On Healing: the Boston Marathon, Cracks, and Love

What does it mean to heal? What does it mean for us as a community to recover from something as devastating as the explosions that ended the Boston marathon just hours ago? What does it mean for us as individuals to overcome hardship?

It seems we, as humans, value people who have triumphed through adversity. People who have gone through turmoil, whether communal or personal, understand themselves in a deeper way; they are able to forge forth into the future. However, it seems we only value those who leave their troubles in the past.

What happens to those of us who are unable to forget our pain, whose bodies are irrevocably shaped by the adversities we’ve faced?

Sometimes, we are unable to forget what we’ve gone through. Sometimes our bodies are scarred, altered, or reshaped by our experiences. Sometimes our minds refuse to let go of those moments or stories that inform our understanding of the world, of ourselves. Sometimes even the smallest detail, something that seems innocuous—a butterfly, a handshake, a slight grimace—will take us back to a place that we don’t want to revisit. That’s ok. We don’t need to excuse who we are and what we’ve been through.

I imagine the explosions have scarred many. I imagine, even years from now, simple things may bring people back to this moment. Years from now, when we feel like we should be fully healed, we will be reminded of the pain that we, as a community, as individuals, have endured. That’s ok. Healing can be a lifelong process.

Poet Alfred Corn, in a letter to Mark Doty, offers the following metaphor: “I’ve been trying to write, myself, a poem about those ancient Japanese ceramic cups, rustic in appearance, the property at some point of a holy monk, one of the few possessions he allowed himself. In a later century, someone dropped and broke the cup, but it was too precious simply to throw away. So it was repaired, not with glue, which never really holds, but with a seam of gold solder. And I think our poems are often like that gold solder, repairing the break in what can never be restored perfectly. The gold repair adds a kind of beauty to the cup, making visible part of its history.”

I am of the opinion that we never truly forget the troubles of our past. Our community will irrevocably be shaped by the events that transpired today. We, as individuals, will forever be affected by the fear we feel. Time will soothe our pain, but it won’t reverse what has happened. That’s ok. We don’t need to forget and move on to flourish.

At this crucial moment, there is no room for hatred. Cries of “terrorism” and “blame the Muslims” have risen across the digital world. We must remember that we are all affected by violence. Instead of trying to place blame, we should recognize our pain, come together to support our communities, and work to prevent future violence.

We can’t erase our cracks. We can, however, repair them with love.

If you feel the need to talk, the counselors at Room 13 are available 7pm – 7am every night. They are located in Thayer basement. Alternatively, you may speak to them by calling 617-495-4969.


Women in the World 2013 Recap: Girls’ Education, Women in Syria Take the Stage

Check out this week’s blog post from HCWC intern, Suzanna on her experience at the Women in the World 2013 Conference. As seen in PolicyMic.

What an evening! Thursday night marked the kick-off proceedings for the Daily Beast‘s fourth annual Women in the World Summit here in New York City. The two day event, described as “an intimate and impactful gathering centered on vivid storytelling and live journalism,” seeks to raise consciousness about gender advocacy and inspire solutions to the world’s greatest problems.

From its speaker list, it certainly is rolling in the mainstream big leagues (on the first day, attendees got to hear from Christiane Amanpour, Barbara Walters, Angelina Jolie, and Meryl Streep) but perhaps more impactful, attendees heard the testimony of women who are making incredible changes in Syria, South Africa, and especially Pakistan.

The second day of the summit will be lived streamed, but to catch you up on what you missed, here’s a quick run-down of the first day’s events.

Firstly, this is swanky, y’all. Various corporation sponsors like Toyota, Coca-Cola, etc have really amped up the already beautiful venue with interactive stations displaying women’s initiatives and how you can get involved. Girl power gone glamorized. Time to find our seats!

Michaela is a ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company and was absolutely stunning. After hearing her own narrative as an orphan from Sierra Leone brought the United States, her grace and energy is even more impressive given the challenges she has had to overcome. Brava!

Tina Brown, who originally launched the first summit back in 2010, kicked off the night with introductory remarks. After a quick shout out to the college students in the audience (hey Harvard!), Brown reflected on this past year, mentioning specifically how social media has brought women’s interests to a “tipping point.” In an interesting reinterpretation of Sheryl Sanberg’s Lean In, Brown called on leaders to “lean on” institutions to end gender oppression.

