Living During Difficult Times

This has been a very difficult period in my life as I work to balance the heaviness, which has been occurring during the past year, as the year 2012 comes to closure and 2013 has begun.

      I remain concerned that the children and families who are suffering in silence and traumatized by the betrayal and sexual abuse will continue to be ignored and in doing so severely impacted by the silence associated with their pain and suffering.
     In the midst of this, I am struck by the psychological havoc occurring in my community.  I am referring to the revelations of sexual abuse by the clergy within the Seattle African-American community.   Local media broke the story that a minister admitted to 22 counts of sexual abuse over a period of 14 years.
      Stunned, I reached out to the local church where the sexual abuse and betrayal of trust had taken place.  I sought to meet with the church leadership and seek ways in which services from local agencies could be provided.  As a traumatologist well versed with working with male victims of sexual abuse, I understood the mountain of clinical issues I was about to climb.
       As a clinician I was aware that the victims could be questioning their roles in the abuse. Furthermore, there may be questions of how these sexual assaults may impact their lives and interactions with others in the many years to come.  I have the awareness of working with later aged adults who remained psychologically damaged from such acts occurring in their childhood and adolescence.
      When I took my concerns to the church leadership, I was met with a wall of silence.  When I raised questions regarding the abuse and the wall of silence with my African-American colleagues, I was again met with a wall of silence.
When I raised the issue on the listerv within my professional organization of “good meaning liberal folk,” I was met with a wall of silence. I was ostracized by the leadership as they have now redefined the purpose and use criteria for the listserv.
      One of my Caucasian colleagues chided me by commenting indirectly that if I as an African-American clinician am not having success in working with the church hierarchy, what impact could a white organization of good meaning liberals possibly do?  Good point and well taken.
      During early January 2013 a member of this professional organization that I belong to, Marty Falaberg age 91, passed away peacefully after a long meaningful life.  He lived a life devoted to the mental health profession and to the clinical social work community.  The listserv was used to extend messages of what this individual meant to the members of the organization.
      There were numerous i.e. 17 alludes, acknowledgements and statements regarding his life and the impact he had on those on the listerv. These statements included words from the organization’s leadership.
Yet there is no mention or acknowledgement of the lives of the Invisibles i.e. the African-American boys and adolescents who were sexually abused and traumatized within the local Seattle area.
      The leadership of this professional organization has provided numerous articles for its members and equipped its members on how to be available to talk to parents and families of the local communities who may be experiencing psychological stress due to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, CT.  However the same leadership fails to offer any assistance or words of action, concern or condolences when it comes to the sexual assaults of African-American children and the wellness of their families.
      Last month we honored the work of Dr. Martin Luther King.   No doubt members of the African-American clergy as well as the leadership of the professional organization I have spoken of will verbalize words of brotherhood and action in Dr. King’s good name as to honor him.  However it is in the actions not in words that we remember.
      We will remember that the African-American clergy chose silence over action in the protection of its children.  We will remember that the professional organization places more meaning and a higher value on its deceased than on the lives of African-American children.  We will remember their suffering in silence.  Their screams will continue to speak to us.
      I acknowledged that it is time to let go of this issue.  Letting go is not to be equated with giving up.  It simply means it is time to move on with my journey. I have advocated for the “Invisibles.”  Their suffering in silence has been heard by others and will continue to be heard.
      In “blowing dat horn” and calling for awareness I acknowledge I have created discomfort for members of my professional community and the community in which I reside.
      Consequences are responses for actions that we take.  Being ostracized and cast out may be the price I pay for calling into question the lack of responsiveness to a beleaguered and vulnerable population.  I am willing to pay that price.
      However I have belief in my work as a healer, faith in my profession and trust in the journey.  All three faucets rained water upon me, nourishing me, and providing me with hope.  Hope is eternal.  Hope will never die.
The journey continues…

At the Crossroads: Lay My Brother Down (Gently)

