Boston GLOW is a breeding ground for the modern day superwoman. GLOW fosters opportunities for women of all ages to become empowered community leaders and active world citizens.

Real Girl Leaders: Denada Bakiasi

Today is the 2nd day of our #RealGirlLeaders blog series, highlighting 2015 IGNITEChange Finalist, Denada Bakiasi.  Denada is 15 years old and a student at Brighton High School.  If Denada was given $1000 to change to role of women and girls in her community, city or school she would start by empowering women and girls to pursue careers in STEM!

Empowering Women in STEM

We are given one chance at life, and we should be able to pursue our dreams and live this life denada.jpgto the fullest. We should never feel as if our gender, our ethnicity, and religion is holding us back. There’s many times that I have resented being a female , since I was always expected to clean the house, cook, take care of my cousins,  while the boys of my same age were allowed to play because “they are boys”. In fairytales, which were the entertainment of my childhood, the princess would wait for the prince to come and save her, In movies woman were always weak, petrified waiting, while the man figured out how to save them.  In cartoons, it was always guys depicted doing awesome experiments, while the girls were portrayed as simply pretty. How the money for the family was allocated was always a man’s job. In my family men always own the property and if the man dies the property is left to his male relatives, and nothing is left to his wife and daughters. All of these things add up to make a girl lack confidence and feel inferior to boys; to make me lack confidence and to make me feel inferior to boys.

 In order to change this inferior perception in myself and others, we need to reshape our insight into how we view ourselves. We need to realize, that we are capable of doing whatever we set our mind towards. Each and every woman can be a leader and already is a leader in her own way. Throughout history women are pushed into being housewives and being dependent on their husband, however times have changed and in this generation we are becoming independent, and we have the chance to change our predicament and be treated equally to men. In school we always learn about great male scientists, who have changed the way that we understand the world, however we seldom learn about woman that have helped to make a change. This is not true however; there are many woman out there that have contributed to science such as Rachel Carson, whose work revolutionized the global environmental movement. We always learn about the genius of Einstein brilliant equation for the relationship between energy mass and the speed of light, however we seldom hear of  Émilie du Châtelet who came up with the equation for the  correct relationship between mass, velocity, and energy that Einstein based his equation on.

Science Technology Engineedenada3.jpgring Mathematics (STEM) is an amazing field; I myself am very captivated by its intricacies. Unfortunately, I have noticed that in every engineering initiative that I have participated, the majority of the time, there has been a ratio of 2 girls for every 13 boys. That is a big concern that so many girls get left out of the engineering opportunities, and how amazing this is given the amount of discussion around the issue. Engineering is fantastic, you basically learn how to bring your own ideas to life, you work on exciting projects in which you only succeed if you cooperate with other people. I believe that if girls get to work on a project they will see how different it is from what they think it is.

Thankfully, at this time of STEM many more opportunities are opening for women. STEM plays a great role in the World’s economy. This is a great field for women to get into now. Women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men. Women bring to STEM fields a different and important perspective that may have been missing when their voice was not being heard. STEM careers offer women the opportunity to engage in some of the most exciting realms of discovery and technological innovation. Increasing opportunities for women in these fields is an important step towards realizing greater economic success and equality for women across the board. It's crucial for young women to understand what STEM is and see if they are interested on it. It is not just that women need to be in STEM, it is more importantly that STEM needs women.

In order to help young girls realize that they can be good leaders, and successful in fields traditionally dominated by man I would like to hold a series of after school workshops to empower these young women. In this afterschool workshop there will be plenty of nutritious food. We are also going to give a pre-workshop survey to the students to find what their preconceived ideas are on STEM. At first I would like to gather every girl and include some fun activities in order to get them to introduce themselves, and know one another. By knowing one another they will feel more comfortable to be themselves, and make some new friends. After the activities, we are going to hold a discussion group where we are going to talk about STEM and what they know about it. I am also thinking of doing a presentation on STEM, so they can get a better understanding on it, and see all the opportunities that STEM offers. In this discussion group any question that the students will have will be answered.The group discussion will make them feel more involved and gain a better concept on STEM.

After working with the concepts of STEM with the students, there will be an activity, enabling the student to build six legged walking insect robots. While it may seem strange, building this robot will be fun, engaging and very inexpensive. Each insect robot kit can be put together for a cost of $15 dollars. The maximum time that it would take to build an insect robot is 40 minutes. This project also requires very simple tools. How could they not fall in love with STEM forever after watching all their little robots run around the tables together, banging into each other or better yet avoiding each other. This will be an activity that they’ll remember for the rest of their life, and spread a message to their friends. I am confident that building this little robot will change the course of some lives, as building a robot has changed the course of my life.

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Real Girl Leaders: Emily Chan

Today we're very excited to kick-off our summer #RealGirlLeaders series.  Each Wednesday we will highlight one of our ten IGNITE Change Finalist's Projects from 2015.  The IGNITE Change Contest asks high school aged girls in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville the question, "If you had $1000, what would you change about the role of women and girls in your school, community or city?"  We were amazed by their tangible plans for change targeting some of the world's most pressing concerns for women and girls.

Our first #RealGirlLeader is Emily Chan.  Emily is 16 and a student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, MA. 



On my first day of economics class, I noticed something interesting. When asked to share why we decided to take the course, many of the girls in the room said “I thought it sounded sort of interesting” or “it seemed like it might be useful” while many of the boys said “I want to be a venture capitalist” or “I want to make a lot of money”. When talking to my friend who had the same economics class in a different period, I found out that she was just one of three girls in a class of about eighteen. Much later, while studying how Napoleon’s Civil Code oppressed women by giving husbands full control over property and financial decisions, I realized that even today, lack of control over money is still something that facilitates the oppression of women. It’s common sense that money equals power, and it’s also well known that women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar, and that women make up just 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.[1] No wonder powerful women are few and far between.

Diving deeper into big money, just 7% of venture capital funding goes to women, and in a study by the Harvard School of Business, despite having the exact same pitch, investors usually chose the man over the woman.[2] According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, men usually start companies with twice the capital of women. In the same line, just 4% of venture capital firms are led by women, and women tend to ask for less money than men as well.[3] As a girl whose dream job is to start and run her own business, this is all pretty disheartening. However, startups led by women tend to succeed more often, and crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are leveling the playing field. Women lead 47% of funding campaigns on Indiegogo, and incredibly, women are 13% more likely than men to meet their funding goals on Kickstarter, and 61% on Indiegogo![4] That’s in stark contrast with the traditional forms of funding, where women make up a minuscule fraction of successfully funded start-ups. 

It’s clear that in order to empower women, we need to help them gain control over money, and crowd-funding is much more friendly to women than tradition venture capitalism. If I had a thousand dollars, I would empower girls in the Cambridge community to pursue their interests and consider a career in business by teaching them how to start KicEMILY_CHAN.jpgkstarter campaigns to fund projects of their own interest, and then guiding them through the process of actually running or carrying out their project. As someone interested in business, I have been to quite a few conferences and workshops where experts talk and give advice on speaking, presenting, brainstorming ideas, managing start-ups, etc. but it’s all talk and no action. What I want to do is help girls really fund their own ideas, and give them the ability and experience to make their dreams come true.

I would do this by holding workshops to teach girls how to use Kickstarter, and then pairing them with mentors who would teach them business basics, help them modify their projects to be realistic and feasible, and guide them through the actual process of carrying out their ideas. I envision two workshops for around ten to fifteen girls each, led by speakers drawn from the Cambridge community who have experience with crowdfunding (for example, the startup Electroninks, which raised $674,000 on Kickstarter for its conductive pen Circuit Scribe, is based in Cambridge). In the workshops, the speakers would talk about their own experience launching a startup and using Kickstarter, and then lead a demo on how to use Kickstarter, including tips and tricks for a successful campaign. Teachers or parents would work with girls to set up their Kickstarter accounts, since the program would be targeted towards high school students, likely under the age of eighteen. As for the mentors, Cambridge has a wealth of resources, and volunteers from the Havard Business School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and other colleges in the area such as Boston University, Northeastern, etc. would give girls advice about things such as pricing, budgeting, setting goals, making spreadsheets, and keeping track of sales, and would work with them on their projects in meetings once a week after school. Working with their mentors would hopefully teach them about the technical side of business, and encourage them to consider business in college, and working on their projects would give them hands-on experience handling money and working out the logistics of running a business. Girls would choose a project based on their interests, which could range from making and selling jewelry at a local crafts fair or online, to filming a short movie or publishing a novel, to starting a business planting trees in backyards. Once they choose a project they’re passionate about, we would use cameras from the school’s media resource center to film pitches and promotional videos for the Kickstarter campaigns. If they are successfully funded, which would take around a month, they can begin carrying out their project, and if they are not, then they can revise and rework their idea and try again. The whole process would go on for around four months, with the first month devoted to fundraising, and next couple of months to refining business models and learning the ropes in order to keep their projects running smoothly. By the end, the hope is that girls will stay in touch with their mentors on their own but will have learned enough about starting a project, raising capital, managing money, and running a business to be independent. They will then have the skills to bring to life any dreams that they might have in the future.

