Aubrey Barnes: Reclaimin’ Space: The Cost of Closing Eyes.

“… It don’t mean She ain’t thought bout Hiding from Cold.
She just been conditioned to do as She Told…”

In April, I was given the Honor and opportunity to be a Keynote Speaker for a “Take Back the Night” rally at a local college. Accepting the task invited me into the challenge of coming out of myself just enough. Think of the stories that homies of mine who were victims of this, from the hand of people who hung around me. The stories of students I’ve worked with in the past. Students I work with in the present. The stories I see when I drive through downtown Rock Island. My Home City. Reflect on these. Connect with ‘em if I can. Connect with ‘em if I can’t.

One thing I’ve been able to find connection in is the way some of us have been taught to be “Strong.” A double edged sword; it cuts down obstacles, and sometimes us at the same time. Strength teaches us many great things. It teaches us to show up even when our stomach and chest are turning. It teaches us to accept what is, and continue moving forward. It teaches us to endure. It also teaches us to be silent when we should speak. To bottle up intense feelings and traumas that inevitably affect us on a physical level. With the stories in mind of friends who have unfortunately been in these narratives, this is usually the case when it comes to sexual violence for both men and women who have been targets. We are conditioned to not talk about the hard sufferings of life, and be “strong” in silence.

“What You expect from Dudes who Learned how to Respect Rainforests from…
Tree Choppers.
Who only Taught us how to Swing. 
Whose Footprints left so much Soil Eroded.”

With that said, I acknowledge that sexual violence targets anyone; man, woman, Black, White, Asian. There are many narratives, heard and unheard, of those who have suffered and continue to suffer what comes with such violence. Being someone who’s never experienced that sort of violence personally, but have many friends who are women who have been targeted by men, I find myself reflecting on the “why” sexual violence happens, and why there is so much “war” against those who have been targets. Obviously, the “why” ain’t monolithic. The “why” always depends on the experience and the philosophies one has adopted in their life.

When I reflect on my life, conversations I heard from some adults growing up, from peers in the community, the conversations I observe on social media, the “why” I observe is the conditioning that boys and men alike are subject, which is the belief that we are entitled, one way or another, to someone else’s body. We see this everyday with the red pill ideology that many men and boys are unfortunately adopting, which gives permission to believe in the “high value” of one’s personhood, while refusing to see it in girls and women. And in turn, treating them as such.

With this considered, I am learning, as a quiet/observant individual, that the cost of not coming into alignment with women and girls who are to face inhumane treatment means to continue to live in a world where abuse will continue to happen in our spaces where we exist. 

“They just Learned that They Stories mattered in this Plot.
They decided They was done Shrinking Themselves.“