One by one, WIW co-hosts came to the stage and presented a woman activist. These activists ranged from an undocumented mother working to end deportations that separate families across borders to an Egyptian woman who continues the fight for gender equality in her country. Almost more of a dance than a presentation, this segment seemed a bit odd. I would have preferred to hear these activists present their own stories in their own words and languages (most are international), but perhaps we will hear from them later. Particularly exciting was Meryl Streep’s heartfelt tribute to the late Irish labor activist Inez McCormack.

Next, Barbara Walters led a discussion on women in Syra with her central question, “Why should Americans care about what’s happening in Syria, particularly to its women?” Panelists Mouna Ghamen, cofounder of the Syrian State movement and coordinator of the Women Make Peace Platform, and Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, met Walters’ direct questions with powerful persuasion.

Ghamen emphatically repeated that “women’s issues is a security issue, a foreign policy issue,” while Salbi endorsed the potential of women’s peacemaking as the region’s only hope. Over 70,000 individuals have died in the Syrian conflict and while Ghamen and Salbi both yearn for peace, they articulated the necessity that it ought to be a negotiated, political process that ends it. Ghamen insisted that she wants peace, but demands democracy.

The “South Africa’s New Power Player” segment was a bit of a misnomer since its honoree, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, has been a part of South Africa’s activist, medical, and business leadership for many decades. The theater broke into stunned murmurs when Dr. Ramphele reminds us, “Every 34 seconds a woman is raped in South Africa. A mother, daughter, friend, it could be my granddaughter.”

Indeed, this inter-generational intimidate approach seems to be a central part of Dr. Ramphele’s activism. First, she cited her fortune for being “born into a family of strong women,” she then calls the great Nelson Mandela as a “father figure,” and proudly discusses the achievements of her son in mobilizing his own generation.

In another great moment, Dr. Ramphele encouraged women to be honest about what you don’t know, arguing that not knowing is not the same as stupidity. Rather, it offers opportunities for further understanding. I thought Dr. Ramphele’s most powerful reflection comes when she cites the importance of intersectionality in fighting oppression: “Whether it’s racism, gender equality, once you are a conscious being you have no choice but to be a change agent.”


This last panel, “The Next Generation of Malalas” was by far the true highlight of the night. The all-star Christiane Amanpour moderated a discussion between Humaira Bachal, founder of the Dream Foundation Trust, Khalida Brohi, founder of the Sughar Women Program, and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, CEO of SOC Films. The panelists are all extraordinary young women fighting for girls’ education in Pakistan, a cause for which the young Malala Yousafzai was attacked by the Taliban this fall. (You really should watch this entire discussion as it’s incredibly moving, and if I were to document all of the highlights I’d basically transcribe the entire conversation.)

Khalida explained to WIW how she was so collected while facing down men who threatened violence against Pakistani schoolgirls: “I think I was being patient because I knew one day this man would be working for me.”

All three panelists acknowledge the danger inherent in their activism since, as Sharmeen directly put it, “The more you speak out, the more we shake society, the bigger the target.”

But ultimately the audience was brought to a standing ovation when Khalida confided, “Before I left I told my dad, ‘Not doing this work would kill me. Doing this work will keep me alive. Let me go.” Stunning.

To conclude the evening, Angelina Jolie announced the establishment of the Malala Fund, a foundation that will be directed by Malala herself to continue her cause for girls’ education. “They shot her point blank in the head,” Jolie said, “and made her stronger.” The fund’s first work will be to take 40 girls out of domestic labor and place them into the schools with the goal as Malala herself said in a video presentation to WIW to turn “40 girls into 40 million girls.”

Stay tuned for more updates!


Jessica Valenti – Featured Feminist

In February, a group of HCWC interns had the pleasure of speaking with Jessica Valenti, Founder of Feministing.com. We asked Jessica questions about the events in her life that have led her to be a feminist, an activist, and the creator of a successful blog website. Because Jessica has also written several books that draw attention to feminism, women’s sexuality, and parenting we knew she would be a fantastic source of information about the different avenues of feminism any person could take over the course of their life. The advice she shares in this video was part of that conversation. We hope it encourages further dialogue within our extended community about what feminism is, what feminist activism can be, and, of course, what it means to be a feminist today.

Tell us: What makes you a feminist?

Jessica is currently a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Read more about Jessica on her website: http://jessicavalenti.com/

Follow Jessica on Twitter: @JessicaValenti