All posts in June 2011

A badass response to street harassment

Emily May is the founder and Executive Director of Hollaback, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending street harassment around the world.

Hollaback! was founded because we were pissed off about our inability to fight back against street harassment.  When we walked on we felt weak, when we yelled at guys the situation escalated, and the police didn’t care.

We were haunted by the idea that this was the price we had to pay for living in a city, or being a girl, and we were tired of pretending that it didn’t hurt.  So we started Hollaback.

And after six months of snapping photos and blogging about our experiences, the funniest thing happened: we stopped getting harassed as much.  At first we thought it was a fluke. But then it just kept happening: holla’ing back resulted in less harassment.

How does this happen?  For me, it was psychological. Once I knew I had a badass response to street harassment, it didn’t scare me anymore. Whereas I used to walk down the street thinking, “please don’t say anything please don’t say anything” on repeat in my head, Hollaback changed my tune.  Instead of coming from a position of fear I started to walk down the street with my cell phone camera in hand thinking, “just try me.”  It was a framework shifting.

I’m not saying I don’t still get harassed, I do.  But knowing that you can fight back, and that’s it’s not your fault, is an awesome thing.  And this is what Girls Fight Back is all about.  It teaches us that we have a response.  That we don’t just have to be silent. That we can fight back.

On behalf of all of us at Hollaback!, I want to wish a very happy 10th birthday to Erin Weed and the Girls Fight Back team.  Here’s to another 10 years of kicking butt, and reminding all of us that we can too.

Note from Erin: How I love me some Emily May! We recently enjoyed dinner and wine at the cutest French cafe in New York City, and talked for hours about a world where women felt safe enough to walk down the street. To support Hollaback!, check out their new “I’ve got your back” campaign that is designed to engage bystanders in the fight against street harassment.  And if you’re able, please donate!

Happy birthday from our finance guru

Greg Ellis is the finance guru at GFB, Partner at Ellis BLB and father to 2 badass kids!

Working with the GFB team has been a great experience.  Erin has put together a great network and team to help get spread the GFB message.  I can only imagine the number of people GFB has touched in the last ten years.

Erin is the most energetic and driven person I’ve ever worked with and seems to pull off anything she puts her mind to.  Her energy and passion spread throughout the company making it so much fun to work with.

Happy Birthday GFB and thanks for letting me be a part of it!

Note from Erin: For anyone (like me) that attempted to learn Quickbooks more than 6 times in your lifetime thus far, QUIT DREAMING! Hire a stellar finance guru and do the work you actually enjoy and are good at. Seriously, asking Greg to join our team was one of the best decisions I’ve made and I’m grateful he’s made working with GFB so easy for our clients, agencies and staff. Thanks for everything Greg!

Fired up for a safer world

Robert Martin is Vice President of Gavin de Becker & Associates, and is widely regarded as one of the Nation’s leading experts in assessing and managing violently inclined situations.

Happy Birthday Girls Fight Back.  I remember when you were a new-born, only ten years ago.  My, how you have grown – and grown – touching many lives along the way.

In December of 2001, I sent an email to a friend in New Jersey who was looking for top notch safety programs, and my comments included the following:

“…and there is a young woman in Hoboken who teaches what is shaping up to be a very successful women’s self-defense program.  Her name is Erin Weed and she founded a program called Girls Fight Back at www.GirlsFightBack.com.”

“Success” is not always an easy term to define, but presenting to over one million people in ten years has to be on the list somewhere.

A week later, in December of 2001, Erin’s response to a pending conference call spoke volumes about her, she said: “Since I’m relatively new to the game, I’ll probably need someone to take me up to speed…but as Bob can assure you, I’m FIRED up about combating crime, assault, etc….”

And I am FIRED up about watching where the next ten years takes you.

