Blessing Ikpa

Blessing Ikpa attended American University’s School of International Service in Washington DC to pursue her Master’s in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs. She is most passionate about issues relating to human rights and social justice. Blessing has completed internships with Oxfam International in Italy, Oklahoma Policy Institute, and the Gender + Equality Center at the University of Oklahoma where she completed her undergraduate degree in Criminology – Sociology. Blessing hopes to continue her love of traveling through her future career while implementing a focus on basic human rights for all people.

Details

    Issues Areas:
  • Native/Indigenous In Empowerment, Cultural Preservation, & Tribal Sovereignty

Campus: American University- Washington DC

Fellowship Class Year: 2016

Blueprint: Women of Color in The Reproductive Justice Movement: Making Health and Repro Justice Accessible For All

It is important to recognize how when the media highlights reproductive justice, women of color are continually left out of the conversation. Blessing’s Blueprint for Social Justice focuses on YP4’s area of Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice. Blessing’s interests have always been centered on making healthcare and other aspects of reproductive assistance accessible to all marginalized communities. Reproductive health has been an area that she has still been learning more on. Blessing plans to implement a Sexual Health and Wellness Week at American University through their Women’s Initiative program. The week will consist of centering knowledge on gender, sex, and resources accessible to college students. With more development, Blessing hopes to see this plan implemented on college campuses and high schools across the Washington area.

Blessing Ikpa's Blog Posts

The Exhausting Debate Between Allyship and Solidarity

Within the last week, I have experienced an array of emotions. Feeling emotion is rejuvenating, it is powerful. Our very true feelings and thoughts are to be validated, not a characteristic that we should hide.

As a member of a marginalized community, I understand the pain of realization when my country inexplicitly shows that my black life does not matter. As a millennial, I have been living in the etched reality of progressiveness and community, even though I come from a state that could be viewed as the opposite. In various communities on my college campus or within my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, I found solace and companionship with, I believed that our country could finally overcome our disastrous history (with respect to the stolen land of indigenous people that we continuously inhabit).

As I processed my anger, there have been consistent calls of “unity” and “love” as we decide where we want to go from here as a country. I’m nowhere near a position where I want to band together in a form of love and unity when I have been slapped across the face with the brandishing of racism and hatred in our country. It is difficult and concerning to be in a place of where we immediately have to be open to dialogue and unification when marginalized communities were faced with a harsh reality. “We finally have to acknowledge that we are not a “post-racial society” and what ramifications this will have for marginalized communities.

The other half of my shock lands with the people I call my friends and “allies”. As a Young People For Fellow, I am cautious of the relationship between marginalized communities and allies. As I am an African-American woman of Nigerian immigrant descent who has primarily navigated White spaces, I know the barriers that are placed in my path but also the privileges I hold. When explaining to some of my white friends the anger and frustration I feel, along with valid criticism of their proposed allyship, I was instantly met with backlash and resistance. I was told that I consistently ask “too much” of my allies, which has put me in a position of redefining in my own life what allyship looks like. If we are suppose to be in this battle together, why does it feel as though I am the only hollow voice?

Being a woman of color in a world that figuratively (and literally) breaks you down daily will forever be an uphill battle. I’m cautious of the moves I make, the words I say and the actions I do. I know that anytime I step out of line, this will not only be a reflection of me, but of my communities. Explaining this to a white ally is difficult because they will forever have the opportunity to view themselves in a singular format. Their actions and reactions are only reflective of them and not their communities. People of color, LGBTQ folks, undocumented people and other communities will never experience this sentiment. Any move we make, we will have to be cautious of how we are perceived by the world.

For the White allies, I am asking you to listen. I am asking you to set outside the privilege that you carry with you everyday and listen to what we are telling you. Listen to our justified anger, our fear, and the tiredness in our voices. We are tired. We are exhausted from having to slap a smile onto our faces so that you can understand institutionalized racism. When we tell you that your privilege is showing, please don’t respond by shifting the conversation onto your feelings. We constantly have to navigate this world watching out for the feelings of White people. Can you take a moment to care about our feelings? Can you take a moment to listen to the very real concerns that we have?

