A Branch: Sexual Assault In the Present Time
©2017 by Alice Walker
Decades later I would undertake
As a course of personal study
Why they told us nothing
Whatsoever about it.
We entered puberty so ignorant
That when we bled
Was that we had been visited
By a red bird.
An odd sock, hopefully
Might be used
When my mother and her sisters bathed
In the backwoods of Georgia
It was: Wash down as far as possible
Wash up as far as possible
Then wash possible.
When they went to church
The only place pious girls
It was: keep your drawers up
And your dresses down.
No wonder it was not unusual
For my mother
Or for her mother before her
To think God
I was seventeen
And working my way through
When Mr. Bullock, a stalwart
In the black middle class
Chased me around his desk.
He was old, creaky, with terrible
I was nimble
And, though small and poor,
Obstinate as a lion.
Who could I tell, that would not blame me,
For existing within his reach?
I had been delighted to work for him:
A botanist, he had sent my mother
Batches of daffodil bulbs, and, speaking
At my graduation from high school, he’d informed
Us with cool certainty that a black woman
Was responsible for creating the formula
For Coca Cola.
Never in the South imagining a white man
In a kitchen concocting anything, whether lemonade
Or fried chicken, we were impressed and soothed to hear
But what a hell he put me through.
At my unexpectedly
I had to buy a tennis racket
If I expected to play tennis;
A required course.
I could barely afford socks
And in fact, like poor students
From the countryside
All over the planet,
Washed socks and underwear
Over and over,
Night after night.
A small check from my tormentor
Meant I could stay in school.
All the women speaking out
Against the global assault on women
Have my blessing.
It is not, and has never been,
An easy thing to do.
I watch the faces of the women
With “good” jobs in the news machine
Pretend they never heard
Or could imagine
These tales before.
With their emotionless
Interpretation of the madness enveloping the world
It is logical to assume
They do not use brains
Especially the brain on the right,
To land themselves anywhere.
Sisters, daughters, cousins, whatever
You are to the rest of Earth’s family
There is no future for our daughters
Or our sons
If we do not insist on
And forge our solidarity
By speaking up.
To have the courage to share our wounds
And begin to rise, and heal, together.
Never forgetting my former helplessness,
As soon as I could accomplish this, I became a student of our suffering.
In this study, I have discovered where Silence
It leads to being held down, sometimes by your own
Mothers and aunts, and having the gates and walls
of your sacred portal
removed, brutally, from you.
So that you will never own
or even know what you have.
This “thing” that men think they need
to shore up their weakness, and fill up their emptiness, a “thing”
they will oppress your spirit forever to possess.
Now is your chance to connect, without the old rituals of superiority,
With the women of the world.
In the Americas, connect with the raped women who gave
Birth to your relatives, during the enslavement of people of color.
Relatives you were never permitted to recognize.
Imagine, you see your kinfolk
Every day in every part of the Americas;
You have been seeing them for hundreds of years,
But you have been programmed not to know, until
You learned only too well, to program yourself.
Be brave. Break your chain.
Woman’s enslavement (not only within memory) is the root. What is happening to you/to us now is a branch.
See: Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women,
by Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar
Subject: Lupita Nyong’o tells the story of her harrassment by HW – consciousness raising reinvented
Twelve Years A Slave, by Samuel Northrop
Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker