Today I was given the enormous honor of speaking at the Women’s March in Topeka. I’m blown away by the speakers, all of whom opened our eyes and gave us new insights and courage. Thank you, Women’s March of Topeka organizers, and thank you to fellow speakers Elise Higgins, Fatima Mohammadi , Stephanie Mott, Dr. Glenda Overstreet Vaughn, Dr. Dot Nary , Ana Maldonado, Paulette Blanchard, Representative Barbara Ballard , Heather Ousley, Alise Martiny , Reverend Sarah C. Oglesby-Dunegan, and the spectacular emcee Dr. Beryl New.
I dedicated my reading today one of our local heroes, Dr. Josie Norris, who has helped thousands (tens of thousands perhaps) women do right by their bodies and babies by founding the Topeka Birth and Women’s Center (where our three kids were born). Here is the poem I wrote for today:
This is for your grandmothers and mine,
one who left a Midwestern home where she was abused
to work in a Brooklyn button factory and make a new life,
the other who boarded a ship at nine years old,
not knowing from English or America,
to escape the pogroms that killed her mother.
This is for your mothers and mine, who joined with
other suburban moms to fill buses with their children
so we could march against the Vietnam War,
and who taught me that be a woman meant to be a feminist.
This is your aunts and mine who gave up a singing career
for marriage because she had to choose, and this
is for your daughters and mine, who never had to think twice
about belting out her songs on the streets and in the clubs.
This is for your nieces and mine, who were abandoned
at railway stations in India but made it through the needle’s eye
to an adoptive family in Missouri where they found
love, education, and a future. This is for your sons and mine
who grew up washing dishes and laundry, and learning to use
their privilege to hold open the door of justice and opportunity
for those previously locked out. This is for the men we love—
your husbands, friends, allies, coworkers and nephews, and mine—
who stepped back to make room for us to step forward,
who have asked instead of answering, who are here today
in body or spirit, ready and already breaking open their hearts
alongside and because of us. This is for your sisters
of origin, of choosing, of fate and mine, all of our beloveds
who keep turning the trauma of sexual abuse,
the micro and macro violations of catcalls in the street
or silencing in the office, and the fear storms that come
from not having enough safety, food, shelter, healthcare
and access into a greater capacity to march or roll,
to speak solo and in chorus, to love who we are called to love
with our widest and deepest dedication to this life,
the generations before and ahead. This is for us:
this moment of knowing how alive we are,
and how this life is rising in us and raising us up
together from this moment on.
I also read “I Will Not Be Afraid of Women,” which you can find right here. Please also consider signing up for my blog (see link on the right) and my email list (I promise not to give the list to anyone and not to send out more than one email a month) by clicking here. You can see all the powerful speakers and musicians (yay, Skirts!) from today at this link (I’m at 1 hour, 33 minutes or so).