Note from Erin: How in the world did I get someone as amazing and experienced as Bob Martin to drink our GFB kool-aid? Seriously, read his bio and you’ll understand my amazement. Bob has been my friend, advisor, expert and coach, since day one…and somewhere along the line, he also became family. Thanks for being one of our and biggest fans for the longest time…

The greatest oak was once a little nut…

Lee Paiva-Sinclair is based in San Francisco with 3 teenagers, a husband, dogs– in love with all. She is Founder of NO MEANS NO Worldwide, a global rape prevention program, and established the first organized women’s self-defense program in Kenya.

I first met Erin at a summer self defense conference where we were both speakers. I was actually quite new to the self defense world and had a lot to learn. Erin and I hit it off right from the start – even to the point where the next morning we came out from our respective dorm rooms with the exact same hairdo!

Through Erin and Girls Fight Back I found a whole world of light and positivity being directed at two of the darkest issues we could ever face – rape and murder. Erin found a way to shift that horror into a prism of empowerment and even humor. From where I stand, this is no small feat. Girls Fight Back is a breath of fresh air in what is typically the least popular topic on the planet. I secretly believe she is some kind of superwoman for getting girls to engage on this subject and feel cool for doing so.

Check this GFB list and judge for yourself if something supernatural is taking place:

  • GFB rose from the ashes of a horrific tragedy
  • Founded and run by a woman
  • Delivers impactful rape prevention presentations like a female Chris Rock
  • Uses bright, youthful, blackness-busting colors to re-brand the self defense movement
  • Networks with like minded people and orgs like Zuckerberg on steroids
  • Flies to colleges and businesses all over the country – with a baby sometimes – to deliver the good news about personal safety
  • Constantly gives generously of GFB time,  resources and expertise for FREE
  • Wrote an amazing book for college bound girls (the BEST gift you can give a graduating senior)
  • Trail blazes the use of social networking to keep women and girls connected and active in the cause
  • Creates a healthy non egoic work environment that improves and empowers her staff, not just the message
  • Is not pushing a proprietary information lock down. Her safety strategies, business, marketing, promotion and media expertise are shared fearlessly. ‘If it’s useful to you and your cause – have at it.’ (Those are her exact words.)
  • Calls me up and says “I was thinking about what you said and I had an idea ….” and it’s mind blowingly brilliant every time.

Girls Fight Back is a living, breathing expression of what it means to practice with purity of purpose. This is not a flowery note tacked to the end of my letter, this is my true and honest experience of Erin and the program she has created.  So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY GFB! Ten years is a long time in any business and the sky is apparently the limit for you. I leave with a quote that reminds me so much of the testament and temperament of Erin and the GFB dynamic:

“The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.”

Glad we get we all get to be a little nuts together!

Note from Erin: On the day I met Lee, we sat under a tree for about 5 hours talking. It was like a time machine, that tree. Since then, Lee has become more like a sister, and she is the first person that challenged me to take GFB global. That happened, and I’m forever grateful to her for pushing the limits that only our minds seem to put on what’s possible…

10 Years of oohs and ahhs…

Liz Meitus is a creative thinker, Marketing Manager at myFORCE and inspired to spread the word about this personal security service that you active through your smartphone.

10 years of butt-kickin’ events already??!! Well, we’re looking forward to the next 10! Thank you for your passion, your mission, and your dedication to spreading the message of safety.

You are infectious, animated, yet poignant. As one of your fall sponsors, we saw first-hand the impact that young women felt upon leaving a GFB event. Not only were young women empowered to take a stance in the face of crime, they felt amused enough to be vocal about it. I’ve never heard so many oohs-and-ahhs from an audience that’s known for a short attention span these days.

Happy Birthday Girls Fight Back!

Note from Erin: I am a big believer in partnerships…but good ones that are win-win situations, where everyone walks away happy and inspired. That describes our relationship with every partner we’ve ever had, including Liz and the folks at myFORCE. Looking forward to our collective future!

Happy Birthday from Heather Maggs

Heather Maggs is a Girls Fight Back speaker, and has been since 2009. She is based in North Carolina and is an actress while not presenting for GFB.