With this project, I believe that I could help get Cambridge girls interested in business and entrepreneurship through a fun and interactive hands-on experience. Having the experience of starting and funding their own project would empower them to set higher aspirations, and their weekly meetings would allow them to build a relationship with a business mentor who would encourage and support them. In order for us to end gender inequality, it is essential that women increase their presence in business and gain equal control of money in the economy, and the first step in that direction is teaching girls to manage money, fund their own ideas, and make their dreams happen.

To learn more about the IGNITE Change Contest or to learn how you can support our Girl Leaders, please contact at anytime!






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To Support Local Organizations, We Rise

For the past week, each day our blog has allowed one woman the chance to tell her story of why she takes a stand and support ending violence against women and girls.  Each piece aims to start an open discourse as we build a community around the issue of gender-based violence.

 As an organization, Boston GLOW believes that true leadership means striving to end gender-based violence against all people, and we will work to raise awareness wherever possible.

This weekend, Friday February 13th and Saturday February 14th, Boston GLOW along with 30 members of the Greater Boston Community will join to present the Boston Community Production of The Vagina Monologues.

The performance is based on interviews with more than 200 women. With humor and grace the piece celebrates women's sexuality and strength. Our cast represents a diverse community of women sharing these monologues, and we invite you to join us! 

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at 

 100% of ticket sales go to support local organizations doing incredible work end gender-based violence here in Boston.


 Here's a Spotlight on the organizations supported by your ticket purchase or donation:

1/3 of the Donations Collected Will Support:

Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence

Incorporated in 1992, the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) has operated New England’s only multilingual emergency shelter, advocacy services, outreach, and education programs for battered Asian adults and their children. ATASK’s mission is to prevent domestic violence in Asian families and communities and to provide hope to survivors. ATASK serves large immigrant and refugee populations. 95% of clients have income below the federal poverty line.

To get involved, join, or learn more visit

1/3 of the Donations Collected Will Support:

Victory Programs Women's Hope Transitional Program

 2015 marks Victory Programs’ 40th year of opening the doors to hope health and housing to individuals and families in need. Since its inception in 1975, the agency has expanded to 18 housing and health programs providing shelter and recovery services to 2,600 men, women and families annually. Proceeds from The Vagina Monologues will be benefiting the relocation of Victory Programs' Joelyn's Family Home, an addiction recovery programs for women, which was evacuated in October when the Long Island Bridge was closed indefinitely.

To get involved, join, or learn more please contact Lori Manzelli at

1/6 of the Donations Collected Will Support:

The Young Black Women's Society (YBWS) 

Founded in Boston in 2005, the Young Black Women’s Society Inc. (YBWS), was established to provide a platform for women and girls of color to further develop their personal, professional and civic lives. YBWS sought out to be “The Society” for this demographic, providing relevant programming, activities and personal connections that complement their future goals and aspirations. We welcome you to learn about our organization and join our movement as we affect change and strive for advancement and access in Greater Boston and beyond!

To get involved, join, or learn more please contact Janeen Smith at

and 1/6 of the Donations Collected will Support Boston GLOW's Organized Women Spitfire Series


We thank you for your support, and we look forward to seeing you Friday or Saturday at the show!


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To Take My Place as Survivor, Educator and Activist

For the past week, every day our blog has featured writing from a member of the 2015 Boston Community Production of the Vagina Monologues.  We are proud of the women taking part in this community building performance, and hope that you will join us this weekend - Friday February 13th and Saturday February 14th at the performance. Tickets are on sale today! 

We invite you to read, share and engage in today's post, the 8th in our series brought to you from two time VDay Cast member, Tori. 


I Rise To Take My Place as Survivor, Educator and Activist

The problem for women is that when society dictates to us a false belief that we have no agency in our own sexual experiences, and are at the mercy of our rhythmic biology, this belief carries over to the rest of our lives. If women can only be passive sexual partners, or worse, come to believe and internalize that sex is something that is unpleasant and a bit messy and thus we must endure it politely, once in a while, then so we are also internalizing that women ought not to have agency in other areas of our lives.

