On Monday I re-read Rep. John Lewis’s speech from WashU’s 2016 Commencement. I also read my own words that I’d spoken nights before at WashU’s commencement ceremony for art students.
From his words, I kept courage.
“If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it,” he said. “Say something. Do something. Have the courage. Have the backbone to get in the way.”
From my own words, I was reminded to “start breaking the rules of what you’ve been told.”
I’ve been often told that if I don’t like something, that I should disengage with it. Don’t be in any way connected to it.
But I’m encouraged by Rep. Lewis’s notion that disliking something is sometimes the very reason to show up, the very reason to disrupt and break the rules/paradigms–to get in the way–and fix the issues or replace them with something better.
A lot of people have asked my thoughts on the women’s marches that are happening nationwide and if/why I was asked to speak at the one in St. Louis. One person even expressed, “why you let these white women set you up like that? It’s a trap.” Or why are you giving them your energy? What are you doing this for? Are you selling out?
None of the above.
My reason is not to feign unity–I still don’t personally feel that sentiment embodied in this effort locally or nationally, and I think we should not tell ourselves lies otherwise.
It is not to pacify white women and their or anyone’s post-election guilt (with over half voting for Trump) or their fears/tears, as it is not my role to fix those myriads of issues they must work out amongst themselves.
It is also not to speak on behalf of all WOC (or any other womxn/femme demographics that are constantly forgotten/silenced/sidelined/policed/ignored) and our numerous/complex issues, as I have not been given that authority, and it would be narcissistic to think I could.
My participation is, however, to hold space and be unflinching in addressing the tension and discomfort that circulates between us.
It is also to hold a mirror and a window up to our collective selves and challenge–force us to see–who we might become if we strip internalized egos/traditions/lies/stereotypes/privileges/grudges/biases/entitlement/prejudices/oppression/racism/complacency/supremacy/absentmindedness/fears for the sake of forging a more equitable and just experience for the most marginalized and disregarded of girls, women, and families in this country…and who we become if we do not.
It is indeed to hold the door and usher the possibility of finally actualizing intersectional womxnhood and womanism and not throwing any demographic of womxn/femmes away to fend for herself/themselves in this political mayhem and battle. I personally feel so many of these “marches” cater to non-radical, white, Christian, middle-aged, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-het women, and that irks me because this battle is deeper and more vast and more complex than the needs/concerns/issues expressed by “wealth gap” and “reproductive rights/women’s health” alone.
But like Audre Lorde, I believe in the embodiment of Gamba Adisa (warrior: she who makes her meaning known), and I’m not afraid of working through the tensions and cultural divisions that womxn face. For many, these marches are a starting point and Saturday is a first step. For me and many others, it’s another check point on a long journey, and I think we make a gross mistake of repeating history and its oppressive cycles once more if we don’t forge a different path forward.
So in short, yes, I will be present.
No, I will not march.
Yes, I will speak.
Image via AM Network