Dear, Nova: An Open Letter on Queen Sugar and Stolen Stories

Nova Bordelon (played by Rutina Wesley). © The Oprah Winfrey Network

Nova Bordelon (played by Rutina Wesley). © The Oprah Winfrey Network

They say great acting and writing are the bearings of a good television show. That when these two elements combine, you can’t tell the character from the actor and you’re so emotionally invested that their behavior causes visceral reactions. Well, I am finally caught up on “Queen Sugar,” and boy, oh boy, is Nova a piece of WORK. (*spoiler alert* *trigger warning: sexual assault* Season 4, Episodes 1-4 discussed below.)


Dear Nova Bordelon,

Lots of people say that I look like you. Our divinely melanated skin, immaculately chiseled cheekbones, and ethereal bohemian vibes are twinning. I get it, I do.

But our similar physical markings are angelic compared to our shared shadow self.

We both desire to tell true stories. Even (especially?) the grotesque, horrific ones. And we have every right to do so—but, how we do so is critically important. 

I was inspired and proud when I saw you taking to your family’s history and post-it notes in Season 3. Devising an outline to simultaneously capture and transform the narrative arc of your lineage was brilliant. I thought there would be notes about resiliency. Urgent nudges for Black folx to be (re)connected to the Land. Pride in a Black father who, despite systemic racism and violent bigotry, was fixated on loving, guiding, and nurturing his children.

But, there was none of that.Rather, you excavated the lives of those closest to you (except you glaringly delivered yourself from your critical eye). Sis...that 4x4 in your iris is palpable.

I know the courage it takes to speak the truth, even when your voice shakes. To write with transparency even as your pen quakes. To click “publish” and know the impact your work will make. My own mother does not understand why I have to “spill my guts to the world.

The thing is, Nova...you are not spilling your guts. You are carving into the bowels of your dearly beloved and oozing their pain into the literary market. There is a difference between truth-telling and trauma-mongering. 

The thing is, Nova, these are not your stories to tell. There is a reason why some stories go to the grave. And while you are doing a fine job of exhuming everyone else’s horror stories, you are severely missing your own.

When you started reading your last minute addition to your memoir, I thought you were going to say that you were raped in that sugar cane field. I thought you were going to share your story as a victim of childhood sexual abuse. But that never came. And, if your father did indeed protect you in the most extreme way possible, well, darling Nova, you are ahead of a lot of grow- little Black girls.

I understand everyone’s frustration with you. and I am trying to give room for grace. But for all of the times that you have whimpered and cried about demanded understanding...not ONCE did you have a conversation with Charley, Ralph Angel, Aunt Vi, nor Darla. Not even Hollywood, Micah, nor Blue! But you got the nerve to go to abusive ass Jimmy Dale??

Your family is not a case study. There are statistics. There is data. You can be a researcher in and beyond the Ninth Ward! Your family didn’t deserve this.

I am still trying to resolve why these recent episodes are weighing so heavily on me. It’s likely because I am wrestling with writing my own memoir. I am conjuring the courage to lay bare my soul as I seek to bring light and healing to others. And I realize it will be a delicate dance in terms of how I portray my family through my writing. After all, there is only one person who is physically responsible for my childhood sexul abuse, but there are entire systems of silencing and shame in place that allows male sexual violence to be perpetuated.

With regards to very specific topics, one of my siblings and my soon-to-be former spouse have given me permission to be vocal. I did not ask for it. It was simply granted as they observed my work in the world. THAT, Nova, is how you get to include other people’s stories. You start first by telling your OWN. And once people see that you can be trusted with your own narrative, they will courageously trust you with theirs.

I have been doing work around my shadow self, lately. You know the parts of yourself that you would rather keep buried than brought out into the light? I know we don’t typically proffer our shameful secrets for public consumption, but it is often the very things that we want to keep hidden that need to be revealed the most.

What about when you were dating that white married police officer? Or fucking up all of your romantic relationships (with both men and women)? Or being a user? Or master manipulator? Where are THOSE moments laid bare for all the world to see? After all, you are the common denominator in all of these situations. You are the one who causes chaos. You are the one that can’t see beyond the tip of your nose. You are the weaver of your reality!

Anne Lammott said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” But, darling Nova, you have not owned everything that has happened to you. You have, instead, mined the fields of your family’s souls, harvested the horrors of your loved ones’ hearts, and amplified the anguish of your ancestors. Nova, you have become the colonizer you claim to rail against. You have devoured your family members in ways that are insurmountable. Your intention was right, baby, but your approach was all off. 

