The deeply woven connections between us as human beings has always fascinated me. As we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first Africans being brought to the shores of Virginia, the state where I currently live, I am reflective. You see, when I had the chance to explore our deeply woven connectedness, through DNA research in November of 2005, I jumped at the opportunity.
It was early in this science of exploring below the skin. But it promised to bring new information about how connected we are as human beings. I waited impatiently for the results. I even sent out an email in October of that year, to confirm that they had received all the necessary data from me.
When the results arrived I had an unanticipated mix of emotions. It was exciting, surprising, and a little mysterious. Exciting because science could now help some of us connect with our ancestral lineage for the first time.
Surprising because of the statistical mix – in this very early test – revealed that my DNA vibrates 60% Sub-Saharan African, 20% European and nearly 20% Native American.
The entire process mysteriously awakened deep philosophical questions like: Who am I, really? Who were these ancestors? How did they meet? How did they interact? How did their lives flow together to lead to the me that I am today? What does this mean?
The questions were so overwhelming, the only way I could begin to unravel them was through the artistic exploration that only the art of poetry allows. It led to this poem:
On this 1619-2019 Commemoration: First African Landing Weekend, I am deeply mindful of how surprising, exciting, mysterious, and difficult it is to face hidden historical facts coming to light for the first time.
The 1619 project from the New York Times is also asking if we are courageous enough to really know our true history; and if we are patriotic enough to bring its original promise – e pluribus unum – into fruition.
This is our nations great challenge in this moment: How will we reconcile our history and our present diversity to ensure that we will continue to be?
Moving forward will be hard work. The good news is humans “do” hard. With ancestors who have navigated 246 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, and the many uneasy in-between years, my evidence is singular and strong: 400 years and we are here.
I was honored to offer a Keynote on the topic of self-care for the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach Virginia.
Now more than ever, it is crucial that we heal our own lives as we help others improve theirs. Why? Because some abilities and insights can be challenging to live with. The good news is that there are many things we can do to ease the emotional growing pains and find balance. In fact, we can actually have fun navigating the growth and tracking the lessons we are learning along the way. In this fast, focused, and fun keynote presentation we laughed, learned, and explored new ways to work with our mind and body to find balance. I encourage you to find practical ways to take charge of your healing to enhance your health and take control of your own spiritual growth – while discovering what works best for you.
The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, in partnership with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and the Virginia Victim Assistance Network, invites the public to an event honoring the 2019 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The event will be held on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at 11:00 AM, in the West Reading Room of the Patrick Henry Building. 1111 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219.
I am honored to offer a celebration Keynote on the theme of: Honored Past – Hope For The Future at this amazing event. Join us in celebrating the work of some amazing public service professionals.
The current schedule is below.
Assistant Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security
Signing of Proclamation
The Honorable Ralph Northam
Governor of Virginia
M.E. Hart, JD
CEO & Co-founder, Hart Learning Group LLC
President, Virginia Victim Assistance Network
Policy Director, Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
Executive Director, Virginia Victims Fund
Recognition of Advocates
Director, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services
DCJS would like to thank our partners:
Virginia Victim Assistance Network
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
Virginia Victims Fund
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A lifetime in the making, I’m honored to launch: Thriver’s Quest: healing life’s traumas to bring out your best.
Full of insights that shine a light on healing to thrive, this book is a great resource for survivors, clinicians, allies, friends, and family members of male survivors. Buy it from Amazon by clicking the link above.
Buy it to support your healing journey, or buy it to better understand the healing journey being taken by someone you love.
Thriving is possible. This resource helps us better understand the Thriver’s Quest.
Promotional photo from the National Sexual Assault Conference August 31, 2016
A friend asked me the other day, “Do you think this #MeToo movement is a pivot point?
Do you think it will make any difference?”
I am a #MeToo. I experienced unwanted sexual behavior in childhood, and sexual harassment early in my career. And professionally, I have been working with clients to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace for over 20 years.
My friend’s question had me thinking about the keynote I gave at the National Sexual Assault Conference in August of 2016. It was a very specialized audience: therapists, advocates, government service agencies, and other social service professionals and volunteers.
But today’s conversations are playing out across a much larger stage. Daily revelations of harassment and assault, and the wave of “me too” acknowledgements have gotten a lot of people talking, debating, and sharing their own experiences – from being whistled at and verbally harassed, to being sexually assaulted. It’s a messy and complex mix of conversations. And it’s necessary!
So is this a “pivot point?” I think it is. But whether we are just pivoting to spin back around to the same place; or whether we will end up in a better place is an open question. We could easily slip back to a time of fear and silence. I remember it well.
Twenty years ago Black Entertainment Television could not find a single African American Male to agree to appear on a show about childhood sexual abuse. They tried hard to convince me, saying that they had a therapist lined up, a show date, and would have to cancel the show if no one would agree to appear. I hesitated. This would be big news in my small home town. I made a difficult call to my mother, who didn’t know I had been abused as a child. She was shocked, but said she would support my decision. So I agreed to do the show. Two other men joined after I agreed. We knew it was important that our voices be heard, but we knew we would face personal and professional repercussions.
Even now, in the midst of our public conversation, family and friends still get uncomfortable when you talk about these issues on a personal level. You may feel isolated for awhile at work and at home. Some career opportunities may be affected by speaking up. Your sense of who you are, and how you fit in the world, may be shaken as you figure out how to deal with these new responses.
I am compassionately concerned for people who, inspired by others, are going public with painful “defining moments” for the first time – especially, if they have not yet had the chance to process their experiences with a good therapist or support group.
However, I am optimistic, because I have seen change happening firsthand. Sometimes change happens slowly, like a quiet conversation between friends. And sometimes change happens dramatically, like in 2010, when I joined 200 men from the US and Canada on The Oprah Winfrey Show. We stood together to help break the silence on the fact that child sexual abuse happens to boys, too.
Today, with so many courageous women and men coming forward with their experiences – I believe that this can be a pivot point that takes us to a much better place. For that to happen we must keep hope alive by telling thriving stories as much as we tell stories of struggle. As I said in my keynote last year, to that audience of helpers and healers:
“…the hope lives in the fact that, ‘Yes this happened to you but you can live through this!’ Not only can you live through this, not only can you survive this; you can find love in your life, you can find work that you enjoy, you can have a vibrant and full life. You can get your life back on course; you can have the opportunity to discover who you were born to be.”
It might not feel like that now. But, that is my wish for you, and all who journey from surviving to thriving.
To hear an edited version of my Keynote address to the NSAC, click the link below.