Survivor-Led Training

For the past 4 years, I have had the benefit of belonging to the Just Beginnings Collaborative inaugural cohort with other survivors of color and/or other marginalized identities working to end child sexual abuse. It has been challenging and transformational.

A diverse group of people gather in front of a sign that says Possibility Map. They are all smiling and looking into the camera together.

Like all transformational things, it has been disruptive and it has reshaped who I am and how I approach my work.

Recently, several members of my cohort were invited by Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez, Director of the Multicultural Efforts to end Sexual Assault (MESA), to participate in a series of PreventConnect webinars on our collective work. I always try to clear my calendar for an opportunity to work with my cohort so I said, “YES.”

Here’s what happened:

First, I participated in a webinar called Changing the Culture of Schools, Churches, and Communities to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse where we discuss how shifting culture within the heart of organizations and communities can lead to great impacts on preventing child sexual abuse.

Participants included Linda Crockett, Samaritan Safe Church, Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Children of Combahee, and Meg Stone, IMPACT Boston.

Oh and here are my deets if you still need them – Tashmica Torok, The Firecracker Foundation.

Full disclosure.  There are technical difficulties at the beginning and they’re all my fault. Just fast forward past those and the whole thing is full of great things.

5 people of color stand with their arms around each others shoulders smiling at the camera.
Luz Marquez, Tarana Burke, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, me, and Ignacio Rivera

Adult Survivors as Movement Leaders: Lessons Learned from the Just Beginnings Collaborative where you can learn what it looks like to move toward a culture of healing and survivor-centered accountability by centering survivor leadership.

This webinar featured the illustrious Aishah Shahidah Simmons, #LoveWITHAccountability, Amita Swadhin, Mirror Memoirs, and Sonya Shah, The Ahimsa Collective.

Reflecting on our community’s experiences of MSU’s leadership and their unwillingness to listen to survivors on campus, I feel like this webinar might be the one you slide into their DMs.

9 people of color share a table. They're all smiling at the camera and the table is full of glasses and menus.
Celebrating our 2nd anniversary as a cohort together!

The final webinar was Mobilizing and Organizing Communities to End Child Sexual Abuse where you can hear more about community-centered approaches for mobilizing and organizing to end child sexual abuse.

Participants included Ignacio Rivera, The HEAL Project , Strong Oak Lefebvre, Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition, and Suguet Lopez, Lideres Campesinas.

All of these webinars were kicked-off by our Interim Program Coordinator Eb Brown, Just Beginnings Collaborative who is also currently fundraising for the Black Love Convergence. Check it out!

We all have so much to learn so take some time to learn from some of the people I love and respect the most.

Best,

signature1

Capturing Soulfires

Yesterday afternoon, I received an unexpected phone call.

It was Mrs. P’s.

“‘Hi honey. Will you have Jena call me?”

I’m sorry? What?

My 5th grade teacher just called me up to ask if one of my dearest friends would call her.

Strange.

“Do you trust me” she asked.

“Yes.” I answer.

Because seriously, I do. More now than ever before.

More now than when I unburdened myself of that dreadful secret.

More now than the day that she said, “I believe you. It happened to me too. You’re going to be okay.”

Because since then, I’ve spoken to her regularly and she’s given me the advice of someone who knows.

She’s sent me newspaper clippings and letters of her own from the days when she trail-blazed advocacy work in my hometown of El Paso, TX.

You know, just in case it would spur an idea or an inspiration for me.

She’s sent me a yearbook from the time I knew her and a card telling me how proud she is of me.

Actually, that’s the one thing she tells me the most.

“Oh honey, I’m just so proud of you.”

And now she is pouring out of my heart and into Jena’s all the way from Colorado.

Why?

Well, because Jena and I are being spirited away on an adventure.

It’s time to shoot another calendar of survivors and this year the theme is solidarity. This year we are asking survivors to invite someone who was invaluable to them as they struggled to heal.

Click here to see last year’s photos.

This year, I offer an opportunity for us all to say,

“Thank you. You saved me. I felt rescued. Blessed be.”

My path was clearly lit by the souls of many strong women willing and able to pour good things into me.

There was and still is Catrina, Jude, my mother, my grandmother and my Aunt Debbie.

I have never been alone. Not ever.

For this project, I’ve chosen to invite Mrs. P’s – or Lisa as I now call her (because I’m a grown up, ya’ll!) because she is where my healing all began.

She put me on the path that led straight to the others.

On August 4th, Jena and I will fly to Colorado to meet Lisa together.

So as of yesterday, Jena McShane and Lisa Griffin have some kind of secret. I’m not allowed to know and Jena is not telling.

Stinkers.

That’s why she’s coming along.

Sure. She is a talented photographer. Supa dupa talented doesn’t even do her justice.

low-res1.jpg

You should totally vote for her in this competition. #ShamelessPlug

Jena creates images from a place of empathy. We shared a wadded up handkerchief with another survivor. We are committed to eating burritos and going hiking if my emotions get the best of me (or us both). I’m sure their will be cocktails, hugs, selfies and truly intimate moments but Jena is special.1236309_10151927620928824_1726302796_n

She’ll get it.

Sometimes…okay, all of the time, we refer to each other as #McCracker because obviously.

She told the survivors who have already volunteered for #Soulfire2015 that as our photographer,

“Instead of capturing souls, I will capture soulfires.”

I told her that we are just beginning the Sisterhood of Traveling Soulfires.

And then we giggled. And teared up. And geeked out because that was super cheesy and I don’t even care.

I know. I know.

I can’t even stand myself right now.

I’m not even sure what this means for me. I get a little choked up just thinking about it.

All I know today is that I am following a journey of gratitude.

My good life is a testimony to the way I was loved.

Today and everyday, that love is gifted to those around me.

It expands. It surrounds. It grows.

It inspires the creation of the foundation now and into the future.

So this is the cat. I release it from the bag.

And in a few weeks, I take it on the road.

Boom. #McCrackered.

Faithfully,

Tashmica

PS – To keep up with us, follow the hashtag #Soulfire2015 or #McCracker. You know, what evs.