I know Blessing and Blood is published and out in this (fictional world), but I pray you assess the damage and realize that playing the sociologist card is not going to serve you well. You made calculated decisions that will have indelible effects on your family for generations to come.

You are banned from ever sharing space with Aunt Vi, Darla, and Blue. You are on timeout with Charley and Ra. Micah loves you (but he’s going through his own traumatic coming of age moment). So I don’t know who you will turn to. While you are on your nationwide book tour, who will call you to make sure you have eaten? Who will text you photos of your nephew as he discovers a new pie flavor for Aunt Vi?

Your loss has me reflecting on my risks.

So, as I write, I will keep you in mind. And, if ever I have a question about whether or not a story is mine to tell, I will reference you. And, if I have to ask, then it’s probably not mine to tell.

It’s a tricky dance, sharing your story without telling others’. We are human beings, interconnected chains, which makes our stories inextricably linked. But there’s got to be a way to focus on you and let others’ be supporting, not starring.

I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out. But I’m certainly committed to doing things differently.

Signed,

Lyvonne Proverbs (aka a woman with a helluva story linked to other stories that are not her own)

Lyvonne Proverbs, MDiv is a body and sex-positive light-worker, transformational speaker, spiritual life coach, writer, educator, and conscious creative social entrepreneur. She is the founder of beautiful scars, an online storytelling agency focused on trauma, healing, and resiliency. By amplifying the voices of Black women who are also survivors of childhood sexual abuse and/or male sexual violence, she is aiding survivors (and communities, at large) to shift from silence to storytelling in order to eradicate gender-based violence. She can be found on Patreon, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Twitter and Instagram (@LyvonneP).

Don’t Delay Your Liberation: Dealing with Divorce

Proverbs in downtown ATL. Photo: Kiyah C. Photography

Proverbs in downtown Atlanta. Photo: Kiyah C. Photography

It was Monday, October 26, 2015 at 4:00pmPST when I decided to search seriously for a husband. As a full-time youth and young adult pastor in Vallejo, CA, I didn’t have much free time (nor viable suitor options). I thought, “Surely, my mate is across the bridge,” but, in San Francisco I was exoticized and in Oakland I was revered (and not in the cute “he’s fawning over me” kinda way—the “he’s obsessed with my complexion because he’s a hotep” kind of way *eye roll emoji*).

For the previous 7 months, I had been on OKCupid, looking for viable partnerships. I “talked to” men in New York, Atlanta, ad even Paris. And then...I met Anthony.

Brothaman was 35, worked in finance, and towered at 6’6”. He was chocolate with luscious locs and a killer smile; owned a condo, a BMW, and worked in finance. On paper, he. was. IT, y’all. We we had been enjoying witty banter (*swoon*) via text for a week, when I noticed I hadn’t heard from him in a few days...

I texted him:

“hey, Anthony! i hope all is well with you. i just wanted to check in and say hi!”

Anthony lived in Washington, DC and neither of us had plans to move cross-country any time soon:

“Hey, Lyvonne. I just gotta let you know. If you were here, I’d be all over you! But you’re not. I’m ready to start a family and I don’t want to do long-distance.”

Damn...DAMN...DAMNNNNN! The Brotha *wanted* an exclusive, committed lifelong partnership that included little chocolate babies (and was honest and upfront about it with me)...and I was 2,777 miles away. *tired emoji*

After I picked my bottom lip up off the floor, I decided to change my search settings on OKCupid. Instead of “anywhere,” I put “within 500 miles.” I figured that if *I* wanted to start a family, I should at least look within the state of California!

On my 3rd algorithmically generated profile, I peeped a brown-skinned cutie with waist-length brotherlocs, a silver tie clip, and leather loafers with his ankles out. “Lawd, he’s standing in front of Cole Haan!” *weary emoji*

As I devoured his profile, I felt like I was reading my own. He mentioned pizza, young adult ministry, art. I “starred” him (OKCupid’s way of letting someone know you really like her or his profile). Once I was notified that we “liked” each other, it was a wrap! Turkey. And. SWISS!

We messaged back and forth a few times before he (very politely) asked if he could call me around 9pm. He called me (right on time) and, after 3 hours, asked if we could FaceTime.

