On When History Looks you in the Eyes

December 13th, 2017 3 comments

So I met this woman yesterday. She is pretty cool. Some of you might know her. Her presence is daunting, but not because she is, only because of the history she carries inside. Her presence is calm, quiet, yet electrifying, because of that history, because of the endless knowledge her eyes hold the minute they look into yours, they lure you in.

A woman who fought for civil rights, women’s rights, prison reform. A woman who led the United States Communist Party. A woman who was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. A woman who was wrongly imprisoned. Now a retired professor, she spoke at the Women’s March on Washington last year. And activist, and educator, an author, a wife, a lesbian, a woman whose facets are so multiple, achievements so staggering, that most of us would only hope to do one of the things she’s done. Live the life she’s lived. And I know I’m missing half her resume here.

And there I was, little me, sitting in this room, with history. As she spoke, I find myself light-headed, unable to decide what to start asking, longing for time to move slower, her words to become a slow slur of syllables, so one by one I can steal all I can manage to absorb.

And then, her eyes are watching mine.

After the international Women’s March last January, having organized our tiny one in Athens, Greece, had me tripping for a solid week. I think most of the organizers all over the globe were riding on a natural high. We had done it. We had mobilized small and large cities, communities, villages, all over the world. We had started a revolution.

Time went by. Trump went nowhere. Tweets kept rolling. Black lives continued not to matter. Women didn’t get equal pay. Muslim bans came into affect. Only when #meetoo went viral, did we begin to think again, that we must do it again.

But for what, I thought to myself. So I asked those eyes, that were watching mine, not because they’re something special, but because it was my turn to ask a question. What can we do, I said, what can we do to make this year’s marches matter more, what would you do to make them more powerful, to keep them from becoming simple annual gatherings that give us a false sense of power, a power that doesn’t reach beyond togetherness, solidarity, and roars after the day has gone?

While I’m sure my question was nowhere near as glibly voiced as above, Angela Davis got the point. She looked at me, warmly smirking, as if wanting to say, my dear child, you have so much to learn, but let me try and teach you in the minute that we have.

A demonstration is not a movement, she said. It’s not a revolution. It’s a call to a movement, a call to revolution. It takes time. Change may never happen in our lifetimes. It may not happen in our children’s lifetimes. But if we keep doing the work, the quiet, seemingly insignificant work, it will. Take Black Lives Matter. Do you think it just sprung out of the blue? We’ve been working on that for decades. Sometimes you may think that what you’re doing is nothing, but there is no such thing as an immediate result. You cannot change the world overnight.

So lets blow things up. Softly, slowly, steadily. Lets be half as brave, patient, and persistent as Angela Davis.

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3 comments

Quite an encounter! Please remind me when the Athens 2018 March will be…

Details are not yet set in stone, but definitely the weekend of January 20-21. Most likely on the Sunday.

Christine Jackson Counelis says:

In 2015 I too was In the presence is Angela. I remember the musical shout of her voice. The sense that words were chosen and voiced with a lot of intent. And a willingness to sing out her truth, and not care who was offended . She had a rabbi shaking with fury, as she described the Palestine occupation as a nation sized prison camp. She woke up any one who thought her story was a history. No way. Her fight is on going. She cuts no corners, and rests on no laurels. She’s ready to go to jail. And she spoke to that part of me that is willing to march right into the fight. I’ll do it with written words though. That’s the only weapon or i can use with any skill. Let’s not miss the chance to hold hands with courage. Even if our hands are shaking. Yes it’s fear. And it’s awe.

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