Friday, October 18, 2013

A Tale of 3 Ninjas and The Traveling Blue Wig Project #FierceFund

Have a story of a time you were Fierce? Want to help Clever Girls Collective support women and girls to be Fierce? Visit to learn more about this girl-power project!

Chicago, 1994.   

It was that weird prickling sensation on the back of her neck that gave her the first inclination that she was being stalked.  There was a concert at The Aragon Ballroom, taking up street parking, so she'd had to park a few blocks from home.   Her boyfriend of 2 years was out with friends and the relationship was unraveling anyway, so she was alone.

Her apartment was in sight, as she glanced over her shoulder and saw a guy in a black hoodie, like a ninja mask, rounding the corner behind her... then another... and a third.   Senses on high alert, she walked faster and got the key in the gate of the wrought iron fence when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Give me your money, man."

Time clicked into super slow motion and she felt anger overriding fear.

"I don't have any money!" She yelled, as loud as possible, hoping someone would hear.

The 3 surrounded her and pulled out a curved, serrated hunting knife about 10" long.  When they made a move, she countered and kicked out at them.   Then she grabbed her key chain pepper spray and saw the individual droplets spray out at her attackers in freeze frame.   The knife flicked out and sliced her across the right wrist and she dropped the mace.

As she kicked and dodged, she lost her footing and fell to one knee on the sidewalk.  She looked up to see the knife wielding ninja plunge the blade toward her face.   She blocked with her arm, and he sliced across her left knuckle, and stabbed her deep in the forearm.

An oncoming car broke up the party, and oblivious, kept driving down the block, but the attackers scattered and it gave her the few seconds she needed to grab her keys, and get in the gate.   With blood hemorrhaging all over, she couldn't even tell where she was cut or how badly.   She ran up the stairs, leaving a trail of crimson in her wake, and called 911.   They never caught the guys.

**If this story played out in the panels of a comic book, movie or tv show, I might find it suspenseful or even entertaining.   But it actually happened to me and it was pretty horrific.**

The physical cuts eventually healed, though it was months before the nightmares stopped.   I woke frequently and replayed the attack endlessly through my mind with a zillion what ifs.   What if I had come home 10 minutes earlier or later.   What if the car hadn't picked my side street and they'd slit my throat.   What if...

I moved to a new neighborhood and started to put my life back together.   I was a bit angry with myself for feeling so freaked out during the aftermath, but at first it was a supreme effort to leave the house, let alone go out after dark.   At the time, a neighbor woman who happened to be a cop gave me some great advice.   She said "Be patient with yourself.   It takes time to get over something like this.  You can't rush healing."   It took a good year before I stopped anxiously looking over my shoulder, and felt normal walking alone at night again, but I took her advice and stopped beating myself up over my justifiable PTSD.  

You really never know what you'll be like in a life or death situation till you're there.   And I was fierce.   I'd always been an activist and advocate for women's safety, but now I know what it feels like to be attacked and to fight back.   

Today I donate to shelters and advocate for self defense training, safer streets, and laws protecting women.   I have a 10 year old daughter now, and I make sure she knows women can be mighty, and smart about safety, and that we all need to look out for each other.    I still live in Chi, IL and confidently walk the city streets by day and night.  I don't live my life from a place of fear, but from a place of empowerment.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara (AKA: ChiIL Mama)

I'm elated that Clever Girls Collective chose me, as 1 of 50, to share my story.   The knife attack was something that changed me fundamentally and not something most of my friends or family knew about me, to this day.   The Traveling Blue Wig Project is crazy cool and I'm excited to be a part of this collection of stories.   

There are women in my circle of friends right now who are undergoing surgery for thyroid and breast cancer.   3 of my friends, who have young children, lost their homes this year through bank foreclosures.  Several more miscarried, had a stillborn child and lost a young son.   I'm overwhelmed by the every day courage of these women, and how they endure the unthinkable and keep on going.

