MSTM Arts & Culture Program Initiative

 

 

MSTM's Arts & Culture Program Initiative of 2020

MSTM is making the commitment to only invest in the creativity of the minority communities as they tell stories through the eyes of people of color as a 2020 initiative under MSTM's Arts & Culture Program. Throughout American History, minority communities have been exploited for their resources, their people, and their culture while never being allowed to participate in the creation of wealth. At MSTM we believe the best way we can pay reparations is to ensure we invest directly in the Arts & Culture of minority communities. This is how we pay our cause forward, in our pursuit of economic justice-for-all while collaborating to preserve the culture, talents, and the excellence that comes from minority communities but often remains ignored. Through our collections, we are working to highlight minority artists and photographers who focus on capturing political activists and movement leaders.

MSTM's Museum of Arts & Culture captures modern history in the making and allows members to participate in our storytelling by purchasing our artwork in a variety of merchandise for your home or office while you support our cause to #EndMST. Please be advised that our museum contains explicit content that may be bothersome for some viewers. Please proceed with caution. We look forward to delivering you with high-quality online museum experience. MSTM has used provocative content to create awareness for the general public to learn about MST. Advertisements such as the, "Being Patriotic Means Fighting to #EndMST" Ad are used to provoke conversations regarding the sexuality of survivors.

 

Fight for our Freedom Artwork

Fight For Our Freedom Campaign Artwork

Fight for our Freedom is a special design between the families of Thae Ohu and Celeste Largo who collaborated on this design with MSTM's Artist Alyssia Aguilar. Alyssia's skill set as a fashion illustrator allows her to capture small, subtle, and yet powerful details of both the USMC uniform and the cultural backgrounds that motivated Thae and Celeste to join the USMC. 


It was important for Thae Ohu's family to incorporate Burmese Culture. In March 1962 the Burmese Army staged a military coup due to numerous human rights violations Under General Ne Win’s military dictatorship regime. On August 8th, 1988 after decades of oppression, citizens staged nationwide protests in Burma (now renamed Myanmar). Thae’s father participated in these demonstrations; after the military killed thousands of citizens who protested he fled to the Thai-Burma border he moved to into the jungle with other student citizen protesters who formed an organization called the “All Burma Students’ Democratic Front” (a.k.a. The Burmese Freedom Fighters) to fight against the military regime. Thae’s father was a member of ABSDF for seven years before applying for Refugee status in Bangkok base UNHCR. Thae was born in a Burmese refugee camp. As a child, Thae's family escaped Burma’s hostile government, hit a landmine, and survived. They came to America as political refugees and Thae followed in her father's footsteps to serve the country that provided them with freedom.


 Behind Thae is a number of symbols from her upbringing that represent her family and life. We have a purple and pink wave to show her bright spirit and favorite colors. At the tip of the wave, we start with two hearts that symbolize the love between her and her family who are fighting for her. Next, we feature a crown that is culturally worn by the women of Burmese, and as you move down you then come across a beautiful branched yellow flower plant that is also seen worn within head dress attire of the Burmese culture. Below we then wanted to show her respect and love for the fight her father contributed towards his country by being a freedom fighter. The countries bird is the “fighting peacock” which is yellow with red details within the tail. We then end it by showing the flag of her country that holds so many valuable moments that have bonded her family’s legacy and story to be what it is. Which is why her fight story now is so important.


Celeste Largo's family is apart of the Navajo Nation. Celeste's grandfather was one of the original Native American Code Talkers during WWII. Celeste's father is a retired Marine. Celeste's family's story and native culture inspired her to be the next generation to serve in the military. It was important for Celeste's family to incorporate her Navajo upbringing and the culture that has given so much to the United States in spite of the overt genocide the tribe faced during European settlement. In 1864, the U.S. Army forced the Navajo tribes out of their homelands in what is known as, the "Long Walk" to imprisonment where 9,000 Navajo Natives would be jailed with a hostile tribe at the hands of the United States Government. The "Long Walk" took place after the "Trail of Tears" from 1830 to 1850; the U.S. Government committed genocide and relocated various tribes of Native Americans. It is known that around 60,000 Native Americans were relocated. The Navajo Nation has a complicated relationship with the U.S. Government. Over the years, Navajo leaders have worked to maintain their culture while working towards integration and equality for Navajo Native Americans in the U.S. Economy. As such, many Navajo Native Americans proudly serve our nation today, despite a complicated and brutal past with the U.S. Government. 


