Author Amoni Thompson
Victoria Ferguson-Young is the Executive Director of The Kindred Moxie Network, Inc. and the Coordinator of DeKalb County’s Ending Abuse in Later Life Project. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA and has been active in the movement to end domestic and gender-based violence since 2007.
AT: Can you tell us a little more about your organization The Kindred Moxie Network, Inc?
[Yes.] I can tell you what it means. I thought about a name [that captured] the importance of coming together. [I feel] that having a kindred spirit/kindred soul and being a connected is a key part of all social justice work, especially in domestic violence work. Moxie means you have the desire and strength to face difficulty with spirit, courage, and love. The network signifies the coordinated community response from various agencies working together and highlighting the faith community. As an ordained minister and professional advocate, I felt it was my responsibility to focus on this work and to create an organization that would allow me to organize around antiviolence initiatives. Through the Kindred Moxie Network, I have done many trainings for state and community agencies as well as speaking engagements for faith communities across the nation. I am currently working on a leadership program designed for faith leaders and clergy members that trains and prepares them to effectively respond to domestic violence.
AT: Why is it important to have faith leaders come together on issues of violence against women?
VFY: I believe it’s so important because our faith communities play a pivotal role in shaping our morals and values. Often times, those are the places that help us to deepen our consciousness and understanding of the world and God. I feel that how we see God impacts how we’ve come to see other people. Historically, the black church has been a site of information, which could be seen particularly during the Civil Rights movement. This is still important today. As faith leaders, have the power to shape and inform minds in our communities, it would be even more powerful to use our leadership position and our voices to create substantial change. Even making a distinction within the BLM about gender based violence is part of our responsibility. I feel the calling is about doing what’s not convenient and speaking up in critical times when injustice is running rampant.
AT: How has your faith informed your pursuit of justice?
VFY: Being a student chaplain during my time in seminary at the Metro State Women’s prison where I spent 5-6 five hours a week talking to incarcerated women. Each of them disclosed a painful experience of sexual abuse, whether in their childhood or their most recent partner before their time in prison. It was so alarming to me. As someone who has grown up with a lot of opportunity and as a budding minister, I just felt the obligation to shift this dynamic and to speak up about it. I didn’t know how that was going to happen at the time. I was only 20 years old, but it just never left me. I knew that as long as these women were facing injustice in this way, I, nor any other woman, was free. It was such a life-changing experience for me and I knew at the moment that this is going to be part of my life’s work.
AT: What have you learned over the course of time that you’ve done this work?
VFY: When people ask what I do, I say that I do advocacy work to end domestic violence because it acknowledges that my profession is multifaceted. I’ve been involved in this work through many ways. When I started out as a chaplain, my main concern was working with women to understand how their experiences with violence impacted them spirituality. I dived into questions that allowed them to think about how they are seeing themselves and they are seeing god. I started out working with women to create a safe space to support them spiritually and emotionally. So, that they can process what has happened and where they want to go. I’ve learned that there are many dimensions to this work and that every site of intersection is important. From my work as a family violence counselor and victim advocate to my work with perpetrators in making sure they are held accountable to their community, I’ve learned that each aspect is important. These different positions have shaped me to understand that the work of bringing justice to survivors must be collaborative and interconnected.
AT: What words of wisdom would you like to leave with us?
As someone who has been doing this work for 8 years, only in the past year have I realized that I’ve been carrying a great amount of unresolved and unprocessed grief. I’ve encountered so many devastating stories drenched in the treachery of violence. It has hit me in a way that has caused me to slow down and step back so that I can move forward in way that is sustainable and impactful, even if that means that I’m not on the frontline right now. So, I’ve been more intentional about self-care, as of late. To other folks doing social justice work, I stress that it’s important to do the emotionally deep work necessary that helps you process the experiences you encounter.