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A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Reflection on Pain

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Wanda Sabir. Photo courtesy of author.

I am a domestic violence survivor. The malady, “a post-slavery relic,”[1] does not skip generations. I watched my father hit my mother. The term “beaten” doesn’t quite reflect what I recall—my mother resisted, just as her embodied mothers had before her. The idea of “family,” something she desired, kept pulling her back until she finally left. 

When Mama left my father, brother and me, the terror did not stop.  We were also slapped, hit, beheaded.  I left one evening with my head in one hand, packed bag in the other, and stepped into a worse horror, a bed I could not vacate until buzzards circled my door as the black widower departed. 

I was 29. That ex-husband morphed into several other fatalities.— All Muslim men—Sufi, NOI converts to Sunni . . . emancipated and still shackled. They were no good.  None of them. I kept marrying my father over and over again, until now I just keep my distance from any intimate relationships[2]

Forty years ago I asked the Imam at the Muslim Center I attended if we could host a circle for women survivors of domestic violence. He agreed and said I could host it. But I didn’t want to host it, I just wanted to attend one. 

I’d still like to attend such a circle composed of women raised Muslim from the Nation of Islam forward, not women born outside the U.S.  A circle for women who have had ayats, or Qur’an verses, shoved down their throats, ayats that condone male violence against women.

“Beat her lightly. . . . [She deserved it.]”  “Men are the caretakers of women.”  “You may dislike a thing that brings about a great deal of good” (Qur’an)
Beat her lightly. . . ., one verse says. She deserved it.  Men are the caretakers of women. 

I didn’t have anywhere to run.  I asked. I looked for announcements along an underground railroad. There were no safe houses, no shelters, no abolitionist movement.

My father told me “a woman’s place is with her husband.” I should have expected such a response, but I didn’t, so I stayed with the abuser until I had a job that could support me and two daughters – three long scary years.  

I just wanted to get away before they, too, bore witness and became trapped in memories, nightmares haunting me even now. 

I don’t think my daughters have suffered such abuse in their relationships, but I can’t say the same will be true for their children. Perhaps such violence lies dormant like a sleeper cell and gets triggered in certain circumstances? 

I have experienced physical and emotional abuse. I think the emotional abuse is worse because it is here that the insidious manipulation happens, the wounds invisible so that the victim can think she imagined such. This is what the perpetrator wants us to believe. Sisters, I say the wounds are real. They show themselves in indecision, self-doubt, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicide. 

I keep a therapist employed. I think this is why I am still alive and functional 41 years after the first time I was hit, pregnant with my first child. It was at Lake Merritt. I was sitting in a swing by the bird sanctuary.

Wanda Sabir is the Co-Founder and CEO of MAAFA SF-Bay Area and host of Wanda’s Picks Radio show. 

[1] From a poem entitled “Buried Placenta” from Volume I: Daddy’s Girl ©Wanda Sabir 2018

[2] From a poem entitled “Virgin Happy Hour” from Volume I: Daddy’s Girl ©Wanda Sabir 2018

 

Art

MC Arts Gallery Opens During the Marin Open Studio

The Gallery and its website display the art of a number of Black artists which includes: TheArthur Wright, Lumumba Edwards, and Maalak Atkins. Zwanda and Mitchell Howard also display their art at the Gallery. 

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From top: Oshalla Marcus (director/curator, MC Arts & Culture) with Osiezhe’s drawings to the right of the photo, Zwanda, Mitchell Howard , ISOJI’s Art Is Health Band: Carlton Carey (drums), Mwanza Furaha, (vocals), Jack Prendergast (bass), Ricardo Moncrief (keyboard), James Moseley (guitar, vocal). Photos by Godfrey Lee.

The MC Arts Gallery, located on 100 Donahue St. in the Gateway Shopping Center in Marin City, is open during the Marin Open Studios, which took place on Saturday and Sunday, May 1 & 2. 

The Gallery and its website display the art of a number of Black artists which includes: The Arthur Wright, Lumumba Edwards, and Maalak Atkins. Zwanda and Mitchell Howard also display their art at the Gallery. 

Zwanda seeks to be creative as she expands her ideas as a sculptress and painter. She is inspired by the human figure and dancers and is fascinated with music and the instruments themselves. Her art is a way to express this love and to share it with others.

Mitchell Howard studied art at San Francisco State University and the Computer Arts Institute of San Francisco. He was an art director at Cummingham & Walsh in San Francisco and has displayed his paintings at the Hannah Gallery, worked on the Rocky Graham Park Mural and has taught art at the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy Elementary School.

“Art can bring people together and illustrate things that people can relate to,” Howard says. “Art can also be powerful in sending social messages to society. Art makes you think, it expands your horizons and makes you use your imagination. People may see different things in the same painting.”

Osiezhe, Shakira Gregory’s son, will be displaying his drawings at the Gallery.

The ISOJI’s Art Is Health Band played last Saturday afternoon with Mwanza Furaha as their guest vocalist.

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Art

City Council Approves $480,000 in Arts Grants

The city made the announcement Tuesday about the grants, which will support 772 distinct arts events and activities that will expose more than 110,000 participants to cultural programming.

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The Oakland City Council approved $480,000 in grants to 17 Oakland-based non-profit organizations and 20 individual artists through the city’s Cultural Funding Program, Neighborhood Voices.

The city made the announcement Tuesday about the grants, which will support 772 distinct arts events and activities that will expose more than 110,000 participants to cultural programming.

The grant program seeks to bring Oaklanders together to create and support a sense of belonging within a community, to foster social connections that lift people’s spirits, to encourage community well-being and offer visions for a collective future, according to the announcement.

The following individual artists each won $7,000 Neighborhood Voices awards:

Frederick Alvarado; Karla Brundage; Cristina Carpio; Darren Lee Colston; Maria De La Rosa; Elizabeth D. Foggie; Rachel-Anne Palacios; Laurie Polster; Hasain Rasheed; Kweku Kumi Rauf; Carmen Roman; Michael Roosevelt; Fernando Santos; Teofanny Octavia Saragi; Kimberly Sims-Battiste; Cleavon Smith; Lena Sok; Babette Thomas; Ja Ronn Thompson; Joseph Warner.

Each of the following organizations received $20,000 Neighborhood Voices awards:

Asian Health Services for Banteay Srei;

Beats Rhymes and Life;

Chapter 510 INK;

Dancers Group for dNaga GIRL Project;

Dancers Group for Dohee Lee Puri Arts;

Dancers Group for Grown Women Dance Collective;

East Oakland Youth Development Center;

Higher Gliffs for Endangered Ideas;

Hip Hop for Change;

Junior Center of Art and Science;

Mycelium Youth Network;

Oakland Education Fund for Youth Beat;

Oakland Theater Project, Inc.;

Sarah Webster Fabio Center for Social Justice;

The Intersection for Alphabet Rockers;

Women’s Audio Mission;

Youth Radio/YR Media.

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Art

Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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