In the Navajo Nation, there are a number of symbols that hold significance to the tribe. Celeste's family felt it was important to showcase these symbols in this piece because it represents so much of who Celeste is and where she comes from. We first have the other side of the wave that connects to Thae’s wave. Celeste’s wave is colored as an ombre rainbow. The rainbow is a significant symbol in the Navajo creation story featuring "The Hero Twins”. The rainbow means HOPE and allows the twins to finish their journey. Celeste is also a twin and so this story holds so much honor and truths to how the Navajo Nation views twins and their fight story. At the top of the wave, we feature a hummingbird which connects to her instincts with nature and also the strength of the hummingbird. The Navajo also have a story featuring the strength of the hummingbird when all other birds could not fight, the hummingbird stood strong for all. Beneath we then showcase the footsteps of the mighty bear. The bear symbolizes the family’s protector and strength as one. To end her wave we wrapped the wave with the vines of beautiful roses. The roses are showing her beauty while the thorns on the vines show her being resilient and tough through it all.


This artwork is groundbreaking in that instead of showcasing the United States Flag; everyone involved in the artwork opted to leave it out to signify that the flag is not representative of minority service members. There is no artwork that showcases female Marine minorities in dress blues while depicting their cultural heritage. It was important to MSTM and to the families to showcase the diversity behind the world's strongest military. These stories are often forgotten. This artwork also showcases a larger systemic issue at hand. Both Cpl Ohu and PFC Largo, are currently imprisoned in USMC brigs on the East Coast. Both female Marines endured Military Sexual Trauma (MST), reported the incidents to their chains of commands, and did not receive the level of medical treatment they needed. As a result, they both endured flashbacks where they believed they were being raped and they started to turn violent. This behavior is very common for survivors who have not received proper medical treatment. This is also indicative of a larger systemic issue at hand. Female Marine Minorities are more likely to end up in the brig and without benefits after reporting MST, than their white female counterparts who are often med-boarded. This is largely due to conscious and unconscious biases at the hands of leaders in the USMC. 


These issues extend beyond the military. America incarcerates 1/3 of all the world's females. Female minorities are more likely to be incarcerated and receive longer sentences than their white counterparts on a per capita basis. America has a horrid history of criminalizing mental health issues of minorities while showing compassion to those of European descent. This goes beyond the toxic masculine culture of the USMC and crosses the lines of white supremacy in the ranks. In order to adequately bring awareness to the issues that minorities face in the military, it was important that this artwork showcase the stories of these women who are currently facing these adversities in modern America. 


At MSTM, we regularly take on provocative positions that challenge the patriarch because in 2020; mental health issues and minority issues must be at the forefront. The next generation of young people deserve a military that is representative of our melting pot and American values. Equal treatment and diversity is a future we are still fighting for today. This artwork titles, "Fight for our Freedom" is about the systemic racism, sexism and retaliation female Marine minorities endure at the hands of the USMC and its bigger meaning signifies the underbelly of America. 

 

 

"I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020" Tribute Artwork

MIRA's conversion to "I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020"

"I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020" Artwork is MSTM’s favorite tribute piece to date. The story and journey to creating this piece of artwork was unlike any other. MSTM’s CEO Janelle Marina Mendez, commissioned Latinx Fashion Illustrator, Alyssia Aguilar, Owner of The Lofty Mom and a Houston, TX native, for tribute pieces for female and male survivors of MST back in April 2020. As Alyssia, was researching military articles to study current service uniform styles, she came across a local article in Houston, Texas in early May 2020. She reached out to Janelle to see how MSTM could help create awareness of the disappearance of Vanessa Guillen. Being a mother and Mexicana herself she quickly connected with the family and saw potential in utilizing MSTM to bring light to this current story and proving how important the fight is to so many.


