My journey on the road with the #MonumentQuilt tour was so many things- rewarding, challenging, life-changing. But moe importantly, it was confirmation of so many things – rape culture exists, I can do something about it, and I am on the right path.
For 3 weeks, I had an intimate relationship with stories of survival, with the incubators of this project, one thatis helping to create a thriving culture for survivors of rape and abuse. To support this project, and as a part of my own healing journey, I was only partly prepared for what it would mean to travel with the quilts. It meant share in driving over dozens of hours, physically lifting the quilts, smudging (using sage to clear any negative energy and to reinforce ositive energy). In addition, there are the stories- those on the quilts, those shared while driving eating sleeping planning displaying that we were #notalone. The intimate conversation, such as those with one survivor of dozens of incidents of rape, or another of hundreds, could be jarring yet haunting as solitary words typed on paper attached to an eight by eight red square.
How do you prepare yourself to cleanse the energy to reinforce a public healing space so that it still feels intimate, safe, personal, and private? The outdoor open spaces helped. I often remember the sun on those days- how it made the words look, weather the air was simply sumer warm or sweltering. The lessons learned and confirmation received were often around self-care. In Baton Rouge my foot cramped- not eating enough or drinking enough water led to a locked-up body. From then on, we included the self-care disclaimer in every pre-display circle. And it is being confirmed by the ease that is becoming my life. Sometimes moments stolen during displays or in transit were where the most poignant reflections occurred.
While driving from South Dakota to Wisconsin, Rebecca, Hannah, David and I had a major goal to accomplish. We had to find a swimming hole and swim in it! We had agreed to this from the beginning of the trip and this rare display-free day (a day off) was the perfect chance. Luck was on our side- we just so happened to be crossing the Missouri River! The gate keepers at a park that had a beach were nice enough to say we could pass, for an hour.
That hour of respite was long enough to sunbathe, swim, have a moment of silence, and hold two conversation that deepened the participants’ relationships with each other. None of it was rushed. David was able to do much of the scene and take pictures and video of the scene. Rebecca went for a run amongst those things. Hannah sunbathed, went for a walk. We were so present and for so many moments. That present, that awareness, it permeated most of the tour for us, and thus intensified my own desire to be as present as possible at all moments.
In South Dakota, I felt the impact that sexual assault can have on boys and men.
Being present meant feeling intensely stimulated often. I felt a sense of pride that I find myself unable to describe easily. I was being labeled an activist and a healer. We were being celebrated and thanked all along the journey. I was always so surprised- having not been a part of the planning process, I suddenly had 3 weeks to face myself, my own feelings around being a survivor, my thoughts about what we as society should do to/about perpetrators, my impact on rape culture. I decided I could do even more…
I know rape culture is prevalent, I am not debating it. We are contributors and receivers of it. We are the sculptors, chipping away at rock and stone. We are the tattoo artists, covering the embarrassing remains of a decision made in drunken haste. The final product includes what we consider a mistake, except it is now part of a masterpiece.
I remember in Des Moines I got a sense of how immigrants and refugees feel- isolated, persecuted, victimized,and blamed. The women there helped me to realize that all women (and men!) deserve to have their voices heard.
Who knew that saying yes to my friend Deletta Gillespie’s request to accompany her at a performance for the first display would lead to holding space for an entire tour? Or, how minuscule my contribution, though great, made me feel? In my ability to get through many stages of fear and actually let things go (and let God) I found myself in the presence of so many light workers, healers, advocates, and survivors. I felt amplified everyday of the tour, even during the moments that felt more like despair.
Before the tour, I didn’t look at myself as an activist. I would lend support, but didn’t actually view myself in that light. The Monument Quilt tour opened that identity for me, and showed me the power of my gifts. It gave me motivation to learn more about myself and what I can do to eradicate rape and the culture that promotes it.