A Message From Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women With A Vision, Inc.

August 1, 2016

Dear Friends and Supporters of Women With A Vision, Inc.,

Today, I write to you not only as longtime supporters of Women With A Vision (WWAV), but also as members of our beloved community. I write to you on the eve of undertaking the biggest fight of my life. On July 20, 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Effective Friday, August 5th, I will be on medical leave as the Executive Director of WWAV. Our Director of Programs, Desiree Evans, will serve as Interim Executive Director for the coming year.

Many times, I have been asked why I fight. My commitment is an imperative, not a choice. I was born on April 4, 1968 in the early evening – at the exact date and time that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Our world absorbed a tremendous responsibility that night to continue the struggle for justice. I have always understood that responsibility as my birthright.

Since the age of nineteen, WWAV has been my life. I grew up with WWAV’s founders, walking the streets of New Orleans to bring the forgotten members of our community into care and hope. After Hurricane Katrina, with our community scattered in far-flung parishes and cities nationwide, I worked with the WWAV foremothers to guide us through recovery, ensuring that we were one of the only Black-led organizations to survive the storm. When longtime members of the WWAV family were being criminalized en-mass under Louisiana’s antiquated “crime against nature” law, I leveraged WWAV’s local, national, and international connections to support their grassroots struggle for justice, securing the removal of more than 800 people from the sex offender registry. And then, when still unknown arsonists firebombed and destroyed WWAV’s offices in 2012, I fought alongside WWAV’s founders, staff, and members to steward the rebirth of our quarter-century old organization into the renowned policy and advocacy powerhouse we are.

In this spirit, and in the words of the late Audre Lorde, I undertake my fight against breast cancer as “an act of political warfare.” I invite you to fight alongside me. And I ask for your renewed commitment to sustaining the next twenty-five years of WWAV’s work for justice and liberation.

During the coming year, you will have the privilege of getting to know the many women of WWAV, women I am privileged to work alongside as sisters in struggle. Since the day that Desiree Evans joined WWAV’s staff in 2013, she has been steadily building our programming with an intersectional human rights analysis, informed by her decades of work in the U.S and Global South. Each of our programs today bears her imprint. There is no one else who could hold WWAV’s work in all of its vibrancy. Our board is honored that Desiree will serve as Interim Executive Director for the duration of my medical leave, stewarding WWAV’s work with the support of our dynamic team of nine staff members. You can reach Desiree directly at desiree@wwav-no.org.

Why do I fight? Simply put, I fight, because I am. I fight, so that we can be.

In love and life,
Deon Haywood

Women With a Vision, Inc.
1226 N. Broad Street
New Orleans, LA. 70119
504.301.0428 (office)

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