When Janelle first read the story and heard Gloria Guillen speak to Latina Magazine, she moved into action by having MSTM organize lobbying training calls and provided lobbying training decks to the public so everyone could get involved. MSTM placed a missing person ad for Vanessa Guillen in their Quarterly Reflections Magazine, alongside artwork featured from Alyssia Aguilar for the tribute pieces and her bio. 


Fast-forward to the beginning of July, when all of America learned of Vanessa Guillen’s Murder and lack of pursuit from the Texas Military base. This injustice grew early on with the lack of answers and the runarounds that the Chains of Commands gave, all the while not being put out in the public eye for America to truly see. The disturbing reality of how service members and their families are treated while in service to our nation rose passions and fury across America. Justice was needed, and voices were starting to stand alongside the Guillen family by the viral #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN. These awful truths spoke of the numerous stories being unheard and proved how MST has been alive and well for decades.


On the 4th of July, 2020 weekend, Janelle flew into Texas and gave speeches in Houston and San Antonio, TX in tribute to Vanessa Guillen and others who have died as a result of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Once back in New York, Janelle and Alyssia decided to create a Tribute piece for Vanessa Guillen and her family. They began working with the concept that the broken glass represents the broken future Vanessa had but in each piece of glass is a piece of Vanessa. Her sisters raising their voices and fighting for justice, her cammies cover, MSTM’s MIRA. The broken glass also demonstrates how her story and voice will break these barriers for more to be done! Her family has created this path and created a movement to honor Vanessa and her life. We want to shatter the way of life within the military and create a new life that is fair and safe! Vanessa is an angel in Heaven as her goddess energy transcends back to earth to inspire millions of Americans to fight for the, “I Am Vanessa Guillen Bill” 


When Vanessa’s family declined to learn about MIRA and wanted to push forward with the “I Am Vanessa Guillen Bill” Janelle and Alyssia decided to table the usage of this tribute piece. Janelle and other MSTM volunteers went on to continue lobbying meetings with members of Congress and their staffers to Establish MIRA. They continued circulating their petition to gain support. In about a month they collected over 10,000 signatures which they delivered to Congress mid-summer. Due to the lifestyle adjustments with COVID-19, MSTM decided to cancel their lobbying trips and invested in Digital Interactive Lobbying Kits (DILK) where they could educate the (H/S)AFC on the issues surrounding MST and the solutions MIRA offers, through remote meetings. 


When Rep. Jackie Spieir’s staffers emailed Janelle the, “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020” Bill and she read it over and saw that policies from MIRA were placed in the Bill; a heavy moment of humility rushed over her. This would become her life’s greatest achievement, and ultimately fulfill her life’s purpose. Janelle said, "Working on the ‘I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020’ is the honor of my lifetime. I know how much is at stake right now. That's why I am spending my weekend reading every piece of this bill. Vanessa's family deserves to see their daughter's legacy create justice and equality. As a Puerto Rican woman, I understand what this means for our culture." 


Alyssia truly hoped to capture Vanessa’s Goddess energy transcending to the planet in order to turn tragedy into triumph and pain into power. As an artist, she prides herself on creating meaningful pieces and is honored to have this piece now showcase the very will of what the family wants. We are all extremely humbled to be able to contribute to the fight to #EndMST.

 

MSTM Museum of Arts & Culture 

 

Sex, Power & Politics

This picture is called, "Sex, Power & Politics." It represents the intersection of women's bodies and sexuality being the center of political debate while also challenging the status quo. Janelle Marina Mendez, CEO of MSTM is laying on the balcony of the Capitol Building in New York State. This photo represents feminine power coming up in politics and challenging the patriarch that currently runs America while letting sexual violence and human trafficking go unaddressed. As more women in politics embrace their sexuality in politics, we can begin to role model changes that will create a more diverse and equal American politics and society.