The Aftermath of Domestic Violence

I didn’t realize that the horrific relationship I was in back in high school would be classified as domestic violence. During the entity of the relationship, I thought that some instances were quite strange. The fact that he would go through my phone every single day or how I would have to go to his house after school and/or after I got off from work. I classified him as being “overly protective” of our relationship until the day our brutal fight happened.

When asked about why I was with him for so long, I never had a reasonable explanation. I was in my senior year of high school, so I simply wanted to have fun and do my own thing. I already knew in my mind that this relationship wasn’t something to be considered “long-term,” but rather a way to enjoy someone’s presence before college swept me away in the following year.

Two psychological emotions that domestic violence relationships have are manipulation and isolation. I stopped spending time with my friends and eventually cut them out my life completely. They continually asked what was going on with my relationship and I grew frustrated with trying to defend my stance. At the time, I didn’t see the underlying factors of what was occurring and the emotional abuse that would soon transform into a terrible incident. I liked being around him and he liked being around me. That was enough reason for me to not stray from what we had.

One night at his house, a fight broke out between my boyfriend, his mother and myself. My boyfriend was lying to me about countless situations and I was fed up with how he was treating me both in public and private spaces. I wanted to continue with my senior year and not have the drama of a relationship keep me from enjoying such a special time in my life. Everything from our relationship began to unravel and I began to see him for the person that he truly was.

After profusely yelling at the top of my lungs that I was breaking up with him, I attempted to leave his house. As soon as I opened the door, he grabbed and twisted my wrist with multiple attempts to shove me back into his house. Thankfully, the situation ended there and I dashed to my car in order to park in a safe place and cry. In my heart, I knew he wasn’t going to let our relationship go easily and that this would only be the beginning of the tumultuous months to follow.

For the following months, I was harassed, stalked and bullied by him. I couldn’t escape his wrath even with all the desperate attempts I made. Shortly afterwards, he began dating someone else and I hoped this would take the pressure off of me. Then they tried to get me suspended from school and jointly stalked me. I would hide out in the nurse’s office because I couldn’t bear to walk the halls and accidentally run into them. I was sent to my physician on multiple occasions because my blood pressure would spike. My mom worried constantly about me but there was no proper way I could explain to her the situation I had now found myself in.

Eventually, he decided that I was no longer worth his time and left me alone for good. I graduated from high school and was able to move forward with my life. The pain that he caused manifested itself in a variety of ways that I have only recently discovered. All of the romantic relationships that followed were tumultuous and emotionally draining, I still struggle with the idea of being in a romantic relationship and how to emotionally prepare myself.

 

blessing-photo

 

With sharing my story with 1,000+ people on Facebook (picture above) , I was able to gain relative closure on an experience I never fully let myself live. Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. Understanding how I now fit into this mold, I am making an attempt to use my experience to help others grow. I know in my own life, I have emotional trauma that will need to be worked through in order for me to properly heal. Yet, If I am capable of being able to share my story with others, in hopes that I can reach one person, then it was worth it.

 

RESOURCES

Women of Color Network
1-800-537-2238
www.wocninc.org

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

incite.natl@gmail.com
www.incite-national.org

Alianza
1-505-753-3334
www.dvalianza.org

Casa de Esperanza
Linea de crisis 24-horas/24-hour crisis line
1-651-772-1611
www.casadeesperanza.org

National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities
1-651-646-5553
www.nationallatinonetwork.org

The National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project

(202) 274-4457
http://www.niwap.org/

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

855-649-7299
www.niwrc.org

Indigenous Women’s Network
1-512-258-3880
www.indigenouswomen.org

Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence

1-415-954-9988
www.apiidv.org
Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV)
1-212- 473-6485
www.caaav.org

Manavi
1-732-435-1414
www.manavi.org

The Audre Lorde Project

1-178-596-0342
www.alp.org

LAMBDA GLBT Community Services
1-206-350-4283
http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/orgs/avproject/main.htm

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
1-212-714-1184
www.ncavp.org

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
1-202-393-5177
www.ngltf.org

Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse 
1-206-568-7777
www.nwnetwork.org

National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-4673 (HOPE)
www.rainn.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
www.ndvh.org

 National Dating Abuse Helpline 
1-866-331-9474
www.loveisrespect.org

Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center
International Toll-Free (24/7)
1-866-USWOMEN (879-6636)
www.866uswomen.org