Yesterday I uplifted my sister, Jeanette, on International Women’s Day during this Women’s History Month. Today I uplift three women I work with.
More than 15 years ago I met Dawn Ravella. She was doing amazing social justice work at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. At the time, although I was working at a secular nonprofit organization, my work and Dawn’s intersected. (In fact, since religious thought was instrumental in creating the modern prison [penitentiary] in America, I believe that it is a moral imperative that faith-based groups work hand in hand with community-based organizations addressing various issues within the criminal legal system.) So interested was Dawn in my work, one day she “shadowed” me when I went to Rikers Island, not as a voyeur or visitor at a zoo, but as a person keenly aware of fundamental injustice and racism in our institutions, most blatantly evident in the criminal legal and punishment system. This punishment system in particular. . .
Prisons and jails are nothing like people think they are. Prisons and jails are nothing like they are portrayed on the large and small screens. And people in prisons and jails are nothing like they are portrayed in print and on TV “news.”William Eric Waters
The good news though is that people like Dawn are doing amazing work addressing various systems failures, a case on point is Coming Home at Emmaus House-Harlem. Coming Home is Dawn’s brainchild, her dissertation project at New York Theological Seminary. Dr. Dawn rolled this “program” out at the Reformed Church of Bronxville, where she stayed for a little more than ten years before relocating Coming Home to Harlem, bringing with her two amazing members of her Leadership Team, Sally Baker, and Theresa Colyar. Sally is a nonprofit leader, consultant, coach, and founder and Executive Director of Girls Inc. Westchester. Theresa is a psychiatric nurse, community organizer, and Coming Home Facilitator Extraordinaire.
Growing up with three sisters, I like to believe that I have a different and more nuanced understanding of women and power than men who do not have sisters. I’ve seen amazing displays of power, and empathy, from these women I work with, which makes it a singular honor to be part of this Leadership Team.
As to the title of this post, those who know Dawn know that she barely stands 5’ tall, but she is a giant in many respects. She hails from Long Island, though I joke that she’s from Lilliput (the Land of Little People in Gulliver’s Travels). If you know the story, the “little people” subdue the “giant.”