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Content Notice: This article is part of the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire. The purpose of this forum and the #LoveWITHAccountability project is to prioritize child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in national dialogues and work on racial justice and gender-based violence. Several of the featured articles in this forum give an in-depth and, at times, graphic examination of rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual harm against diasporic Black children through the experiences and work of survivors and advocates. The articles also offer visions and strategies for how we can humanely move towards co-creating a world without violence. Please take care of yourself while reading.
By Adenike A. Harris and Petter J. Haris
I am looking … to a new and different future in which fathers are whole enough to love their sons and their daughters, to anchor them in trust and security, and to affirm them in the dreams and identities they claim in the free space of independence and wholeness.— Gloria Wade-Gayles, (Introduction) Father Songs: Testimonies by African-American Sons and Daughters
And if there ain’t no beauty/you gotta make some beauty…— Earth, Wind, & Fire, All About Love
Our Healing Questions:
What dialogue could a biological father have with his youngest daughter that would adequately confront the Root Shock of her rape by a stepfather?
How could we ethically convert our rage into story that wouldn’t be ruined by subsonic rant against whatever God or Devil could allow a child’s safety to be destroyed in her own home?
How could our deep communion with such painful emotional wounds open the door to an even richer revelation between us that we can actually control the impact of evil on our futures?
Pops’nAde, father and daughter, Black father, Black daughter – our work to answer these Healing Questions will take the rest of our lives. But our lives will not be defined by our work to answer these Healing Questions. We’ve chosen to devote most of our work to living and loving and dedicating ourselves to futures of joy and inspiration and loving lessons we’ve learned and living legacies we’ve earned.
We started by confronting the acts of a criminal predator, prosecuting and convicting him, swearing off revenge at Adenike’s insistence and direction, then igniting a transcendent conversation that has excavated all our fears, explored and confronted the history of our nuclear and extended families, while simultaneously tapping the energy we needed to make – and be available to – beauty in our lives.
In all honesty, we do not want to talk about sexual trauma in our family – neither what Adenike had to confront from ages 14-22, nor the grand and intimate reverberations that we confront in real time everyday. We wish that we were an anonymous daughter and her father living quiet lives of satisfaction and simplicity. We wish our lives hadn’t been tainted, if not cursed, by the manipulations of a criminal masquerading as a doting suburban father and husband.
But in the words of our elders: what don’t kill you make you stronger! So we lift our voices to sing; we speak because we must, and we speak without shame, trepidation, or doubt that we have a right to express ourselves.
Also, we speak with power and, amazingly, with pride and joy and liberated laughter, as you’ll see in our video that is our contribution to the#LoveWITHAccountability forum. The videos are Directed and Produced by Danyol Jaye of On The Jaye Spot and JayeSpotTV.
The video continues the Call and Response Dialogue that comprises most of the Thesis that Adenike submitted to earn her Master’s in Woman’s Studies in 2011 at Georgia State University: Restorative Notions: Regaining My Voice, Regaining My Father: A Creative Womanist Approach to Healing from Sexual Abuse.
Our dialogue helped Ade discern that her development should include more profound service to others. In 2014, Adenike was certified as an Integral Coach by New Ventures West, School of Professional Coaches, in San Francisco, CA. She is a Whole Living Coach, helping clients heal core issues and negative patterns, while empowering them with effective ‘integrative’ tools, techniques and specific action plans to make effective changes in order to cultivate mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness.
As a father, fully engaged in a necessary, risky, taboo-free dialogue, Peter has insisted on cultivating his own mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness. As part of keeping his own balance, he created the Black Man of Happiness Project, which published his book The Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right.’ An unprecedented meditation on Black men and joy, the book earned the American Book Award in 2015. His poetic, personal essays range in scope from Thomas Jefferson’s era to the Digital Age, seeking answers to the simple, provocative question: What is a happy Black man? He devotes the chapter, “Learning the Language of My Daughter’s Hair,” to how he “learned that happiness pulses even within the seams of what’s unthinkable.”
Frankly, we recognize that our healing style represents the temperaments of two folks who are fighters, who refuse to allow a criminal any kind of victory in our lives. Our way may not work for others grappling with the legacies of sexual trauma in their lives. For us, however, for Pops’nAde, we are exhilarated by the most amazing lesson from our tears, candor and imagination: no silence is good that keeps us from talking to people who can help us.
And WE, it turns out, have become our most inspiring conversation partners. We are living examples of a father embracing ethical, dynamic parenting, and a daughter claiming her daddy, her father, her Pops. We are living, breathing examples of how one family is executing, day-by-day, with stops and starts, without one request for interpersonal refund, an actual, non-abusive relationship – even though our DNA includes the pain of sexual trauma that was imposed on us.