Note from Erin: Heather has been a total rock star this year, doing a good majority of GFB programs from coast to coast. Whoever says Southern girls can’t kick ass clearly never met Heather Maggs. Thanks for being such a loyal part of our team Heather, and I look forward to all you accomplish this Fall and beyond!

Yoga saved my life

Lauren Jonik is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and photographer. She is currently at work on a memoir. Her landscape, cityscape and nature photography can be viewed on www.shootlikeagirlphotography.com.

“There’s someone I think you should be in touch with,” my friend Dina said after she had heard the news. Just days before on a steamy July afternoon in Brooklyn, all of my preconceived notions about when and where—and to whom—violent crimes occur were shattered. “Her name is Erin Weed and she runs an organization called Girls Fight Back,” Dina continued. My mind and body were still in a confusing state of disarray.
While cat-sitting for a friend, I entered her apartment building and got on a small elevator with a stranger in a bright red t-shirt. On that day, I simply planned to go to my friend’s Brooklyn apartment. He, on the other hand, demonstrated that he planned to rape and kill someone. But, the day did not go as expected for either of us.

As the elevator doors closed, he immediately pushed behind me, grabbing my neck with his thick, meaty arm. I tried to free myself, to jam my keys into his flesh, but he had every counter-move choreographed. After both of us fell to the floor, I tried to poke him in the eyes, I frantically tried to grab at his ears, but my attempts fell short each time. At last, I was able to get in to a position where I could kick him in the face. As the bottom of my sneaker connected with his nose, I was grateful for all of the hours I had spent in yoga classes gaining strength, flexibility and peace of mind. It was, in addition to the pure grace of God, my yoga training that helped to save me.

But, being in kicked in the face didn’t go over too well with The Monster and so he stood partly up and began to unbutton his pants with one hand while holding my throat with the other. I flailed wildly with all of the fading strength I could. His frustration increased, as did my determination. He then punched my face repeatedly as the elevator ascended to yet another floor—with no one on the other side of the doors. My pulse raced as thoughts flooded my mind, each bringing with it another dose of adrenaline. At last, with seconds to spare, I flailed my arm one last time and hit the buzzer on the side panel of the elevator. The noise startled him, the doors opened yet again and he ran out. I crawled into the hallway and gasped for help. The attack was over and my new life post-attack had just begun.

Connecting with Erin in those first fragile weeks was a pivotal element in initiating the healing process. I learned that I was far from alone in my experience and it was validating to be reminded that I had done all I could. Violent crimes can happen to anyone at any time—even in the middle of an afternoon in an affluent location. And, it wasn’t a weapon or physical strength that allowed me to save my life, but staying present in the moment—even a horrible one—to make it through to the other side.
Many thanks and happy 10th birthday, GFB!
Note from Erin: I met Lauren for the first time in person when I opened New Jersey’s only women’s self-defense studio back in 2006, and threw a ragin’ party at the space. If you own a copy of my book, I write about Lauren’s story in the epilogue. It was such a catharsis for me, to finish the book with her amazing story after spending so many years researching the most horrific endings to violence.  So rarely do we hear these success stories! Lauren’s story makes a case for having more inner peace as a self-defense technique. Calm down and breathe – it could save your life someday. Big thanks to Lauren for going down a not-so-pleasant memory lane to recollect this story for our e-party…I truly appreciate your ongoing bravery.

An Unassuming Beauty

Today would have been Shannon Elizabeth McNamara’s birthday. The poem below was written by a dear friend of the McNamara family, Sharon Rickerson. Sharon also has written a unique poem the previous 9 years that Shannon has been gone. If you live in the Chicago area, check out the Daily Herald tomorrow, as this poem will be published there.