That was Monday going into Tuesday. On Friday, at 1:10pm, I was standing in the dressing room at a tailor shop in downtown Vallejo. I had just gotten off the phone with B and knew that he was already at the Cole Haan store he managed. So when I saw his name and face pop up on my iPhone, I thought something was wrong:

B: I’m calling to see if I can officially court you.

What in the what? WHO? I had NEVER been asked to be courted before. And, I gotta admit...it felt nice. Intentionality is extremely sexy.

Within four days, we were officially together and we hadn’t even met in-person yet. It was one of those when you know, you know moments. And when B moved from LA—the only place he had ever lived in his entire 29 years, to a small town in Northern California to be with me, well, that was all she wrote. After all, intentionality is so. Damn. SEXY.

It sounds cliché, but there were warning flags early on. Whether it was the vastly different ways we looked at money or opposite sex friendships, love languages or astrology, there were clear signs that we had stark differences.

But the thing about relationships is, sometimes, when the train has left the station, you think you have to stay on it until its final destination. Even though we agreed on a lot of the big things: faith, family, legacy, we disagreed on a lot of the little things. And little things add up to become huge things over time and overshadow the big things that brought you together! It was the little things that derailed us.

When I started to express my dismay to people about my current marriage woes, I got truly unexpected responses. I had a nationally known Black woman religious leader tell me, “just give it two years.” I had another Sista tell me, “just give it five years.” I was dumbfounded. Is that what married folks were doing? Just waiting ‘til the next anniversary? Just making it to the next decade? Just tolerating each other until the kids were grown?

Life is too short to be miserable. Life is too short to just “just.”

When misery routinely outweighs joy, you have to know when to call it. And, yes, I know that every relationship has its rough patches. I remember when Trace Ellis Ross directed a few episodes of black-ish and they all explored the chaotic discord when a married couple is out of sync. Sidebar: I promise you I would’ve boycotted ABC if the Johnsons had gotten a divorce! *Spoiler Alert* Same for Beth and Randall on This is Us!)

One of my college friends recently dm’ed me on Instagram asking me how’s married life:

me: WORK

her: I feel you. I am still dating/courting my boyfriend. It will be four years in October...What’s your advice to me?

me: make sure your values are aligned

get in individual and couples therapy

and talk about everything even if it seems frivolous. if you feel some type of way about something, bring it up as calmly and quickly as you can

and be gracious with each other. remember that you’re on the same team

and if at any point in time you are sacrificing who you are to be in the relationship, don’t be afraid to separate

She couldn’t tell then, but B and I are no longer together (we separated in February 2019). In fact, most people wished him and me well on “our” new adventure in Atlanta, GA, but...I  transitioned solo. I told folks as I deemed necessary; and there were an exceptional few who already knew before I even opened my mouth. They just sensed it.

Atlanta has been one of my happy places for a long time. “The A” (as it is affectionately known) feels like home to me. It’s still 52% Black and the cost of living is much more forgiving here than in the Bay Area.

It’s much easier to grieve the dissolution of your marriage when you don’t have to work multiple jobs just to pay the rent. *flushed emoji*

It has gotten easier to share the news as I own my truth. This hasn’t always been the case. I felt a lot of shame around separating from my spouse. We had a very public engagement both within my church and on social media. An Auntie in ministry told me that I was a symbol of hope for older, single, educated Black women ministers (no pressure!). From “power couple,” to “but y’all we’re so cute together” to (common) girlfriends asking “are we still speaking to him?” (#RealOnes), the responses have run the gamut. But, I’ve discovered, the response that is most important is the one I have myself. My Self-talk. My perception of Self.

As a person who has struggled with merit-based worthiness, our divorce felt like another hit on my resume *and* my character. A deficiency. But, thanks to my intuitive coach and my therapist, I now comprehend that getting a divorce doesn’t make me a failure. In fact, it makes me a Surthrivor in a different sense. I am proud of myself for being courageous enough to make the decision to leave a marriage that was no longer serving me.

Often we don’t make moves on difficult decisions because we feel we will be judged for them. But, honestly, we got a 53% divorce rate in america...i’m not that special, LOL!

And as I continue to be brave and share my story with Sistas, they don’t gasp and gawk as if I’ve just shared that I eat newborn babies steeped in monkey poo. No, quite the contrary. Married women ask, “how did you know?” or, as if relieved to finally share, acknowledge, “actually...I’VE been thinking...”