In modern America, where human trafficking is most prevalent than any other country in the world, many survivors of MST have also endured sex and drug trafficking. Following their stories of turning their pain into power by using their sexuality to ignite important conversations is how some survivors feel empowered after enduring sexual violence. Today, this remains a controversial topic in America, which often leads to difficult discussions regarding women's bodies and how they use them.

These ads are used to challenge the status quo thinking, that what a woman wears is what determines if she is respected. Currently, in America, those who hold conservative ideals believe that sexual violence is incited by a woman being provocative. When we look at the statistics and stories regarding Military Sexual Trauma (MST) what we find is that is doesn't matter what the service member wore.

Sexual violence is correlated to the ideas that uphold both toxic masculinity and white supremacy. The idea that ownership or the inferiority of another human is what leads them to "deserve being victimized." These ads provoke people to self-reflect on their personal beliefs about the root of sexual violence. At times that self-reflection can allow for a deeper level of self-awareness about how they have been programmed to shame victims into silence and hiding while they continue to enable a culture that breeds rapists. Rape is always about control. Just as telling someone what to wear to prevent rape is the same controlling behavior that ignites rapists to rape. The rapist wants control just as the person trying to "avoid rape" believes they can control the rapist to not rape. It is a perplex paradox, that further creates a breeding ground for sexual violence in America. The fact is that no one can control anyone other than themselves. The question becomes do we live authentically and fearlessly in our self-expression or do we succumb to fear and the judgment of others? If we succumb to the belief that we can avoid rape by what we wear, are we truly living in the land of the free? Do we possess magical powers that control the actions of others?

Ads like this one easily provoke deep emotions that determine who upholds misogynistic ideals and who embraces diversity and empowerment of self-expression. In order for survivors to truly heal, they have to be able to authentically express themselves both through the vulnerability of their stories and through the ability to recover from sexual trauma entails someone taking charge of their narrative and their future. MST survivors need to experience sexuality from a place in which they feel most empowered. In a world where over seven billion people live on this planet, who are we to judge what empowers a survivor or what further triggers them? The beauty of this life is in the diversity of how we all express ourselves in our storytelling. We become the heroes of our lives when we make choices that move us in a direction to take back our power and own our sexuality after trauma in the ways that are most connected to our soul's journey for healing. That is where the truest form of healing takes place, in our ability to be and express our soul's truest self. The seed of empowerment resides in our souls and it is waiting to be ignited by those who are brave enough to endure the critics who souls are still fractured and broken. Great leaders face great danger and public dissent in order to elevate consciousness, yet they have remained aligned to their values and purpose. What we come to see throughout history is that eventually in time, American consciousness will catch up.

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Justicia Para Vanessa Guillen

 

America, Do You Support Your Service Members? Establish MIRA Speech

On July 4th, 2020 Janelle Marina Mendez attended and spoke at the Vanessa Guillen Vigil in Houston, Texas. During this iconic speech, she called for the Establishment of MIRA, sending MST survivors to Congress and for a boycott on Congress by having supporters divest from oil portfolios. Janelle spoke about how supporting MIRA can support in getting Vanessa Guillen Justice. Something the MSTM community is highly motivated to do. Fighting for justice is never easy. Confronting trauma and pain in pursuit of trauma is even more overwhelming but it is necessary to carry the fight forward. It is important to protect those who are coming next.  At MSTM, we empower people who are out to change the world. The revolutionaries, the radical, the misfits, and most of all raising the voices of the voiceless and amplifying the voices of those struggling to find their voice. It is the struggles that we ignore will become the struggles our children will endure. Now we are fighting to #EndMST. A Nadie mas! 

