Identity Matters All The Time – It shows in someone’s face when something we say attacks their sense of self. It shows in their crossed arms – unconsciously seeking to protect themselves from the edge in our voice.
People are finely tuned to the subtle message that they are welcome – or the stinging signals that say that they are not. This is especially true when someone is seeking help after being assaulted, or after years of suffering in silence because of sexual abuse or domestic violence.
This was one of the concepts explored in my opening keynote for the 2014 Culturally Specific Services Program Institute held in Washington DC from January 7th – 9th. Participants came from around the nation to learn about working across cultures.
For this conference, I used poetry and interactive exercises to help participants recognize aspects of their personal identities and to consider the different communities they identify with. I highlighted the importance of respecting the unique personal, identity, social, and cultural factors that come into play while assisting specific families in different communities.
One aspect of identity that I think should be spoken about more is when someone has worked hard to move from suffering in silence to being a silent thriver. I shared this poem with them.
Then participants got into the act creating their own “Keyword Poems” around the themes of Reflecting, Transforming, & Honoring the individuals in the communities they served.
Those communities include: African-American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Korean, Portuguese, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Native American, Spiritual & Faith, Youth Services, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Immigrant Services, Women’s Services, Hispanic Services, Latin American Services, Crime Victims Services, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Allies (LGBTQA) communities.
The primary sponsor for this event was the Office on Violence Against Women, United States Department of Justice. Presenting sponsors were Casa De Esperanza, The National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA), The Institute on Domestic Violence in The African American Community (IDVAAC), and The Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (APIIDV).
It was an honor to work with this group of dedicated professionals whose work touches so many lives.