Calling All Men of Character | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Calling All Men of Character

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Donna Ladd

I'm a woman who loves football. I'm a lifelong New Orleans Saints fan, with all the pain and finally exhilaration that has come it. I love my Bulldogs and was lucky to be at Mississippi State during the John Bond years. And I was there when State beat the Bear right here in Jackson.

So, yes, I just had a great football weekend, albeit with scary moments, and I'm obsessed with Dak Prescott.

But I'm also a woman who abhors family violence, whether against (usually) women or children, even when justified as "discipline." Let's just say I'm riding a football roller coaster right now, as scrutiny descends on the NFL and how it has—or hasn't—dealt with millionaire domestic criminals, of various ethnicities, on their teams over the years.

It's a tragic way to get there, but at least the attacks on Ray Rice's then-fiancee and Adrian Peterson's toddler, not to mention Hope Solo's apparent attack on her teen nephew, has us all talking about family and interpersonal violence.

It has to stop.

But here's the thing: It won't stop until we collectively confront our "traditions" and our desire to give passes to Americans who turn violent fists on their wives or leave bloody stripes on children.

It doesn't matter who they are.

And therein lies the rub. Too many of our so-called heroes regularly engage in criminal behavior by assaulting the people they supposedly love. And even as we (rightfully) go after police officers and vigilante neighborhood-watch bigots for attacking and killing our unarmed young citizens, we also have to confront what is happening to many of them in their own homes. We simply cannot give passes to adults who commit this kind of violence, even if their daddies and mamas did it to them (which helps create abusers), and even if they make millions of dollars and help us win our fantasy games each week.

Throughout Mississippi and right in Jackson and throughout our suburbs, we live amid serious daily violence. And, no, I'm not talking about the kind most people complain about and the local news loves to lead with—drug war-created violence—that is centered in our most challenged neighborhoods. I'm referring to the fear so many women and children, and some men, must deal with every day—the kind of fear of domestic violence that keeps women from leaving dangerous situations because they know it's may well get even more dangerous when they try to leave. That's when many die.

For nearly the JFP's full tenure—and we turn 12 with this issue—we have focused a lot of energy on not only helping victims of family violence escape, start over, pay for meals and clothing, but on helping reverse the cycle that causes the violence in the first place. We believe strongly that a huge part of Jackson, and Mississippi's, challenges comes down to fear of violence, and the actual violence that awaits in so many people's home, exacerbated by easy access to firearms.

Getting our readers to face and confront domestic abuse is vital to us. But to reverse the cycle, it takes all of us, especially men. As we've hosted 10 years of JFP Chick Balls over the years and used our annual Chicks We Love awards to honor strong women, many who were abused and/or are working against it, we've had so many men help us toward the goal of stopping the abuse. We even seeded the funding of the area's first batterers' intervention program that provides a way to catch and stop abuse before it worsens. That's systemic change that is working.

But after a decade of celebrating chick power, we're doing something now that makes me even prouder. We are launching a brother event called the JFP Chick Ball Masked Jam (nickname: Rooster Ball) on Nov. 1 at Hal & Mal's. We are working with the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and honoring, yes, the men who are forming coalitions, getting educated, rejecting defensiveness and stepping up to stop domestic abuse in Mississippi.

The brilliant Wendy Mahoney, executive director of MCADV, is spearheading an Engaging Men effort, and is going all in to put males against abuse into the spotlight as the new kinds of role models our society needs in order to reverse the trends of abuse, and the excuses that too often follow (not to mention the disgusting victim-blaming that just gives abusers a pass). It is time to stop asking "why does she stay?" and demand to know "why does he abuse?"—and then work to make sure he, and his sons, stop abusing.

Wendy and her crew have started a "Be a Stand-Up Guy, Not a Stand-By Guy" campaign with a core organizing group of men who will warm your hearts with their passion for this issue (one lost his mother to abuse; another was abused himself). I won't reveal them, yet, as we plan to honor them as this year's Men of Character at the masked jam on Nov. 1. But I do hope that you stop and just think about what this kind of effort could mean for Jackson; we could seriously lead the nation on our loud-and-proud efforts to reverse abuse in our city and state.

I urge men and women reading this to reach out to the coalition to help their efforts. We have the power, if we will use it, to be the change right here in the city by making sure every young person knows that it is never OK to hit, push or sexually assault someone who is saying no, or any other kind of violence. We can also be the change by ensuring that our young women, especially, find their voices and their confidence and learn that abuse is never the same thing as love. They can do better, and we must help them.

If you are as excited as I am about the MCADV's "Engaging Men" campaign, you should join us at the coalition's annual "Purple for Peace" event Thursday, Oct. 2, at the Jackson Hilton. Just as our masked jam will do, this fundraiser is focusing almost fully on men who are speaking out against domestic abuse. The coalition is honoring Mississippi Sen. Hillman Frazier for his work in legislative advocacy against domestic violence.

The guest speaker, Sulaiman Nuriddin, is the director of men's education at Men Stopping Violence, a national training institute that provides organizations, communities, and individuals with the knowledge and tools required to mobilize men to prevent violence against women and girls. Tickets are $35 per person, $350 per table. Call Public Awareness Coordinator Arian Thigpen at 1-800-898-3234 to attend. And as with the JFP's Nov. 1 event, all proceeds will go to the Engaging Men initiative.

Here is my dream for this joint effort: Both next week's event and our Nov. 1 masked jam will be packed with women and especially men who are standing up and speaking out against domestic and family abuse. Because, you know, real men aren't violent, whether they're in the NFL or live right here in Jackson or our suburbs.

Watch jfpchickball.com for more details; write director@jfpchickball.com to get involved, or to nominate 2015 Chicks We Love. Oh, and you can sponsor the masked jam for as little as $50. Write and ask how.

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