We welcome the month of September with enthusiasm. With only 38 days away from the Walk To End FGM, we travel to Tennessee to hear from Missy Crutchfield in our September edition of An Exclusive.
GWPF: Missy, when did you first become interested in humanitarian work?
Missy Crutchfield: In elementary school, I was bullied which was a frightening experience for a young girl. As with so many things that have happened with me from then until now, experiencing some pretty hard things in New York when I was living there and pursuing a career as an actress, I truly believe that what doesn’t kill you truly makes you stronger. I believe God has prepared me to be on the front line of communicating, reaching out, and trying to inspire women, girls, and all people about things that can change your life and positive things that can turn your life around. It’s never too late. Every day is a brand new opportunity to begin your life again, to embrace compassion, to embrace forgiveness, starting with yourself. So I had to experience all of these things and I went through these things, and it helped me feel the deepest connection for empathy and compassion for all people, cultures; and I take it all the way to the animals because my first exposure to rights and movements was through the animal rights movement. And I believe once your awareness and compassion become heightened you realize we have to take it beyond human to human you have to take it to the planet and all of its inhabitants. That’s why we started a vegan movement #VTheChange and we call it the intersection of all intersections because I believe that once your compassion is deepened that all roads lead to nonviolence—nonviolence to each other, the animals, in our thoughts and our minds. It’s all connected. We are all connected. We want to take care of each other and while we’re lifting up this deep awareness and compassion for one another as “All God’s Children” and we also lift up “All God’s Creatures”, then everything falls into place. I’m proud and honored and excited to be part of this movement and to be working with all our brothers and sisters around the world working on these issues and working to “Be The Change” they want to see in the world.
GWPF: You once told the story about how you brought female genital mutilation (FGM) to the attention of your father. Would you please share that story with our readers?
Missy Crutchfield: When I first heard about FGM I was blown away, and I sort of froze up in horror that this could happen. When I learned about it, it was a pretty graphic experience. And I had some material I was reading as well, and I just could not believe the cutting and I remember seeing the crusty, dirty razor blades and thinking, this is how HIV is spread and other infections and diseases that are happening to these girls; not to mention the horrific pain and experience they have with them the rest of their lives. So how do we stop this, how do we stop this nightmare of health and human rights abuse? Then I found out FGM is sometimes happening in America, and I thought well I can do something about this. Well, my father was the senate majority leader in the state of Tennessee, and I had come to him with some bills in the past and he would always make me defend them and he had introduced me to people in the legislature; and I had interned in the legislature, so I could move around in Nashville. So I had worked on some previous bills in the past and had success, so I came to him with this and said, “This is unbelievable and there’s no reason not to have this bill.” I had heard Congress was sitting on the federal level FGM bill and that two or three states had taken it upon themselves to outlaw FGM in those states. I was excited about taking this, state by state so I took some articles to my father and shared more with him and he said, “Absolutely.” He worked closely with the democratic caucus and had a real opportunity to move this bill forward quickly. So when the bill was getting ready to go to the floor of the state legislature, two of the most powerful African American women, Senator Thelma Harper and the late Speaker Pro Temp Representative Lois DeBerry marched into my Dad’s Senate Majority Leader’s office and said, “Ward, we love you, but we want to take this bill to the floor.” And he said, “Absolutely!” I think he was tickled and proud of this moment for his daughter and for all women, girls, as well as the country. The bill was voted unanimously. I later shared a copy of the bill with the domestic violence groups I had met with in the state of Florida and they started working on it as well. The next thing you know, Washington finally got off their hands and passed the bill to protect our women and girls from FGM on a national level. Not long after the FGM bill was passed, I had the opportunity to perform in “The Vagina Monologues” and also read one of the “Not-So-Happy” facts for the performance. The “Not-So-Happy” fact I was given to read was the one about FGM. I felt like this coincidence was God’s way of saying, “Well, done. Well, done, my daughter.”
GWPF: Congratulations on a great accomplishment. What is the Gandhi Global Center for Peace and what does it do?
Missy Crutchfield: Having met Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson shortly after the launch of Be Magazine (www.bemagazine.org), we quickly bonded during the Gandhi tour in India where we followed in Gandhi’s footsteps, and learned about the amazing women-owned co-ops and microbusinesses there that carry on Gandhi’s legacy of nonviolence to this day. The Gandhi Global Center For Peace is a global, virtual hub for education and community-building that furthers Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and peace. We also work closely with program partners who carry on the work of nonviolence and peace building such as Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, Love Without Reason, Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center, AVANI School in India, and we’re working on raising awareness and support for global animal rights issues.
GWPF: How wonderful! What is the difference between Be Magazine and the Gandhi Global Center for Peace?
