We Can Do It!

I sure do love it when a plan comes together. Five years ago, I thought up the idea of a "Chick Ball" due to two major needs in the Jackson community. The first was the most urgent: more awareness of the horrendous toll of domestic violence on our city and our state. The second seems more frivolous: the need for more female musical acts, chick bands, grrl rockers, female singer/songwriters, whatever you want to call them.

Thus, the JFP Chick Ball was born.

The idea was that we would bring female artists, poets and musicians together and raise a bit of money for a cause that was close to my heart, due to being physically abused in the past, and watching others in the my family go through the same thing. But the focus wasn't on money; I was determined to make the Chick Ball an event that every single person in Jackson could help with if he or she desired.

That's why it only costs $5 to get in the door. Of course, you have lots of other opportunities to spend money for the cause before and after the event; I call it nickeling and diming for the cause. (Start with paying $20 at the door and getting four door-prize tickets, too; the prizes are super.)

I've had people tell me I should raise the price over the years, and I've always refused. Why? Because everyone deserves to be asked to give, and to be able to. I once heard Tim Gill, the founder of Quark software, lament that he had never seen his parents writing checks for a good cause. He didn't know how to give until later in life, he said.

That is tragic.

The first year, we threw the Chick Ball together in a couple of weeks, had a great time and raised a few thousand dollars for the Center for Violence Prevention, which we found in the phonebook. The next year, we raised a few more thousand dollars. The third year, we got serious, pulling together a group of about a dozen Chick Ball committee members and started the planning a couple months in advance. We raised even more money.

Last year, we became a well-oiled Chick Ball money-raisin', talkin'-about-the-cause machine. We met every two weeks for months starting in February, and at the end, we bought a new minivan for the Center for Violence Prevention. Their old one was falling apart and considering that it was needed to take families to safety, that was a damn shame. And a shame we fixed.

This year, the Chick Machine has been rolling all year. We've been Twittering, and Facebooking, and Yard-Chicking (the person who stole our yellow flamingoes, by the way, is going to hell), and Chick Jamming with The Bachelorettes, and scratching and begging for donations (actually, it's an easy sell), and blogging ... you name it.

And we are particularly proud this year to be raising seed money—God willing, at least $20,000—for Jackson's first abuser-intervention program.

This was a new and exciting step for us. We feel like we're backing up the pipeline; rather than just help women and children (who are overwhelmingly the victims of family violence, although not always), we are raising money to helping the abusers. We want them to stop abusing and to become better members of society; we are investing our efforts in hope that domestic violence can be stopped, not just punished. We are trying to prevent it—or at least prevent it from getting worse, and stop it before someone dies.

No doubt, this is a difficult problem, and there isn't one answer. We have to get families away from abusers, but we also need to stop the cycle of abuse that leads to the violence.

As a sign that hangs in the JFP classroom reads: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

This effort takes all of us, friends. No matter who you are, or what gender, or how old, you can help. We've had volunteers coming out of the woodwork, distributing flyers, running errands, picking up prizes. People are donating what they can: their art, their wares, their time, their classes. All of these items will become part of the door prizes or silent auction, where much of our money comes from each year (6 to 10 p.m.; all price levels). We even have art coming from as far away as Portland, Ore. (thanks, Lynette), and New Orleans (David Rae Morris' amazing signed photo of his daddy Willie and his dog Pete).

At the event, we will honor Rep. Brandon Jones, a Gulf Coast legislator who has emerged as a fearless proponent of rights for the domestically abused. He has challenged Gov. Haley Barbour's senseless pardons of brutal domestic killers, and he has fought for legislation to help groups like the Center get the resources they need.

People who work to fight domestic abuse every day, as well as victims, will be there. There will be some tearful moments, and stories like those Sandy tells of how our money has helped buy tires for a victim's car so she can escape violence, or a bus ticket for another to go back home to her safe family.

But more than anything, the JFP Chick Ball is a celebration—of strong, determined women and men. Of people who are not afraid to stand up and say that domestic abuse is wrong. Of people who believe in our power to put our energy and our nickels together to make a huge difference in each other's lives.

You can play games, you can bid on art and massages and New Orleans Saints tickets and oil changes. You will marvel at the funky outfits some choose (go buy your Chick Ball outfit at a locally owned shop, by the way, especially one that gave to the cause!). And you will hear wonderful music by female artists who are doin' it for themselves.

Beyond the money and the cause, watching the musical line-up has been my favorite part of Chick Ball. In the beginning, there weren't many girl acts to choose from. Now, though, women in and around Jackson are forming all sorts of musical acts and playing out, often in all-female acts.

This is more powerful than you think. It is just one more way that the women of Mississippi are finding their voices and expressing themselves. If you haven't figured out, yet, that is a huge step on the road to eliminating domestic abuse.

Please join us for mellow Friday night or rowdier Saturday night, or both, to be part of something very special. Better yet, go to http://www.jfpchickball.com and buy yourself a year's Chick Ball membership; trust me, this is a club you want to join.


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