At the Womxn’s March (January 21st, 2017) I auctioned off the pussyhats my mom and I both made for the march. And before doing so, I gave a very brief rallying call to the attendees at the pre-march breakfast hosted by my friends. We raised about 700 dollars.
Here’s the text as I wrote it the night before; my spoken version (no notes) was shorter. And the march? It was a thing of beauty.
There’s a call for positivity as we prepare for this march, and that’s a fine thing. More flies with honey and all that. But I want to take a minute and hold it down for anger.
Because I’m angry. And I’m willing to bet that you’re angry too, it’s why you’re here. You’re angry about racism, the unchecked police violence against our black and brown neighbors. You’re angry about gun violence, that the lives of the children killed at Sandyhook and lives of the good people of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were not too high a price to pay for continued easy access to guns. You’re angry about the way the protestors at Standing Rock have been treated, about the way Governor Mike Pence systematically attacked – and continues to attack – queers and women. About climate change denial and public lands pilfering and probably a hundred other things that I have not mentioned yet. We’re here because we’re ANGRY.
I wanted to find good quotes about forging anger into action, so I went to the Internets, as one does, and of course I found the magnificent John Lewis taking about good trouble, the kind of trouble that makes change.
But I also found Leymah Gebowee. She’s a Liberian activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work leading a women’s movement to end the Liberian Civil War. She intentionally returned to Liberia from Ghana where she’d been living as a refugee – and she went on to lead Liberia’s women in a SUCCESSFUL effort to end the war in her home country. What a great inspiration for us today.
She had some things to say about anger, like this:
I always tell people, anger is like liquid. It’s fluid, it’s like water. You put it in a container and it takes the shape of that container. So many people you see in prison, unleashing war on their people, they are angry, and they take their anger and put it into a violent container.
We’re angry, but we are not here to put that anger into a violent container. I don’t know where we want to direct it yet, I’m still learning what to do next. But we’re not here to turn anger into violence. That’s the other guy.
Here’s one more quote from Leymah…
Activism is something that no one can fake. You get angry. You cry. But you never throw in your towel, because that anger is what is propelling you to further action.
Anger into action. Yes.
I hate talking on the phone, but I’ve called my reps – and Speaker Ryan – repeatedly over the last several weeks. I knitted a hat, I made three, actually, and enlisted my mom to make the some, too. It’s not much, I know, there’s more to do, but I did these things because I was – am – angry.
I have no authority to tell you to be anything, but I want you to know that I think it’s great that you’re angry. There’s that bumper sticker philosophy that says if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention and you, my angry friends, are paying attention.
I want us all to turn that anger in to action, and into resolve, and into success. And I also want us to notice how exciting it is that so many people are expected to turn out to march today. Already, we’ve have unity. And today’s symbol for that is these crazy pink hats.
I like the hats. I like that they take the awful words of an awful man – “Grab ‘em by the pussy” and invert it. “Oh yeah?” they say, “You’re going to have to get past us first, and look, we are LEGION.” And I like that they’re funny and pink and silly. Because yeah, I’m angry, and you are too but also, we need light and joy also.
Emma Goldman had something to say about this too. A Russian Jew by birth, she was a badass activist for economic equality and women’s rights. She was jailed for “incitement to riot” during the 1893 depression. But she was no killjoy, she did not think anger and joy mutually exclusive.
If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.