Missy Crutchfield: Gandhi’s Be Magazine is an online publication that partners with Gandhi Global Center For Peace, but it stands on its own as a separate organization that serves a broader audience. Gandhi’s Be Magazine is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and partners with his grandson Arun Gandhi to inspire, empower, and activate people to “Be The Change” in their own lives and communities and become part of the story of change.
GWPF: Thanks for clarifying that. Tell us about your own role with Be Magazine and the Gandhi Global Center for Peace.
Missy Crutchfield: I serve as Co-Founding Editor-in-Chief of Gandhi’s Be Magazine and Co-Founding President & CEO of Gandhi Global Center For Peace.
GWPF: Well you are doing fantastic job with both entities. You seem to have such passion for journalism but there is another passion of yours; compassion for others. What drives your compassion?
Missy Crutchfield: When my best friend and business partner, Gandhi’s Be Magazine Executive Editor Melissa Turner, and I co-founded the magazine, we had the intention of branding a new kind of journalism, which we like to call “compassionate journalism.” It’s all about journalism with a purpose, journalism that inspires people to not just read about something or watch something, but to actually do something to “Be the Change” they wish to see. We have had the opportunity to present this idea at several conferences, including the Gandhi-King Conference in Memphis.
GWPF: I like that idea and it should resonate around the world; that people should be the change they wish to see. This brings us to the fact that the Gandhi Global Center for Peace recently announced a new campaign. Explain to us about the Global Community of Changemakers.
Missy Crutchfield: In the summer of 2016, Gandhi’s Be Magazine recently announced our new campaign to build a Global Community of Changemakers. It is estimated, there are over One Million social change and environmental justice organizations worldwide. Just imagine if those millions of #Changemakers around the world connected with each other, growing a community online and offline… How might we create, connect, collaborate, and communicate what we want our future to BE? That’s why as we envision these next steps for Gandhi’s Be Magazine, we believe it is a magazine and a movement, a platform for #Changemakers.
GWPF: What is the purpose of this campaign, and how do you see it making a difference in communities?
Missy Crutchfield: Gandhi’s Be Magazine has been a labor of love for seven years now. We invite Changemakers around the world to join in supporting the work ahead by becoming members of the Global Community of Changemakers for just $5 per month/$60 per year. And now during our fall membership drive, for every membership purchased, we will give a membership FREE to someone who might not be able to afford to join otherwise, it’s what we’re calling “Buy One, Give One.” We are excited about the great things that are happening and this next stage in the journey as we build this community online and offline.
This year, we completely re-designed the website… it looks awesome and it’s so much more user-friendly now. We’ve also spent the last six months dreaming, planning, and building the foundation for the new Gandhi’s Be Magazine as a magazine and a movement, a platform for #Changemakers!
Come visit us at Gandhi’s Be Magazine sometime soon at www.bemagazine.org. We want you to feel at home in our growing global community of Changemakers and keep coming back as together we create, connect, collaborate, and communicate what we want our future to BE!
GWPF: This is what we need to connect the organizations in the world. As you are aware, FGM is the primary cause with which Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation works. As a mother, what message do you have for mothers who have their daughters cut?
Missy Crutchfield: I believe that you want to support your daughters, the girls, and this movement as much as possible. We all make mistakes and we all learn that life is a work in progress. But you want to show her lots of love and tell her that there’s hope. Do your research. Contact Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation. Don’t be afraid. There’s more hope now than ever before. These surgeries are successful. Your daughter can have a new life. It will be in her heart forever that you had the strength to end this spiral of violence with one choice, teaching her that FGM is unacceptable and showing her the way out so that her own daughter doesn’t have to face this someday.
GWPF: Great appeal to mothers. Do you foresee a world free of the practice of FGM?
Missy Crutchfield: Absolutely, I think within our lifetime… Global Woman and other groups working together, partnering, and educating are making the difference. People are worried about losing their jobs and about superstitious things, so we can educate them about the truth regarding FGM and help find jobs for people who have been doing FGM as a job. It starts in the village and it starts with people who can relate to the people in the villages and who can share the messages of hope, globally and to raise awareness about FGM in the world.
GWPF: You are absolutely right; it certainly does begin in the villages. How do you see your role in the elimination of that practice?
Missy Crutchfield: Through the magazine, through covering stories, and connecting partners… One of the great things we do at Gandhi’s Be Magazine is create, connect, collaborate, communicate, so if we all did these things for positive and helpful change that lifts each other up, then with the rising tide all ships are lifted and real change could almost happen overnight.
GWPF: Then let us all do it! What is next for the Gandhi Global Center For Peace?
Missy Crutchfield: Gandhi Global Center For Peace is excited to be a sponsor for the 2016 Walk To End FGM in partnership with Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation.
GWPF: Where will Missy Crutchfield be in ten years?
Missy Crutchfield: Where God wants me to BE.
GWPF: Thanks, Missy. And we wish you well, and hope that you will be where God wants you!
Join us in another An Exclusive when we speak with another fascinating person in October.