Fierce can mean lots of things to different people, and we want to hear your stories of strength, bravery, and general kick-butt-ness.  

We all have our moments of being Fierce, and The Clever Girls Collective is collecting your inspiring stories. Fifty members of the Clever Girls Collective will be receiving blue wigs and sharing their stories of “Being Fierce” in blog posts. In the meantime, please feel free to share your moments of Fierceness in the comments below.

Encouraging Women & Girls To Be Fierce

Every woman has a story of strength. To recognize and celebrate these stories, and to ensure women and girls are always empowered to be Fierce, Clever Girls Collective is proud to announce The Fierce Fund, a corporate advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
    • In 2013, The Fierce Fund will donate $20,000 in support of nonprofit initiatives that celebrate, encourage, and elevate women and girls. Read more below and vote for your favorite cause!
Why The Fierce Fund?
    • Our internal mantra is “Innovate. Elevate. Be Fierce.” Since our inception in 2009, Clever Girls has focused on two things: encouraging women to tell their stories, and helping women gain recognition and monetization for doing so.
    • In October 2012, Clever Girls Co-Founder Sheila Bernus Dowd, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, and today is in full remission. Throughout her treatments, she continued to work at CGC, ran the annual fundraiser at her children’s school…and found a new affinity for hats and fake hair. (See below about our Traveling Blue Wig Project!)
    • Having one of our own go through this difficult experience sharpened Clever Girls’ focus on helping women when we most need support.

How To Be Fierce Part One: Vote For #FierceFund Nominees
    • The following fabulous, Fierce 501(c)(3) organizations were selected by the Clever Girls staff, and each of them supports women and girls in very important ways. Please vote for the organization that you believe should be the recipient of this year’s $20,000 #FierceFund:

    • CoachArt improves the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and their siblings by providing free lessons in the arts and athletics.

    • Dress for Success San Francisco’s mission is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

    • Girls Who Code works to educate, inspire, and equip young women with the skills and resources to pursue academic and career opportunities in computing fields.

How To Be Fierce Part Two: Follow & Join Our “Traveling Blue Wig” Project!
    • Our stories of strength take many forms.
    • Being Fierce is having the courage to try a new career, drive across the country, travel somewhere you’ve never been; standing up to a bully, calling out hate speech, voting; being strong for your kids, being there for your friends, being active in your community. Being Fierce can mean going back to school after a couple decades away, it could mean putting on a bathing suit at the public beach. Or being Fierce could mean going through cancer treatments and choosing to rock a blue wig in stride.

Click here to check out the Fierce Fund voting page and help select the Fierce Fund grant winner.

Be sure to stay up-to-date with the #FierceFund by following the hashtag across Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Thank you for this story, Bonnie! It's eerie how certain details, like the car that unknowingly interrupted the attack, mirrors a similar experience I had. Like you, I had always wondered what I would do in that situation and I am happy that, like you, my instinct was to fight back. It's not right for every situation but sometimes, that is our best option. Thank you for sharing your story and for your encouragement of female empowerment.

  2. Wow, Bonnie what a story. Definitely a frightening event, but I'm so glad that you continue to spread the message of empowerment and shared your story. Women can be so resilient, but sometimes we don't know it until we've read the stories of others like us who have faced tough times. Thank you also for highlighting these 3 awesome projects. I cast my vote.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Bonnie. You deserve to be rocking that fierce blue wig for not only surviving that scary encounter but for all that you do on a daily basis!

  4. Wow. Just wow. I'm so happy you shared!

  5. Never heard that story my friend, scary! As a wee one we lived in rough neighborhoods so I was always aware and protected, but hated being a prisoner of my own community! Hated that my mom had to instill this fear for my awareness. Hated not being able to freely ride my bike, play in the yard, or the what not. As an adult and a woman i still have fears of being attacked and primarily raped. Woman are at such a disadvantage!!! But we should always be aware and fierce to over come.