Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
I was honored to be selected among the many ‘Champions of Change’ being recognized at the White House during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Never in a million years could I have imagined that I would be advocating on behalf of victims and survivors of domestic violence locally, nationally and internationally. After witnessing my 30-year-old mother, Jacqueline and 12-year-old brother, Anthony shot and killed in our living room at the age of 10, the world as I knew it had ended. I travelled down the horrible path of suicidal ideation, depression and loss of self worth. It was my grandmother who rescued my siblings and me and worked to provide an emotionally and physically safe environment.
A critical turning point in my life occurred at 13 years of age when I wanted to take my own life. My assistant principal, Mr. Christian intervened and called my grandmother to arrange an emergency therapy session with Ms. Pierre, a social worker. Their collective and coordinated efforts put me on the road to recovery.
With a unique perspective and renewed sense of self-worth, I awaken each day with passion and fervor to address the issue of domestic violence that affects at least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 13 men in our country.
Today, I live out my passion through two organizations, The William Kellibrew Foundation and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. At the Foundation, I serve as the president and spokesperson and for the National Coalition, I serve as the deputy director and national victims’ advocate. Both organizations allow me the opportunity to share my personal story of tragedy and triumph.
The Foundation advocates a collective, coordinated and proactive approach to dealing with the issues of violence and poverty. Its mission is to be a resource for individuals and institutions committed to breaking the cycles of violence and poverty. We work to help bring community stakeholders together to help the restore lives of victims and survivors of universal violence.
The National Coalition envisions a nation in which all people, from youth to seniors, have the tools to participate fully in the democratic process at the local, state, national and global levels.
At the Foundation, we started bringing awareness to domestic violence by sleeping outside in the frigid temperatures of December for our Annual Victims and Survivors Sleep Out for Peace in Washington, D.C. in response to the fatal stabbing of my god-sister Tiffany in 2008. Each year we gather our sleeping bags, coffee urns and other donated supplies to remember and honor victims and survivors. Join us in December for our next ‘Sleep Out’ by signing up for updates and information at firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information on our programs visit our website at www.thewkfoundation.org.
At the National Coalition, we are addressing domestic violence through our Black Women’s Roundtable Healthy Wealthy & Wise National Empowerment Tour, and our unique Action Partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime.
The National Coalition’s Black Women’s Roundtable Tour kicked off in New Orleans in 2010 and followed with tour stops in 7 other cities across the United States, and will culminate in March 2012 in Washington, D.C. The tour empowers women and girls through workshops, seminars, intergenerational listening sessions, mini-expos and power speakers encouraging them to live their best lives. Learn more about the tour at www.ncbcp.org.
Our action partnership with NCVC is a part of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. The initiative’s goals are to: 1) prevent children’s exposure to violence, 2) mitigate the negative effects experienced by children exposed to violence, and 3) develop knowledge about and spread awareness of this issue. Through educational materials, workshops, public service announcements, and a short documentary, the project will show what black children’s exposure to violence looks like so that those engaging victims and survivors can recognize, respond and refer appropriately.
Programs like these are pioneering efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society have access to education and resources to survive and thrive. Let’s dig deep in our collective efforts to make a difference in the lives of so many suffering from the devastating effects of domestic violence. We must be the change that we want to see. The ‘Champion of Change’ is inside each of us.
William Kellibrew IV serves as the Deputy Director & National Victims Advocate for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation