Aiken resident Gerry Eisenberg will bring her own exuberant vocal talent as well as host an “Evening of New York Jazz” at the Aiken Center for the Arts on Jan. 27 in an effort to raise money for one of Aiken County's vital social services agencies.
Funds raised by the event will benefit the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused persons. According to the center's website, in 2008, the agency assisted more than 2,800 victims and family members in a six-county area. About 230 women and children stayed in the agency shelter that year.
Eisenberg sings with the New York-based Donald Vega Trio – a popular jazz combo she recorded a CD with in 2011. Eisenberg hosted an earlier fundraiser with the trio for the Cumbee Center about three years ago.
Kay Mixon, director of the Cumber Center, has provided such crucial services to so many people in dire need, Eisenberg said.
“Part of the reason I got involved is that Kay is so important and so inspirational,” said Eisenberg. “She has such a breadth of knowledge, and she's been living with this for a long time.”
The Cumbee Center and other such agencies throughout the nation are hoping for reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women's Act from Washington, D.C., Mixon said. At the end of 2012, the U.S. House declined to support the act, which was previously approved by the Senate.
If the law is not taken up by the new Congress, the loss of funds would close the center's Barnwell/Allendale satellite office and would result the loss of a staff member in Aiken. But the allocation's loss would be as much or more to many agencies, Mixon said.
For the first time since the law was enacted, the law specifically added the needs of Native Americans, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community and immigrants.
“The (U.S.) House doesn't want to include Native American women, lesbians and gays, and any immigrants, whether legal or not,” she said. “The act has been reauthorized every year since 1994.”
Native American women have suffered assault and rape by men who are not Native American themselves. The reservations have no authority to intervene, and the U.S. government said it has no authority either, Mixon said.
“Every single human being should have access to our services,” she said. “We've always had lesbians, and they can't get orders of protection. They are no different from any battered woman who is in fear. If this law does not pass, some rape crisis centers in the country could end up closing, too.”
At a given time at the Cumbee Center's shelter, the staff can have up to nine women and 14 children.
“The women have been shot at or had knives pulled on them,” Mixon said. “Pregnant women have been beaten in the head, had to have stitches and then locked out of their homes. Children come with their mothers and they're devastated. We have to work with them as much as their mothers or the children grow up being abused or being the abuser.”
The average shelter stay has usually been two or three weeks, but with limited alternative housing available, women can remain there for up to three months, said Mixon. A legal immigrant may have had her papers destroyed by her abuser and find it hard to replace them or obtain a job.
Such tragic situations have raised a chord with Eisenberg.
“When there are cutbacks and trimming of discretionary spending, these people don't have a lobby,” she said. “This knows no demographic. It's not just situations with lower socioeconomic people. That needs to be demystified.”
Eisenberg invites community residents to support the Cumbee Center by seeing a New York-style jazz performance.
“Donald plays all over the world,” Eisenberg said. “He's finishing up in Japan, and his most recent CD is no. 1 in JazzWeek. This is his next stop, and he's been so wonderful to me.”