"One of my favorite things to do is to watch a survivor rise and thrive, and grow into their own. Once upon a time, I used to facilitate survivor support groups of other women from the sex trade, some trafficked, some in sex work, all feeling exploited, come together, and, at that time, I was freshly out of the sex trade, just a couple years out. And one of the women came up to me afterwards, and she says, “I want to be like you, but I never can be.” I looked her in the eye and said, “Girl, the only difference between you and me is someone gave me a chance.” This poem is about that girl who, I'll let her tell her own story like she does in the poem, but never worked a taxable wage job, several kids, no one was giving her a chance. No one gave me a chance, too.
I think it's necessary to shift our paradigms around what people experience and to look at our own expertise around it, the positionality to assert that expertise. I also read this poem, which is a combination of both of our poems, because I taught women how to write poetry. Actually, they already knew how to write poetry. It just came straight out of them. But I chose to believe in them, and they chose to believe in themselves. This story and this poem is about two survivors coming together, after that moment where she, too, got a chance. I called her one day after that moment because it really moved me, and I offered her to come keynote speak with me and offered to split the honorarium with her, which was substantive. It's more than any regular or buyer would pay, and that meant a lot to her. When I called her, there was a buyer on the phone, and she was choosing to go back into the game. And then my call came up, and she picked up, because we have respect for one another that way. And I offered her to come speak at this honorarium and she chose different that day. She told me that I was the first person to ever give her a choice between the game and a different life. And I was moved by that, too. And I said, “This is something beautiful about us coming together.” And I said, “Why don't we combine our poetry together?”
And we did. And it became this poem. Same poem I read in hospitals across the country, training with the United Nations, and some of America's largest hospital systems. The same poem that inspired nurses and doctors to ask questions like, “Is it true that some people are forced to use drugs? Is it true that narcotic restraints are part of a grooming process?” And that's what a paradigm shift is, right? It's shifting the way we think about things completely. It's looking at our ontologies and epistemologies and questioning them, questioning if they're relevant in the way that we exhibit our expertise. Like I said before, there are many well-intentioned people in this world and that nurse is very well- intentioned. She came to the training for a reason. She wanted to be better at what she was doing. And as a result of shifting her paradigms of thought, through arts and poetry and survivors coming together, which is always going to be powerful, we were able to do it. This is the importance of that. So stay tuned and listen more."