With Ribbon Rouge 2015 just over a month away we are celebrating the theme of Queen! Women who inspire and empower others around. Rule breakers and name takers, villified by some but visionaries to others, these women embody the passion, freedom and unbreakable spirit of their communities and pay it forward a thousand times over.
Today we had the pleasure of interview a local champion for HIV Marlo Cottrell. She is an artist and writer who believes in standing up for women rights, as well as my own. She have recently begun a journey to healing as a woman who has faced the systemic imbalance we still face in our society. She has had to overcome a great many obstacles in my life and to share the message to those who still struggle, so they too may one day feel empowered to share their own voice and most importantly, learn to speak for themselves through self empowerment.
Ribbon Rouge: Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your history/ what you think is important about who you are?
Marlo Cottrell: My name is Marlo Cottrell. To tell you a little about myself, one must first understand to path to where I came from. I will share with you a poem, which pretty much sums it up.
Oh that smiling face, of a little girl filled with so much promise, thought to be destined
for a beautiful life. But the legacy of the broken generations passed down to her, her dreams
slowly crumbled amongst their beatings and their screams.
This was a piece of her story, but she didn’t ask for this kind of life.
She realized dreams were untouchable, an elusive beauty that lay high amongst the stars,
just beyond her grasp.
She saw it all unfolding, this was a piece of her story, but she hadn’t asked for this kind
The moment you realize there was a price for your forbidden skin, sold by the legacy to
pay the remuneration for another mans sin.
Then one day a blessing erupted from the life that lay within. She saw her dreams
realized the in innocence of another that she had been given. She wanted to be enveloped in this
moment, as she nurtured her untouchable star.
But this was to be only a piece of her story, this was not the end.
She saw it slip through her fingers as the legacy emerged, the price that she paid the fee
from her own birth. It seemed her universe was destined to sink into the mire.
This was a piece of her story, but this was not the end.
She found solace in a chemical hell only to take the pain away, so she would not have to
think of that bright star and how its glimmer of light would fade. For it was the legacy that held it
now and she knew they would also make it pay.
But this was only a piece of her story; this could not be the end.
There was a price for her flesh, on the pavement she stood. She felt the beating and the
screams once again. But she protected her heart as they all touched her skin. There was never to
be a premium high enough, where she would ever let them in.
This is just a piece of her story; this was by no means the end.
She then saw other hearts within the broken decay. They had all lost their stars as they
watched them vanish and fade. She found solace amongst them, as she’d paid the price to be let
in. She then attempted to touch their face, just to feel the warmth of their skin, but they had
become so cold.
Because this was their story and this was their end.
As AIDS began to ravage her and she thought her time done, her star called out to her,
“Mommy, you must fight. Your story has just begun.”
So she picked herself up and dusted herself off and vowed to carry the story, whatever
So before you think to judge the broken and the damned, what you glimpse is stars lost
and just looking to be found.
So as I hold my star now, watching it shine ever so bright, I know these were just pieces
of my story and certainly not the sum of my life.
RR: What do you stand for?
MC: I have been standing up for women rights, as well as my own. I have recently begun a journey to healing as a woman who has faced the systemic imbalance we still face in our society. I have overcome a great many obstacles in my life and I share the message to those who still struggle, so they too may one day feel empowered to share their own voice and most importantly, learn to speak for themselves through self empowerment.
RR: Our theme this year is QUEEN! It is an ode to powerful women who have positively influenced us by their lives. What does this mean to you?
MC: I have been a testament to the fact that regardless of how far one may fall, we can rise up and show that we have the ability to be great, do great things in this world and most importantly make a difference in the lives of others.
RR: Tell us about a time when you changed things/ did things differently? What happened as a result?
MC: I am doing my life differently now, in this very moment. I believe that once we truly know our own power and strength, we are capable of accomplishing anything. It is when I finally started to believe in my abilities, good things began to happen.
RR: Every once in a while, I run into a HIV dissident/ denialist; what do you say to people who believe HIV is not real?
MC:I have suffered from AIDS and been healed by prescription medicine. I often ask if they would be willing to stake theirs or their children’s lives on it? Time and time again the outcome proves fatal. Children, mothers and fathers have lost their lives because of this belief that it is not real. At the core of Aids denialsim in my mind is shame. Without acknowledging a very real disease, they do not have to face the very real discrimination that each of us may potentially face and for some, that comes as they when they look at their own reflection.
RR: How do you feel about femininity/ womanhood/ the state of affairs of women’s rights in our country?
MC: As they say, you can tell the best a country has to offer, by how they treat their most vulnerable. Our missing and murdered women are often apathetically brushed to the side without so much as a sideways glance. As we should use those at the bottom as a barometre to measure how we are doing now, I would say we have great room for improvement
Who is your Queen (inspiration)? Why? My Queen and inspiration is actually my daughter. She is a strong and powerful woman whom has taught me about resiliency and compassion. She is an amazing human being and mother.
RR: Your advice to women? What does Ribbon Rouge mean to you?
MC: I myself an am artist and a writer, and believe without a doubt that art inspires change. It reaches into the hearts and minds of people by engaging them in ways that is only possible through art.
We are truly delighted to be sharing her story with you. And we are even more excited to have her story told at the Ribbon Rouge 2015 Gala! Be sure to catch more of her story there on Nov. 28th, 2015 at Ribbon Rouge in Edmonton! www.ribbonrouge.com.
And don’t forget to buy tickets for Ribbon Rouge 2015! Tickets can be purchased online here.
Ribbon Rouge #8
When: November 28, 2015 Doors open at 6pm; Show at 7pm
Where: ATB Financial Arts Barns