"She talked about men's use of violence in the context of a world that degrades them. She simultaneously stood next to, behind, or, when necessary, in front of women who are so often the objects of men's violence. She was committed, without conflict, to raising the status of both men and women."
by Michelle Theilmann
Radhia Jaaber Memorial
Long legacy of human rights activist, advocate against domestic violence and IDVAAC Wellstone Humanitarian Award winner
adhia Jaaber, who passed away August 17 of breast cancer in Washington D.C., dedicated much of her life reaching out to those who suffered from domestic violence. She passionately educated people around the world through speaking, writing, consulting, and training with the mission to raise awareness of the issue and strive for change.
As a high school student growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1969, it was considered “radical” when Jaaber asked the school to teach students more about the history of black people. Friend and co-worker at Praxis International, Ellen Pence recalls, “Radhia Jaaber has been an activist since that sophomore year in high school in the struggle to end the oppression of women, of African American people, of all people marginalized and kept back.” Jaaber went on to receive her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology from Northeastern University in Boston, and her Master’s Degree in Psychology from Kean University in Union, New Jersey.
Jaaber was an activist, a poet, a speaker, an artist, a consultant, a writer, a therapist, a teacher, a gender-culture critic, and a mentor. “She taught about working with men who abuse women, but she never stayed within the small boundary of those teachings,” says Pence. “She talked about men's use of violence in the context of a world that degrades them. She simultaneously stood next to, behind, or, when necessary, in front of women who are so often the objects of men's violence. She was committed, without conflict, to raising the status of both men and women.”
Jaaber displayed vigorous commitment to the issue of domestic violence and support programs through her participation in both national and local organizations. In 1990, Jaaber co-founded The Empowerment Project, Inc., a Maryland-based community program that addresses issues concerning oppression. She served as an advisor to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence as well as the Battered Women's Justice Project.
Jaaber was also a consultant and trainer for Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project and National Training Project. For Praxis International, an organization that works toward the elimination of violence in the lives of women and children, she worked first as a consultant, then as an employee, also serving as a board member representing employees’ interests.
Jaaber authored two poetry books, A Familiar Renaissance: A Collage of Writings for the Reawakening Woman and The Garden of My Soul, both of which combine poetry, spirituality, and wisdom. She also addresses the issue of black male violence while calling for change in the co-authored Kinship Journey.
Jaaber’s passion for human rights issues was apparent to those around her. Pence fondly recalls, “No conversation with Radhia lasted long without her saying, ‘well, that's just it’...then she'd break into a story to make connections between current discussion and the social connection to the poor, the held back, those who live outside of the dominant culture.”
Jaaber received the first-ever IDVAAC Sheila and Paul Wellstone Humanitarian Award at the June 2003 IDVAAC Conference for her dedication to the goals of IDVAAC, as well as the issue of domestic violence.
“Radhia will be remembered as a person of tremendous grace, spirituality, and knowledge,” says friend and colleague Joyce N. Thomas. “She was always advocating for someone else.”
Jaaber was a loving, devoted mother of three children, Saudia, Huda and Adeeb. “Her children were what made her have hope when so many things would seem hopeless; she was their rock and they were the ground upon which she stood,” says Pence. Jaaber is also survived by her father, sister, and brother.