It’s our hope that we can offer a rich, loving roadmap for others on their journeys.
We invite fellow travelers to view our video to both witness and join our conversation.
Adenike A. Harris & Peter J. Harris (Pops ‘n Ade)
In their presentations and workshops, Adenike A. Harris and her father Peter J. Harris provide practical and loving lessons drawn from years of courageous ‘call-and-response’ dialogue that helped them heal in the years after Adenike revealed her stepfather had sexually abused her from ages 14 to 22. In the spirit of Lift Every Voice and Sing, Pops ‘n Ade reveal how they became thriving survivors through tears, candor, imagination – even hard-won laughter. Pops ‘n Ade are 21st Century Conversation Starters and Healing Partners with a dynamic message: we’re all worth healing and no silence is good that keeps you from talking to people who can help you. Pops ‘n Ade are living examples, whose powerful service offers a roadmap to rich, loving and inspiring non-abusive relationships.
Adenike A. Harris works for a model arts education organization serving underserved youth in Los Angeles. She is a Certified Integral ‘Whole Living’ Coach, after graduating in 2015 from New Ventures West in San Francisco. She earned her Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies in 2011 at Georgia State University, and graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. Her Master’s thesis, RESTORATIVE NOTIONS: REGAINING MY VOICE, REGAINING MY FATHER: A CREATIVE WOMANIST APPROACH TO HEALING FROM SEXUAL ABUSE, illustrates how she initiated a ‘call-and-response’ dialogue as a strategy to heal her relationship with her non-abusive biological father after revealing to him that her stepfather had sexually abused her from ages 14 to 22. Adenike A. Harris has passionately helped to protect, heal and guide individuals towards success in their lives despite their circumstances and experiences. Using her experience as a model, Adenike brought awareness to social issues, such as Domestic Violence and Abuse, Adenike produced consciousness-raising fashion shows of her own, using fashion, music, dance and poetry. Adenike A. Harris was a contributing writer for the Atlanta Abusive Relationships Examiner column, and has been published by J’Adore Magazine and Pasadena Weekly Online.
As an Integral Coach, Adenike A. Harris has used her training and understanding to develop and create her own style of coaching. Adenike believes we are all born innately whole, and as we grow and live life, different experiences put dents in our wholeness. Some dents are deeper than others, and some are just minor notches that limit you from functioning at your fullest potential. Adenike A. Harris’ Whole Living Coaching is designed to teach her clients the capacity and the competencies, from the inside out, to create balance and wholeness. You may email Adenike Harris at: Coachadenike “AT” gmail “DOT” com
Peter J. Harris an award-winning cultural worker since the 1970’s, is Artistic Director of Inspiration House, which produces cultural, artistic, educational, and media products and programs featuring virtuoso performers, and also conducts workshops, residencies, and retreats which inspire audience members to re-enter their lives renewed and confident that creativity and imagination are indispensable tools for constructive personal and social change.
Harris is founder of The Black Man of Happiness Project, a creative, intellectual and artistic exploration of Black men and joy. He’s author of The Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,” a book of personal essays, an American Book Awards winner in 2015. With his brother Glenn Harris, Emmy-winning broadcaster and humanitarian in Washington, D.C., Harris co-wrote Gritt Tuff Play Book: Hard Core Wisdom for Young People, the inaugural publication of the Happiness Project.
In 2011, he was a Contributor-Collaborator with his daughter Adenike A. Harris on her Creative Thesis: Restorative Notions: Regaining My Voice, Regaining My Father: A Creative Womanist Approach to Healing from Sexual Abuse, Georgia State University. http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/wsi_theses/23.
Harris is the author of Bless the Ashes, poetry (Tia Chucha Press), winner of the 2015 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Since the 1970s, Harris has published his writing in a wide variety of publications, most recently in Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, edited by Suzanne Lummis; Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology, edited by Thelma T. Reyna, Poet Laureate of Altadena; and Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts in Los Angeles, edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Daniel A. Olivas, and Ruben J. Rodriguez.
His magazine, “Genetic Dancers: The Artistry Within African/American Fathers,” published during the 1980s, was the first magazine of its kind and asserted that African American fathers become artists through the frictions of conscientious parenting. His book Hand Me My Griot Clothes: The Autobiography of Junior Baby, featured a philosophical elder Black man ruminating on life, love, and ethics, and won the PEN Oakland award for multicultural literature in 1993. His personal essays about manhood and masculinity have been published in several anthologies, including Tenderheaded: A Comb-Bending Collection of Hair Stories; Black Men Speaking; Fathersongs; I Hear a Symphony: African Americans Celebrate Love; and What Makes a Man: Twenty-two Writers Imagine the Future. You may email Peter Harris at: peter “AT” inspiration “dot” com.
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