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister in training, and a chaplain, and my own stories of survival stand as one testimony in a sea of stories, of disempowerment, submission, violence.  I’ve sat with untold numbers of women for whom agency was taken from them in relationships and of their own bodies. In the conservative Christian religious culture I came from, I wasn’t taught about safe, consensual, pleasurable sex. From the pulpit and classroom, I was taught about submission to my husband, and taught to be chaste until marriage so that my marriage was godly enough that God would be honored and the marriage bed frequently occupied. Huddled gatherings of the married women of the culture I come from would talk in hushed tones about “winning wayward husbands back to the Lord”, ways of withholding or using sex to get what we wanted from our husbands, which was often simply mere survival, disguised as a concern that he was “upset at dinner” or that “work must have put him in a sour mood”.

Nobody told me it wasn’t okay when my husband abandoned me at a store, hit me, drove into traffic, made threats and a plan to enact them, slammed the brakes on the car on the highway with every intention of causing a miscarriage of the baby we were convinced I was growing inside of me. See, the women talked, but we never talked about what was really happening, never named for one another what we each suffered; each of our husbands was wayward and it was our duty to win them back, not to complain, to accept sex as often and whichever way on the promise that real and true submission and obedience would make everything better forever, or at least for a little while.

                I rise to take my place as a survivor and I rise to take my place as an educator and activist. I am proud to be in the vagina monologues cast for a second year. I am proud of the work the cast has done together to break down barriers between us as women, and to engage in our own education. I am proud of the conversations that have happened and will happen as the show is seen, both about the sexual and personal agency of women and about the very real trials and triumphs women face because we are women. I rise with a commitment to do better -to speak more boldly, and to teach and facilitate classes in my ministry settings about safe, consensual, and pleasurable sex that begin with giving women and men the power to name for themselves their own experiences and power.  

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Because I'm Not a Superhero

Today is day seven of our annual #WhyRise series.  We are proud of and inspired by our 2015 Cast of The Boston Community Production of The Vagina Monologues for sharing their experiences and stories as we hope to create open discourse about violence against women. 

Because I'm Not a Superhero


When I was seven, I wanted to be a superhero.  Capes, tights, secret identity – I wanted the whole thing!  I used to sit in my kitchen staring at spoons in an attempt to bend them with only my mind. After the telekinesis phaseI began running around my house on all fours convincing myself I was part tiger.  TIGER GIRL! Savior of all the upper-middle class white people in my South Jersey suburb!

In retrospect, that Comic Book would have been awful…  But the point is, I wanted to kick ass, defeat bad guys, be the one person out of millions able to make a difference in this world.  

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that the “Only-I-Can-Save-the-World” mentality is toxic and counterproductive.  I do not understand what it is to be anything other than who I am, soI cannot presume to come up with a solution to every injustice.  I am a white queer woman who grew up in a well-off household.  I have zero clue what it means to be black, transgender, lesbian, gay, Latina, Muslim etc. etc. etc.

know now that for most of my life, I have been the villain, not the superhero.  have benefitted from the status quo, from the forced silence of the oppressed, from ignorance or my refusal to question the world I live in. I have not been raised to be a part of the solution; I have been raised to be part of the problem.

I am 22 now and still unlearning all the bs I’ve absorbed, still horrifying myself when I realize the depth of my biases.  Although this is something I’m not exactly proud to acknowledgeit does make me hopeful.  I truly believe that I can only start becoming a part of the solution once I realize that I have been a part of the problem.

That is why I rise.  I rise because making a just society isn’t about some misguided self-serving martyr.  It isn’t about me. It is about a greater USWe are all connected despite our differences and in that incredible connection, there is life, there is hope, there is love, there is healing.

I rise because I am human.  I am one of hundreds, thousands, millions unlearning society’s virulent lessons, living in solidarity, refusing to be a part of the problem, shutting up and listening when we don’t understand, and standing with people across all genders, races, religions to create a just society.

And being a part of that superhuman movement is way cooler than being a superhero.

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I Rise to End the Shaming of Women

Today is Day 6 in our annual blog series, brought to you by Chloe Hart. Chloe is a feminist, a teacher, and a student. This is her first Vagina Monologues production and she is very excited to be involved

Trigger warning regarding sexual assault

I Rise to End the Shaming of Women

I was 19 when I was assaulted. My story has many elements that are common among the stories that have been creating a national conversation about sexual assault over the last several years - I had spent the night boozing it up with friends at a few fraternity parties and, by the end of the night, become very drunk. Late into the night I ran into G, a former flame with whom I’d had a one night stand and remained cordial.

 In the sweaty haze of the fraternity basement, we latched on to one another and, as the party began to wind down, moved upstairs to his room. Very quickly we were having sex, consensually. But he didn’t want to just have sex – G seemed to be after a greater conquest of some kind. It began with his insistence on having anal sex, which I repeatedly refused. Once I’d made it clear that that was off limits, he tried to experiment on my body in other ways – to force his fist into my vagina, to shove a shampoo bottle inside of me, and to have sex with the door open in front of his fraternity brothers. When I proved unwilling to participate in any of these activities, he stormed out of the room abruptly, and shaken, I left the house.

 The encounter left me physically swollen and bruised, but my body was resilient, and in a few days’ time I had healed. Yet as my body mended, a cloak of shame settled over my psyche. G had essentially treated me as a collection of orifices, and the fact that I could be seen this way made me feel that I was unequivocally a slut. I blamed myself for not leaving the situation at the first signs of disrespect, for trying to play it cool, for being too drunk to stand up for myself. The semester was drawing to a close, and fraught with emotion, I left campus for the last few weeks of school to finish my studies at home. I curled up in the arms of my incredibly supportive mother and cried every day for a week until the worst of it was over.

 It’s been four years since my identity was so roughly torn apart through this encounter, but I still experience an upwelling of emotion when I think back to it. I am angry at G for treating me like a body, rather than a person, and I am angry at the Greek life system at my university for creating a culture in which the emphasis on sexual conquests displaced considerations of consent and respect. But more than anything, I am troubled that it was my instinct, after experiencing the assault, to blame and shame myself. Sexual assault is a unique form of attack on the body because of the cocktail of horrible emotions that come along with the physical pain, and I think that in considering how to tackle sexual assault, it is important to understand the meaning that the assault carries for its victims.

 Women have come a long way toward reaching gender equality, but one area in which they continue to lack power is in defining their sexual reputations. The sexual double standard, in which sexually active women are often labeled “sluts” while no such derogatory word is even available to describe promiscuous men, is alive and well. It’s hard to pinpoint when and why some women are branded with this term, but from my observations of heterosexual hookups in college, it seemed to come down to the way a man viewed his female partner. If he remained friendly or desirous of her after a hookup, the encounter might leave her unscathed, but if he treated her with disinterest or scorn, labels like “slut” started to stick. In the context where a consensual sexual encounter can sometimes leave a woman feeling that her reputation is compromised, a nonconsensual encounter becomes a direct attack on her sexual respectability: for a woman to be treated with so much disrespect not only after but during sex is to imply that respect is something that she is not worthy of. This was the assumption that I came to about myself when I was assaulted.

 Much of the focus on curbing sexual assault thus far has been in considering how to define consent and in how to change the micro-cultures which encourage assault. Truly, these are important steps. Yet I think that closer to the root of the problem is the shame that is cast on women who are assaulted. At present, women's sexual identities seem to be defined by their male partners. We need a paradigm shift in which women who have sex, especially with men who lack respect for them, are not considered inherently degraded. We need a culture where women are not defined by what they do, or what is done, to their bodies. This might not take care of the problem of sexual assault itself, but it could spare its victims the identity crisis that goes hand in hand with such an attack.  So this Valentine's Day I rise to re-claim the identities of women who have been assaulted: not as victims, not as ruined things, but as strong, powerful women

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From Bended Knees to Standing Tall, Empowered, Telling Her Story

Today is the 5th Day in our annual #WhyIRise Blog Series.  Our post comes from advocate and V-Day Cast Member, Heang Ly. Heang Ly has worked in the non-profit sector for over 15 years, working to promote opportunities for young people. She is both passionate about youth and women's empowerment. Heang enjoys creative avenues for making change and believes in living outside the box of traditional cultural expectations. Her short story "the Lotus Gift" was recently published in Troubling Borders:An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora. She is also a Lion Dancer with Gund Kwok's Asian Women Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe. 

Please note trigger warning regarding Sexual Abuse. The author asks readers to hold judgement against her parents. There are many cultural beliefs and values that dictated her parents reaction to the abuse. She and her parents have worked with each other through this experience towards understanding and forgiveness.