I’m not the first person to get a divorce and I won’t be the last. Especially as Black men and women continue to live in a racist, sexist, xenophobic society designed to abolish us. Trauma is real. Stress is real. Poor theology is real.

Disney-fied expectations are unreal. Engagement photo shoots without engaging premarital counsel is unreal. Courting in a vacuum without the wisdom of your community is unreal.

We have to be real. With the Divine, with ourselves, and with each other. There is no law that says you *have* to stay on this train. There are so many destinations in the world—it’s alright to change your mind. If you are happy (most days), and feel unconditionally loved and supported, more power, love, joy, and peace to you.

But if you feel like you have to shrink yourself or you’re not a priority, get off the train, Sis. Don’t hang on to a piece of possibility due to a mentality of lack and scarcity. There is an abundance of future baes and limitless potential for life-giving Love.

Don’t delay your liberation because you’re afraid of the “D.”

Our divorce won’t be official until September 25, 2019, but, I already know...there is life on the other side.

Pastor Lyvonne Proverbs, a New York City native, is a body and sex-positive preacher, transformational speaker, poet, educator, and creative social entrepreneur working to end #ChurchToo. An Emmy-award-winning media producer, Pastor Lyvonne is the founder of beautiful scars (@WereSurthrivors), an online storytelling agency focused on trauma, healing, and resiliency. She is committed to eradicating childhood sexual abuse in and beyond Black religious spaces. Pastor Lyvonne has been featured in ESSENCE and Cosmopolitan and Sojourners named her one of “11 Women Shaping the Church.” She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and currently based in Atlanta, GA.

and the Oscar goes to...: why Sistas need to stop faking orgasms

© Rawpixel.com/Adobe Stock

© Rawpixel.com/Adobe Stock

you know how it goes. Brothaman swerves to the left and you wished he stayed right. or jerks to the right and your g-spot is just left of center.

he’s jackhammering you like a porn star, when you’d prefer a slow, melodic rhythm. you’re lying underneath him, writhing in pain and he thinks you’re quaking with pleasure. you want this over with—STAT.

so, instead of directing him (“more to the left,” “slower,” “not so hard”) you put on your Viola Davis cap and get ready to “come.”

except you ain’t going nowhere.

your moans come on stronger. your breaths come on quicker. your screams begin to escalate. you are in the throes of passionless sex and this is the only way you think you can get out of it without hurting his ego.

because men are obsessed with performing well during (what i like to call) “sexy time.”

you scream and holler like the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” and, finally, once he’sclimaxed, he rolls over, satisfied, with his stellar performance—which for you was, at best, lackluster and, at worst, a waste of time. 

 I could’ve been catching up on “This is Us.”

now, whenever this Brotha thinks of you, he’s going to recall how he made you “come” while you recoil at the fact that there’s no motion in his ocean.

while it is your fault, Sis, i don’t blame you.

Black Christian women have been conditioned to believe that we are inherently evil and our sexuality is something to be contained. we are lied to about our sensuality from pulpits. the Bible is misinterpreted and used as a weapon against us instead of the liberating tool that (in spite of its being written by men, for men, with a particular agenda, at a particular time) it is.

we also live in a hyper-repressed/hyper sexualized society that condemns or reveres women’s bodies and sensuality when it’s convenient for the system. you can’t hear every single Sunday: 

“if you have sex before marriage you’re going to hell.”

“good girls don’t give head.”

“keep your legs closed.”

and expect to develop a holistic, morally sound, judgment free theology around your sexuality. it doesn’t work that way.

so if we have so much shame about our bodies, we are often ill-equipped to talk ABOUT our bodies. this goes for minimizing your symptoms because you’re intimidated in the doctor’s office or avoiding seeking care for a vaginal itch or burn because you don’t want to admit to yourself that you may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

your body is indeed the temple of the holy ghost. with all of its curves and stretch marks, with all of its abuse and misuse—you are holy.

 and it’s time for you to be whole, Sis.

