January 27, 2020

Emotions, Healing, and the Complicated Legacy of Kobe Bryant

Rosa Beltré  (she/her/hers), Executive Director of OAESV

Today, as most of us are struggling to show up and do our work with excellence, to be present and intentional, or simply find words to describe how we are feeling, I want to remind you that many of those that you will be working with today and for the remainder of this month, may also be experiencing the same. They are also trying to grasp with the idea of loss and how precious time is.

Thus, I ask you to be kind to self and others.

Extend grace as you're needing and asking for information, as you're measuring productivity and working on grant deliverables.

Create, provide, and hold space for your staff and colleagues to have this conversation.

When we speak about doing this work with a survivor-centered focus and trauma-informed lens, we must not forget the survivors in our midst--those that work with us, alongside us and under us, that do this work from their survivorship always. We are in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp. We always believe survivors!

We must not forget that the feeling of grief and mourning are manifested in different ways. There is no one wound deeper or greater than another. It is still a wound, a pain. Today, not everybody will be at their best. There might be a thick cloud in the atmosphere, a sense of disbelief; acknowledge it, allow your staff and family members to talk about it. We are no good to those we serve if we continuously ignore our own personal traumas and the traumas of those we work with.

Every time we experience the loss of a celebrity, there are many emotions and reactions that surface. Many are mourning an idol, a celebrity that ascended before our eyes. Many feel they grew with Kobe; others are mourning 9 humans, including 3 teens in the prime of their lives that were taken away too soon. Many are mourning for a wife and a mother that is expecting a child that will not get to know her father or her oldest sister; others are mourning for a sexual assault survivor, who didn’t get her justice because the man accused of her victimization didn’t get convicted because of his status. That survivor didn't get closure. Others are simply reliving their own personal loss and how they have some more healing to do.

As we are true to the work we do, we need to recognize that there are many conversations to be had about legacy and accountability. How complicated this is, when is the right time to shine the light on the untold story of Kobe’s life? I invite you to read this article https://jill.substack.com/p/kobe-bryant-and-complicated-legacies

We must not ignore the complexity of this case, as well as a survivor’s voice being silenced, not being believed once again, as over and over again women are made to be invisible. Some say that this man, as many other celebrities, should be admired without complications, without mentioning the past. Society says that we should respect and allow his fans and family members to mourn, that it is unnecessary to talk about this now, but I ask who takes a stand for this survivor and remembers the 19 year old who was raped?

This is a great time to talk about intersectionality. There are many sexual assault survivors that will be triggered and traumatized by his public iconization, no doubt; but can we also talk about healing, growth, redemption and restorative justice? Does his maturity and growth in his personal life, philanthropic endeavors, and political boldness/visibility through the years erase the deep trauma he caused, and exonerate him from accountability?- NO!!, We can still grieve, hurt, acknowledge what a great player he was, and also recognizee that there are multiple truths to his complicated legacy. The dichotomy of the and/or/but and love with accountability, is very visible in this case.

Please take some time to breathe, to sit with your emotions, to disconnect from social media if needed, cry, be mad, be silent, be vulnerable, reflective; but also be patient, be gracious, be objective, show grace, check on each other, be intentional with your relationships, love, live and show it without regrets. Think of your legacy, how would you want to be remembered, will your legacy also have some complications? Now is a good time for reckoning, as tomorrow is never promised!

A good friend and colleague Eric Barrera’s posted this morning:

“As the world processes the loss of life of nine human beings, one of which was recognizable to virtually everyone in the world - we should be considerate of the wide range of emotions this tragedy brings to the surface. For some, it’s a new wound that is trying desperately to process what has happened. For others, it’s an old wound that was ripped open with no advanced warning, which means they are trying to process this too, only in a much different way. This should not be about pinpointing which wound is deeper, or pouring salt on either wound. We need to do our absolute best to be supportive on many fronts - even if it means temporarily putting aside differences to acknowledge what is really important right now - healing for ALL involved, to include those whose name have not been spoken.”

The coalition is here to support you and your staff in your process.

In peace and community,

Rosa Beltré  (she/her/hers)

Executive Director, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence