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Saying Goodbye to Abeni ...

This year, Abeni celebrates 10 years of being in existence. As we look back at where we started and how we have evolved, we are genuinely proud of who we have become and the work we’ve been able to do … While far from perfect, we have tried to be humble, honest, and sincere. One of the first and biggest decisions made as an organization is choosing a name; and choosing the name Abeni was no different. We chose Abeni, a name that means “girl prayed for.” Because we started out as a faith-based organization, we chose it because we thought we’d be serving women and were focused on helping people whom we anticipated would eventually consider leaving the industry. At the time, choosing this name made sense ... It reflected the things we believed and the goals we had at that time. But looking back, it’s honest to admit that we were naive and didn’t know how much we didn’t know.

Within months, Abeni expanded and grew into something beyond what our initial vision had imagined. Through our growth, we realized that we had missed a few things and  how we were very wrong about several others. Growth has been a core value of ours from the beginning and part of growth is being willing to recognize what needs to change. We saw how the SW spectrum, nuance and circumstance, intersectionality, white supremacist systems, criminalization, and institutionalized oppression impacted many of the people we served. As our growth continued, we committed ourselves to being an organization that was teachable, and consistently developing in response to what our community needed. We dedicated our work to filling gaps, and trying to provide what did not exist for a community that was often overlooked, silenced, abused, criminalized, marginalized, and socially stigmatized.

As we continued to evolve, we also learned about cultural appropriation. We realized that, in choosing the name Abeni, we had appropriated and assumed an identity from a Yoruban culture that was not ours to take from. As an organization and as individuals, we recognize how the use of Abeni reinforced the continued pain and impact of colonization on People of Color in communities, both near and far. To the country and culture from which we assumed identity, as well as to those in our own community who we have hurt and offended, we humbly and sincerely apologize.

As an organization, we have never taken the hurts, offenses, and aggressions experienced by those in our community lightly. We have also never taken our mistakes lightly. We have and continue to stay committed to acknowledging our mistakes, directly addressing them, and seeking to rectify them, whenever possible. We seek not only to apologize, but to also make amends. We seek to do better, and be better.  At a time when there is so much uncertainty and danger facing our community, we questioned if it was the right time. But we sincerely believe that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing. Again, we are growing and recognize what needs to change. In light of that, it is time to say goodbye to our name. We may not have a new name yet, but we will no longer be known as Abeni.

As with every other of season we have entered, we want to make choices that reflect who we are, our values, our aspirations, and the things that we so fiercely believe. In the days and weeks ahead, you will hopefully start to see the metamorphosis of our organization in it’s name and logo. The process of change can be slow, but we are not going anywhere. We appreciate the journey you have taken with us so far, and hope that you will stick with us as we continue to develop in accordance to our beliefs.

With great love and dedication from all of us,

Meg Vallee (formerly Munoz)

Madi Tedesco

Rasta Bagheri

Craig Mayers