X. In 1964, upon returning to the United States, Angelou helped Malcolm X set up the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Angelou’s famous poems

Angelou’s several collections of poetry gained fame but her most famous was “Just give me a cool drink ‘fore I Diie (1971)” which was also nominated for Pulitzer Prize.

Other famous collections of Angelou’s poetry include:

 

In January 1993, Angelou recited On the Pulse of Morning, at the President Bill Clinton’s inaugural ceremony, a poem she especially wrote for this occasion. She won a Grammy award as the best-spoken word album, for the audio version of the poem.

Other well-known poems by Angelou include:

  • His Day Is Done (1962), a tribute poem Angelou wrote for Nelson Mandela as he made his secret journey from Africa to London
  • Amazing Peace (2005), written by Angelou for the White House tree-lighting ceremony

Angelou’s Books

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Angelou’s enormously successful memoir about her childhood and young years. The poignant story made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman. The book, which made Angelou an international star, continues to be regarded as her most popular autobiographical work. In 1995, Angelou was lauded for remaining on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction bestseller list for two years—the longest-running record in the chart's history.

Angelou and her work have inspired millions of Americans and the people of world. Her success and her work despite her difficult life paved the way for many African Americans writers, and millions of people across the globe for whom Maya Angelou is a true hero. This includes the youngest inaugural poet Amanda Gorman too, who proudly adorned the pendant of a caged bird during her recital at the President Biden’s inaugural address honoring Angelou’s I know why the caged bird sings.

1995, Angelou was lauded for remaining on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction bestseller list for two years—the longest-running record in the chart's history.

Angelou’s other works

‘Gather Together in My Name (1974) - Angelou’s follow-up to A Caged Bird, this memoir covers her life as an unemployed teenage mother in California, when she turned to narcotics and prostitution.

Singing and Swingin and Getting Merry Like Christmas (1976)  -  Angelou wrote this autobiography about her early career as a singer and actress.

The Heart of a Woman (1981) - Angelou crafted this memoir about leaving California with her son for New York, where she took part in the civil rights movement.

'All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes' (1986) - A lyrical exploration about what it means to be an African American in Africa, this autobiographical book covers the years Angelou spent living in Ghana.

'Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now' (1994) - This inspirational essay collection features Angelou’s insights about spirituality and living well.

A Song Flung Up to Heaven' (2002) - Another autobiographical work, A Song Flung Up to Heaven explores Angelou’s return from Africa to the U.S. and her ensuing struggle to cope with the devastating assassinations of two human rights leaders with whom she worked, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

'Letter to My Daughter' (2008) - Dedicated to the daughter Angelou never had, this book of essays features Angelou’s advice for young women about living a life of meaning.

Mom & Me & Mom' (2013) - In this memoir, Angelou discusses her complicated relationship with a mother who abandoned her during childhood.

Cookbooks - Interested in health, Angelou’s published cookbooks include Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories With Recipes (2005) and Great Food, All Day Long (2010).

Angelou as a Screenplay Author and Director
After publishing Caged Bird, Angelou broke new ground artistically, educationally, and socially with her drama Georgia, Georgia in 1972, which made her the first African American woman to have her screenplay produced. In 1998, seeking new creative challenges, Angelou made her directorial debut with Down in the Delta, starring Alfre Woodard.

Accomplishments and Awards
Angelou's career has seen numerous accolades, including the Chicago International Film Festival's 1998 Audience Choice Award and a nod from the Acapulco Black Film Festival in 1999 for Down in the Delta. She also won two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, for her 2005 cookbook and 2008's Letter to My Daughter.

Famous Friends
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
a close friend of Angelou's, was assassinated on her birthday (April 4) in 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward, and sent flowers to King's widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta's death in 2006.

Angelou was also good friends with TV personality Oprah Winfrey, who organized several birthday celebrations for the award-winning author, including a week-long cruise for her 70th birthday in 1998.

        10 INSPIRING FACTS ABOUT MAYA ANGELOU

·       SHE WAS THE FIRST BLACK WOMAN TO CONDUCT A CABLE CAR IN SAN FRANCISCO.

·       PORGY AND BESS TOOK HER TO EUROPE.

·       SHE SPOKE SIX LANGUAGES.

·       SHE DIDN’T SPEAK FOR FIVE YEARS IN HER YOUTH.

·       SHE EDITED THE ARAB OBSERVER.

·       SHE WROTE AND DIRECTED SEVERAL MOVIES.

·       MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. WAS ASSASSINATED ON HER BIRTHDAY.

·       SHE WAS ONLY THE SECOND POET IN HISTORY TO RECITE WORK AT A PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION.

·       SHE WAS AN AVID CHEF AND WROTE TWO COOKBOOKS.

·       SHE HAD HER OWN LINE OF HALLMARK GREETING CARDS

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