Over the weekend, I attended what was certainly the most groundbreaking and cutting edge gatherings of women from all over The United States and from many countries around the world, ever! The experience was constructed to be intentionally intersectional and therefore as transformational as I could ever imagine! The Convention extended the epoch experiences of The Marches on January 21st into a networking convention that modeled and engaged us in bold and daring conversations amongst the leaders and facilitated the same amongst all of us participants. There are so many approaches and lenses that I could approach sharing this experience with you. For this entry I will use the Four Leaders of Women's March to organize my sharing.
Early Friday morning, the first co-founder; Tamika Mallory, a dynamic African American woman came to the stage. She challenged us to break open from and come out of our silos from what we call Feminism to extend it to and include her 18 year old black son whom she hopes will beat the odds and make it to his 26th birthday. We then had the honor of listening to the original founder of the "#Me-too" sexual harassment and assault movement, Tarana Burke, who listened to a 13 year old girl who had been sexually assaulted. This modeled for us the point of the convention. You see, Tarana was not activated to challenge predator misogyny, from her own experience but by identifying with and being outraged due to the horrific account of this young teenage girl. We also listened to Rose McGowan, the Hollywood actress who disclosed the sexual assaults of the Hollywood Director. But we were being encouraged to pay more attention to the "NOT-So-Famous" accounts of Tarana's activist’s story. Make room, not just at our tables, for these different women but on our platforms and podiums for these less likely voices and experiences and be charged to real action, more often, from them! This is where the work of building deep relationship with these women from different cultures, religions and races began. It is only if I have taken the time to build these intentional deep relationships will my feminist voice be more authentic and credible. This is the message that shaped the weekend. Sure be outraged and listen to the fortunate actress and the powerful politicians but make no mistake in leaning into the idea, that our feminist movement finds its’ greatest powers and energy, when we realize that the plight of and experience of Tarana's story, (the girl’s name is deliberately confidential) that highlights the horrific assault of an unnamed 13 year old girl, and recognizing that my liberation is not separate from but found in and bound in an anonymous young teenager's restorative justice journey, as well.
Notice, I am deliberately trying to "#say her name, #say her name, #say her name!" This is a great challenge for me to remember the names of and say their names out loud. So I invite you to re-read and continue reading my entry but when you come to the names, say them out loud! Try to weave this into your spiritual and life practice. We must be deliberate in making sure that they are "Hidden Figures" no longer!
Next, came another, Woman's March Co-Founder, Linda Sansour. Linda is a Palestinian Muslim woman who blew my concepts of being a Feminist Woman of Faith Leader, right out of the water. Linda Sansour's many gifts include her intentional intersectional practice of building up other persons, in the Women's March Movement but also extending herself and facilitating us to cross over into other movements and build them up as well. Linda demonstrated little patience for those who are expending so much energy in criticizing what they and others are doing. She wants us to; STOP IT! But instead, roll up our own sleeves and use our voices to get involved in these transformative movement organizations. If the "Other" organization is not against us, they are for us. Linda Sansour spent a lot of time warning us to stop engaging and giving so much oxygen to the toxic competitiveness that so often plagues women leaders in these movements. Instead, she was very deliberate and intentional about building up the other women who came on the stage and joined the panel discussions. It was these very wide panel discussions that seated persons from very different ethnic, racial, embodied, and religious spectrums into the most extraordinary conversations that I have ever heard!
Our movement is not feminist if we are just making sure the most charismatic and physically appealing amongst us, or the most famous voices are being seen and heard! Our real power comes when we extend and make room for these less likely voices to speak at the platforms and podiums of our gatherings! It is only then will authentic beloved community happen. Authentic feminists find and make room for other people to be seated at our tables and also find time for and widen the podiums and platforms for those who are most often not heard from.