Silence is not always golden.  There are times in which silence can be deadly

      We love slogans.   The “we” meaning the African-American community.  Over the years of my life, I have come in contact with plenty brain ingraining quotes.  They include the following:
·      Leave no one behind
·      He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.
·      Lead one; teach one.
·      We are all in this together.
·      A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
·      Without you there can be no us.
     However the one I feel that has the most impact for me is “It takes a Village to raise a Child.”  Now, I translate the meaning of “village” to that of “community.”  A community can be defined in the following:
“A group of people living together in one place in fellowship with each other, sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.”
     A community shares social values and responsibilities.  They may share similarity in identity or commitment to the welfare and common good of its members.  Speaking on the issue of “welfare and common good” let us return to the Invisibles.
     As you may recall in an earlier writing of At The Crossroads (11/12) a former minister of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church pleaded guilty to 22 counts of sexual assault. These charges included rape of child, child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography.
     The clergyman admitted to sexually abusing 10 boys and adolescents over a period of 14 years i.e. 1997 to 2011.  For 14 years this individual served in a position of trust.  For 14 years he sat there, preying on children, robbing them of their innocence, ripping away their mental and spiritual wellness.  Just as shocking, for 14 years these children were unwittingly driven to the banquet table and literally, delivered to him like turkeys dressed up for the feast.
Betrayal.  Yes.  Betrayal.  Betrayal can be defined as to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining or fulfilling trust.  It can also be to disappoint the hopes or expectations of or being disloyal to an individual, group or organization.
The minister betrayed these young boys and adolescents.  They trusted him.  In a trusting relationship they allowed themselves to be vulnerable and emotionally exposed.  In return he sexually abused them and violated their trust.  He was truly a thief who stole while acting in his ministry.
     The betrayal did not stop there.  In his actions the minister betrayed the parents who unwittingly sent their children to him.  He betrayed the trust of his congregation who believed he was spreading the “word.”  He betrayed his clergy and the church, which as a minister he acted upon its spiritual auspices and authority.  Finally, he betrayed the African-American community whose infallible belief in the institution of the church may now be or forever be shaken.
      There are many, many victims.  They include the Invisibles, their parents, siblings /extended families, the congregation, the clergy and the community as a whole.   It is understandable that a multitude of feelings may be attached following the revelation of repeated acts i.e. 22 counts of admitted sexual abuse.  Such feelings could range from that of shame, guilt, anger and outright disbelief.
      Out of the flames rising from these acts of betrayal could result in psychological and physical destabilization.  This could range from loss of self-esteem and self-confidence to negative self-imagery.  Mental health concerns could range from active states of depression, anxiety, nightmares, sweats repetitive recall of the sexual assaults to behavioral changes impacting bodily functions (bedwetting and bowel elimination).
      This is the time for us as a community to reach out and embrace and support those victimized by these terrible acts.  This is the time that we as a community come together to begin the process of healing the wounds that tear at the fabric of our community.  This is the time that we as a community take steps to ensure that our children will be protected from such acts again.
      We can ill afford to maintain the wall of silence that continues within the African-American community.  The wall of silence serves as the model of what is expected of us.   Keep quiet.  Handle your business. Do so quietly.
However the message that our children who are impacted i.e. the Invisibles and those others watching is “bear your pain (shame, disgrace, embarrassment) in silence.  Score the winning touchdown, home run, or lay up.  Come from behind in victory…we all celebrate together.  However when your head down casted due to no fault of your own (betrayal) you are alone.   So suffer in silence and fade away.  Or just go away.
      None of what is being stated is rocket science.  This is all “learned behavior.”
      John Head in his book, Standing in the Shadows: Understanding and Overcoming Depression in Black Men (2004) states:
“…. from the time we are young boys, black males have ingrained into us an idea of manhood that requires a silence about feelings, a withholding of emotions, an ability to bear burdens alone, and a refusal to appear weak.  The internal pressure to adhere to adhere to this concept of masculinity only increases as we confront a society that has historically sought to deny us our manhood.” (p 3).
      The point being provided here is clear.  Our children will model the behavior that we adults provide.  The days of “do as I say” are now clearly being replaced with “do as I do.”  What we do or do not will no doubt strongly impact our children for many years to come.  As they continue to “suffer in silence” it will be due to the model we as adults in the African-American community have provided for them.
      Returning to the slogan “It takes a Village to Raise a Child,” as in the previous writings of At the Crossroads, I would ask that the reader consider the following actions:
 1)             Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 329-9794
Inquire as to what actions are being taken to respond to and/or alleviate the suffering of those abused by a member of his staff.
2)             Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle.  (Contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle
Inquire as to what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to respond to this situation.  Furthermore, inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3)             Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
     It “does” take a Village to raise a Child.   We can do so by taking a step to end the “suffering in silence.”
      “It would be easy to point the finger at someone or some organization to cast fault or blame.  However both blame and fault are poor motivators.   Out of their ashes only guilt and shame will arise.  Rather it is our responsibility to our children that they be protected and safe.  We want them to understand that they are valued and will be validated and cared for.  They need not suffer in silence any longer.”
                        Dr. Micheal Kane
 I am so forlorn, life is a thorn, my heart is torn, why was I born?
What did I do to be so black and blue?
“Black and Blue” by Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf and Thomas “Fats” Waller (1929) EMI Music Inc.
 At the next Crossroads:  Decision Point: The Well Designed Road or The Unlit Path?
 Until the next crossroads.  The journey continues…….

At the Crossroads: Decision Point: The Well Designed Road or The Unlit Path?

