In the Land of HB2, We Marched

If You’re Not Standing With Us, You’re in Our Way

via News and Observer

Yesterday, I didn’t march on Washington, DC but I did get the opportunity to march with 17,000 (and still counting) other men and women in the city I was born in. It was magical. I got to walk elbow to elbow past coffee shops, government buildings, museums with people in solidarity in the capitol of a state that went red for Trump this November.

Carly Jones, an organizer for the event and pictured above with a megaphone said at the rally,

“I am marching to show that without a doubt, women’s rights are human rights. I’m marching to show that we are the noisy majority. Aren’t we noisy y’all? We will not stay quiet. This is our state. This is our country. Us women are going to mobilize, North Carolina.”

In Moore’s Square, with men, women, tables of sponsoring organizations, I got to hear some of the most powerful words I’ve ever heard not on stage or in a movie theatre.

via Indy Week

I heard Rev. Michelle Cotton Laws of Union Baptist Church say,

“So I say to all of my beautiful women and sisters and brothers— I say to you that we have some fixing and some turning right side up to do again. We got some important business and in the voices of the spirit of the mighty cloud of witnesses: Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Viola Louizzo, our very own Cynthia Brown, Jeannie, Lucas, all of those who have gone Fannie Lou Hamer[…] because it seems to me that someone who’s occupying the highest office in the world, doesn’t understand what he has done. It seems that he doesn’t understand that either you stand with women, or you stand in our way— and standing in our way? He doesn’t understand that standing in our way is a bad place to be.”

In the cool air her words surged through the crowd as people cheered as she laid out the bullet points,

“When you use language that endorses any sexual form of violence against woman, we got a problem— that’s a bad place to be Mr. President.”

Shouting over cheers,

“When I think about my ancestor sisters who were raped, who were used as breeders to provide labor for this country, I tell you Mr. President and anybody who think like you, who are in your administration— that’s a bad place to be”

and,

“When you talk about exploiting girls and we know that millions and thousands of them are being human trafficked from across this globe, we come to tell you— that’s a bad place to be.”

She tackled everything from,

“ putting a person in charge of the department of education who clearly has an agenda to take away money from public schools and put in Jeopardy poor children around this nation

to the idea of,

“putting someone in the department of justice by the name of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for attorney general who doesn’t believe in voting rights, who doesn’t understand that we’re fighting against an unjust system. That’s a bad place to be”

and even tackled the threats to the ACA,

And when your first plan after the election is to dismantle the affordable care act, and putting sick people at risk for dying, or getting sicker when your family, because you’ve got enough money to pay for the best healthcare— that’s a bad place to be”

and Laws wasn’t even the only powerhouse speaker to the crowds in Moore Square, as Laws said “because, because, because we are ready to burn it down like our bras in 1960”.

Nia Wilson, Executive Director of Durham’s SpiritHouse, said at the beginning of the program

“We are not a monolith. We are undocumented, we are disabled, we are trans, we are witches, we are Muslims, we are Christians, we are Jews. And we can be alchemy. We can bring the most brilliant parts of ourselves together and create something so invaluable that we will never be beat.”

Powerhouse after powerhouse, we not only heard words from professionals but songs and poetry. Asatta Goff, a Durham High School student, recited from her own poetry,

“We don’t march, fight, sit in or speak up for you. We wear this cause for us[…] Our existence should scare you. The fact that we’re marching against you should strike you with fear[…]We listen to our ancestors— we will never stop resisting. Our spirit will never fade.”

From Planned Parenthood to Progress NC, to even Public Schools First NC, we heard straight from the heads of powerful organizations what we can do to fight. Yevonne Brannon, amid cheers for her words and boo’s for the words of Betsy DeVos, spoke of Public Schools First NC:

“We want to send a clear message that women will fight […] the fight for public education is also a women’s fight for equality, it always has been[..]We have seen them accelerate our state to a very dark time of segregation and unequal schools[…] We cannot trust the profiteers.[…]We must fight back […] Poverty is not destiny and inequality is not inevitable. Well funded public schools are our first and strongest defense against poverty and inequality”

Speakers from all ages and walks of life helped remind the crowd what we were marching for. Raging Grannies sang about healthcare, Laila Nur sang about the minimum wage, and many more testaments led to invigorated cheers. In particular, the words of Yazmin Garcia Rico, DREAMer and UNC School of Social Work Latinx Caucus head, struck me to my core,

“Now, I may lose everything: my opportunity to finish my graduate degree, my family, my friends— but my story is not unique. Over 26,000 received DECA in North Carolina […] I, and many dreamers will be at risk for deportation, but that is not what keeps me up at night. I worry, I worry about the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are at risk of mass deportation. I worry, I worry about the bullying, harassment, and discrimination towards our LatinX students in our public schools. I worry about the children that are already being told that their parents will get deported and that they should go back to where they came from. The future of the immigrant community is in jeopardy. Now, more than ever— so where do we go from here? I refuse to go back to living in the shadows. […] We all need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We must love and protect each other. We need to make sure our community are not broken and separated.[…] It will take all of us to succeed”

As Pastor Nancy Petty, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church urged,

“This is not simply a moment[…] We are here because the movement surges in Raleigh, North Carolina […] They brought be up to talk to you about those pledge cards, the problem is we were 14,000 short.[…] what we do today is futile unless we make a commitment”

She urged every single member of the crowd to use the hashtag #WomenMobilizeNC and make a pledge to what actionable things they are going to do every single day. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever.

As we stood together and chanted with Nia Wilson, “I see you. We are Here”, I hope everyone who made the commitment to those marches did the same. I personally pledge to continue to try to make inclusive theatre for women, girls, and those outside the binary. If not theatre, other artistic work that can fill the gap. Beyond that, to write down everything that isn’t normal. That’s why I wrote this today. Because, for the days ahead, we’re going to want to remember what we could stand to lose and on days when we lose liberties, I want to remember that foggy day in North Carolina. It wasn’t normal but I hope that it is a sign that we can move together to preserve a safe future.