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Lean On Your People


I went to a candlelight vigil for sexual assault survivors tonight in Centennial Park in Nashville, TN. Standing there in the open, in a public park at dusk, at least a hundred survivors and allies stood in an enormous circle and told their stories, full-throated and unashamed. It was shocking and horrifying to hear what they have been through, but it was also one of the safest places I've been in a very long time. Every person there held the space, and everyone was believed.


This is what we have come to in this country. We have arrived at a place where victims are required to re-live their trauma in public in order to defend themselves against a future where their fate—and the laws governing their bodies—would be determined by at least two men who have been accused of sexual violence. And the representatives elected to protect them simply don't care.


I left the vigil and made my way back to my car in the pitch black night. I didn't notice how dark it was until I couldn't see the path anymore and found myself alone in the park. I fumbled for my phone but gave up in favor of blindness. It was fine. I made it to the car just fine, but I could feel that familiar guard come up, the one I've known since I was a young woman when I found myself alone in the dark. A target just for being a woman, alone.


I got in the car and turned on NPR. RadioLab was airing the full audio of Sandra Bland's arrest before she was incarcerated for not using her turn signal. She was found dead in a prison cell four days later. The story was about her mother and the other Mothers of the Movement who have lost their children to police violence. It was about the way this community of women sweeps in and scoops up each new mother who has the misfortune of joining their involuntary club. In the end, the story was about their laughter and communion—about coming together to heal but never to relent.


These last few weeks have been hard. Brutal. "Overwhelming" is an understatement. I don't really have any answers. I know this post is a bit disjointed, but I feel disjointed—so I guess that's okay. But what I learned tonight is that even in the most raw and disturbing circumstances, if you are with your people, you are safe. And that is the most important thing we've got right now. Each other. The more we reach out and show up, the larger that community grows and the more diverse it gets. There were quite a lot of men at the vigil tonight too. I was heartened to see how many. And people of all races and ages, united.


Lean on your people. Find your safe spaces and crawl into them whenever you need to. This community is huge. There are millions of us holding space. Don't lose hope. Don't sacrifice your ability to connect and to celebrate. We have each other, and that is a lot.

SARAH HAYS COOMER

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