I loved our poetisa Florbela Espanca unconditionally. She saved me from very dark places… She still does. Here is one of the poems I loved and helped me cope with violence… – Sonho Morto
Nosso sonho morreu. Devagarinho,
Rezemos uma prece doce e triste.
Por alma desse sonho. Vá… baixinho…
Por esse sonho, amor, que não existe…
Vamos encher-lhe o seu caixão dolente
De roxas violetas: triste cor.
Triste como ele, nascido ao sol poente,
O nosso sonho…ai!…reza baixo…amor…
Foste tu que o mataste. E foi sorrindo
Foi sorrindo e cantando alegremente
Que tu mataste o nosso sonho lindo.
Nosso sonho morreu… Reza mansinho
Ai, talvez que rezando, docemente,
O nosso sonho acorde…mais baixinho…
I can still hear os gritos…não…não…o medo…seguido do silêncio…morreu, ainda não, thank God. Many years passed until it was all over…uma roseira na campa.
In Canada a woman is killed every six days, many more suffer cruel abuse. 83% of the abusers include their husbands, partners. Friends are last on this list. These stats challenge the myth of the stranger as the main abuser. The abuse happens em casa, at home, no lar familiar. Florbela tanto te amei…
Recently, the White Ribbon Canada (WRC), an agency created by men in the 1990’s, emerged as a new conversation to end violence against women, as a direct result of the Montreal massacre of female students in a college campus. Its main mission is to bring awareness to end violence against women, girls and boys.
Recently, WRC had its fundraising event Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (Sept 26 to Oct 2). This event appears to be an easy way to raise awareness, combat violence and to get people, in particular men and boys, involved in this mission. On the contrary, it is very hard. It requires endless hours of engagement, learning, debunking and questioning values and unhealthy behaviours that lead to aggression. The walk requires men to walk a mile in female shoes. It involves soul searching and questioning socialized notions of manhood. Humberto Carolo, the Executive Director, said “White Ribbon works with men and boys in the prevention of gender-based violence by promoting healthy relationships, gender equality, and healthy masculinities”.
More recently, Humberto challenged me to become an ally to his work and mission “to have men and boys be part of the solution in ending all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination”. In all honesty, I have been opposing domestic violence since childhood. Once a person experiences violence, the cycle tends to repeat itself, and one moves in and out of a cocoon for protection and growth. But once the cycle is broken, and coping skills are acquired, the healing starts… survival is a must. I have. Many others have not…and I miss them. Grande roubo na vida.
As a Social Worker I hear stories of sexual abuse, physical violence, psychological, financial abuse, torture, trafficking and even death…not easy. Just cruel. However, this year, I wanted to address violence as a social issue, and start a public conversation in the Portuguese community, thus I called the man I consider the most egalitarian and kindest public man I know, and whom I thought would say yes without hesitation, Carlos De Sousa, the president of Casa do Alentejo. I told him, “we need to start a public conversation in your club, about ‘how to end gender-based violence’”. He said yes, yes. Oct. 2, during Fado night.
Fado is divinity to the Portuguese. I accepted my personal and social challenge. I had a script imprinted in my mind for several decades, so much detail…um mundo que ninguém podia penetrar… só eu…
Fado night arrives, the conversation starts and my inner world is trembling… I wanted to tell him, tell others, so much about violence against women, girls and boys, but all of the sudden nothing really mattered, the details were not important, what became apparent was that Carlos had accepted the challenge to engage his friends in the movement to stop violence in the home setting, in society. Part one of my goal was achieved.
As part of the walk we pledged to take together, I took the female shoes out of a plastic bag, mine and his. The shoes are a symbol of inclusion into a cause where life for abused women, girls and boys is not an option…survival escapes many…
I also presented Carlos and Casa with one of kind, gum paste shoe made and decorated by my amazing artist and friend and partner Saru. As a stepping stone to future walks. Finally, the Portuguese movement of men pledging to end gender based violence, had an Ally and embaixador. Our short walk together, felt like a 1000 miles long. I was broken. I was humbly proud. When I said “Basta, Basta”, the audience broke their stoned faced silence and clapped. They knew we were silent no more.
It was surreal. For the first time in my life, I was able to say it publicly to another man… no woman should suffer abuse or die. No child should suffer abuse… nobody should be a bi-stander… Yes, in my mind I could hear gritos… nãos… lágrimas… but no longer silent…
I am still not clear how it ended… or if was just a beginning… But I wanted to end with a note about Florbela Espanca’s poem “O Fado”:
O FADO, A CANÇÃO DAS VIOLETAS..
ALMAS DE TRISTES. ALMAS DE POETAS.
MEU FADO QUE ALIVIAS DESGRAÇAS…
BENDITO SEJAS TU… AVÉ MARIA.
As I walked towards my best friend Saru, he looked at me and said.. “you looked like a bag lady, what happened to you?” I looked puzzled, frazzled, I looked at my hands, I had a blue plastic bag, with shoes, and pens, and a dignity napkin, and a book by Pier Paolo Pasolini , that I had just finished reading. In his “ballad of the mothers” he writes… “I wonder what sort of mothers you had…”
I looked around… I did not know… the audiences’ mothers.. and I was robbed of mine… but I had a sister… who saved me from eternal solitude… my lovely jaja, who cultivated my love for reading to escape reality… Os Fadistas, thanked their mothers… I blessed my mother, a minha Deusa… I blessed all mothers… who stood and stand naked waiting to forgive and love the men who hurt them.
As I left the room, a woman looked into my eyes…I could feel her telling me… “sim, basta, basta…”.