“If We Are to Win…” A Speech for Women Marching
On Saturday, January 21, I joined an array of women in my city of St. Louis, MO, to share remarks, reflections, and calls to action during our local post-inauguration Women’s March. Below are both my original speech script as well as footage from the speech (captured by various friends).
“If We Are to Win…”
Good morning, and thank you all for welcoming me before you today.
My name is a De Andrea Nichols, and I was asked to speak today about the fight that is ahead of us.
You see, like some of you, I have been a part of a movement for black lives these past few years, and in this movement, we believe that
it is our duty to fight for our freedom.
Not to beg for it.
Not to plead.
Not to hope and wish alone.
But to fight. To break all the necessary rules in order to make this world—this country, our city— better so that the pain, anguish, and fears that rests in so many of our hearts and Minds right now will never have to be felt again.
But When we say these words, “it is our duty to fight for our freedom,” we make a deep, collective commitment.
We commit to looking beyond our most individual selves and pushing for the needs and humanity of each and every person in the struggle with us.
We commit to operating in the street, in our families, at the office—wherever we must—to advocate, organize, and push for better policies and better possibilities for our people.
We commit to putting our bodies on frontlines and leveraging whatever resource or strategy we must to ensure the safety and protection of our people.
I am here today to put my life on the line for you, but I must ask:
Will you put your body on the line for freedom?
Are you willing to fight for my freedom?
When a woman of color—or trans woman or brown woman— is killed by extrajudicial police force,
Will you stand in the streets for her? Will you stand for
Until we can all say yes to this, and
Until this fight–our women’s fight–assures that the most vulnerable, targeted, and forgotten of us can access the resources and opportunities and protections as the most privileged of us, then
We must continue to resist.
There are deep divides right between white women and the rest of us in this country, because time and time again, our livelihoods and well-being have been placed at the helms of your complicity to white supremacy and patriarchy.
Until we rid ourselves same internalized
…that have led us here and left us divided as women,
We must continue to resist.
You see, I was hesitant about speaking amongst us today, as it was hard for me to fathom that the promise of unity and the promises of hope are actualizable as we currently exist.
But….You see, in addition to believing that it is our duty to fight for our freedom—like Assata—
I believe it is also our duty to win it.
And winning takes a lot.
Winning takes… showing up. Again and again and again. Tomorrow after tomorrow.
Winning takes…putting your body on the line for womxn and not shaming or co-opting or policing or silencing or appropriating us.
Winning takes… losing your devotion to the “laws and orders” of things, realizing that these rules were not meant to support or protect the rest of us.
Winning takes… strapping on your boots to walk and talk with your sisters and brothers and your mothers and fathers and your aunts and uncles.
It takes… listening—radically listening—to and centering the leadership and voices of womxn who have the most to lose in this fight ahead.
Because let me be clear:
Suffrage was not for every woman.
1920’s voting rights was not for every woman.
Gaining 23 more cents today does not close the gap for every woman.
We must have greater vision than this.
RIght now in our very own city, we have the opportunity to possibly elect our first woman—our first woman of color—as mayor, and I think about my friend, Tishaura Jones, who has put her name on the ballot for this.
I think about her story of resilience in pushing out of the shadows of her father,
And it makes me think about my own mother—a single mom—putting herself on the line for her family, and turning that experience into one that has now provided children across this city the opportunities that she never would have had herself.
To win this fight, it’s going to take us creating and innovating things like that together—helping and building new possibilities together.
You see, I want to do work in this movement with some misfits and some warriors—those who dare to pave our paths using the bricks that have been thrown our way.
I do not believe that any one of us are “throwaway people” in this fight, and I reject the notion that women have to be respectable OR “articulate,” OR passive to do it.
So I say, “NO MORE.”
NO MORE… justifying the violence against trans women, poor women, and sex workers just because our stories aren’t theirs.
NO MORE…defending the threats upon Muslim and undocumented women’s existence just because their stories aren’t ours.
How many times will we leave each other behind and throw each other away?
It is time for us to do better.
It is time for us to realize our connected humanity in this fight.
That racism is tied to this fight…
That whorephobia and slut-shaming are tied to this fight.
xenophobia, fatphobia, homophobia, and transphobia.
That the fights of the women in the shadows
Are all connected.
If we are to win,
we must detangle the chains of fear and oppression that are holding and weighing us down.
And when we say “we must love and support each other,” we must look more deeply and boldly into the meaning of these words.
Love is not just toleration. It is not you rendering me as disposable.
So I ask you again: are you—are we—really ready to take on this fight?
I leave here with that type of resistance pumping through my heart, and I hope you do too.
Because when we can commit to these things—to fight, to love, to support, to change,
Then we will be united.
And I believe that then
We. Will. Win.
— Rebecca Rivas (@Rebeccarivas) January 22, 2017