She lives

In Heaven

Not far but Away

Her spirit Near and dear

For Now we wait

FOrever will come

And there will be No more tears

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

Encouraging to all who knew her

Lovely inside and out

Inspiring to young and old

Zealous, vibrant and joyful

Athletic, fair and gracious

Brave and strong

Engaging her world

True to her Maker, true to all

His child and our delight

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13,14

Happy Birthday Shan; we miss you so much!

Note from Erin: June is a rough month for all who loved Shannon, with her death happening on June 12 and her birthday on June 21. I feel her birthday is so symbolic however, since today is the summer solstice. This is the first day of summer, and the day of the year with the longest period of daylight. Isn’t that symbolic of how much light Shannon has shed upon this world in her short life?

Birthday wishes from Tony Blauer

Tony Blauer is personal defense & combatives consultant who travels internationally sharing his research with conscientious self-defense experts & military & law enforcement training units. He is CEO & Founder of S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEM & HIGH GEAR. Visit his website at http://www.tonyblauer.com

I’m pretty sure I’ve known Erin for almost as long she’s been on her mission.

Born out of a tragedy that could’ve easily had the reverse effect on anyone, Erin had the insight, integrity and courage to look deeply at what happened to her close friend Shannon McNamara and turn that event into a powerful message that continues to inspire countless people the world-over.  Erin’s vision and passion is the Girls Fight Back legacy.

I’m continually amazed by the growth of the program and look forward to writing another anniversary message for Girls Fight Back in 2021. To Erin and her team, happy birthday, you girls kick butt.

Note from Erin: Thanks for the well-wishes Tony. Means a lot coming from such a bad-ass like you! Thanks for being a friend, a confidant and a mentor in this wild industry. I look forward to cookin’ up some big things together, so you can write about them in your 20th happy birthday post in 2021…

Spring break with CNN and GFB

Abigail Kesner is a Senior Associate at SE2, a Denver communications firm specializing in public policy. She is a former CNN producer and communications director for Colorado Senate Democrats.

When my boss told me I was heading to Daytona Beach for spring break, this is not quite what I had in mind.  As one of the younger producers at CNN’s Paula Zahn show, I was assigned to help produced a segment on “spring break safety.”

It’s funny that I got my first taste of spring break, Daytona Beach-style as a twenty-something CNN producer and not a rowdy college co-ed, but sometimes that’s how things go.  It was during this assignment that I first met Erin Weed, Girls Fight Back, and their unique ability to empower and educate women.

The assignment was to convince a group of girls to let me join them for a spring break night out in the quintessential spring break spot: Daytona Beach.  I had a small video camera and I tagged along as they visited bars and beach-side dance clubs to record their spring break experience.

The following day, we would meet with Erin Weed of Girls Fight Back. We would review the video to see how the girls played it safe and how they could have made smarter, safer choices.

Amazingly, I recruited two groups of girls to be a part of this story and I joined them on spring break. Things did not happen the way we thought it would. The group of girls we expected to be wild and crazy, stuck together, kept it under control, and played it safe. The group of girls we thought would be tame, got a little crazy, and then one girl separated from the group (twice) to meet with a boy alone and away from the cameras.

Both groups were safe, and nothing bad happened to them that night, but I think they learned an important lesson from Erin and Girls Fight Back – and it’s an important lesson I learned as well.

You can go a little crazy at spring break in Daytona, but always stick together. The support we can provide each other is essential to our survival (literally and figuratively).

Erin, thanks for teaching me that lesson and for joining me on one of the most memorable spring breaks I ever had. Happy Birthday GFB!  Keep up the good work!

Note from Erin: How Abbie and I both ended up here in Colorado after starting our careers in NYC television production amazes me! I am grateful for responsible media folks like her, when she worked at CNN and still today as she continues her gift for cause-driven communications at SE2. Thanks for all you do!