God does not call us to sever our sexuality from our faith. God created us with sensual urges and desires. women have needs! just ask the clitoris. *eyes emoji*

I know God created pleasure because God created the clitoris. the clitoris has ONE job. one, singular, solitary job. ONE singular sensation. 

and it’s critical to acknowledge that in cultures where female genital mutilation is still happening, it is because patriarchal societies do not know how to honor (nor handle) the divine sacred feminine. there is no reason why young girls’ clitorises should be sliced off or labia (majora) sewn together. there is no reason why Black women’s bodies are not staunchly and fiercely protected.

criminally, society doesn’t give a shit about Black girls or women. and that notion is especially painful is when misogynoir rears its ugly head in Black religious spaces.

the Black Church WOULD NOT EXIST without Black women. our hands clean it, our recipes feed it, our tithes fund it. so this means that your church should be a site of wholeness and restoration, not stigma and shame.

because if we don’t talk about sex, we can never talk about having good sex. And if we’re not talking about good sex, we are certainly not talking about bad sex nor **trigger warning--sexual assualt** nonconsensual sex otherwise known as rape. if you feel shame after a sexual encounter, how will you ever be able to discuss it freely and openly? if you don’t even know what you like how can you tell your partner what you like?

sexuality is a gift. and healthy, consensual sex (between you and your partner/partners) is good. but just because sex is good, don’t mean sex is GOOD. it means, if he’s worth it, you’ll teach him what you like.

since, newsflash!every woman is different. so you and your girls can run down the list of what y’all like, but you won’t know until you try. and you can’t try until you and your partner are on the same page.

because he’s going to keep doing what he’s been doing and you’re going to keep faking. and life is too stressful as a Black woman in a racist, sexist, xenophobic, patriarchal, misogynistic, misogynoirist, capitalist, corrupt world for you to not be coming. 

so the next time there’s a desire to put on an Oscar-worthy performance, resist the urge to serve his ego. try whispering “slower” when he’s gunning too fast; or “a little to the left” when he’s a bit off. or“stay right there” when he’s right on the money. any man worth your yoni will be grateful for the direction because his sole desire is to please you. if he doesn’t heed, he doesn’t deserve your goodies, anyway. you are a gift meant to be treasured and a treasure worth exploring...act like you know.

Orgasms are life force. they relieve stress and release endorphins (the feel good chemical). orgasms channel creativity and inspiration. orgasms are good. you deserve orgasms. orgasms are your birthright. 

if you’re more comfortable broaching the topic with your partner outside of sexy time, you might wait until breakfast the next morning or during a commercial break while you’re watching the game and try something like, “hey, boo. i really like it when you ___________.” 

also, “can we try ___________ next time? 

his only response should be, “yes and amen.” (or, at the very least, “heard.”)

life is too short to have sucky sex. let’s shed the shame of antiquated ideology, step into our sacred feminine power as daughters of the Divine, take ownership

of our sensuality, and express our sexuality as we see fit. 

and for Sistas who experience sexual encounters with men, recondition yourself to stop faking orgasms and start making magic. because if his ego is bigger than his dick, he’s a bigger dick anyway.

throw him back, Sis...there’s plenty of peen in the sea.

Pastor Lyvonne Proverbs, a New York City native, is a body and sex-positive preacher, transformational speaker, poet, educator, and creative social entrepreneur working to end #ChurchToo. An Emmy-award-winning media producer, Pastor Lyvonne is the founder of beautiful scars (@WereSurthrivors), an online storytelling agency focused on trauma, healing, and resiliency. She is committed to eradicating childhood sexual abuse in and beyond Black religious spaces. Pastor Lyvonne has been featured in ESSENCE and Cosmopolitan and Sojourners named her one of “11 Women Shaping the Church.” She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and currently based in Atlanta, GA.

If We Cancel R. Kelly, We Need to Cancel Biggie, Too

Photo Source: BET.com

Photo Source: BET.com

In 1996, I started seeing the ubiquitous, now infamous Hard Core poster all over New York City.  Lil’ Kim: squatting, knees spread-eagled, legs open wide. Her animal print bra and (presumably) thong, wrapped around her vagina like a holiday gift, as she thrust her pelvis forward--it conveyed body confidence and sexual prowess.

In this brazen act of displaying her sensuality, Lil’ Kim received backlash and was labeled all kinds of “ho’s” (as a patriarchal, misogynist society is wont to do). But as a first year student in high school who, thanks to being the daughter of West Indian immigrants, was new to the hip hop game, I relished in it. I loved seeing a female rapper who was “hard” getting acclaim. I was 14-years-old.

Little did I know, the girl in the picture was only 3 years older than me.

In a fairly recent interview on Hot 97 (97.1fm in NYC), Kimberly Denise Jones reveals that she was just 17-years-old when she posed for that provocative photo. This poster, that was hanging everywhere from prison cells to bedroom walls, featured an underage GIRL.

