Exams, I say! I do not have time to write a blog. I woke up today with the idea of 3 exams in the next 24 hours hanging all over me (starting 12pm tomorrow until Saturday afternoon I will be a mess of memorization). Yet, I said to myself, eat breakfast, brew coffee, take the time to get ready for the day, and it’ll all be ok. It worked. I’m stressed but a chilled out kind of stressed. The manageable kind.
SO I popped over to campus to hit the books. I sat in bulls head bookshop for a while on the couches in the back by the balcony and worked on forensic psych– capital punishment, domestic violence, child abuse– it’s great stuff. I found out that the person who pushes the electric chair button in Florida gets $150 per execution. Do you think it’s worth $150? All you have to do is come in, push a button, and walk away with $150. I totally want to write a novel about that person, imagine what it’d be like with your life intersecting with death all the time like that.
The most exciting thing that has happened to me all day and probably will happen to me all week is a great phone conversation with a woman who works in PR and represents Verizon. Turns out, last week she saw the article Lauren Odom wrote about Project Dinah’s 24-hour Rape Free Zone and she emailed Project Dinah about supporting and collaborating with us. I wrote her back about our photography exhibit and how we’re trying to make the exhibit sustainable (getting glass frames, reprinting the photos professionally, etc) and trying to turn it into an awareness art project that travels to other schools (Elon, Duke, NC State have already talked to us about it!). We need some money, I said, basically. So when we talked today, she said, Verizon has a fund called HopeLine solely devoted to helping with domestic and sexual violence awareness efforts so, she said, “I wouldn’t say the sky’s the limit but the sky is definitely a good starting point.” The sky is definitely a good starting point. She said that they will cover our costs of making the project sustainable and turning it into a project that can travel. My heart was like, OH MY GOSH, YES. Imagine the impact we will have. We’ve already transformed lives with the first round of the exhibit and we will impact more and more people from now on.
All of this reminds me of how important it is to dream big. My friends and I started this project together and we were struggling and were flying into the dark with just an idea in mind. We began with breakfast meetings sitting cross-legged on the floor, drinking coffee and debating plans. We wrote blueprints, sent emails, wrote grants, shot portraits in makeshift studios, and we knelt on the floor in the printing lab in the journalism school gluing and mounting photographs; we found ourselves after midnight answering the janitorial staff’s questions about the frames spread along the linoleum hallway. We were in bed until two A.M formatting testimonials on the last nights before our campaign opened; we cried over the vulnerability, bravery and power of the people who chose to be a part of the project.
And now this. This is only happening now and made possible because Chelsea had the idea for the 24-hour Rape Free Zone back in August or September. For that project, we started planning and applying for funding in January. Together, Julie, Chelsea, Bethany, Julia, Katie, Holly, and all the rest of Project Dinah made the Rape Free Zone possible by designing the T-shirts, defending our project in front of the Residence Hall Association and Safety and Security Committee (they all ended up giving us $5000 altogether) and spending hours and hours sorting T-shirts, delivering them, driving them around in our cars, sitting in the Pit and on the Quad for days handing them out and getting people to sign pledges against violence. After over 1000 people wore their shirts on Friday and Lauren Odom wrote her fabulous article, I get an email about HopeLine and how we are doing great work and more people want to support us. All these dreams tie together. Anything is possible.
So dream big because the sky is just a starting point, not a limit.
It also reminds me about the importance of connection. I remember working in Paris with domestic violence survivors and our biggest struggle at the NGO Ni Putes Ni Soumises was getting in touch with the woman who was sequestered and trapped, the woman who didn’t speak French, the woman who didn’t know we existed but needed our help. To deal with language barriers, half the women who worked at Ni Putes Ni Soumises spoke Arabic as well as French in order to work with the clients who didn’t speak French (Arabic in France is like the equivalent of Spanish in the USA). Beyond that, we used the metro as our primary tool of reaching out– posting awareness posters across metros all over Paris– and it was our only hope that we could reach someone that way. So, the services exists (like HopeLine), it’s just a matter of finding out about the services in the first place, reaching out into the dark and the wide unknown world, hoping someone will hear or notice, going BIG and going widespread in order to make yourself and your cause known. That’s the most important thing you can do in anti-violence work. Talk and talk and talk and talk, spread your word wherever you go– it is the only way of finding out how connected we are. There is so much out there to support and sustain us. Dream it, talk about it, do it.