Category Archives: Activism

This is What Democracy Looks Like

What a wild two and a half months. In January, some friends and I attended the Women’s March on Washington, which was, for lack of a better word, surreal. We were so fortunate so be apart of “herstory,” and hear from many of the people who have stood up for women’s rights throughout the past 40+ years. Here’s a brief rundown of that weekend:

The night before the march, I visited with my dear friend and fellow activist, Christin, and stood in line for three hours  – yes, you read that right – to pick up some souvenirs from a special pop-up shop. The camaraderie in line was incredible – we shared pizza and stories, and drivers honked and cheered in support of us. I was interviewed by a Danish journalist for Jyllands-Posten, and it was pretty cool to hear his perspective. Jorgen had spent some time in Georgia at Jimmy Carter’s home, and was eager to talk about his experiences with the former President. img_0523

After the pop-up, I stopped in a bookstore whose name I now forget, and picked up a copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves from 1972 – hand stapled and everything! The record cafe nearby, Songbyrd, was pretty cool, too, but I resisted the urge to buy any vinyl, due to difficulties getting it back home.

My friend, Bridget, hosted me at her house with her sweet corgi puppers, Pebbles and Skylar, and has the most comfortable bed EVER. She also spoiled me rotten with her amazing cooking! I had to get up pretty early Saturday morning to take the Metro into the city to meet Liz, her daughter, Abby, and their friend, Aleia, and it was none too easy get out of that comfy bed. Nevertheless, I did, and with a bit of trepidation for what the day might bring. The Metro ride was eerily quiet, with us marchers gearing ourselves for the day. Once we hit our stop, however, it was mind-blowing to see the amount of other people getting off with their signs, hats, and jubilance.

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Liz and I had to meet a reporter from my station’s DC Bureau for an interview and in a sea of hundreds of thousands of people all gathering in the same place, this was no easy feat! We found each other and ultimately landed in a prime location for the event.

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Liz being interviewed by Gray Reporter, Peter Zampa

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Gloria Steinem

 

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Angela Davis

Again, we stood for hours. But it was so worth it. We shared snacks and helped each other see better, and supported each other in general. Mid afternoon, we finally began to march. Onlookers cheered from the promenade of the Newseum, and people came from every direction. I cannot stress how many people were there – they took up every.single.street. We opted to stop at the Washington Monument, rather than continue to the White House, as it was already so late and we were pretty much starving at that point. Marchers left their signs on the lawn, and it was a sight to see.

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Exhausted, but fulfilled, we went on the hunt for food and ended up in a Greek restaurant in Alexandria. Every. single.place was PACKED.

I spent the rest of the weekend visiting the US Botanic Garden, the National Women’s Party Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and a brief stop at the National Gallery. I also had the pleasure of meeting my mom’s old college friend and art historian, Peter Lukehart, and had the most delicious lavender hot chocolate ever. My bff, Crystal, and her other bff, Catherine, had come into town and we spent a weird night at an underground goth dance party, because why not? Photos from the rest of the weekend will be saved for another post.

Just when I thought things would be back to normal, a month later, Liz and I found ourselves with Maxine Waters, Jehmu Greene, Tom Perez, Bob Bland, and Howard Dean at the DNC Winter Reception. Saving that story for another blog post, as well!

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rebel, rebel

I don’t know about you, but I spent the entirety of my holiday break in pajamas, watching Netflix, baking cookies & cakes, and eating potatoes. Having spent the past several months working four jobs, volunteering, and earning As (!) in my classes, on top of the political nightmare that continues to unfold, disappearing for a few days was much needed. And yet, there was still that lingering feeling of being unsettled. I envy those who are able to get off the grid, who can carry on with their daily lives, not a care in the world – or for what’s happening in it. Unfortunately, it’s just not who I am and never has been. But there sure are times when I wish I could run away to some hidden cabin in the woods and pretend nothing else matters.