At 8, games of hopscotch, tag, and Chinese jump rope suddenly became interchanged with forced grown games that came without a name. From games played in schoolyards to games played in hidden room corners and hallways. He provided the instructions and rules. Rule 1,
“This is a game between only you and I.” Rule 2, “It’s normal for my hands to touch you down there.” Rule 3, “You cannot tell anyone.”
I rise for the violated 8 year old me.

At 10, phones calls became something beyond a means for saying “Hello”. One ring, that took only a second, defined the thousands of seconds of interrogation to follow. “Did he touch you?” They asked. “Did he touch you?” They asked again and again. Couldn’t they hear her heart beating the truth? “It’s alright, your cousin told us he touched her too, just tell us.” She thought, tell you? Tell that I kept going over his house? Tell that I felt tingles when he touched me? Tell that I was dirty? Tell that I was silent? Tell on my uncle?
I rise for the 10 year old me paralyzed with guilt and fear.

At 12, he didn’t physically violate her anymore. Yet, one physical move set in motion emotional violation to last a lifetime. “We are moving, yes next to him” they said. She froze. At this moment, he found accomplices to his crime in her own parents. “He’s family.” But you are the family I need to protect me, she thought. “Just avoid him.” How can a wall provide enough separation from her source of pain? Running from, not running to, should have been the right thing to do.
I rise for the confused 12 year old me.

At 15, sitting in the back of a car driven by the very man who mapped out the direction of her life to include wrong turns, dead ends, and dirt roads. Her eyes avoiding the reflection of his eyes in the rearview mirror as he asks about her day. There’s only one heavy heartbeat to accompany her one word answers. This daily routine, many days a week. From playing her abuser to playing her chauffeur to school.
I rise for the angry 15 year me.

At 18, an evacuation route was within reach. College. This time, she could choose to run from, not to. Miles away, she didn’t have to see him outside her window, in her driveway, in her living room. Miles away, she could forget his physical existence, until she’d return home for visits. His disappearance only temporary. When she would close her eyes, he still lived in her nightmares.
Her only choice to truly erase him was to permanently erase how he affected her.
I rise for the transitioning 18 year old me.

At 37, thousands of miles and nearly three decades away, her journey has moved through different terrains. Moving from positions of bended knees with tears to standing tall, empowered with courage. Telling her story, so others can move through, past, and forward. The very direction she’s taken. Yet, she finds herself still looking back at times.
I rise for the present me.
The present me who knows that the road to healing is paved with rocks and debris. Yet, you can still get to where you want to go. You can. You must.


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Violence, an intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force,

Today's post is from four time Boston V-Day Cast member, Simone.

Simone Miles Esteves is the descendant of African, Latina and Wompanoag women.

Why does she Rise? How could she not? Revolution? Oh, most def!


Violence, an intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force, isn’t always physical. As we work to end the violence against women, we have to remember emotional violence as well.


As angry as I was while I followed the Zimmerman trial, and as much as my heart and soul ached for Trayvon, his fam, my fam and our fam across the diaspora, a demographic that is born guilty of being innocent, you know who I whose experience I am still stunned by? Rachel Jeantel. Do you remember her? If nothing else, you remember the hell she caught for her less than eloquent testimony as she recounted listening to her friend being followed, harassed and murdered. She heard it. She HEARD it. I’d imagine the sounds and the images that her brain illustrated to accompany those sounds are seared into her consciousness. And if that wasn’t enough to traumatize this young lady, she then needed to relive this horrific experience on national television, while throngs of anonymous people ruthlessly criticized her lack of English mastery, giving few, if any props to the fact that English is her second language… meaning she’s bilingual… an accomplishment many of us can not claim. Waves of people chose her speech pattern as a point of mockery and degradation. Countless people created an equation in which her rich cocoa skin, size and weight resulted in her being stripped of respect, stripped of dignityand dehumanized.


So this Vday, I’m rising for social injustice of any gender or any background, but in particular I’m rising for Rachel; a black girl who listened to her friend get ripped from her life, whose intelligence was invalidated because her ability to code-switch wasn’t satisfactory to the masses and whose body was used for the entertainment of strangers without her consent. If that ain’t social and emotional violence, then I just don’t’ know what is. I’ve never met Rachel Jeantel and I probably never will, but she’s fam to me. I’m rising for you, sis. 



