The National Women’s March: Sisters, What Are You Willing To Destroy?

What follows are the remarks and the poem (“Oath: 1957”) I delivered on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at the St. Louis arm of the National Women’s March.


When I was first asked to participate in the national women’s March, I declined because I thought it was just another example in the long line of examples of wrongheaded white feminism.

You see I knew the history, and I knew that the sorority of which I am a member, Delta Sigma Theta, marched with white suffragettes in 1913 as their first political act.

 

No sweeping feminist collaboration followed.

 

I knew that Fannie Lou Hamer, a fellow Mississippian and black woman, helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.

 

No sweeping feminist collaboration followed.

 

So when this march was proposed, the words of genius humorist, Moms Mabley rang in my head:

 

“If you see a fool. Bump his head. If you see a damn fool, bump it twice.”

 

You see, I’ve come to find the white feminist narrative of “equality” increasingly troubling.

When my ancestors walked off of plantations in order to join and the Civil War. They didn’t walk off for equality. Slaves did not want to be equal enslavers. They wanted to disrupt a system.

 

So I ask you Sisters, what are you willing to disrupt?

 

When Trans women of color led the charge for our collective humanity at Stonewall, they didn’t want to be equal brutalizers, silencers and disappearers.

 

So I ask you Sisters, what are you willing to disavow?

 

When Native women led the fight for our life aka WATER, they didn’t want to be equal polluters.

So I ask you Sisters, what are you willing to destroy?

 

I’m going to leave you with a vision before I end with a poem:

It’s a Monday morning and people are wiping sleep from their eyes. They go to the daycare and there are no women there to keep the babies. They go to the school and there are no teachers on the platform to teach the children. They go to enter a bus. No women are driving. They go to the financial district and no women are bartering and trading. Imagine the policies that we could influence if we withdrew ourselves in this way on a workday week?

 

So I ask you Sisters what are you willing to strike for?


oath:1957

all they saw
were the whites of her heels
winking back at them

her dark elbow
shoulder high

the wrench — a blur
above her nappy plaits
as she whirled it
as if to wring its neck

as if to sanctify it

as if to show it to the ghosts
as proof of her oath: “i swear
‘fo god”

they say the sound
she made – more like warning
than a scream

slingshot soprano, returning
going away
reappearing
like fingers
moving
from cotton sack to row

they say the sound
was a choctaw vibrato,

undulating
water moccasin
across a clay bottom creek

wail rising
spine through skin
[you can wail here] “i swear ‘fo god”

they say the sound was a tearing/
birthing herself
breech, feet first
pulling the ankle
of her own twin soul
[you can moan here]

they say the sound was birthright/
takeback sound
[you can clap here]

the clap of a generation
righting itself

the sound she made as her yellow legs
carried her out of the screen door

away from the man
she thought she killed

away from the tableau
of 3 terrified colored babies

away from the dazed living room
away from the sound of a system’s head cracking open.

Sisters, what are you willing to destroy?