By Dylan Deprey
It was a sad day in late 2016, as Asha Family Services had closed its doors due to a lack of funding.
Over thirty years Asha Family Services had specialized in culturally specific services to African- American domestic abuse and sex trafficking survivors in the central city. It was one of the first in the country, and only one of its kind in the state.
From following MPD on calls for crisis intervention to culturally specific case management and support groups, Asha Family Services had solidified its need in the Sherman Park neighborhood. They had even opened Sistah’s Café, where domestic violence victims could receive employment training and skill building.
“The funds might have turned off but the clients didn’t,” said Antonia Drew Vann, Director of Asha Project. “When you’re for working with a population for thirty years, they are going to find a way to you.”
Their building owner, Moses Drew, had acknowledged the need for their work.
“He paid that mortgage for a year, for us to continue our work because the victims didn’t stop,” Drew Vann said. “If it wasn’t for his love for what we do, we would have not been able to continue.”
With rallying support from the community, local and state organizations, the phoenix had risen from the ashes and Asha Family Services became The Asha Project.
The Asha Project celebrated its grand opening with an open house (3719 West Center Street) for neighbors, friends and allied organizations on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.
“Really, it feels good to be wanted in the community and respected for the work that we do,” said Shawn Muhammad, Co- Executive Director.
Muhammad added the Asha Project will receive state funding through its partnership with State End Domestic Abuse WI and Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“This collaboration we have with End Abuse Wisconsin and Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a great marriage, and I’m glad to be reopening and reintroducing ourselves to the community,”.
Just as The Asha Project was reborn, its new logo features a phoenix rising from the flames. Drew Vann said this symbol represented both the agency’s rebirth and the transformations that ensue when abuse survivors work with Asha’s advocates.
The Asha Project will continue to focus its efforts on combating the complex domestic violence issues within the African American Community.
According to the 2014 – 2020 Long Range Plan for a Safe Wisconsin from the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse and End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, “advocacy for victims is stronger when it organizes and leads a community’s response to domestic violence from within.”
The Plan also stated that Survivors felt most comfortable coming forward for help when they shared common values, experiences, native tongues and traditions with the advocates they confided in.
Drew Vann said Asha’s unique ability to connect to the community has rooted the organization as a space to prevent and help victims of domestic and sexual violence in the community.
“The experiences of African-American survivors are filtered through layers of current and historical trauma, discrimination and disparities. Our advocates are in touch with these deep layers of experience and can, therefore, better establish supportive and healing relationships with our fellow community members who have been abused,” Drew Vann said.