How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable? – Seth Godin
I became acquainted with Beverly Gooden because of Twitter. One night she was tweeting a story about an experience she had and one of my friends was retweeting the whole thing onto my timeline. I was moved and amazed at her transparency and decided that I wanted to “follow” her. From that point, I have not disappointed with my decision and I have even adopted her as one of my big sisters. Her story is one of amazing resiliency and a passionate calling birthed out of her own painful experiences (you can read more about it in her book, Confessions of a Church Girl). I am proud and honored to feature Bev as the first person to be highlighted in my “Music Makers/Dreamers of Dreams” series. I hope you are as inspired as I have been.
AB: Please tell me a little bit more about your story (in general).
BG: I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio (go Browns, Cavs, and Indians!). My father is a retired electrical engineer, and my mother was a daycare worker and choir director. I grew up in a musical family, so jazz, gospel, classical, choral, and even folk music is my lifeline. I graduated from Hampton University in 2005, and went on to earn a master’s degree in Social Justice from Loyola University Chicago.
AB: You have recently gained some national attention because of the #WhyIStayed movement you began on Twitter. Please tell me more about that.
BG: One morning in September, I was watching the responses to the Ray Rice elevator video on Twitter and I noticed a trend. People were asking ‘why did she marry him?’ and ‘why didn’t she leave him’. That’s not the first time I’d seen people make those kind of comments, but for some reason I had enough. When I saw those tweets, my first reaction was shame. But then I felt anger. I’d been divorced from a guy who got physical with me during our relationship and then, our marriage. So I wanted to speak out about why women stay. And that is where those first #WhyIStayed tweets came from. About an hour later, women all over the world were sharing their stories of domestic abuse in an effort to draw awareness to the complexities of domestic violence.
Since that day, I’ve spoken about domestic violence on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts, on the Dr. Phil Show, and in the New York Times. It’s been incredible.
AB: You obviously have a heart for social justice, in particular justice for domestic violence victims. What fuels your passion for this issue?
BG: Jesus fuels my passion for social justice. Now, some people will read that and say “amen” or get happy, but not so fast. The Jesus I’m speaking of is the one who lived a provocative, scandalous life. Not a lot of people liked the guy. He said things that angered religious scholars and hung out with societal rejects. He had tough conversations and made bold statements regarding the marginalized and the misfits. That Jesus? He’s not cool or popular. In fact, he‘s so unpopular that we crucified him. And it’s that Jesus that fuels my passion for social justice. Because in Jesus, I see an unorthodox person with inexplicable love and radical views that would ultimately interrupt the fate of humanity.
AB: What do you hope to bring to the forefront of the national conscience through your DV initiatives?
BG: My biggest hope, and I believe I will live to see this happen, is for domestic violence to be as popular of an issue as Breast Cancer Awareness. Right now, DV is discussed in small waves of the public consciousness, like when a major event or story happens such as Ray Rice. But domestic violence must be a perennial part of our national conversation regarding causes. I want the issue to be so big, so discussed, that society has no choice but to face it head on. Domestic violence is a community issue, and it will take a community effort to end it. There is no escape; we all have to participate in this fight.
AB: There may be people who want to do more but do not know where to start. What suggestions can you offer for them?
BG: The quickest way to do more is to evaluate your surroundings. Are any of your friends/family in abusive relationships? Does anyone you know personally make or find humor in violent jokes? How do you respond to violence against women? Change really does begin within. Second, you can partner with local organizations. Volunteer time or donate money. Those two things are immediate, tangible ways to do more in the fight against domestic violence.
AB: I recently read your book, Confessions of a Church Girl (and loved it!). Do you plan to write another book in the near future?
BG: Thank you for reading! And yes! I’ve been working on a sequel to Confessions of a Church Girl for about six years. I think 2015 will be the right year to get it out. A lot has happened since I wrote that book in 2005 and I want to be sure to touch on all the issues.
AB: I see what you’re doing and read your thoughts through what you share on social media and I greatly appreciate how you seem to be unabashedly yourself and unashamed to stand for your beliefs, values, and passions (and is why your my big sister in my head ☺️). I’m sure it was a long journey to that point. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
BG: One of my favorite quotes is from Seth Godin: “How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” I believe that each person has their own unique recipe for remarkability. The problem is, it is more comfortable to look and act like everyone else. If we dig a bit deeper, we’ll find that the true ease, and subsequently, true freedom, is in being who we really are. You can stand out simply by being yourself. I’m committed to being exactly who I am. I am a curious, introverted, Christian, womanist, wine drinking, centre-left, Taoist, Celtic music obsessed, murder mystery watching black woman. And it is super fun to be all of that. Besides, conformity is boring.
AB: 2015 is right around the corner. What can we expect next year from Bev?
BG: I’m so excited to partner with several domestic violence organizations on women’s empowerment campaigns. I’ll also be doing a lot of speaking at colleges and universities, as well as conferences. And hopefully, I can spend a time meeting new people to hug.
AB: In what ways would you like people to reach out to you and learn more about what you’re doing (i.e. – website, etc.)?
BG: Follow me on Twitter at @bevtgooden, connect on facebook.com/bevtgooden, or visit my website beverlygooden.com!