Rosenna Bakari moved to Colorado Springs about a year ago, and her work is already making an impact in the community.
In 2010, Bakari started Talking Trees in Des Moines, Iowa. The nonprofit organization and website is dedicated to helping and empowering adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and incest.
Before moving in 2016, Bakari worked as a psychology professor at the Des Moines Area Community College, and she used her role there to build Talking Trees and an annual conference for the college called Safe Space Day.
When she arrived in Colorado Springs last fall, Bakari quit her full-time career in higher education and brought the mission of her nonprofit organization with her.
Since pursuing the nonprofit full time, Bakari said she hopes to bring healing to adult survivors in Colorado Springs who want to “live openly.”
Bakari, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, said she wants to create safe spaces, physically and emotionally, for adult survivors.
“Silence does not heal, silence is not a quiet space and is certainly not a healthy space, so [I want to] create spaces for people to heal,” she said.
Living openly, according to Bakari, means not hiding from your abuse, but also not living as a victim.
Through the organization’s website, talkingtreessurvivors.com, Bakari said she can mentor those who are ready to heal.
“I created resources online so people can access those 24/7,” she said. “They can inbox me, they can make comments, and I write daily, I post daily.
“I also have people who come to me in private. I always respect people’s privacy for living openly because I know, as people heal, they will get to a point where living openly makes sense, … so our job is to assure them they will never walk that path alone.”
The organization’s focus is on adults because only 15 percent of survivors are identified as a child, while 85 percent of children who were sexually abused are not identified until adulthood, Bakari said, adding there are about 60 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the U.S.
“This mentality that we don’t want to deal with wounded adults — that means you have wounded adults teaching your children, wounded adults running corporations … because there is an erroneous assumption that if you made it to adulthood the rest was up to you.”
In bringing awareness to her nonprofit, Bakari also started her own poetry open mic night, which is every first Tuesday of the month at Spice Island Grill on 10 N. Sierra Madre St.
Claudette Hutchinson, owner of Spice Island Grill, nominated Bakari for Women of Influence.
“She is always there to offer that much needed advice, support or just a listening ear to anyone she encounters,” Hutchinson wrote. “Her passion to help others is an inspiration to all who have the honor to be around her.”
Poetry is a passion of Bakari’s, and so is taekwondo, writing and running, which all have brought healing in her own journey to live openly.
Bakari is a third-degree black belt in taekwondo, and has authored three books since 1995 about rape culture, patriarchy, black female empowerment and being an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
In addition to her books, Bakari earned her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Northern Colorado Greeley in 2000.
In the near future, Bakari will release her memoir, and she is currently authoring a book highlighting four local business owners who are also survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
One day, Bakari said she hopes to speak internationally on the topics she is passionate about.
To other women leaders — Bakari said it is important to make connections, keep conversations going and know that allies exist.
— Audrey Jensen