The next co-founder is an outspoken very experienced Chicana civil rights worker named Carmen Pérez! She facilitated one of several of these intentionally intersectional panel discussions that broke barriers to afford the most cutting edge, bold and brave conversations that I've ever experienced. Carmen Pérez insists that we can only become more powerful if we act together in this way. Carmen reminds us that the forces working against us will continue to flourish, when we keep ourselves segmented, insulated and siloed in our particular issue or group. Carmen modeled and facilitated us in opportunities to cross dialogue with these extraordinarily diverse other women! This is what will make our feminism more relevant and authentically credible as we move forward together by demonstrating active concern about the issues and persons that at first appear not to so directly effect and impact us. We must get out of our comfort zones and connect with each other and realize that we as a force for positive constructive change will be exponentially as impactful as our willingness to push through our own barriers is. We must be more conscious of and actualize this cross fertilization. GET OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONES! Show up and do real; "I SEE YOU" practices and realize that in seeing them we will see more of our true selves as well!
Finally, the last but not least co-founder is a white woman named; Bob Blan who was actually in the final trimester of a pregnancy as they moved the world to the marches on January 21st. She reports that she was actually in labor when Carmen, who was the only other of the four, that was not at that point quitting the movement, that she between contractions managed to reunite and hold the group together. Bob Blan introduced me to the concept of vertical integration, not only in her fashion business model but in the evolution of our progressive feminist movements themselves. Bob Blan really challenges us white women to push through our tendency to hover in what we think are our "safe spaces!" We need to instead recognize how the Patriarchal and Misogynistic Forces actually flourish when we stay in our comfort zones. Bob also challenged any of us who have financial investment resources to invests and save these resources consciously. Take time to do an inventory on your assets. Have I and you invested in our own discrimination or the oppression of others? We must take care of this. If we as women shift our assets to investments that extend and empower diverse women, we will make an even greater exponential impact!
It is here, that I am including one of the transformative break-out sessions that I attended; "Confronting Our White Womanhood!" Bob Blan challenges us that too often, we white feminists, are coming out from a highly intellectualized and academic white feminism. Bob and other women modeled and facilitated us in recognizing how our white privilege and its’ safety zones is actually working against us and oxygenating the forces that it claims to want to overcome! Conservative Patriarchy has often structured us in a way that purports to "protect our honor and safety" by reinforcing our fears of persons who are diversely different from us. The truth is, we white women, when we think are safety or “honor” was at stake have actually been a dangerous threat to marginalized communities! She also challenged us to have a look at our times when we went into the zones of those others and postured ourselves as something like "white saviors" who know what's better for the persons living in those zones than they do themselves. How many of us have postured ourselves as; the keepers of the one blue print right way for doing our movement and doing our society. Have I arrogantly thought, if they, who are different than us would only conform to our so-called better way! Bob Blan says that we must empty ourselves of this toxin! First, it is very conceded and is actually; "the kiss of death" for our striving to build authentic beloved community. Here too, I was challenged to not just extend my table with more seats but also to extend and more often deliberately give the platform and podium to these others who are less likely to be heard from.
Once again, the reputation of white women was exposed as being. predator-like in our competitiveness amongst each other and our hoarding the podium and platforms for only ourselves. We were encouraged to be more conscious of our micro-aggressions toward others and amongst ourselves. I need to, allow myself (inviting you to do the same) to be blown out of my white shallow waters by actively listening to my neighbor's stories for resonance with my own.
In closing, I feel so blessed and grateful that I was there for this amazing and ground-breaking experience that came into my backyard. I challenge myself and you to identify persons, name them out loud, who are outside of our usual comfort zones and go and build deep intentional conscious relationships with them. I bless you with the many graces that I have experienced and pray that you and I and we, partake in them.
I share with you this picture of myself with Reverend Roslyn, whom I have an appointment with to continue a discussion about inclusive language in our presentation of Christianity.
I unapologetically take up more space here. I have had a very profound and fortunate experience that deserves to be made room for! If you made it to the bottom of my writing congratulations! Because you gave room for, a less often heard from, voice and validated her experience! Go forth and do the same with others as well!
Say the name! Karen Kerrigan