In 2019, Mayor Randall Woodfin’s administration launched the #StrongHER campaign to highlight some of the unsung “sheroes’’ living, working, volunteering or inspiring others in Birmingham. For 31 days in March, women are featured on the City of Birmingham’s social media outlets in celebration of Women’s History Month.
The message is that Birmingham is StrongHER, BoldHER, BrightHER, FierceHER, SmartHER and BraveHER because of HER.
That campaign continues in 2023.
“We live in a city where women are making moves that spark change,’’ Woodfin said. “The women highlighted in this campaign are just an example of the thousands of other female gamechangers working to make a difference in our city, our country and the world. I salute them all.’’
The 2023 theme for StrongHer, the City of Birmingham’s annual salute to outstanding women, will be “Born to Make a Difference: Then and Now.” It is a celebration of women’s journeys from childhood to adulthood and the inspiring lessons learned along the way.
Meet Daphney Portis
On a clear, crisp October night in downtown Birmingham, the lights underneath the interstate bathed City Walk in a warm yellow hue.
People huddled and chatted, waiting to support a candlelight vigil for victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
There were a handful of speakers. Daphney Portis was one of them.
She stepped on stage, took a deep breath and said, “My name is Daphney Portis, and I’m a survivor.”
It was the first time Portis, 28, had publicly shared that she had been a victim of sexual assault, a crime that happened at the hands of someone she knew in college. She never called police. Instead, she suffered in silence.
“I was wearing a mask saying, ‘I’m OK, and it didn’t affect me,’” said Portis, who works for a Birmingham-based nonprofit that focuses on social justice and female victims of domestic violence. “But it did.”
The assault happened in 2016. She sought counseling in 2019. She told her family in 2022.
Releasing the secret made Portis feel like she had gotten her voice back not only to empower herself but also others. On the night of the vigil in 2022, she read a poem she had written in dedication to domestic violence survivors.
Part of her poem reads, “Yes – I wear an R on my chest because resilience is my superpower.”
Portis knows there’s power in words and writing, which is why she uses her talent for writing poetry to teach survivors how to put their pain to paper. In her spare time, she wants to create a project where she can talk more about being a survivor and help women recognize the early signs of abuse.
“It’s wild how quiet people are about domestic violence and sexual assault,” she said. “But it is time to speak up in order to disrupt this cycle of violence and change the narrative.”
*If you or someone you know has been affected by intimate partner violence or gender-based violence, contact the YWCA Central Alabama’s Crisis Line at 205-322-4878 or the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence Statewide Hotline at 1-800-650-6522.