This letter is an open letter response to an email sent to us by a long-time, well-known Black feminist-identified organizer in our community who made a choice to side with a man, also a well-known organizer she knew, who harmed one of our collective members. We received her email–both belittling and insensitive–shortly after the woman who was harmed met with her and shared her story, openly, for the first time. Her response was a painful, illuminating moment for us in our community accountability organizing, and it was also one we commonly encounter. This letter is a call for clarity in our interventions to end sexual violence in our communities.
“I have all the guns and all the money. I can withstand challenge from without and from within. Am I right, comrade?”
–Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power, 1993
I would like to share a story with you about rape and home.
It is an attempt to make sense of your choice—as a Black woman, a community activist, and mother– to stand by a Black man who has harmed a woman he once loved and shares children with. It is an attempt to lessen the fracturing pain of facing another Black woman’s back when sexual violence is spoken.
My father was not the first man to break my heart. He actually came much later, some years after Ari Bailey.
Ari was not a lover at all.
He was my brother with a loud and wild laugh, so sharp and sure, it could overcome all empty space in a room. A few months ago, I told Yan, his best friend, that I can still hear Yan’s laugh—certain, puncturing all stillness, just like Ari’s—when I think of our time together in the spring of 1993.
I was 20 years old when we met.