The Road to Hell
     There is a very interesting proverb that states, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  The meaning of the phrase is that individuals may do bad things even though they intend the results to be good.  This can stem from believing that the ends justify the means, or from actions leading to unforeseen consequences.
     Secrets.  Family secrets.  How many times have we heard “what is said here in this family stays in this family”?  Yes, there was the time in which the “larger group” i.e. family, community, and society was the moral and spiritual compass for the individual.  It was from the larger group that the individual gained his/her values, ideas and principles of good and evil, etc.
     In return, the larger group demanded allegiance, commitment, and “obligation.” In return the larger group i.e. family, community and society granted protection, fellowship and a safe place to weather the raging storms of racism, oppression and discrimination.
     Over the years from slavery to freedom, from Jim Crow segregation to the fight for civil and human rights, such institutions as the family, church and community having been battered, have managed to survive the turbulence and sufferings emitted from these difficult times.
     From the beginning of our childhood we have been taught literally to sacrifice the needs and wants of the individual for the “good” and welfare of the larger group i.e. family, community, and society.   We have been fed slogans such as “each one, teach one, “we are in this together” and shouts of “we shall overcome one day”.  All of this in service of the larger group.  This is being done at the sacrifice of the individual.  Should the individual seek to question or seek what is for his/her own “needs or wants” the person is sought upon by the larger group as being “selfish, uncaring, or greedy.”
      The individual is shamed and isolated within the community.  The remaining “foot soldiers” learn this lesson well.  Keep quiet.  Be silent.  Keep waiting for that pie in sky when you die.  One’s good deeds will be rewarded in the afterlife.
      Meanwhile, the family unit continues to straggle along.  For the majority of households in the African-American community, they are led by women without a “positive” male role involved.  Yes, there are males “around.”   The question is are they involved and if so, are they consistent, committed and communicative within the family relationships.
     So as African-American women have done throughout the years, they turn to the one institution, the African-American Church for salvation and protection.  Of course there have always been the sordid stories of the ministers having inappropriate relationships with the female members of the church congregations.
      We have all heard the gossip and the rumors about “Sista So & So” and “Brotha So & So.”  Understanding that both parties were human and aware that humans make mistakes, so what if we chose to act in accordance with the three wise monkeys i.e. don’t see, don’t hear and don’t speak.  After all, they are adults.  Besides, as we have been taught “don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.”
     So these families seeking guidance for their children send them to church; the one institution that is the rock of their faith.   Of course rumors and gossip are abound about inappropriate behaviors towards the children however no action is taken.  Silence. Individuals come forth.  Allegations are made.  Silence.   Local news media breaks the story about sexual misconduct within the church institution.  Still silence.
     Finally, the minister publicly admits to 22 counts of sexual misconduct against boys and adolescents over a period of 14 years.  What do we hear from the institution of the African-American Church?  Silence.
     Regarding the subtopic “The road to hell”?   In this case in Seattle’s African-American community, it is paved with “silence.” The secrecy being maintained by the institution about the betrayal of the minister and damage done to the victims, the families and the church congregation is being supported by the individuals and families who are devoted to these institutions.
     Either we have learned the lessons well that were taught by the larger group or we as individuals within the community are living in fear.  Fear?  Fear of what?  Name it and claim it.  Being judged, social standings, concerned what others may think.
     Today we stand at the crossroads.  The signs point into two distinct directions i.e. the “Well Designed Road” and the “Unlit Path.”  The Well Designed Road is well known.  Nothing changes, same scenery.  It was designed by someone else for your comfort. There is nothing for the individual to do but follow and remain silent.
     The Unlit Path is unknown, with its direction unforeseen.   This path is uncertain however it is filled with hope and possibilities.   The Unlit Path is designed by the individual.  He/she must want to question the direction to be chosen.
The Well Designed Road is paved with good intentions.  It uses fear as a tool to keep the members in line and in step.  The Unlit Path is paved with empowerment, vision and hope for the future.   The Unlit Path waits for that individual person, to leave the group and….. take the first step.
     We can continue to do the same thing, placing our children at risk or in similar situations or we can do something different.  If we continue to do the same thing, we can expect the same or similar outcome.  Whose son or daughter will be next?
As in previous writings of “At the Crossroads, I ask the reader to take the following action(s):
1)             Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 329-9794
Inquire as to what actions are being taken to respond to and/or alleviate the suffering of those abused by a member of his staff.
2)             Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle.  (Contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle).
Inquire as to what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to respond to this situation.  Furthermore, inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3)             Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
4)             Share this writing of At the Crossroads and the previous ones with others.  Ask that they also make inquiries into the issues that have been addressed.
      This writing of “At the Crossroads” represents the beginning of closure on this series regarding the Invisibles.  This does not mean that the issue has come to an end.  On the contrary I believe that the reader of the series has been equipped with enough information.
     I truly believe that the Walls of Jericho will come down only when those from within these walls raise their voices and make their concerns heard.   It would be unfortunate to allow the actions of one individual, one clergyman to destroy the good actions of others in the clergy.
      However silence in this situation is not golden, it is deadly.  One’s faith has been shaken.  Trust has been broken.  It must be rebuilt.  We must be assured that our children will not be placed in harms’ way.  We must be able to breathe with relief and know that our children are safe.
     Silence.  Yes, the Invisibles suffer in silence.  Let me assure you that they are indeed alive.  They do not merely exist.  They are alive.  They will not fade away.
Family Secrets
The road to hell begins with this statement:
“What happens in this family stays in this family.”
Solution: Walk a new path.
Love me.  Choose me.
Take care of the Self.