Dearest family and friends,
The term “bittersweet” has never held more significance for me than in this very moment. I am honored to say that I have been a member of Reflect and Strengthen for the past 10 amazing years of organizing, sisterhood, consensus decisions making, equity, and restorative justice, addressing root causes of oppression, leadership development, anti-racism work, love, celebrating life, and change making. For 8 of those years I was a staff person with the organization. December 31, 2011 officially marked the close of my staff position and membership with R&S. I am grateful to the organization that helped mold me into the woman that I am today.
I became a member of Reflect and Strengthen in 2001. I was there for the first ever R&S play: ‘Tabula Rasa and All That Yin Yang’ and then years later, for our second full theater production: ‘Spill Life: Confessions of a Butterfly’. I was there when the city told us that a “little girl’s group” was not worth supporting. I was there to help nurture R&S’ growth from a “baby organization” into a vital part of community organizing in the city of Boston.
I was there when R&S underwent a furlough, threatening the future of the organization. What might have seemed like our lowest point to the rest of the world was actually the time of our greatest learning, growth, and strength. We fought for the organization that had transformed the lives of so many working class young women across the city of Boston…and we won! We didn’t just survive; we managed to raise more money for one fiscal year than ever before in the history of the organization. Not only did we prove our resiliency, but our members and our community stepped up in miraculous ways. They cooked for group, they babysat our kids, they had house party fundraisers, they told their friends to donate to R&S instead of giving them birthday gifts, and they gave their last monies to ensure the longevity of R&S. It became glaringly apparent that R&S was not only worth fighting for because of pride or because it was important to staff and members; R&S was worth fighting for because of the great impact that it has made on the entire city of Boston.
Because of the hard work of my sisters and community, I was there to watch members and their children grow up in R&S, leaving with the seeds that R&S implanted in them, that they continue to spread throughout their communities. From generation to generation those seeds continue to grow, blooming inside of all of us. I was there to witness the ripple effect of positive energy, love, and accountability first hang, a blessing that I pray I have done the work to pass onto future members, staff, board members and supporters of the organization.
I was there to help nurture the only all women’s collective in the city of Boston. It is imperative that women’s rights remain at the center of conversations, along with conversations about race, class, gender and queerness, and all of the ways that it is our duty to fight all forms of oppression. Through Reflect and Strengthen I learned how to live out the notion that if only some of us are free, then none of us are free.
As I write this, it’s reinforcing what I already knew. There are no words that can fully express just how much Reflect and Strengthen means to me. Reflect and Strengthen is the most dynamic group of women that I have ever seen, known, or been a part of. The echo of the impact that R&S has had on Boston will continue to sound throughout the streets for generations to come and I thank God that I can say that I was there to be a part of it. Through my membership and staff position with R&S I learned work and life skills that have benefitted me in every single area of my life. My role with R&S is different, but never-ending. I now get the opportunity to share in R&S through the role of a strong supporter and sustainer. I am incredibly proud to take on that role and look forward to watching R&S evolve into the next phase of its existence. R&S taught me how to love myself, how to believe in myself and in the capacity of my people to be greater than our potential suggests and far more than the world expects of us. Reflect and Strengthen has far exceeded the underestimation of “a little girl’s group” and has proved what incredible power women have to change the world.
Reflect and Strengthen has taught me that transition is about celebrating the journey from one phase of life to the next. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve befriended and the gems I will now take with me as I transition into the next period of my life. I am excited to announce that I will be moving to Oakland, California as the newest member of the Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) team!
Thank you to everyone that has loved me through it all. I am forever indebted to you…
P.S. I can no longer be reached at my Yahoo or Reflect and Strengthen email accounts. Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with personal matters only. For all R&S related matters, please contact Mallory Hanora directly (email@example.com) or contact any of the members of our staff team at 617.442.2355. You can also feel free to visit our website at: www.reflectandstrengthen.org for more info about our work and programs.
Please feel free to visit the Burns institute website at: http://www.burnsinstitute.org/ and the CJNY website at: http://www.cjny.org/ for more information about the Community Justice Network for Youth and the work that I’ll be doing in the next phase of my movement work.
In Peace, Love, and Solidarity,