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National Day of Truthtelling: Creating a World Free from Sexual Violence

Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Date Published: 
April 28, 2007

(a love note with footnotes)

for all survivors of sexual violence
towards the world that we deserve

for love of you
we would drop our shields(1)
we would pick up the corners
of our weather-beat struggle
and fold them across into your dignity(2)

for love of you
we would move vigil through silence
and dance across a city
screaming our own names(3)

for love of you
we would steal the stone out of justice
face down law
reach for skies
soft with your knowing(4)

for love of you
we would drum ourselves awake
to listen you whole
would shine your children
into the world we deserve(5)

for love of you
we would

and we did(6)
and we did(7)

and we will(8)

(1) The National Day of Truthtelling in Durham, North Carolina was a day of action built on the belief that telling the whole truth about sexual violence in our communities is the first step to creating a world free from all forms of sexual violence and all forms of oppression.
Survivors of sexual violence continue to lead this movement. Miraculously, local survivors, women of color, and current and former sex workers—living in a city that has been besieged with violent attempts to silence all survivors of sexual violence who speak out—are learning to transform the space of their deepest wounding into a beacon of healing and community transformation. As Nia Wilson of SpiritHouse, Inc explains, “In the place of disempowering silences, we will create healing, loving, transformative spaces where we can celebrate and honor each person’s humanity and the power of community.”

(2) A broad coalition of 9 local organizations, including UBUNTU, SpiritHouse, Southerners on New Ground, Men Against Rape Culture, Black Workers for Justice, Independent Voices, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Raleigh Fight Imperialism-Stand Together, collaborated to create this event. These organizations acknowledge that sexual violence is a power relation that operates through interlocking forms of oppression and is therefore relevant to every movement for social justice. Additionally, 50 organizations from around the country endorsed the event and many groups and individuals commemorated the day through their own vigils and walks. Ending sexual violence is crucial to all our diverse missions. As Lynne Walter of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault affirms, “I believe that ending sexual violence is possible and it is the responsibility of all of us. Together we can create a world full of the safety, possibility, dignity, justice and peace that all people deserve.”

(3) After months of organizing and planning, the Day of Truthtelling began with a march across Durham, led by survivors of sexual violence and their families, holding brightly painted West African Adinkra symbols of strength, renewal and the power of womanhood. While the majority of the march consisted of survivors and allies dancing to drums and songs of unity and leading chants such as “Tell the truth, stop the silence, WE CAN END SEXUAL VIOLENCE!” The march also included a solemn, silent and tearful walk through the Durham neighborhood that was the site of the recent highly publicized act of violence by those who attended a Duke University Lacrosse team party, a site of intense pain for local survivors of sexual violence. This silent walk was followed by the reading of a “wish list” dedicated specifically to black women living and working at Duke University and North Carolina Central University, which sought to replace the violent and disrespectful media and University responses to the lacrosse case with the love and dignity that all survivors deserve. (Full wish list here:

(4) The marchers and additional allies converged at a rally at the Durham Courthouse, during which representatives from the coalition organizations emphasized the impact of sexual violence in all of our communities, reclaiming the symbolic power of justice from the court system and reminding the crowd that real justice is an act of community accountability. In one particularly powerful moment, UBUNTU member Serena Sebring asked all those who had survived sexual assault to raise their hands and then asked those who’s loved ones were survivors to raise their hands as well. Everyone in the crowd was reaching up towards healing.

(5) The day culminated in a community teach-in at W.D. Hill community center, which consisted of workshops, performances, discussions and film screenings. The teach-in emphasized activities by and for young people and represented a partnership between multiple generations to create a world free from sexual violence now.

(6) More than 250 people from the North Carolina Triangle area, Greensboro, and as far as New York, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Minneapolis gathered to affirm the voices of survivors of sexual violence as central to a collective movement for social justice. We see this as a powerful first step although...

(7) this event was also informed by and created in honor of freedom fighters who have been taking a stand against sexual violence and oppression for centuries and therefore is part of an ongoing struggle with a rich legacy.

(8) The North Carolina based coalition that created this event will hold a town-hall meeting on June 9 in Durham to create next steps in this movement. It is our belief that the relationships we have created across issues are already a necessary model of sustainable community action. To create a world free of sexual violence, we have to create and generate culture, not only consume it. The Day of Truthtelling breathed new culture into existence in Durham, NC. It is our hope that communities around the world will be inspired to break the silence around sexual violence.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a member of the Day of Truthtelling Organizing Committee, SpiritHouse ( and UBUNTU ( She is also the founder of brokenbeautiful press ( She created this report-back with the support of Isabell Moore, Manju Rajendran, Pauline McKenzie, Emma Blose, Caitlin Breedlove and Serena Sebring. Feel free to contact Alexis at alexispauline[at]gmail[dot]com.

For more information on the Day of Truthtelling go to