Breaking Social Taboos in Pakistan

Khalida Brohi is a social entrepreneur leading the Sughar Women Program which is an initiative of PDI, a national organization in Pakistan. Sughar aims at ending the custom of honor killing by promoting beautiful traditions and by providing socio-economic empowerment to tribal women. At the age of 22, Khalida is a dedicated entrepreneur and winner of the Young Champion Award by University of Singapore, an Unreasonable Institute Fellow and the winner of the fellowship award by YouthActionNet®

Last year in summer I was in Boulder, Colorado for the Unreasonable Institute, a ten week institute also called a crash course for social entrepreneurs. For the initial weeks I was still trying to get over my cultural-shock + anxiety and confusion of being away from my home, away in America! The name of this country sometimes didn’t fit properly in our mouths back from where I am, where girls need to whisper names like these in each other’s ears because talking about or going to a foreign country is a social taboo for a girl.

My anxiousness hadn’t last much when after one of introductory community pitches of Unreasonable Institute I met Erin Weed. Handing me a copy of the GFB book she with great energy and enthusiasm said, “Hey! I would love to get to know more about you, we should hang out sometime!” In that very moment, I wasn’t exactly thinking about what she was saying…I was just awed at her poise, at her confidence and how she controlled herself. And once again waves of images flooded my mind of my friends back home and of my cousins who wouldn’t speak looking someone in the eye, who were supposed to be lean, shy and modest to be called good woman and who weren’t at all supposed to decide on meeting with someone may it be a female or a male. It was another social taboo.

All at once I figured that my cultural shocks aren’t finished yet, there is more to come and when one day Erin came zooming in her car and took me and Trina (another Unreasonable Fellow from India, doing some awesome work at Kranti) to the Flat Irons for a quick lunch and discussion about what we do and what she does at Girls Fight Back.

Finding out more about Girls Fight Back was like opening up doors for me to a new world, where women and girls weren’t objects, they were “human”, real tough humans and where they could defend themselves from violence and abuse! I was excited! I was actually overjoyed and had exclaimed that very moment, “I want to join you as a speaker”! For a while, with my silk Pakistani pink frock and bead-laced scarf around my head I felt my cheeks flush with the idea of kicking butt. But Erin had known that I could, and with her belief and my passion to bring back to Pakistan a part of Girls Fight Back for women and girls in local communities facing violence, abuse and harassment not only at homes but in public places, public transport, at workplaces and at recreational places.

My plans for bringing GFB to Pakistan integrated well with what we do at Sughar (English translation: Skilled and Confident Woman) where we provide women socio-economic empowerment via entrepreneurship, and social empowerment is the name of being able to defend oneself from violence!

So at this fantastic occasion of GFB 10th birthday, I thank Erin and GFB for helping us bring GFB to Pakistan and for giving us an opportunity to reach out to other girls and women in Pakistan which need to become girls who do fight back!  Happy Birthday!

Note from Erin: Khalida is the human embodiment of optimism. I often think of her contagious laugh as we drove around in my Beetle convertible last summer, with her gorgeous scarf blowing in the breeze! She will be a famous international leader someday, mark my words…oh wait, too late, she already is! Seriously Khalida, thank you and Trina for bringing our mission to women across the world. It’s a dream come true…

Don’t ever stop!

Bill Kipp is founder of FAST Defense Inc., one of the world’s leading self-defense systems and was named “Best Women’s Program” by Black Belt Magazine.

 

Note from Erin: When Bill and I hang out, it’s usually at his creepy barn in Colorado and he’s attacking me. In response I’m full-contact kicking him in the groin and punching him in the face. And he’s one of my best buddies…cuz isn’t that what friends do? Seriously, Bill is my fightin’ guru. Much love and appreciation to him and his gorgeous partner-in-crime Debra for all they have done for the GFB team.

From darkness, awareness & education

Jess Weiner is an author, self-esteem expert, consultant and media personality. She is founder of Talk to Jess, LLC and the Actionist Network.

We want to send a huge shout out to Erin Weed and the amazing team over at Girls Fight Back. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of this groundbreaking organization.

I met Erin years ago and her story and passion for helping women and girls find the power to protect themselves was born out of a real life changing experience. Now the GFB team carries the message of how we can be our own best protectors, how to trust our intuition, how to reduce the risk of violence in the first place, and how to physically fight back.

Erin is one of our original Actionists®. Not only is she a world changer and impressive business leader, she is a friend and her loyalty and commitment to empowerment is a recurring inspiration in my life.

Happy Anniversary Erin and Girls Fight Back! From darkness, you have brought awareness and action into the lives of so many women and girls.

Note from Erin: Jess and I have known each other for years, and always seem to show up in each other’s lives when we need a pick-me-up. Thank you Jess for all your advice and wisdom, not to mention empowering millions of girls around the world!

I am the George Clooney of GFB

Megan Ellis is one of our amazing USA speakers, and for the past 2 years has spoken at schools and colleges across the country. She also works for one of the world’s leading security firms.

Note from Erin: Megan is a true expert in the field of violence prevention and making this a safer place for women. Her humor and approachable personality makes people feel at ease, even talking about this tough topic. Thanks for being you, Megan!

True success = Rendering service to others

Greg Walker is a business coach and President of PCS Systems Inc. He has advised the national and global expansion of Girls Fight Back since 2007.

It was almost exactly four years ago to the day (May 31, 2007) on a beautiful late spring afternoon that I truly began to understand the power and breadth of the Girls Fight Back mission. After working with CEOs of various size companies throughout North America for nearly 30 years, I thought I had encountered just about every personality type and intellect there was to discover. I was wrong.

Erin Weed made a singular impression on me that day. It was an impression of energy, excellence and vision. We had met a couple of weeks earlier at a briefing for CEOs. At that time Erin had already touched literally hundreds of thousands, and by extension through word of mouth, millions of lives. We both were to find out later that we each made a private decision that day to somehow work together to make her continuing campaign for Girls Fight Back an even larger reality than it already was after 6 years.
We have been on that journey ever since.

One of the most interesting things that I have discovered repeatedly over these years is that Erin is a veritable fountain of ideas and humor. If you’re not comfortable in the fast lane with possible sudden sharp turns, you just can’t hang with Erin in a business sense. It is absolutely refreshing to find someone so young who is never satisfied with the status quo. She has over the years infused her enthusiastic spirit and uncompromising commitment to excellence in the staff, speakers, agents, friends, and partners of Girls Fight Back.

Girls fight back has over its 10 year history received nearly daily communication from women who have been impacted in a positive way by its message. Lives have been changed. Devastating outcomes have been avoided. Men have been educated and women have been empowered. Countless women have reported that the fear and vulnerability they had experienced so often in the past has been replaced with courage and the knowledge of not being helpless in the face of potential assault. This legacy will continue for generations, indeed it could not be stopped under any circumstances. It will be passed down like the oral histories of old… mother to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend.

We all have had dreams at some point of having an impact on our world, of having something to show for having occupied this small planet for the length of our years. Few endeavors, especially born out of such tragic beginnings, are destined to have the global impact of Girls Fight Back.

So what of the next 10 years? Erin and the Girls Fight Back team are already hard at work in countless ways to expand this legacy to the corners of the world where it is needed most.

The true measure of success in life, indeed in any endeavor, is the rendering of service to others. On this one measure Girls Fight Back, from its humble beginnings 10 years ago, to its global reach now and in the future stands as an example to us all. So happy birthday GFB!! You are the most vibrant and relevant pre-teen I have ever known. I wish you every continued success in the future, and pray that I can continue to have some small part in assisting your success.

Note from Erin: When I first started thinking about training other speakers to give the GFB presentation, I was terrified of letting go, of some speaker tainting Shannon’s legacy somehow…not to mention leery it would even work. But Greg told me this: “If you do not believe this is possible, I do. Borrow my belief.” Since then, I have borrowed Greg’s belief in me, my team and this mission many, many times and have paid it forward by lending my own belief to other people when they needed it most. Greg, you are more than a consultant or a coach to me and my crew…you are family. Thank you for being able to see the vision of GFB’s purpose often clearer than I do…

Do What You Love

Cheryl Goff is Program Director at Girls Fight Back. She is the ninja in the background, keeping all our operations running smoothly.