 

Morgan Roberts, Houston-based GemLens Photography

Morgan Roberts or GemLens, is an independent photographer and videographer. He is half Chinese and half Irish. He has lived here in Houston for the past 8 years.  I have a background in welding and underwater construction.  6 years ago he left the workforce world and began my journey investing time into the causes that he is passionate about.  He has over 3 years of experience shooting photos of live events and close to a year experience in videography. He is passionate about what he does because loves that the results make a difference.  "I love being able to precisely capture a moment or an emotion.  The saying a picture is worth a thousand words is true when it comes to capturing candid moments.  I have been following Vanessa Guillen's story since it started getting a spread on Facebook, it became part of my daily life to check for updates on her whereabouts, what had happened to her.  The stories began to come up, details started to be reported.  The day I heard her remains were found was devastating.  I was praying that she was okay and that she would be found safe.  Once that news broke, I had followed other happenings in Fort Hood and it became apparent that there is definitely a problem there."

 

Hudson Valley Civil Rights Protest Commemoration: 

We Can't Breath Protest:

On June 9th, 2020 the Stop the Violence Movement organized the “We Can’t Breathe” Protest in Poughkeepsie, New York in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement during an arrest. As cities around the country stood up in solidary and to fight for police reform this became a pressing issue in Dutchess County, New York due to a shameful racist history that leaves a harmful legacy to minority communities to include the black community who has suffered the most. Janelle Marina Mendez, CEO of the Military Sexual Trauma Movement acted as a supportive organizer who helped lead the protest and she gave a speech on police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, and educational segregation that is the root of these racial injustices in this area of the Hudson Valley Region. 

 

While reforms in law enforcement are necessary they are one piece to the systemic racism that has long oppressed minorities in the county. While both parties have championed empowering minorities, neither side has implemented effective policy changes that address the issues head-on. These protests around the state led to reforms in the State of New York which barred choke-holds, created public law enforcement disciplinary reports, and a host of other reforms to better protect citizens of the state. Gov. Cuomo also issued mandated training and assessments of police departments across the state. While these actions are positive, New York remains one of the most segregated states in the country when it comes to education via zipcode. This remains fully enforced. In 2020, there is still much work to do but as more citizens gain awareness and better understand the roots of modern-day racism and segregation, then as a society we can work to address this. We must think to ourselves, that the people of the Hudson Valley must take a stand to lead the nation. In 2020, education segregation is a cardinal sin. What side of history will we choose to be on? Many students in poorer zip codes will go on to prison or the military as the graduation rates in these areas such as Poughkeepsie at less than 50%. These students are much more at risk to endure hazing and sexual violence both in prison and in the military. At MSTM, we have a responsibility to protect those that are coming next. Allyship with the black community is crucial to fulfilling our mission to #EndMST. Racism and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) are both manifestations of ideals of white supremacy. In order to #EndMST, we must also fight to end racism in America. 

 

While 2020 brought us a horrible global pandemic in which the NYC and the Hudson Valley have become the epicenter, we must use this time as an opportunity to grow and demolish these oppressive institutions and create a community and country we everyone belongs. Through Janelle Marina Mendez's work at MSTM and in the Hudson Valley Region she is committed to upholding and fighting for civil rights. The artwork below depicts Janelle giving a speech at the protest along with the Mid-Hudson Bridge, protesters, police, police tape that says "black lives matter" and the words, "speak truth." This was a historical moment in the region as this civil rights demonstration was the first protest in history to take over the Mid-Hudson Bridge in the pursuit of civil rights in Dutchess County, New York.

 

MST Victims Commemoration Collection:

The Commemoration Collection is the first artwork of its kind to honor service members and veterans who have died by suicide while their stories remain untold. These victims of MST remain uncounted, unacknowledged, unappreciated, and unnamed. Many victims had undiagnosed PTSD due to extensive cover-ups and retaliation tactics that have been in place for many years in the United States Military. This Great American Corruption Scheme has cost the lives of tens of thousands of service members and veterans. 

Honor Her Story:

Alyssia Aguilar is a fashion artist from Texas who is a passionate wife and mother of two young children, She was commissioned by MSTM to draw The Honor Her Story piece. Her background in fashion art allowed her to capture the intimate details of military service uniforms from each branch. When you look at each service member, it is easily recognizable what branch they are from. She showcased the diversity and ethnicities of service members while also incorporating religious and cultural headdresses that are worn by some service members.

