Tom Brown Park was full of life and love on Wednesday Oct. 20 as people gathered at the annual Refuge House “Speak Out.” As the vigil began, everyone in their Refuge House t-shirts or wearing purple to honor the survivors, since purple is the national color for domestic violence month. People from all walks of life gathered in honor of those alive and in remembrance of those who lost their life to domestic violence.
Booths were set up by agencies such as, the Oasis Center for Women and Girls, Florida State University’s Measure of a Man, Florida Council Against Domestic Violence, Big Bend Cares, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Coalition, Big Bend Work Force, National Association for Mental Illness, FSU Career Center and other community agencies in Leon county. All agencies were giving out pamphlets and information about their organizations and the services they offer.
Sigma Alpha Iota International, a music fraternity from Florida A&M University opened up the ceremony with “After the Hurricane” by Jasmine Sullivan.
Meg Baldwin, the director of Refuge House, said leaving an abusive relationship takes courage and it takes strength.
“Thank you for your heroism and the example you set for us all,” Baldwin said to survivors for their willingness to come forth and share their stories with the public.
“The testimony of survivors has changed how law enforcement does their job, has changed the justice system, has changed the next generation of children, has changed what other victims think is possible for themselves,” said Baldwin. “We’re here to honor that power and to use it.”
Ashley Lewis, a poet from Black on Black Rhyme, recited a poem about domestic violence and the mental, psychical and emotional affects on women. Ecclesia Dance Ministry also performed a praise dance in honor of survivors.
Keynote speaker Akin Akinyami, who is the commissioner of Leon County, spoke about the issues of domestic violence.
“As a husband [and] as a father, I believe it is my obligation to speak out on behalf of women who have the fundamental right to live in peace and harmony,” Akinyami said.
The crowd stood with their lit candles as the survivors relived experiences and how the Refuge House played a role in their fight against domestic violence.