Five Years, What a Surprise

The opening track of David Bowie’s 1972 seminal masterpiece, Ziggy Stardust is an eery dystopian ballad, “Five Years.” In short, the song is about how the earth finds out it only has five more years left to live.

High school came up for me a couple weeks ago when I was writing to a friend. I told her it would take “a barstool, an attendant bartender, and copious amounts of good wine” to begin to explain what went wrong with my high school experience around the time we were rocking out to Mr. Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.

One thing that’s easy to explain is what we had in common in that email thread. We were conversing about our shared interest in domestic abuse. Today, she consults with one of her favorite clients who happens to be in the Midwest where I was writing to her, and I of course, can’t seem to stop working on this.

Five Years to Change the World?

I always loved Bowie’s song, “Five Years.” Today, I’m going to turn the tables on it and instead of interpreting that song to be five years until the end of the world, I’ll rewrite the story to become five years to… change the world for the better.

This week, I sat in on a webinar of well-intentioned professionals who were joking about how those with mental health challenges oftentimes have “unrealistic expectations.” I was saddened a bit by this, mostly because of the othering, but primarily because those of us who embrace our mad identities are often capable of delivering some fairly amazing accomplishments. The evidence is everywhere.

For instance, when I launched The 2.0 Adoption Council or Change Agents Worldwide, all I had was a vision of what could be. A dream. An idea about the end state. That vision caught on and hundreds, literally hundreds, of people bought into it, and paid good money to be a part of it, and eventually for it. Crazy? Maybe. Riffing on Forrest’s loving Mom, Crazy is as crazy does.

By Far, My Toughest Challenge

It was an insane and dangerous idea to take on domestic abuse and violence against women. I had no credentials, no formal education, no field training, no power relationships, no funding, no nothing– except my lived experience and a desire to make a difference.

Every connection was hard-earned. Every project was a risk.

Nevertheless I persisted.

I’m proud to say, after five years, that hard work has paid off. An award-winning investigative journalist was researching domestic violence for years, and she came across my writing. She discovered the case study that I helped bring to life in a film.* She included the case study in her new book that is flying off the shelves in the Australian market. A U.S. version is in the works. The case study, the High Point model, is saving lives every day. More people are learning about the success of the High Point model than ever before.

In my small way, starting from nothing, I changed the world for the better several times, but this time, and in this way, I think even Mr. Bowie would be singing my praises.**

*The film unfortunately never got finished, even though I put six figures into it. It is available, however, as a training film for private audiences.

**A little mad humor. Once when I was quoted top of the fold in the WSJ, I sent the clip to my shrink with this note: “It’s hard to be a recovering manic when your delusions of grandeur keep coming true.” (He laughed.)

ALERT: Community Response Required NOW

Last week, we finished our interviews and filming for our documentary about High Point, NC.  While we were there, a woman (and mother) was murdered by her abuser. This was the first instance of a Domestic Violence homicide in High Point where the offender had been notified, and was on the watch list.

We always knew it would happen one day. Domestic Violence is with us like a disease. There is no “cure.”  But there are steps we can take to inoculate the public against widespread serious injury and homicide.  This is what they’ve done in High Point.  This philosophy and approach is the thesis and social commentary that drives our film. Considering this is the FIRST homicide among known offenders in 5 years, the results have been impressive.  Even life-changing.

But, #EVERYDVVICTIMMATTERS.  In High Point, they recognize domestic violence is a public safety issue.  Domestic Violence (a.k.a. Intimate Partner Violence) crosses race, income, gender, geography – every known variable you can track.

The system is not perfect in High Point, but it’s the best there is that I’ve seen after nearly three years of working full-time on this horrific, devastating social epidemic.

This morning, I saw an alert that went out to the entire community:

ALERT:

“I was just asked by HPPD to rally all concerned HPCAV Associates and others who are concerned about our violence in HP to come to ElmTowers at 2pm today (7/21/17) for a Domestic Homicide Response to share with residents and our community that such violence is wrong and cannot be tolerated

…  We are saddened by such loss of life..  It is VITAL that we gather to show our care, our love, our concern and our outrage against such violence.”

– Jim Summey, High Point Community Against Violence

It takes a village to address domestic violence. Imagine if the community rallied in your town every time a woman was murdered?  I don’t mean with vigils, galas, and 5Ks.  I mean with outrage and a call for action to end the violence.  And a plan to make that happen.

Here in Central Florida, a woman (another mother) was murdered by her abuser, and it was just a blip on the nightly news.  When a cop identified the perpetrator weeks later and tried to bring him in, he shot and killed her too.

Only then, the town turned upside down in a nationally televised manhunt.

What kind of message does that send?  When will every community issue a mandate for zero tolerance for domestic violence?  I can only hope it comes sooner, rather than later. It’s unconscionable to think it may never come.

Update: 75 people showed up for this meeting. 

“She Thinks Who She Is”

film

I had the pleasure of attending a free session associated with the Florida Film Festival 2017 #FFF2017 taking place this week in Orlando.

Titled, “Indie Women: Grab’em by the Movies,” the panel included Jennifer Brea (Unrest), Dorie Barton (Girl Flu.), Julie Sokolow (Woman on Fire), and Valerie Weiss (The Archer). It was moderated by Anne Russell, Program Director—Film Production MFA from Full Sail University.

It was terrific listening to these filmmakers.  It occurred to me that they all shared one common characteristic regardless of their experience or genre: confidence.*  They all shared the will to pursue creating a film they cared about, regardless of the professional cost.  I’m sure you could say the same for male directors, but after listening to the alarming stats– 5% of Hollywood film directors are female; only 20% of Indie film directors are female– you can see how it’s more laudable that these women pursued their art and are achieving recognition in a heavily male-dominated field.

One quote particularly spoke to me from Jennifer Brea:

Over the past two years, my two male partners and I have had some rocky ups and downs while bringing our film High Point 10-79 to life.  But, in the end, we consistently focused on what we were out to achieve.  When we show people the film preview, we always get the response we were after.  I know that feeling of satisfaction she is talking about in this remark.

There is no other medium like film to stir one’s soul in ways that need to be stirred.  I’m really looking forward to finishing our film.  It will be a powerful piece of storytelling that stands to ignite a movement. Stay tuned.

*This phrase was always meant to be a catty put-down when I was in high school. But, I always liked it.  I’ve always found if a girl has a lot of confidence, that’s about all she needs.