Dr. Marian Hatcher
Shared Hope Policy Consultant
Ambassador-at-Large, United Nations
Black History Month this year has a different meaning for me, its reflective, personal, communal, and generational.
You might ask why? It’s actually very simple, as life usually is. I literally laughed out loud as I wrote this because, it’s us, the actors in this play called life, that complicate God’s plan.
You see, as I look behind and again forward, I can see the simplicity and the difficulty of being a Black woman, and a survivor of systems of prostitution in America.
I’ve felt the blessing of being a survivor of domestic violence and sex trafficking who not only maintained nearly two decades of sobriety but thrived and literally lived two lives in one.
As I turned 61 last August, with my period of covered disability through the Cook County Pension Fund winding down and a required retirement date looming, thoughts began flooding daily.
Suddenly, unexpected pension requirements began triggering memories of past marriages, some ending in divorce – one was a catalyst for domestic abuse, drug use, incarceration – the last left me a widow.
Why would I, at this time in my life, think of self-care delayed and come to the realization that I was sorely lacking focus on personal needs?
I am certain survivors can relate to me wishing I had valued down time, scheduled regular vacations (difficult to achieve when you were on call 24/7).
My daily routines were filled with repressed trauma, fallout from the pushed down mental health impact of lifelong depression, anxiety, feelings of spiritual and emotional failure.
No time to feel the results of harms I experienced, while trying to make up for mistakes and also those things that were or were not my fault! Ugh! No time to acknowledge compassion fatigue.
Did they even say farewell? Because 15 years on duty at the Sheriff’s office were followed by another 3 years on disability due to the progression of my multiple sclerosis, this didn’t allow for a traditional retirement celebration and honestly no traditional goodbye nagged at me. It’s true, in the end you fill a budgeted position.
As always when I focus on what I might think is important, God will remind me “he will never leave me not forsake me.”
My daughters surprised me with an intimate retirement party that I will always hold dear to my heart. There were banners with career milestones and very cool party favors (the grandbabies loved them), including a crown. Of course, there was great food, we love to eat!
I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that those years spent taking a deep dive into “fixing” my life, often not depending on God, often in my flesh, were indeed saturated with an abundance of grace, mercy and love.
When you stand for God and his assignment, given only to you, you will often stand alone. Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
Was God glorified? Why of course God was. How do I know, he used me in spite of me! There have been so many miracles in the last nearly 20 years.
Over the years the miracles manifested:
I became known as a national expert on combating the demand for commercial sexual exploitation, facilitating trainings on trafficking, prostitution and gender-based violence for law enforcement, including the F.B.I., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.
There have been unexpected acknowledgments, awards and accolades, including, a Lifetime Achievement award from President Obama, Executive Clemency from IL Governor Bruce Rauner, and being honored on Congressional Record for Black History Month by U.S. Senator Richard Durbin of IL.
It has been a privilege to support survivors, see them thriving and achieving their goals of sobriety, education, career, marriage, or motherhood.
At this time however, the greatest miracle, is the time spent with my family. My children and grandchildren. My mother and father.
The love I have for them overflows daily. As I look behind and again forward, my concern with having Black sons and grandsons, Black daughters and granddaughters in this society keeps me praying.
On my knees daily praying for society to end the status quo where a disproportionately high number of Black and Brown children and adults are sold for sex in a market place of greed.
On my knees daily as Black men and women aren’t safe to drive a car, ride a bike or walk the street. Whether it be police violence, gun violence or mass shootings, it’s heartbreaking and must stop.
I believe humanity at its core, when we choose the path of right and not wrong, can live in harmony.
As I look behind and again forward with 84-year-old parents, I feel so blessed to still have them, although with my colorful history we often joke that they were more concerned with my longevity.
As I look behind and again forward, I must live in the present with Mom’s early onset Dementia/Alzheimer’s. Her startling and rapid decline has me clinging to my personal medical miracles, living through sobriety, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, pulmonary embolism and more.
I am now aware this disease impacts more women than men and disproportionately impacts people of color who are also less likely to be diagnosed. Who knew that this Black History Month I would be praying for more time with my mother cognitively than physically. She will always be my best friend and what she may forget I will remember and tell her again and again.
As I look back and again forward, in this “movement” I hope allies can lift up survivors’ expertise, treating us as colleagues and also as individuals with families and lives outside of our work. Maybe start with a quick check on how we and our loved ones are doing before we jump into discussing strategy on the latest chess move by the opposition.
In the end, I am determined to continue living according to Philippians 3:14. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
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