Recently, Barbara Howard wrote a piece for Cognosenti called, “A Blizzard of Perspective”. In it she recalls driving by a woman and a sleeping child who were waiting at a bus stop at about 1am. This was in the days following the recent historic snowfall and cold temperatures in Boston. Howard backed up to offer the woman and child a ride home, which they accepted. As she turned onto their street, Howard recalls, “It was a very steep and snowy hill, and I commented that she must have very strong arms to carry her sleeping daughter up that hill. She told me that sometimes she just can’t carry her, especially with all the snow. She said she has to wake up her little girl and make her walk up the hill. “She doesn’t like that,” the woman said.

“How old is she?” I asked.
When I read this, I wondered how the mother feels just before she wakes her daughter up to walk up the snowy hill. Does she question her effectiveness as a mom? Does she feel like she’s let her daughter down? I contemplated those questions and realized that I was projecting. I’d be questioning myself if I found myself in her shoes with my own child. Maybe she doesn’t question those things at all. Maybe she’s strong and determined and has dreams for her family that she knows she will make come true. Maybe she knows that this season of their lives won’t last forever, and that they’ll be better because of it. I hope this is the case for her. Despite that possibility, if the social and economic inequality that leaves a mother and her child at a bus stop on a snowy night at 1am to risk a ride home with a stranger ain’t violence, I don’t know what is.




For generations little girls have been fed fairy tales of Prince Charming and some place in time called Happily Every After. Fortunately, because times are changing, varying perspectives and experiences are more widely accepted and that fairy tale narrative is changing accordingly. There is still all types of work to do, but it’s changing none-the-less. To that point, I don’t know Esaw Garner, and I certainly don’t know what her relationship with her husband Eric Garner consisted of. But I do know that she recalled the familiarity between the local police and her husband. They called him “Cigarette Man,” and you know what they called her? “Cigarette Man’s Wife”. Now, for the purposes of this posting, I’ll simply mention, rather than unpack, how dismissive of a person’s identity or even existence it is for law enforcement to know someone well enough to give him a “nickname” and make his significant other a mere extension of the identity that’s been assigned to him. Is there any regard for these individual people? And their lives? And their experiences in this world? On the other hand (waaaaay other hand), the assignments of these nicknames could lead an outsider, such as myself, to infer that the relationship between Mr. & Mrs. Garner was well known in their community. That even people, who may not have known or cared about the details that made these people livers of uniquely valuable lives recognized that they were a unit. There are other inferences to be made here, but let’s roll with this one. If Esaw Gardner is a woman who’d been fed the fairy tale, then the co-nicknaming and her response of “hell no” she does not accept the apology of the officer who murdered her husband might allude to her having found her Prince Charming. She spoke openly about struggling to feed her kids, especially now that her husband is gone. At least with him here, however realistically flawed their relationship may have been, they had each other. They could keep living in and/or working toward the Ever After that so many of us have been fed and seek. The officer who killed Eric Garner killed parts of Esaw Gardner and parts of everyone who loved him. I’ll admit, I don’t agree with all of Mrs. Garner’s assessment of the situation regarding her late husband and I don’t know what their day-to-day lives consisted of. But I do know that the other half of “Cigarette Man’s Wife” was stolen from her… from this world. He’ll never be back. Not only was Esaw Garner’s Prince Charming snatched from her life, but their Ever After was as well. Mrs. Garner is a widow, a survivor, a person who has to live everyday with the loss of her husband and the bitter sweet memories of their love… If she ain’t a victim of mental and emotional violence, then I don’t know who is.


In November, Samaria Rice’s 12 year old son was killed by police who responded to a report of what might have been a toy gun. Turned out it was, in fact, a toy. I don’t like the concept of toy guns, but that does not justify the fact that Samaria will never hug or kiss her son again. She won’t see him graduate from high school, guide him through some curveball life throws his way, make a parenting mistake and apologize to him for it, send him off to college. Nothing. Samaria Rice won’t do any of that because her son was killed for playing with a toy gun, which kids have been doing for generations. In February, months after her son as murdered, Ms. Rice was quoted as sayng "I just can't believe it. I'm still in shock, for real. I'm still in shock that this could be happening to me." Countless Boston based mothers could share a similar sentiment. Sonja Bishop, Sarah Flint, Angela Francis, Isaura Mendes, Carmen Soto and Genevieve Tonge, are among many mothers who have tragically lost their children and live with that loss every day. I can not imagine the agony that the loss of a child brings, the violence that a mother’s soul endures and I’m so sorry that they know this emotional and spiritual violence first hand.

