By Christi Mays
It is virtually impossible to summarize all the volunteer work Dr. Kerry-Ann Zamore Byrd has done over the years. Some of her earliest memories as a child are of helping her parents at church events on the island of Dominica, where she grew up the first 11 years of her life. After moving to Washington, D.C., she has fond memories of dishing up food in soup kitchens and assisting at homeless shelters. When she was 15, she volunteered to hold and soothe AIDS and drug-affected babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital where her mother worked. She continued throughout college serving hungry people in soup kitchens and collected barrels of food, clothing, shoes and books to send to a mission in Belize, where her parents worked. Zamore Byrd’s childhood revolved around serving others.
It was really no surprise to her family and friends when she decided to study social work in college so she could continue helping others. But that is where Zamore Byrd’s story takes an unexpected twist, and as a new social work graduate, she found herself in the exact position of those she was trying to help. Married to her college sweetheart, who was an officer in the military, Zamore Byrd became a victim of domestic violence (or, as she likes to say, a “survivor” of domestic violence.) That violence escalated for 14 years to the point it almost ended her life.
“I was almost killed in that relationship,” she said. “The police saved my life, and my nine-year-old son saved my life at that time.”
Zamore Byrd started sharing her experiences with colleagues at conferences, which seemed therapeutic for her at the time. But at one particular meeting in 2013, as she recounted her story in front of 3,000 police officers, social workers, and nurses, all she could think about was, ‘they already know this. The people that really need to hear this are not in this room.’”
That realization helped hatch the idea of telling her story of domestic violence through stage plays and sharing them with the community.