by Briley O'Connor
From the Editor: Briley has taken on the task of writing this announcement to reach out to survivors and explain that the Federation has a committee comprised of survivors who want to help. She lives in Minnesota and is an active member at all levels of the organization. Here is what she says:
Content Warning: The following information addresses sensitive topics regarding abuse, sexual violence, and misconduct.
The key mission of The National Federation of the Blind is to bring love, hope, and equality to the blind community. Though it has always been true that sexual violence and misconduct are problems that plague society at large, it has become abundantly clear over the past several weeks that there are systemic failures within our organization that have left many feeling dismissed, powerless, and alone. Thank you to every survivor who shared their story under the hashtag #MarchingTogether. In response, the NFB is committed to and welcomes an ongoing process of learning how to heal from past trauma, preventing future instances of abuse and misconduct, and protecting victims and survivors.
As part of the efforts to implement a sustainable, positive culture change, we are an entirely survivor-lead task force who will serve as an intermediate advisory team to the National Federation of the Blind leaders, members, and third-party partners until a long-term solution is identified. We are a group of survivors who will focus on addressing and preventing abuse and sexual misconduct within the Federation.
We are a group of six blind leaders and members of the Federation from diverse backgrounds who are invested in positive change and justice for all survivors like ourselves.
Cheryl is an African American, cisgender woman from Cleveland, Ohio. She is an encourager who approaches life with enthusiasm and empathy. She loves laughing and playing games with her four grandchildren, reading, crafting (especially crocheting), and is currently editing her first novel. Cheryl is an affiliate board member and chair of the Ohio Community Service Committee. She is a thriving survivor of domestic violence and received peer support training through the Cleveland Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center. She facilitates a peer support group at Cleveland Sight Center, where she is also an executive committee member of the board of trustees.
Sarah is a white, cisgender woman who derives strength from her Christian faith. She is a Federation member in our Indiana affiliate, lives with other mental and physical health conditions, and attended the Colorado Center for the Blind. As the lead call handler for a crisis and suicide hotline, she strives to lead with compassion, empathy, integrity, authenticity, inclusion, and wholeheartedness. Sarah is passionate about mental health wellness and recovery as a part of cultivating a culture of consent and strives to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, BIPOC, and others with marginalized identities. Experiencing sexual misconduct within the blindness community and being familiar with the harm caused by not having had sound procedures to address this trauma have compelled Sarah to participate in efforts to make the NFB a safer environment that allows blind people to live the lives they want.
Daphne manages vocational rehabilitation field services for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Ethical principles, equity, fidelity, integrity, and justice are the core values that guide Daphne's personal and professional decisions. She serves on the board of directors for the NFB of New Mexico, is the secretary of the Louisiana Center for the Blind Board of Directors, and actively participates in and supports various efforts to advance marginalized and minority populations. Daphne is a black, cisgender woman and uses various meditation practices, journaling, and Christian faith in supporting her journey to healing.
Briley has professional experience in both the blindness rehabilitation and accessibility fields and serves as the secretary of the Minnesota affiliate. In her personal and professional life, she strives to be a strong advocate for changing structures and systems that devalue and silence diverse voices. She is a white, cisgender member of the LGBTQIA+ community who works every day to actively listen to others, dismantle her own biases, use her privilege to elevate the voices of marginalized people, and teach her five-year-old son to do the same. She is particularly passionate about issues that affect blind children, women, and LGBTQIA+ people. Having been a part of the NFB for over fifteen years, she is honored to be a part of shifting the culture so that all blind people feel safe, heard, and represented.
Marci has been a proud member of the Federation since joining in 1981 as a student. Currently, she serves as president of the Washington affiliate. Marci is a cisgender, white woman who is blind with hearing loss and other medical conditions. She serves on the board of trustees of the state school for the blind and has helped blind youth and adults learn self-advocacy. She lives life with intentionality and sincerity. She cares deeply about creating space for people to heal and grow.
Kathryn is a white, cisgender woman who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She works at Deloitte Consulting implementing strategic transformation for federal agencies, notably rolling out improvements to the sexual assault/harassment process within the military space. Living with ADHD and losing her vision as a young adult have helped Kathryn to grow in adaptability, flexibility, and empathy. As the coordinator of Virginia's Employment Readiness Program for Blind Youth (ages fourteen to twenty-one) and treasurer of BLIND Inc., she has a deep passion for optimizing the lived experiences of those around her as individuals reach their full potential. Kathryn prioritizes advocacy for others, leading with her heart, and living with purpose above all else.
Over the next several months, our objectives include:
We want to hear from survivors and allies, whether or not you identify as a current member. Every piece of feedback is valuable and helps us to effectively advocate for all survivors and victims.
We currently have two methods of communication and will share updates on nfb.org/survivors. To share concerns, ask questions, or voice an interest in helping with our efforts, please email [email protected] or call 410-659-9314, extension 2238. Note that all task force members have access to these communication channels. Anonymous feedback is accepted, and further avenues for feedback are forthcoming. The Survivor Task Force is not responsible for receiving and resolving grievances, but we will be supportive and helpful as individuals navigate their experiences and healing.
We commit to this vital work with our whole hearts and will do our part to ensure that any person who enters our spaces feels safe, valued, and heard. We commit to receive the stories and feedback from both members and non-members with open hands. Most importantly, we commit to amplify the voices of blind survivors and victims who have been harmed. We see you; we believe you; we are you.
Always remember, "You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender." ― John Mark Green [Poet]