One of the more recent things  weighing heavily on my mind right now is this mass of celebrity deaths. I think everyone can agree that this has been quite a devastating year. The reality is, we don’t know these people – but we feel like we do. Celebrity deaths matter because these extraordinary people make an impact on our lives. The represent the beauty of escapism, characters we dream of being. Why do you go to a movie or listen to a song? For entertainment, yes, but often we go to get away from it all. We sit in a dark theatre or lie in bed, headphones on, and willfully surrender ourselves to another realm. Carrie Fisher’s untimely death resonated with a lot of people, I think, not just because of her trials in life, but through her characters on screen. Princess/General Leia, to generations of people – women, especially – represented strength, courage, and of course, hope. While those characteristics will live on, they’ll be tinged with a bit of sadness, as we wanted our heroine to live forever. We want the dream to live forever. Because of the fantasy provided on screen, the character became ours, the actress someone to whom we felt a connection. When we become engaged with a character, it is often because we see something of ourselves in that player, or endeavor to be like him or her. Even if it’s a cartoon, we may find ourselves thinking, “I want to embody those aspects,” or, “I do those things!,” and they provide reassurance of our own humanity. When you have stars like David Bowie or Prince, artists who owned their individuality, and who explicitly declared that it was okay -nay, GREAT- to be different, to be weird, they become our idols. They may live fantasy lives and project otherworldly images, but we watched them achieve those illusions by talent, yes, and also by challenging the “norm” and furthering the acceptance of diversity. Music, like film, transports us. Regardless of whether a song invokes a sad memory or a feeling of empowerment, there’s still that connection to the musician, that s/he is speaking directly to us, and therefore this magical, untouchable creature knows exactly what we feel. Again, the lyrics, the melody, and the message remain, but when the translator of said message ceases to exist, it can shake our very core. Celebrities often represent the things we often cannot do or say. When they die, our voices, through theirs, feel silenced. We mourn because we feel grateful. The person who watched Star Wars, knowing she would not be an actual princess saving a galaxy, became a politician, an advocate, a teacher – encouraging others to learn and find the fortitude to guide others. A voice. The person who may have been a terrible guitarist, but heard the call to create, to own that Flock of Seagulls haircut, became a designer, a store owner, an ally to others who felt like they didn’t “belong.”

So last weekend, as I watched Carol, Suffragette, Ghost World, Cafe Society, and binged on the entire season of Hello, My Twenties, I was thankful for that escape. Inspired by the historically-based and real-life characters of Carey Mulligan and Natalie Press, identifying with Steve Buscemi’s nerdiness, and motivated to go out for black bean noodles (we’ll be dining at a local Korean restaurant tomorrow night!) , these are examples of how celebrities and their art affected me in a span of a simple few days. Nothing particularly life-changing, but they made a small impact, and they helped me find some solace when the future can seem rather bleak. This is why the arts, and the lives who contribute to them matter. They afford us the ability to disappear, even if for a mere two hours. As Princess Leia said, they brought us “hope.” And for that, I am grateful.

rebel

 

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

My brain is foggy right now, so I’m afraid my words are not going to be as eloquent as I’d like.

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America broke up with me last night. I have to say, it came as a bit of a surprise. I thought we were on the same page with our goals in life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice, but I was stunningly wrong.

As I sat stunned into silence, America told me in no uncertain terms that:

My LGBTQ friends are worthless; their “lifestyle choices” are disgusting and that not only did they need conversion therapy, but they don’t deserve the same rights as “straight” men and women. Love is only love between a man and a woman. America said that my gay best friend deserves to live in fear for his life. America told me that fags and dykes are ruining family values.

My immigrant friends and family are a danger to our way of life. They are taking jobs, they need to speak English, that they are terrorists. They aren’t welcome here. America told me that my Hijabi, Muslim friend, a citizen of the country, is a threat to society, secretly working for Al Qaeda. She should be deported. I was also told that my immigrant grandfather, who spoke seven languages, served in the United States military, a doctor of internal medicine, and was forced out of his country because of the war, represented what is “wrong” with this country. That we were letting too many immigrants in, and that has to stop. America told me that the rag-heads are dangerous.

My extended family, my African-American aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother, are criminals. IT’s okay for a white man to have a gun, but not a black man. White men are trying to protect their homes, while the black men are thugs out to rob you. Their skin, in various shades of brown, is dirty. Their lives don’t matter because they shouldn’t be walking in white neighborhoods to begin with. They should only wear clothing that doesn’t appear “threatening.” They bring violence upon themselves. America told me that you can’t trust a nigger.

My sex isn’t equal. Because I am a woman, I deserve less pay than a man, should be subjected to harassment, and kept quiet. America laughed at my stories of sexual assault, blamed my friends for being raped, and told me that my body doesn’t belong to me. America said my body, my vagina, my ovaries, my breasts, belong to man. America said I wasn’t capable of making decisions regarding my reproductive rights. America said my grandmother, one of two women in her class to graduate medical school, with degrees in anesthesiology and psychiatry, wasn’t as qualified as her male classmates. America told me I can be anything I want to be – unless a man wants that job. America called me a bitch, a slut, rated my appearance, and told me I was only a vessel for procreation.

My disabilities don’t matter. I shouldn’t get healthcare – in fact, no one should have access to free healthcare. America said, “tough luck, not my problem.” America made fun of my friends with physical and mental disabilities. Said we were all a burden, retards begging for handouts. Fight or flight.

America laughed at me last night. America told me I don’t matter. I really thought we were in this together – after all, we’ve been in a relationship for quite a long time now. But America broke my heart, stripped me of my sense of being, took everything we had together, and destroyed it all. I didn’t know there was that much hate in America’s heart. America walked out on me last night, leaving me in a puddle of tears and a state of disbelief.

If America were actually a person, everyone would agree that I’d be better off without him or her. But America is not a person – it is my country, my home. How is it that this type of abusive behavior is acceptable for millions of people?

Take note, America. We will not be silenced.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”