In America, while we recognize veterans and service members for their service to our nation, we fail at providing a warm, empathetic, and soft place for them to tell their stories of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Honor Her Story is a tribute piece to all of the women who have served their nation while still feeling invisible and ashamed. Many elected officials and the general public will thank military folks for serving our nation but don't ever take steps to honor the stories and experiences of MST survivors. MST is an experience that will forever shape their lives. The public is still unaware that PTSD due to MST has more severe symptoms than combat-related PTSD.

As well as the fact that many female service members are more likely to have PTSD due to MST than combat. Many survivors feel uncomfortable sharing their stories because when they tell people they have PTSD, the next question becomes where were you deployed? Most of the time, they were right here in America when they experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST). This creates an uncomfortable situation for survivors who instead rather not affiliate themselves with the time they served to avoid these difficult conversations.

Honor Her Story, is a message to elected officials, people in power, and to the general public that in order for female service members and veterans to feel truly seen, taking bold actions to stop Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is a much better way to honor her than saying, "Thank you for your service." The badge of honor signifies the hope and fire that fuels MST survivors to continue fighting to #EndMST. By honoring her story, you are honoring her service. Help us protect those who are coming next. As we work to pursue justice and fight to #EndMST.

 

The Unknown Males:

Alyssia Aguilar is a fashion artist from Texas who is a passionate wife and mother of two young children, She was commissioned by MSTM to draw The Unknown Males piece. Her background in fashion art allowed her to capture the intimate details of military service uniforms from each branch. When you look at each service member, it is easily recognizable what branch they are from. She showcased the diversity and ethnicities of servicemembers while leaving their faces blank. In America, while we recognize veterans and service members for their service to our nation, we fail at providing a warm, empathetic, and soft place for men to tell their stories of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

Men who tell their stories of experiencing sexual violence are more likely to experience re-victimization and suicidal ideations when they come forward compared to the actual trauma when they go through sexual violence. This scenario is in reverse for women. Male survivors stories are likely to remain hidden and taken to the grave as men have an additional struggle, how do they find healing in a world that does not give them a soft and compassionate place to land? As men battle with substance abuse, addiction, trauma, and suicidal ideation, he will have a harder time healing as he wrestles with the vulnerability of coming forward and being emasculated once again.

The prospect of this profound shame and humiliation often has male survivors hide their trauma from those they love. This can exacerbate his symptoms of PTSD and lead to other mental health disorders. Alyssia, captured this chaos that male survivors go through behind the scenes through the light scribbles in the background of the Unknown Males. In a time where many minorities are fighting for their place to be seen authentically and equally in America, we want this piece to serve as a reminder of the male service members who are currently suffering while struggling to find their voices.

 

Alyssia Aguilar, Fashion Illustrator & Owner of The Lofty Mom:

Alyssia Aguilar is an Illustration artist based out of Houston, Texas. She specializes in fashion illustrations with a degree and background in Fashion Design and Merchandising. Alyssia is a wife and mother of two littles who inspire her daily. After the loss of their son in 2017 she used her art to cope and created The Lofty Mom. The Lofty Mom was purposed to be another mom blog, but she quickly grew it into a way to shine the light of her son's passing and use her art as a way to honor his memory. Alyssia has now grown The Lofty Mom Art as a small graphic design business. She specializes in her client and offers a range of services to help them bring their ideas to life. Alyssia invests her time to help small business owners, bloggers, non-profits, and more.

 "Art is a way for me to stay creative, help my family, and inspire others. I know God has allowed doors to open, and I hope to just give my clients everything and more through the design we create together.”

Wonder Women Collection:

The Wonder Women collection is artwork of notable women who have made a significant contribution to MSTM. We honor the bold and courageous women fighting for change for the future generations of young people.

 

MSTM Takes on Washington D.C. 