They say: Do what you love.  I didn’t start with that goal in mind when I set out to conquer the world, but the universe has given it to me as a gift and I will continue to do what I love as long as I am allowed.

My journey began the semester before college graduation.  I got a job working for small, family-owned business with an amazing entrepreneurial spirit.  I was given a very long leash to do what I wanted. Through the years, we grew the company into the #1 brand name in Halloween with an 80% market share.  The best part was that we helped families create a fun, lasting traditions for Halloween.  My work affected someone’s life.  I was hooked.  Two of the most valuable life lessons I learned were to jump, without fear into opportunities and never believe you can’t do it, because you will find a way.

As with many successful companies there were multiple sales/changes of ownership and each time the new buyers asked me to join their team to educate their employees and take over various aspects of the brand.  I traveled all over the United States and China.  Being on the road is tough, but I had the time of my life.

That journey eventually came to an end and I received a new opportunity working for a company that manufactured popcorn and food gift products.  Once again I was partnered with a company that made people happy.  Unfortunately, the company was sold just a year after I joined them.

For the first time in 16 years I was unemployed.  Not only that, but I was going to have to actually look for a job.  I knew this wouldn’t be easy and I knew I was going to be picky because I would demand a job that I love – or at least love the product I served.

When I first saw the posting for Girls Fight Back, the name leaped off the page at me.  I had to find out what it was all about.  I am so glad I did.

I’ve been with Girls Fight Back for 2 years now.  Through some miracle, I found an amazing organization and I feel blessed to be a part of the team.  I love the people I work with, the clients I get to know and become friends with, but most of all, I love knowing that the work I do will reach many people and hopefully make a difference in their lives, if not save their life one day.  The Girls Fight Back campaign gave back to me more than I ever expected from a job.  Every day I hear stories of how our campaign has touched the lives of others and helped give encouraging words to those who have or have known someone who has fallen victim to violence.

I look forward to seeing Girls Fight Back around for many more decades.  Happy 10 year anniversary to an amazing organization that continues to educate, inspire and empower people all over the world (including myself), and a special thank you for the gift of allowing me to be a part of the movement.

Note from Erin: Seriously, Cheryl, you are a God send to me…and one of the most loyal people I have ever worked with. Thanks for always having my back, and for bringing all your incredible experience to this mission.

Not everyone must be a victim

Gavin de Becker is our Nation’s best-known expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is the author of The Gift of Fear, Protecting the Gift and Fear Less. Visit his company website at http://gavindebecker.com

This anniversary reminds us all of how quickly ten years passes.  I reflect on all the things we have experienced in this decade that Shannon did not get to experience.  That part feels sad.  And I also reflect on all the things and all the contributions that were possible because of what happened, because of your love, Erin, and because many other people joined you in working to reduce victimization.

Your work reminds me of this important truth: Everyone might be a target at times, but not everyone must be a victim.

The important anniversary to me today is not one of loss – but rather the anniversary of the formation of Girls Fight Back.  I’m honored to be part of what you do.

gavin

Note from Erin: There are a lot of rock stars sending birthday wishes to GFB this month, but the fact one of the busiest men and thought leaders in violence prevention would take the time for this…well, I’m beyond humbled and grateful. Gavin’s book, The Gift of Fear, changed my life at a time I was riddled with emotional pain from losing Shannon, and has saved countless lives with its wisdom. It taught me about fear and anxiety, and how to know the difference. Gavin’s work not only inspired the intuition section of the GFB presentation, but also served as a guide on my journey to get my peace back. Watch him on Oprah talking about the ‘power of no’ and see why GFB loves Gavin and everyone at his company so much. Also check out the free assessment tool you can use, to see if you or someone you know may be in a violent relationship. Thank you Gavin, and also thanks to your incredible team at GdBA…it is an honor to be part of what you do as well.

