Rhonda Begos-Zolecki

Rhonda Begos-Zolecki


There is a story that I often tell. The first time I heard it, it truly changed my whole line of thinking regarding public speaking about sexual assault. 


Sexual assault is so huge. It's so big, and the victims are just left scattered about. Black, white, young, old, all religions, assaulted by family, assaulted by their church, assaulted by people who they thought were friends, assaulted by strangers...some surviving, some barely surviving, some having not even begun to heal, some in prison or in jail. And here I am - 1 person speaking about her experience. How can I change the mind of people who ignore the problem? More importantly, how can I change the mind of so many victims who are struggling to make it on a daily basis? Especially when there are so many avenues - the media, their friends, family, other people who don't understand - who tell these victims to "get over it." "move on." "It happened so long ago - what is your problem?" As if to assume that somehow, the fear, the triggers, the addictions to deal with the pain are things that we want and ask for. 


How does one person do this? 


The starfish story explains how it begins. There is a woman who is on the beach, and she notices that there are hundreds upon hundreds of starfish that have been washed ashore, struggling for air. They have no way of saving themselves, and no way of even screaming for help. She runs to the starfish, and one by one, she begins to put them back in the water. It is taking her quite a long time to get to them all - and she doesn't know if she will, but she continues. 


A man walking along the beach sees this woman doing this. He is totally taken aback by how many hundreds of starfish are still there that need to be saved. He asks her what she is doing. 


She responds "I'm trying to save these starfish." 


He says "But there are so many." 


She says "I know"


He says "But you won't be able to save all of the starfish. It's impossible You won't be able to. In the end it won't matter how much you try. You won't be able to save them all." 


She responds "It matters to that one." 


It matters to that one. 


After I read that, I took a long step back and asked myself about those moments when I've spoken and saw the pain on the faces of women and men who I knew hadn't yet dealt with their past. When I spoke at Taycheedah Prison, for women who felt that their lives were over, and the bitter sweet tears of healing that I saw them cry as I cried along with them, going down in history as the most successful and effective speech I have ever given. It mattered to somebody. Not to everybody, but to somebody. Imagine if we had more? Imagine if we had many involved in fixing these problems of pain, and misunderstanding that exist? How much it would matter? How much it would bring us to a point of not having to say "Black Lives Matter" but we all matter? 


My reason for telling these stories is because - that woman with the starfish, she didn't ask the starfish how they got there, just like I didn't ask the women at Taycheedah what brought them there. I was only concerned about where I could take them. She was more effective in her action to right a wrong, then in placing blame and judging which would have done nothing. She saw them as living things that needed help. And even though it was a starfish - it was up to her human heart to put that starfish back in an environment that could bring it life. 


Imagine if we had more people doing this collectively? More people judging less, and doing more? More people asking questions and listening rather than talking? More people understanding that there is no such thing as a "RACE CARD" because this is not a card game to us. More people looking at the hard working brothers and sisters in the black community who have jobs where they struggle to move forward because of their color; neighborhoods where they struggle to bring peace, because no one outside of the neighborhood wants to help; where they struggle to move to white neighborhoods even if they have the money, because then the white neighbors move out out of fear. Imagine if we had those conversations. If we had those collective conversations about fear, and race, and how to fix it. It would matter to not only the BLACK LIVES - but to WHITE LIVES, HISPANIC LIVES, GAY LIVES....to life. It would matter more than what a president could do...more than what a congressman could do. It would matter and put us back in control of our communities, and our safety. Having collective togetherness when tragedy strikes. Not just black people showing up when black people die, and white people showing up when white people die....


IT would matter to everyone. IT will change your mind, and your life. 


I hope to God it matters to you where this country is going. And I hope instead of judgement and fear, you are making a choice to get involved and see that those very people who you deem to be absent fathers, violent, drug addicts, non family people...for the most part, are just like you - with the same concerns, and same want for peace. 


If you haven't been there, GO THERE - and understand while it won't matter to everybody....it is going to matter to SOMEBODY....perhaps that 15 year old who broke down seeing his father killed on television; that 4 year old who watched her father get shot in the car; and the kids of those police officers who have a father who will not be coming home. 


Clearly, if you do SOMETHING, it's gonna matter to SOMEBODY. If you do nothing but talk, it will matter to NO ONE. 

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