Kim had a violent relationship with her father and, when he kicked her out of his house, she was the same age that I was when i first encountered her: 14. Kim had to start fending for herself and sold drugs and sex (with grown men) before she met the Notorious B.I.G. (better known as “Biggie”).

She was still an underage teenager.

In a 2016 XXL article, Kim said she was “only 16, 17-years-old” when she was recording Hard Core. She said, “I was just a little kid trying to enjoy my teenage life...they kind of marketed me as an older girl, even though I wasn’t.” Moreover, it was common knowledge that Biggie and Kim were engaged in an ongoing sexual relationship. Once we start doing the math, the uncomfortable truth starts to set in--did Biggie engage in sexual activity with an underage Kim?

This girl could have been me or any one of my middle or high school friends. We used to think it was cute to “talk to” (meaning get the romantic attention of) older guys. “He thinks I’m 19,” you would hear 14-year-olds say. But even as we gave into the glamorous appeal of being perceived as older women, our weekday schedules and backpacks alluded to the fact that we were children. The notion that we were even able to consider ourselves older speaks to an “underage woman” culture.

There is no such thing as an “underage woman.” There are only underage girls. Society doesn’t see Black girls as innocent or worthy of protection, so that’s why if you say “women” you twistedly make young girls responsible for their own harm and abuse. Biggie could have waited for Kim to turn 18 before he yoked her with promiscuity. Or, he could have chosen to lace her in the Afrocentric consciousness like Queen Latifah. But, he didn’t. Because, in this hypersexual/hyper-repressive culture, sex sells.

This exploitation makes Biggie no better than Robert (R.) Kelly. And, in the aftermath of the release of the documentary that proffers a comprehensive exposé of Robert’s calculated abuse of Black girls and women, many of us are still ruminating and saying, “but we knew this the whole time.”

The systems and silence surrounding Robert’s abuse of underage Black girls and Black women were known facts. Whenever I talk to Black women who grew up in Chicago, they all say the same things:

“Everybody knew to stay away from him.”

“We knew to stay away from Olympia Fields.”

”We knew he was a predator.”

If everyone knew, how could this evil keep happening? Mikki Kendall, a survivor of Robert’s abuse stated, “We all noticed. No one cared because we were Black girls.”

In Robert’s case, we knew. He told on himself and we still allowed it to happen for generations. In Biggie’s case, we didn’t know, but it’s the same principle. Now that we know, our actions must be in alignment with our knowledge or we, too, are complicit in the ongoing sexual abuse of Black girls and women.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we have known in our own communities, too. In our churches we hear things like:

“Everybody knows to stay away from Pastor John.”

“We know to stay away from that deacon.”

“We know he is a predator.”

And, yet, because it is grotesque--it is freakish to see and comprehend the act of a grown man sexualizing a little girl, we look away. It’s like when we’re driving on a highway and traffic starts to bottleneck. We wonder what’s causing the delay and notice a car accident; then, while driving, we crane our necks to see what happened. The people who are looking are curious about the occurrence, but they don't necessarily want to see a decapitated body. They want to know, cerebrally, but, they don’t want to be confronted, conceptually, with the disfigured truth.

It is painfully gut-wrenching to bear witness to the grotesque truth of childhood sexual abuse. We do not want to affirm it and, for victims/survivors, we don’t want to remember it. But if it’s burdensome for you, the viewer, how do you think survivors feel? Each and every act of childhood sexual abuse is evil, demonic, sordid, and must be condemned. But how do you denounce something you won’t even face?

What if remembering is the way forward? What if the very thing we are trying to ignore is what we need to recall? What if we need to let the painful memories bubble up and over instead of repressing them with religion? What if we need to embrace the nightmares instead of suffocating ourselves with negative self-talk?

What if remembering is how we re-member victims of childhood sexual abuse? Our bodies have been through too much for social constructs and respectability politics to try to erase us and our stories. We are here. We need more. And we deserve better.

Lyvonne “Proverbs” Picou is a preacher, transformational speaker, poet, educator, and creative social entrepreneur. She is the founder of beautiful scars(@WereSurthrivors), an online platform for Black women who are also survivors of childhood sexual abuse and/or male sexual violence. By harnessing the power of narrative, she is aiding survivors (and communities, at large) to shift from silence to storytelling in order to eradicate gender-based violence. She can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Twitter and Instagram (@LyvonneP).