I fell in love with New Orleans.
I didn’t talk much about it on social media, or even to my friends and family, but I went to New Orleans, Louisiana for a healing trip for black women that have survived sexual trauma. The trip was through the Sasha Center, a Detroit nonprofit offering free group sessions for sexual trauma survivors and their supporters.
I feel like I talk about my sexual trauma a lot then but again, I feel like I don’t talk about it enough. Being a two-time rape survivor, my healing has been difficult. Just when I felt like I had reached a good space with my first assault, the second one happened, leaving me to live in a whirlwind of emotions. When the opportunity to apply for this trip came, I jumped at the chance. I was thankfully selected for the program along with five other amazing women.
We left for NOLA on a Wednesday afternoon. For the next four days, we ate, laughed, learned, and loved on each other.
We visited the Whitney Plantation on Thursday. This plantation was chosen because it tells the history from the perspective of the enslaved people. The property owners were only mentioned in the first few minutes of the tour. This tour was heartbreaking. To walk the same paths as our ancestors that were worked to death was a heavy experience. One sculpture we saw was a hand holding chains and the title said “Returning the Chains”. As we debriefed that night, I couldn’t help but think I had to return the chains of my assaults. I could no longer be held prisoner by my abusers. My abuse could no longer define me.
That night, I got to experience the pure chaos of Bourbon Street for the first time. I shared a fishbowl drink, which I was told had 10 different liquors in it, with my new friend, club hopped up and down the street, and couldn’t believe it was a random Thursday this was all happening on.
The next day, (as I was extremely nauseous and regretted drinking the night before) we visited two nonprofits run by Black women that had missions that prioritized Black women. Women with a Vision and Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies were amazing organizations that do work I could see myself doing some day [soon]. Between the two, they fight for reproductive justice, help decriminalize sex work, do their part to fight HIV/AIDS, teach sexual education, and more. I was truly inspired by the work they do and aspire to start something similar, or work for a similar organization, during my lifetime. I want to focus on advocating for Black women, just like they do. Hopefully that can come into fruition for me soon.
Our final full day was full of celebration. And what were we celebrating? Us. Our healing. Our journeys. We were the center of attention as we paraded around in all white outfits during our own second line parade. We walked to Congo Square where were fellowshipped with each other, spoke the names of our ancestors, and cleansed our spirits with sage. I cried. I cried from the moment we realized the second line band was for us. I cried dancing down the street. I cried being prayed over in Congo Square. I’m a crier in general, but those moments definitely deserved tears. Happy tears. Tears of finally feeling seen and free.
That night, I got to link up with one of my closest friends, who is a New Orleans native, to check out Frenchman Street, which I liked a LOT better than Bourbon. It was where the native culture is, where as Bourbon is all tourist-y. A couple nights that trip, my friend and I got together to shoot a music video for one of his songs. Who knew dancing in cemeteries could be so… thrilling? Especially the weekend before Halloween.
Through learning the history of our ancestors at the Whitney Plantation, to eating the delicious food, to experiencing being the center of attention in a second line, I can confidently say that New Orleans has helped me heal. Healing is a journey, a non-linear journey, so my work is not done. But I know for a fact that trip helped me in ways I couldn’t have imagined it would. I was inspired to keep going. My journey is not over, I have many more things to accomplish. The ideas that were sparked in Louisiana WILL come into fruition.
I can’t wait to go back. I can honestly see myself living in New Orleans, if I can get over Southern racism. I definitely fell in love with every single thing we did and saw. I’m counting down the days until I can visit again.