Last weekend I attended the March for Racial Justice in DC.
I left my family at home to go to synagogue on Yom Kippur and I drove to DC, to listen, learn and stand up for Black women and people of color. The March for Black Women rally left me inspired and in awe.
I tweeted that day that I have honestly never been to a rally where each and every speaker was brilliant, every word was on point and engaging. Also there were drums and there was a prayer, an intention at the end of the rally, that was so inclusive and unifying but resonated personally. I want to thank the march organizers again, for bringing activists who represent those most disenfranchised communities, instead of politicians who want to talk about themselves, or stuffy academics who speak in theory. You must take the time to listen to these queens preach. Here’s a link to the video.
My impression as a white women at the marches and rallies that weekend (I went the following day to the March for Racial Justice in NY with my husband, my son and my mother), is that a lot of well meaning white folks showed up and got educated. Going to rallies, listening, reading, opening our eyes to the reality of racism around us every day- is a first step. Now we need to follow through with action.
I spent the day in awe of the strength and in touch with the truth but I still left unsure what actions I could take to create change.
The power that white supremacy has over America is overwhelming. The struggle is so seeped in racist systems that I do not see how we untie this knot. But we must. So I just started by putting one foot in front of the other.
The first thing I did when I got home was to join the fight to close Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex, that has produced insurmountable evidence of torture, mistreatment, and human rights violations. 85% of inmates in Rikers have yet to be convicted. As in the country that claims “innocent until proven guilty” has people in one of the worst jails, known for abuse and neglect of inmates, thrown in solitary confinement for days on end, just because they can’t make bail. Mayor De Blasio has proposed shutting down Rikers within 10 years, and ten more years of torture en mass in the middle of NYC is simply unconscionable.
I also signed up to canvass for the candidate that Planned Parenthood NJ endorsed for the upcoming gubernatorial election. Phil Murphy is another white man but he supports women’s choice and healthcare coverage and legalizing marijuana. When the GOP repeals women’s healthcare coverage (like they did last week) first women hurt most are the most vulnerable. Legalizing marijuana has important links to prison reform- ending the senseless arrests of people peddling weed and attaching legislation for releasing those imprisoned for marijuana charges. I also began to follow and see how I can support women of color running for office in my area. I am still reading and learning about all this, but it seems that getting involved locally is an accessible way to effect change.
The biggest impact of my weekend spent “praying with my feet” on Yom Kippur? I have had long, significant conversations with groups of white people about racism, and the things I learned at the March for Racial Justice. I can estimate that in one week I was asked about my weekend 15 times and at least half of those times there were 5-10 people engaged in the conversation. At each of my holiday meals, sitting around the table with white Jews, I was asked about what I saw and heard at the marches. Each long conversation addressed important issues— rampant sexual assault of black women and girls, segregation in education, mass incarceration, the racist negligence of our American brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. I have always been the radical activist in my family and community- and now that the racists have been let out from under their rocks by the Trump administration, white people are asking me questions. Better late than never. We have to work together to dismantle white supremacy.
The last thing I want to share from the March for Racial Justice is a list of the speakers who blew my mind that day at the M4BW rally. Read their work, find them online and SUPPORT THEM:
Sevonna Brown was Mistress of Ceremony
Farah Tanis, National Co-Chair, M4BW, also check out and support Black Women’s Blueprint
Monica Raye Simpson, National Co-Chair, M4BW and Sister Song
Bre Ann Campbell, National Co-Chairs, M4BW
Gina Belafonte, activist and co-director of Sankofa
Opal Tometi, Co-Founder of #BlackLivesMatter, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Fatima Gross Graves, CEO, National Women’s Law Center
Teresa Younger, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women
Michaela Angela Davis, writer and activist, Creator, MAD FREE conversation project
Elle Hearns, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute
Charlene Carruthers, National Co-Chairs, M4BW
Dorcas Davis, March for Racial Justice
Keri Gray, Intersectionality & Youth Programming Designer
Ericka Hart, cancer-warrior, activist, and sexuality educator
Mariposa Fernandez, Puerto Rican/Afro Caribe/a Poet, Activist, Vida Afrolatina
Ntozake Shange, Award Winning Black Feminist Playwright and Poet