“Being raped, being sexually abused, it’s a small snippet of my story. I have an amazing story.”
"There is no thing outside of me that can harm me and pull me away from who I really am."
"I had a hard time, like I said, trusting other men. And I experienced a lot of other sort of micro-sexual aggressions."
"The harm you cause me really is to you because I've already forgiven you for what you've done because I wish you no harm."
"So you already have these situations that are harmful, and then you make me feel like I'm not worth anything."
"Something within me said—no, no, this is not it. You cannot go out like that. And then it was like a montage of everyone in my family."
"I loved my dad, and I trusted my dad, but in terms of lying next to him, it was just...I couldn't do it."
"I've only recently begun to see my perpetrator as someone who wasn't a good person."
"When they started having their spats about how to take care of me, it just made me feel like I was the cause of their separation."
"With the jurors, so many of them were excused because they just didn't believe that children remembered anything."
"It took me a long time to get back to being one...It was a very traumatizing experience."
"I looked at the judge, like—help. But I remember pulling a little door open and walking down the stand trembling."
"When I saw him, I knew it...I said there he is—go get him. I said it to my father."
"I was being cross-examined, and I just couldn't deal with all the pressure, and I was crying."
"I would always hold my neck from like 9 through 12 years old...because of all the stories they told me to say about the oral sex."
"I could talk with children, but there were times when I could not speak in front of adults."
"Even though I was living in pain every day—physical pain and mental pain...it made me doubt myself."
"I'm so thankful that my grandmother did that. She saved my life."
"I look back on all of this work that happened as a 10-year-old...and sometimes I look at that and go, wow—pretty good kid."
"I accept everything as it is. I don't want anything to change, but I know there's some stuff in here that I gotta get out."
When Tony was raped as a small boy, the deep wound might have shuttered his soul and severed his emotional ties to others. But the opposite happened. Perhaps because of the gentle, bone-deep love of his grandmother, who nurtured him tenderly in the months following the rape, and because of the elements of Tony’s own old soul, his heart never closed. Instead, the traumas of Tony’s childhood opened him to the pain and vulnerability of others, a gift that he is slowly learning how to manage. As a veteran teacher in the Oakland public schools, he is immersed in the wounds of countless young students. Breathing in their pain, he is learning also to breathe it out.
A recent, life-changing visit to his ancestral home in Africa has catalyzed a new period of reckoning in Tony. Standing alone in the dungeon of the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, where the agony of his ancestors reverberated through his bones; walking the streets of Addis Ababa, where a many-thousands year old culture resonated deeply within him; Tony is coming to grasp the fine weave of personal and ancestral threads that have come together to create him. Holding the beaded necklace representing his ancestors, he is beginning to look ahead, and to ponder where that unfinished tapestry might yet lead him.