September 2019, MSTM held the MSTM Takes on Washington D.C. event where survivors from around the country came together to train, protest, and lobby their elected officials for the MST Victim's Bill of Rights. During this event, a series of demonstrations were held at the Russell Rotunda, the Capitol Building, and at the United States Marine Corps. Commandant's Home at 8th and I. Some of the registered volunteers who took photos of the event filed a lawsuit in federal court for copyright infringement. MSTM countersued the former volunteers for copyright fraud. This dispute remains ongoing. The Federal Court Judge presiding over the case will issue an opinion sometime in June 2020. Due to COVID-19, a virtual trial hearing was held where everyone involved was able to testify. When MSTM's leaders and volunteers testified, there was a heavy amount of public interest.

 

MSTM Pain into Power Emblem

This artwork depicts MSTM's story through pictures instead of words.  Janelle Marina Mendez is depicted as "S" for Sexual, her curvaceous body has been a topic of controversy throughout her life and her struggle with her sexuality has been an obstacle she has opened up about publicly. Grace Lungu is depicted as "Ti" for Trauma. She represents the trauma of both the black community from slavery, police brutality, and for servicemembers and veterans who experienced MST. The Power Emblem has many "hidden" meanings that are significant to MSTM and the individuals depicted in this work. See how closely you can analyze this artwork and how many signifiers you can find. 

 

 

Grace Lungu: Superwoman 

Super Power: Intellect 

 

As a first-generation African immigrant, the thought of being a Movement Leader scared the crap out of me and it still does at times. I have yet to publicly tell my story because I just want the trauma to go away. However, the thought of another young female Marine going through what I did is unacceptable. I want to be a voice for those who have stayed silent and are too scared to reach out. This type of trauma just doesn't go away but I could turn the immense hurt and shame into something beautiful by being a leader in this movement. I have a daughter and a son who may want to join someday so I know that what I am doing now is crucial.

 

Janelle Marina Mendez: Captain Puerto Rico 

Super Power: Courage

 

My entire life I was told to hide my curves, to deny my heritage, and to fit in with the white upper-class girls I went to school with. They would tell me I was too curvy to be white, and I looked too ethnic, and other Puerto Rican women would tell me I was too white because of my accent: I sound like a valley girl from the Hudson Valley, New York, and I felt like I never fit in with anyone. Embracing my heritage and my story as an MST survivor is so important, and Yonas did an incredible job of capturing my essence: a bold Captain Puerto Rico embracing my color, my curves, and my strength. My mission as Captain Puerto Rico is to inspire young girls to embrace their bodies and fight for the causes that matter to them. 

 

 

 Yonas Tesfai: Super Artist 

Super Power: Creativity 

Oakland-based professional political artist Yonas Tesfai’s Eritrean-American heritage has impassioned his craft to share visual stories of the Black community. As friends and as allies in our dedication to serve the marginalized in America, MSTM stands in solidarity with Yonas’ excellent skills in his delivery of our likeness and message. As such, MSTM is making the commitment to only invest in the creativity of the minority communities as they tell stories through the eyes of people of color as a 2020 initiative under MSTM’s Arts & Culture Program. 

 

Love Me Collection: 

The Love Me Collection is about survivors of Military Sexual Trauma embracing their bodies. These courageous women embody self-love after trauma. These pieces are priceless reminders of what it means to heal after trauma. 

 

 

Love me. 

 

Often when men see me, they immediately fall in love with my curves and then they fall in love with my intellect. But to really love me, it’s so much deeper than what meets the eye. Loving me means understanding my disability: even though it doesn’t look like I have one, I live with this every day. To love me is to embrace every part of me.

 

 

Respect me. 

 

The first way to catch me is to respect my boundaries and rise to my standards. Asking for consent to approach me or touch me is the first standard in which I feel respected.

 

The Love Me Collection has one of a kind art pieces that are available to the highest bidder. 

 

 

Photographer Pseudonym: Purple Ivy

The Hudson Valley-based Latinx Photographer works to capture women expressing their creativity while fighting for their communities. Purple Ivy's work is to capture social justice activists in the Hudson Valley who are making loud and bold statements that provide a voice to marginalized communities by showcasing their leaders. 

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