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I work on recipes, and I write about food because it’s my escape, my outlet. It means time for myself, time to work with my hands, alone in the kitchen, to build something and enjoy the fruits (sweets) of my labor. It requires the use of a different part of my brain, and allows me, for just a few hours, to shut out the other thoughts and worries of my every day.

I work at an office that provides grants to agencies for direct service work with victims of violent crime. I’m a social worker by profession and nature. I care about people, making change, and creating better ways of living and being. It’s been some time since I’ve done direct service work myself, now that I’ve moved to the administrative side, but it’s still every day that I’m confronted by some of the worst realities of our world. Just reading through one agency report, I see alarming numbers of children molested by their caretakers, women assaulted by their intimate partners, kids gunned down in their own communities, gay and lesbian youth beaten for being “different,” girls forced into prostitution, among other heinous things. Human beings treated as objects, as toys to be manipulated and had. And that’s just one report, from one quarter, for one agency.

These are the things I think about, that I hope to change, in whatever small way. This is the world we live in, that you can’t escape or ignore. It’s still there, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it doesn’t exist. So today, I’m writing to you not as a food blogger with stomach problems, but as an advocate for change. Why? Because today is White Ribbon Day in Massachusetts, a day for men to take a stand in ending violence against women.

White Ribbon Day

I attended the Proclamation Event at the State House, and, while I do admittedly take issue with some of the heteronormative messaging, I was still extremely moved by the words of some of the speakers. In particular, and truly my reason for writing this post, I wanted to share with you all the words of Pages Matam, a spoken-word artist, whom I had never heard of before, but will now never forget. I really can’t introduce this video with anything that will do it justice, so please, just watch, and listen.

I literally had chills. While I may not have caught every single word that was spoken, I always understood the meaning, the intention. This sat with me for the rest of the afternoon, brought up feelings and memories that I don’t often let see the light of day, and I hope that whoever you are, whatever your story is, these words will now sit with you, too.

Because we can’t ignore what’s happening around us, if we ever have hope for a safer future for our families, or our friends.

Because we can’t keep silent, if we ever hope to have a meaningful life for ourselves.

Violence is just one of the many manifestations of a diseased way of thinking that has infected societies for centuries, but it’s an extremely powerful tool that has cyclical effects, far-reaching implications, and causes long-lasting damage.

So what am I asking of you? What can you do today?

You can respect the people around you. You don’t know their whole story, and you don’t need to. Accept them for who they are now, who they are trying to be, accept the same in return. And if you can’t, for whatever reason, walk away.

Above all, respect yourself. Don’t ever lose sight of who you are. There are lots of things that can be taken away from you, ripped from your hands, no matter how hard you fight – things that you might never get back – but those things don’t define you. You alone determine your character, and you decide who you want to be in this life. Your core may be shaken, but your soul, your being, is still yours to keep.

To paraphrase Reverend Odom’s speech today: Reject violence, promote respect. And you don’t have to sign a piece of paper, or wear a ribbon, or be a man to do that. You can start today, in your own home and in your own life, and it WILL make a difference.

Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.

– Theodore Roosevelt