Sunday, January 20, 2019

Don't Hesitate If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy: On Women’s Marches, A Disability Non-March, and the People’s Front of Judea #WeWillNotBeSilent


Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'THE PUSSY HATS ARE COMING! THE PUSSY HATS ARE COMING!!!'
Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor
Scenes from three marches starting in Brooklyn. 
There is a scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, when the four members of the Judean  People’s  Front meet Brian in the forum. They talk about their differing demands as well as trash their splinter group, the People’s Front of Judea, the camera panning to a lone person sitting looking bitter.
Later  in the film several of the groups are found to be involved in  a secretive raid.
Apparently, the Campaign for Free Galilee have  been planning the  same thing for months.
The two groups run  into each  other  and start fighting.
“Brothers, brothers! We should be struggling together!” declares Brian.
“We are!”
“We mustn’t fight each other!  Surely we should unite against the common enemy,” Brian follows.
“The Judean People’s Front,” they scream in unison.
“No the Romans,” Brian replies.

I guess we’re always fighting  the Judean People’s Front.

It started  feel like this reading about the  factions  of the Women’s March this week, with dueling groups declaring  their purity in face of one another.

In our case, there was  the Women’s March NYC and the Women's March on NYC, each one official, with its own march or rally Saturday.
“Reminds me of the 2, at times even 3, competing gay pride marches in Berlin,” noted my friend Alessandra Rusconi on facebook.
I, for one, do not mind the offshoots and splits.
No movement can remain static. 
You can’t create the same march over and over.
It doesn’t work.
We shift; our demands evolve, new categories emerge
Its part of movement growth and change
( as long as people  are not trashing  each other).
Factionalism  is one way to see it.
But you can’t dismiss different people’s  stories.
Anne Frank’s Diary will always be just as import as I know Why the Caged Bird Sings and I am Malala:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ...
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“If one man can destroy everything, why can't one girl change it?”
“I've found that there is always some beauty left -- in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”
We  can  learn from  each story.
We all can.   
I spend the week trying to figure out which group was which.
Digging through it all, my friend sent me an article, a letter sent by Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. Magazine, to  the New York Times, responding to the Times article, Anti-Semitism Accusations Roil Women’s March” (front page, Dec. 24):
“For more than 35 years I’ve witnessed leftists form a firing squad in a circle while our mutual enemies ride off into the sunset unscathed,” she wrote aptly highlighting the dynamic. “In 1982 I wrote an investigative article for Ms. magazine that detailed many of the same fevered schisms among Jewish women and women of color that your article discussed. Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, was the ignition switch back then, too. Some Women’s March leaders say they’ve been educating themselves about the evils of anti-Semitism, as if they missed the memo until Jewish women expressed pain and shock at their exclusion from organizing efforts and their omission from the published “unity principles” enumerating which groups of women in particular should be “free.”…Since the first Women’s March, in 2017, a number of feminist intermediaries have tried to help bridge the organizers’ ideological and political gaps, with scant success. Until all of us understand that racism and anti-Semitism are the same toxic madness split at the root, and until we embrace intersectionality without defining any woman out, our struggle against sexism and racism will be hobbled by our squabbles with one another.”
All week, I’d try to come to grips with the ways this conflict translated into the streets of NYC. There would be a rally at Foley Square and a March at Columbus Circle similar  to the event last  year when we waited in pens for hours before marching a few blocks and then going home.  And then then there was the Non-march by Women with Disabilities organized  by  my buddies in Rise and Resist. Accessibility is vital. Freedom of movement our universal right. 
I asked  my friends about which marches they would go to.
Some said the Foley Square was linked with the the  anti-sematism.
Others said the organizers for  the Columbus Circle march had more corporate and bank ties and were insensitive the requests for inclusion by people with disabilities.
My head started to spin reading the arguments, flipping this name of this group, with that one.
I tried to read the official posts.
“This is the official Women's March on NYC hosted by the organizers of both the 2017 & 2018 Women's March on NYC.
MAP, Route & FAQ's: be aware of an increase in spam marches. If Women's March ALLIANCE is not the host, it is not the OFFICIAL NYC march.”

And  then  there were the “spam” events:

Women’s March NYC and the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) are excited to announce that we will co-chair the 2019 Women's Unity Rally in New York City. Women's March NYC is the OFFICIAL NYC chapter of Women's March — part of the national & global movement.
The Women’s Unity Rally in NYC will highlight the leadership of Black women, immigrant women and women of color as part of the national #WomensWave, and in response to the Trump Administration’s continued assault on immigrant communities and communities of color. Organizations including grassroots advocates, nonprofit community organizations, labor unions and more, will rally to demand justice for women, communities of color, immigrant families, gender-nonconforming individuals, all-faith practitioners, and people with disabilities. By affirmatively linking our collective struggles, we aim to elevate the diverse experiences of ALL women in the resistance.
We are elated to host the third annual Women’s March event, and in honor of MLK Day on Monday the 21st, we intend to honor the work and spirit of Dr. King in the programming of this event.
LOCATION: Wome's Unity Rally in FOLEY SQUARE, Downtown Manhattan, BE THERE!
We are engaged in direct action year round with rooted partnerships to local organizations that align with our unity principles and pride ourselves on centering the voices of black and brown women in all of our work.
Facebook: @NYCWM
Instagram: @WomesMarchNYC
Twitter: @WomensMarchNYC
Weary of the pens at Columbus, I decided to walk to Foley Square where most of my labor and Rise and Resist comrads were meeting,
Before joining the disability action at Grand Central.

“The Non-March for Disabled Women [NMDW] is co-cosponsored by Rise and Resist and Women’s March NYC [WMNYC], local chapter of the national and global movement Women’s March.
We are aligning our events in solidarity and sisterhood with the WMNYC Women’s Unity Rally, 10am on Jan 19th at Foley Square and the Non-March for Women on Jan 19th beginning at 2pm at Grand Central.
The NMDW was formed out of the need to highlight the concerns of disabled women and trans and non-binary folk.
People with disabilities make up the largest minority community in the United States. Keeping in mind that disability is an underreported community, the US census reports that 19% of the population, or 1 in 5 people, has a disability.
Despite our numbers, people with disabilities remain the most marginalized community. The unemployment rate for disabled people hovers around 70%. In New York, people with mobility impairments cannot attend most public and private schools, enter many stores or private homes, and only 24% of the subway is accessible.
However, the disability justice movement goes far beyond access. We are here to show that, although we are all individuals who view our disabilities in a vary of ways, we are proud of our bodies, our minds, our differences. We deserve the same respect as opportunities as non-disabled people. As the social model of disability details, we may be impaired by our bodies or mind, but it is the daily prejudice we face, as well as inaccessible spaces, that disable us.
It is in this spirit that we have decided to make the event as accessible as we can. It will be at the clock in Grand Central Station January 19th 2-4 PM.
We will have signs, but also encourage people to bring their own. We also invite people to speak about their experience as a person with a disability. Allies Welcome!
In the spirit,
We are not here to be your inspiration!
Empathy not Pity!”

The day  of  the rally, the little one and I made signs.
“God is a lesbian,” I wondered.
“How about Women Are Smarter?”
The  old Harry Belafonte song.
I think that’s it.
So the little one pulled  out some markers and  wrote  on  the back  of  the sign we made  for the first  women’s march two years ago.
And we walked  over the Brooklyn Bridge to get to the action, chatting all the way.
At the action,  the signs emphasized ‘intersectionality’, a theme that is
always growing, yet, not everyone seems to get.
“Feminist politics aims to end domination to free us to be who are — to live lives where we love justice, where we can live in peace. Feminism is for everybody,” writes Bell Hooks.    
All our  grievances are  connected, if we can listen to each  other.
We are all feminists.
But not everyone sees it.
Not everyone remembers injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I was not too concerned  about the split.
There was still a lot of learning, a lot of marching going on.
For generations, the movement has been teaching and integrating different perspectives about race, class, and sex.

"We need an erotics of being that is founded on the principle that we have a right to express sexual desire as the spirit moves us and to find in sexual pleasure a life-affirming ethos" bell hooks writes. "…there can be no sustained sisterhood between women when there is ongoing disrespect and subordination of lesbian females by straight women.”

We can  substitute any  identity group into  the category of who is being subordinated.
No one likes  to be excluded.
Hopefully a few of the dueling factions heard each other.
No one likes to feel excluded or unheard.
On the streets,  it felt like lots of us were  reaching out, as we chatted with  friends  in  Foley Square, organized, signed petitions for the New  York Health Care for  All bill,  and listened to speeches connecting sex work  and trade union efforts with feminism.
“Dad that  was Gloria Steinem,” noted the little one as I chatted with some old friends from the Women’s Health Action Mobilization.
At Grand Central Station, I ran into the Rise and Resist Crew again.
We’re like  Zelig,  noted my friend Ann.
Access for all! Don't build the wall!!!!” activists chanted.
“Sometimes we  fake it till we  make it,” noted  one of the  activists who had organized the event.
A young women was  passing out zines about a young women, Anna, who had been raped by the NYPD. “Learn her story,” she told me, handing me the zine.
My friend LA Kauffman was there  passing out newspapers declaring the  president had been forced to stop down, with a smile on  her  face.
Riding home I thought of the women we’ve lost this  week,
Of Mary, the poet, and Kim, the friend from high school, who had just  shuffled off, years ahead of her time.
We still have so much more  to learn about each other’s lives, if we listen and open ourselves up to these stories.
Doing  so makes this life rich. 
As Mary Oliver. writes:
Don't Hesitate
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
~ from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
And then there was my friend Kim who passed.
I  wished  I had made  a sign for her.
But she was with us as we marched. 
It's strange when someone you've known for decades,
who was always younger, at least in your head,
someone who was kind and funny,
who commented on your stupid fb posts years later,
had supportive things to say and liked your dumb pictures during CD's, always looking out for the bigger picture,
became a part a part of it.

And then

up and died.

You didn't really know.

So sorry Kim.

RIP Kim!

Kim Loehr Soto
33 mins ·
Kimberley Anne Loehr Soto

b. April 16, 1971
d. January 3, 2019
Dallas, TX

Wife of Agenor Soto Sanchez (Mañin). Mother of Max and Ruby. Daughter of MarySue Foster and Mike Loehr and Tina Rossi. Sister of Eric Loehr.

Much loved and painfully missed.

Of acute myeloid leukemia.

Services Saturday, January 12, 9 am, Sparkman/Hillcrest, 7405 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas 75225. Reception to follow.

Contributions in her memory may be made to Be the Match (
), a matching organization for stem cell transplantation, or the charity of your choice.

She was a graduate of The Greenhill School in Dallas and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. She displayed an indomitable spirit during an eleven-month illness. She leaves behind a large family in the US and Costa Rica, her many aerobic dance fans, countless companions, numerous allies in progressive causes, three cats and a dog. (The fish died.) And an unquenchable commitment to have the world be safe for all.

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