Why I Donated My Birthday And Ran 8 Miles During DVAM 2017

Run at your best pace. Via  GIPHY .com!

Run at your best pace. Via GIPHY.com!

Hi friends!!! 

Hope ya'll had a fly weekend. Almost ashamed at how lazy I was on Sunday... We all deserve a day like that, tho. Happy to be back :]

...AND with a NEW guest blog! DING DING DING.

Today's post was written by Nelli Agbulos. We met at Pace University; I was finishing undergrad while Nelli was completing an MPA in Nonprofit Management. She finished undergrad with two B.A. degrees: one in Political Science, and the other in Women and Gender Studies.

*all the yaaaas to Nelli*

In other exciting news, bklynprose just reached its ONE YEAR BLOGGO ANNIVERSARY. WAAAHOO! This was my first one; I hope I don't regret sharing this oldie 😂 And check out my feature on The Connection Corner -- they asked me some great Qs. So happy to join the crew of Lady Crushes on their site!!!!!!

KEEP READING! Especially if you like to run ✨

On October 21st, I ran eight miles for FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture and The Monument Quilt’s #HikeForHealing fundraising campaign.

Knowing that 22 of my friends and family donated a total of $600 to FORCE and The Monument Quilt boosted my excitement. I was confident that I could run eight miles for survivors of sexual violence.

But at mile six out of of eight, I wanted to stop running.

Running is a mental activity as much as it is a physical one. As a novice runner, running eight miles required me to draw upon a lot of my inner strength and resiliency. I offer a similar parallel to survivors of sexual and domestic violence after they share their stories with me. “Healing isn’t linear,” I’d say. “It takes a lot of mental and emotional strength.”

FORCE and The Monument Quilt’s #HikeForHealing campaign combine two issues that I’m passionate about: anti-sexual violence advocacy and “artivism” (which means art and activism) 🏁

I discovered both FORCE and The Monument Quilt in April 2016. I had been researching feminist art organizations to feature in my organization's (ARTivism Galleries) pop-up gallery. The pop-up focused on feminist artist-activists (ARTivists) who use art to counter gender norms and promote a culture of women’s rights and gender equality.

Learning about these two projects is why I ended up donating my birthday to the 2017 #HikeForHealing campaign. My birthday also falls in October, which intersects with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Nelli Agbulos conquering her eight mile run!

Nelli Agbulos conquering her eight mile run!

As an aspiring artivist, I admire the work done by FORCE and The Monument Quilt. Both initiatives promote a culture of consent and healthy relationships. They put survivors at the forefront of the dialogue by making public art that affirms survivor stories.

I was inspired by the advocates and survivors who projected “RAPE IS RAPE” onto the U.S. Capitol Building and floated a giant poem written by a survivor in the reflecting pool on the National Mall.

I was moved by the symbolism behind the ongoing Monument Quilt project, which tells the stories of survivors of rape and abuse through the creation and display of quilt squares in public spaces. The purpose of these quilt squares is to highlight the voices of survivors and demand that they be given a public space for healing. Their emphasis on survivor leadership and their use of art to counter rape culture solidified my commitment to becoming involved with these projects in the future.

I also participated in #HikeForHealing because of my personal experiences in having worked with survivors of sexual assault, rape, and intimate partner violence.

During my undergraduate and graduate school years at Pace University in NYC, I’d heard and listened to numerous accounts from female, male, and LGBTQIA+ survivors. They didn’t feel they had a safe space on campus to come together for collective healing, resource sharing, and community building. I co-founded a campus organization called #PaceUEndRape, which was created out of a series of Tweets to implement sustained, student-led activism on the Pace University NYC campus to foster a safer environment for all students and to create a space for sexual violence survivors.

My involvement with #PaceUEndRape showed me how student and/or survivor-led activism can inspire people to come together, share their stories, and realize that people do not live "single-issue lives,” as said by Audre Lorde.

By "single-issue lives," Lorde means that aspects of our lives are not independent of each other. Rather, they are interdependent and also influence one another. The first example that comes to mind is how one's race, class, and gender affect how a person will be socially accepted and treated in society. This is relevant to my post and philosophy because when we think about sexual violence and why it happens, we need to think about the factors that have conditioned society (we, the people) to allow people to commit abuse/rape in the first place. 

The act of storytelling, through whatever creative means, is an act of resistance rooted in courage and resilience, which is also embodied in the beliefs, values, and messages of the art-activist work done by FORCE and The Monument Quilt.

Running eight miles for FORCE and raising money for their 2018 project -- displaying the Monument Quilt on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. -- was a way for me to use my able-bodied privilege to raise awareness on ending rape culture and sexual violence, and support an organization that shows how building community between survivors and allies proves that there is strength in people who come together to heal and be supported post-trauma. The art-activism work done by FORCE and The Monument Quilt is especially needed in this political climate where America has a president who is an alleged sexual harasser and rapist.

Nonetheless, as much as I appreciate that Domestic Violence Awareness Month exists, I have always felt that domestic violence is "hyped" up in the media, but there's still a lack of action and awareness.

We shouldn't shy away from talking about healthy relationships, having safe and empowering sex, and talking about our feelings and how they influence our actions. A lot of the programming around DVAM I see is very centered on the perpetrator/victim model that highlights victim's stories, but conversations don't go beyond the narrative of "believe in victims/survivors" because that's not a norm yet.

Two of my motivations in participating in Hike For Healing:
  1. Further promote and raise more awareness in supporting survivors to those in my community & beyond.

  2. Use the networks I've built through my #HikeForHealing campaign as a platform for an upcoming art-activism project I'll be conducting on consent & healthy relationships.

Anti-sexual violence advocacy reaches its peak during DVAM, but trails behind news headlines thereafter. There have been days for me when I'm frustrated and overwhelmed with the anti-violence work that I do, but just like running, advocacy and activism requires persistence. The persistence starts with small and consistent steps that eventually turn into little victories.

My running habits remind me to continue persevering and to not give up. It's all about the journey and building community along the way. 

People run for different reasons. I ran eight miles for all of the female, male, and LGBTQIA+ survivors at Pace University NYC that I've worked with as a peer advocate and community organizer.

They are the force behind my work. Unknown to most of them, they’ve taught me many lessons on how to build an inclusive community, how to use the arts to talk about gender and cultural norms that promote sexual violence, and how to be brave in isolation.

Taking the first step to confide in someone is a lot like taking that first running step: You have to trust and believe that the next few moments will turn out OK, and that you will keep on going regardless. Training for that race was a transformative experience.

I learned that I am stronger when I willfully give in to vulnerability. I learned that I am healing at my own pace. The race was my public declaration that I will continue healing.

Always look forward to guest blogs :D

Here's looking at ya'll! Send me a message, comment below, or hit my DMs if you're down for the cause! Excited to watch this portion of bklynprose grow.

See ya'll next week 😘

~ Lati