Some years ago, I wrote the poem below titled “Tompala,” and it pains me to think that, a decade plus later, women are still experiencing different levels of trauma through wars, sexual violence, domestic violence, and children’s hunger in this world. It also seems that when we speak out, our voices get muffled by the masculine shout to be quiet, to know our place, and just plain get over it.

What I find most painful about all of this is that there are some women who idealize how men would prefer women to address or deal with these issues, and they in turn spend time rebuking others for not yielding to that narrative. In my book, Sankofa: Learning from Hindsight, I wrote that sometimes it hurts more to see other women marginalize another woman’s pain and trauma than it is to see when men do so, because in the masculine expression of callousness, they truly do not know or understand what it means to be a woman—experiencing monthly cycles, giving birth, being mothers, nurturers, teachers, and holders of wisdom on this planet. Women know all this, however. Life cannot be sustained without us, so why do we find it difficult to sound one note of confidence in asserting where we stand when it comes to being violated?

We may have ideological differences, yes, but they do not warrant dismissing how others deal with their trauma. Ideological differences do not negate the experience of trauma. The decision to come forward is not about criminality but morality and character. These past few weeks have been unnerving, especially when we see women being mocked for standing in their truth.

I saw several women, in their television appearances announce their own terrifying experiences of sexual assault and then in that same stroke say BUT! But what? “Boys would be boys.” “It was a long time ago.” They give excuses that make other women cringe. We have to honor our own voices and each other’s voices and experiences, so we may create sacred spaces to heal. Because woman, without a unified song that any form of violation is wrong, would continue to do injustice to our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, best friends and even acquaintances.

 I, for one, applaud all who lay bare their souls to bring awareness to these issues in our society, and we will make progress when we educate others that no one has the right to violate our space, body, and sense of wellness. If we can do that, together we will rise!



Here’s the poem:

Tompala, Tompala
The sound of the talking drum beats,
waiting to hear your voice.
Shio yomo, shio yomo
The swishing sound of the wind whispers
clearing the way to hear your song.
Zi gli gi
The hand of the clock unwavers,
A reminder it is time.
She cries Allah in a black gown asking the reason behind the mindless death.
Nobody hears her, nobody reacts. Silence.
She shivers in a pale blue shapeless gown, forced to recount the experience of being violated.
Nobody hears her, nobody reacts. Silence.
She’s black and blue from a punch too many. We encourage her to honor and obey her husband or lover.
We pretend, we hide.
She holds the frail child begging for milk, with flies swarming above the head and moans of anguish.
We dig a grave spreading rich soil, thanking Spirit for the memories.
The earth is barren without your powerful steps and voice, woman.

Shio yomo

Zi gli gi
The drum is talking
The wind is whispering
The clock unwavering
It is time.

Rise, woman!

Mensimah Shabazz, Ph.D., is a Women’s Empowerment Coach and Author.