It’s not what happens, but what we do about it

Alison Malmon is founder and executive director of Active Minds, Inc., the nation’s only organization dedicated to utilizing the student voice to change the conversation about mental health on college campuses. Learn more at http://activeminds.org

I want to wish Erin Weed and all of the fine folks at Girls Fight Back an incredible 10th birthday celebration this month!  GFB has become a shining star in the social justice world, teaching us all that it’s not what happens in our life, but what we do about it, that matters.  For any “cause” to thrive for ten years with promise for much more is truly incredible.  Congratulations!

Erin and I share similar paths, from losing someone very close to us to throwing ourselves into a mission to make sure others don’t have to go through the same terrible loss.   Turning one’s story from loss to hope is not an easy path to walk.  Every day as survivors we are faced with our loss and the love we have for our friends and family.  But Erin and the incredible folks who have been a part of GFB for these past 10 years have faced that tragedy head-on and instead of sitting back, have fought back.  I don’t know of any better definition of leadership than that.  Every person who has spoken for, been trained by, or just appreciated the work of GFB deserves immense kudos for making this mission a reality and empowering an amazing number of women in ten years!  Keep keeping on, knowing that every day you are changing people’s lives, and the world is a much better place because of you.

Erin’s strength, tenacity, and overall kick-assness have proven that even someone young can do something incredible.  10 years is a huge milestone – congratulations to everyone who’s been a part of GFB, and here’s to 10 more even more awesome years!

Note from Erin: Alison is my Wonder Woman, and big thanks to Ross Szabo for introducing us. The light now shed on the issue of mental health in memory of her brother has been remarkable, and she and I have enjoyed a working partnership with her that embraces just how much interpersonal violence and mental health tend to intersect. I am thankful for her friendship, and for her use of the much under-utilized noun, “kick-assness.”

Cookin’ up change

Robert Egger is the Founder and President of DC Central Kitchen and the Campus Kitchens Project. Learn more at the DCCK website or Robert’s blog.

Note from Erin: I saw Robert speak as the featured keynote at the national YNPN (Young Nonprofit Professionals) conference in Denver in 2009. His message, amidst f-bombs and other passionate outbursts, absolutely rocked my world. That same day I started stalking him, and it turns out he kinda digs me too. That day I found a new mentor, and a new friend. Thanks for everything, Robert.

Alpha Phi Fights Back!

Denise Reens is the Director of Training, Development and Communications for Alpha Phi International Fraternity. Pictured at left is one of Erin’s early GFB presentations for Alpha Phi.

Ten years! What a wonderful milestone to celebrate. Congratulations to you, Erin, and your GFB team.

Has it really been ten years since I first had the opportunity to see you in action? If I’m not mistaken, your presentation at our North Central Midwest Regional Conference was one of your first, and what a hit (no pun intended) it was. The collegiate women and volunteers attending the conference cried, laughed and cheered in the span of ninety minutes. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I will never forget the response of the conference services manager at our Convention location when I asked for enough mats to fill a large meeting room. “You want to do what?” But, we got the mats and the presentation at Convention was rated as one of the best.

I will always be grateful to Caryn Schultz Korman for introducing us. Alpha Phi International will continue to support your organization’s mission of empowering women to lead safe and peaceful lives. Happy Birthday, GFB, and here’s to the next fabulous ten years!

Note from Erin: Denise Reens is such a class act, who saw through my rough exterior when I first started and put me center stage for Alpha Phis around the USA. I am so grateful for her support, and for Alpha Phi overall for truly standing by the ideals of sisterhood that Shannon and I took so seriously while undergrads at Eastern Illinois University. AOE. (That’s a secret A-phi thang, sorry!)