The children of these mothers had communities. Sisters they rode bikes with. Cousins they built forts with, bickered with, but were best friends with moments later as they ate snacks. Classmates who’s hair they may have pulled. Friends they played gobblygoop with and who never dreamed that they wouldn’t be hangin’ together forever.

If violence ain’t the loss, and confusion, and void and pain and fear and anxiety that 12 year old Tamir Rice’s little homegirls and little homeboys must be feeling, then I just don’t know….

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I Rise Because it's Not Every Day...

Today is the 3rd day in our #WhyIRise series.  Our author is Natalie Perry.  Natalie lives in Worcester with her family and works in Boston. She works in economic development and is part of the Massachusetts Women's Leadership Fellows program. This is her third year participating in the Vagina Monologues. Every year she looks forward to reconnecting with the diverse community of strong women.


I rise because it's not every day...
That a woman gets to tell her story
That someone asks to hear it
That the validity of her claims won't be scrutinized
That as the victim we won't blame her for being drunk or going to the party or marrying the wrong man
That she isn't afraid to tell the truth
That the media won't exploit her truth

I rise because 2014 was a tough year to be a woman. Media coverage of missing girls, elevator surveillance footage of brutal domestic disputes, and graphic reminders of rape culture attacked me on the news everyday. I rise because they couldn't, but I can.

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Those Snow Boots Were More Than Just Boots, Why I Rise


Today is the second day of our annual #WhyIRise blog series.  This series shares the voices and stories of women in the 2015 cast of the Boston Community Production of The Vagina Monologues.  We invite you to share read, share and listen to their stories and experiences.

Today's post is from 2 time Boston V-day cast member and Organizer of Youth Outreach for Boston @VDay, Jennifer Jeanne.  Jennifer is a practicing In Home Therapist in the community and a proud Vagina Warrior. Jennifer Jeanne is currently working on a project documenting the lives of those killed by community violence as well as interviewing people about their hopes and dreams.


As  I write this my little city of Boston is covered in snow. The snow is tricky for me. When I look out the window and see the sun sparkling off of the white powder, my heart skips a beat. Every time. Even after living here for five years now. From the window it is delightful. And in the first magical hours of the snow fall it certainly is exciting and fun. Then business mode kicks in. Shoveling. Plowing. Got to get to that very important place to do that very important business. The thrill is gone so quickly. Tonight, standing in a pile of slushy snow with soaked through socks on my poor cold little brown feet though, I remembered why I rise.

You see, five winters ago I was fresh in to Boston from Tennessee.  I had come for my Master in Social Work and to “change everything!”  I had never been to Boston before and golly was I in for it. I mean I don’t know if you can imagine this- but Boston is very different from Tennessee. I was already struggling adjusting when Winter came. I had never experienced such cold in my whole life as I did that Winter. After a seemingly dreadful commute home with frozen feet, I called my Mom. I cried and cried. I was so cold I explained to her and the city was hard. It wasn’t just the cold that had me feeling wobbly in all my choices; however it just seemed like the cruel slushy icing on a rotten cupcake. I regretted coming to the city and I wanted go home. My real home with mountains and rivers unparalleled. I didn’t fit in I told her. “I don’t even have the right kind of shoes and I LOVE shoes!” My Mom listened and said little. A few days later in the mail I received a pair of snow boots from her. My Mom hadn’t ever seemed too excited about me moving to the city. It meant a lot of sacrifice as we never had much money and as a student/social worker I wasn’t exactly raking it in. Thus my ability to go home was limited.

So those snow boots were more than just boots. They were a confirmation that my Mom believed in me. They were a reminder to try to stick it out and to try my best. I had come to Boston to learn and grow as a social worker. My Mom and Dad always taught me to help others, to respect everyone. My Mom especially had such faith in the power of community and generally she believed that we can create change if we work together. From a young age she taught me to be bold and passionate and above all to fight for what I believe in. A cornerstone of my upbringing was believing in equality for all races, faiths, sexualities, cultures and above all believing that women should be equal to our male counterpoints. Our voices should be heard just as equally and if no one would listen then we should shout. Those boots shouted at me to keep trying and to keep fighting, because I wasn‘t just fighting for myself- I was fighting for others as well.


Therefore, I rise because my mother taught me to be brave, I rise for girls who have no one to have faith in them, I rise for equality for all. I rise in honor of my Mom, who believed in equality and raised me to as well. I rise to empower others to believe in their dreams and to fight on even when things are hard. I rise.



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