As part of our 15th anniversary celebrations, we will be featuring a series of guest posts throughout the year on the topic “What Day One Means to Me.”
As a Chicana, the occasion of Day One’s 15th anniversary puts me in mind of the quinceañera celebrations of my youth. I remember the excitement and the truly overwhelming sense of importance – not at having become a young woman (we had been that for some time by the age of 15) – but at the fact that the world was now ready to recognize us. Just like me and my fellow Latinas at that age, Day One isn’t just now coming into its own power. It has already been a powerful contributor to movement work to end violence against women, girls, transgender and gender-nonconforming people. This is an opportunity for all of us to congratulate and celebrate Day One for all its years of work, and to recognize all the dedicated staff, program participants, board members, and community partners who contributed to its growth. Personally, I have a lot of thanks owed to the organization for my own growth.
When I joined the team at Day One in 2010, I was in my 9th year of practice as a public interest attorney in New York City. I had spent half that time representing survivors of intimate partner violence in family court and immigration matters. After less than a decade of practice, I was already feeling jaded and tired of (figuratively) banging on the courtroom doors demanding justice that came slowly, if at all. I had worked with very few teen clients in that time – most of my clients were between the ages of 30 and 65, and many of them had been in multiple abusive relationships. The prospect of working with young people seemed like a way to engage this work at earlier points of intervention in the lives of survivors. Something about it inspired a sense of hopefulness and re-commitment to addressing gender-based violence.
Lucky for me, Day One took me in and gave me even more than hope and renewed commitment to this movement. It gave me a place to embrace curiosity, question ongoing strategies to eliminate violence, and to witness the power of transformative change led by young people. Make no mistake about it – while we are all needed in the work to end gender-based violence – young people are the ones with the power and courage to see this vision through. I learned the true meaning of resilience and resistance from members of the Youth Voices Network. I deepened my understanding of my own experience of intimate partner violence and found strength in my growing sense of individual and collective empowerment.
I’ve brought everything I’ve learned to my new role as Executive Director of the Violence Intervention Program, Inc. (VIP), a Latinx-led organization addressing intimate partner and sexual violence in New York City. On behalf of VIP, and as Day Oneder forever: ¡Felicidades, Day One! Here’s to 15 years of making this magic happen for me and all who have benefited from your great work. Wishing you many more years of powerful change.