Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gala Night Raises $3,000 For Penelope's Place

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—In the battle against domestic violence, advocates, survivors, and their friends and families are focusing on stopping the problem where it most often begins—with men.
“You’re not a man if you hit a woman,” said Jamarhl Crawford, publisher and editor of The Blackstonian, who also served as the master of ceremonies for the Love Life Now Foundation’s White Ribbon Gala against domestic violence and to raise money for Brockton's Penelope's Place.
Surrounded by a crowd of more than 100 women and men, including Fox 25 News crime reporter Bob Ward, Channel 7 sports reporter Darren Haynes, members of Jane Doe Inc., and an all-male acappella group, the Unisons, from Northeastern University, Crawford spoke the words many in the room felt and were thinking.
“Cherish your woman,” Crawford said. “My Dad told me you’re a punk if you touch a woman,” he said, acknowledging when he received the Love Life Now Foundation’s inaugural White Ribbon Day Ambassador Award, as a young man he wasn't always the best boyfriend.
Now 41, Crawford said when he was in his late teens, early 20s, he intimidated women, threatened them, played mind games, controlled them, and treated them as if they were his property—an attitude that changed when he became conscious of his self and the history and culture of his African people.
Crawford said his violence as a young man wasn’t at the level of some abusers, although all of it is abuse. He said he never punched a woman or made her bleed, or caused severe physical harm.
Crawford said in general he was a violent young man who grew up in a tough environment surrounded by threats, guns, knives and intimidation.
Crawford said that it didn’t help that—like many male teens--his hormones were raging and fueled by alcohol and cocaine—substances he no longer uses.
“I work now to help women out of those situations and get the brothers off that path,” he said.
Crawford led the night of laughter, smiles, dancing and for some, like Love Life Now Foundation head Lovern Augustine—tears.
Augustine, a Brockton resident from Trinidad, won last year’s Mrs. Ethnic World competition and has used her title to advocate against domestic violence in Brockton, Boston and the world because of her mother’s gruesome abuse at the hands of her father, and her own experience with a now long-gone ex-boyfriend. After the event Augustine said the emphasis on men and women sharing in the battle against domestic violence was not lost on the crowd.
“There was a right dose of every aspect of male awareness for both men and women to take in and many have been stating that they now have information they can take back and share with their families, friends and colleagues as White Ribbon Day Ambassadors,” she said.
Augustine and a handful of others launched Love Life Now Foundation to raise awareness against domestic violence and money for New England shelters.
She is a volunteer for Penelope’s Place, a confidential emergency crisis shelter in Brockton and Friday’s event also raised money for the shelter that helps women escape abusive relationships in a hurry.
The White Ribbon Gala raised about $3,000 for Penelope’s Place.
Fox 25’s Ward, an award-winning crime reporter, who worked with Augustine at the news station, said until Augustine approached her to be a part of Friday’s gala held at the Phillips Old Colony House in Boston, he had no idea the pain and suffering Augustine and her mom went through—a silence that permeates the problem of domestic abuse.
Ward noted he has covered several local high profile cases of domestic abuse, including Hopkinton resident Neil Entwistle’s murder of wife Rachel and 9-month-old daughter Lillian, and the quadruple murder of his wife, two children and mother-in-law by seemingly well-to-do Winchester resident Thomas Mortimer IV.
Ward said when Mortimer was being led to court by police he had the chance to ask a quick question--why did you kill the kids—why did you have to kill the kids?
Ward said Mortimer did not answer, but in a lengthy written confession, Mortimer confessed his crimes and said he wished he’d written down his troubles—financial and marital—rather than keeping them bottled up until he lost all reason and killed his family because maybe they were the cause of all his problems.
Ward said male machismo and the failure to communicate problems are evidenced in many domestic murders, especially the phenomenon of family annihilation.
“He couldn’t cope with the responsibility…he was selfish and cowardly,” Ward said. “Men need to know women are not their property, children are not a burden—they are the greatest joy in life…strength is how you treat your loved ones and those you brought into the world,” he said.
During the evening’s program attendees viewed a theatrical skit by Northeastern’s, “Acting Out,” which illustrated a situation when others, such as fellow apartment dwellers, hear a verbal or physical battle in another apartment and debate whether or not it is their business to step in or call the police.
Also, every person in the room took a pledge to combat domestic violence, a pledge that will be repeated by hundreds Thursday, March 1 at the State House in Boston when the 5th annual White Ribbon Day will be held beginning at 1 p.m. followed by a week’s worth of domestic violence awareness initiatives.
Antonio Arrendel, executive director of Metanoia Community Change, and a nationally respected facilitator and conflict resolution coach who specializes in domestic violence and athletes, asked all of the men in the room to gather in front of him and answer a question.
“After a night of drinking alcohol with a woman, do you go home with her and have sex?”
The answers—ranging from “Hell, yeah,” and “No way” elicited many laughs from the crowd—and showed how difficult the problem of relationships can be—with or without violence or abuse.
The night wrapped up with roses for Penelope’s Place managers and volunteers, hugs, kisses and dancing. Crawford’s closing remarks inspired those to work in their communities toward the end of domestic violence.
“Any form of abuse is not acceptable. It’s not even on the menu,” Crawford said.

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