This year, I marched in St. Louis. And I learned so much more. In listening to some extraordinary women of color speak and perform, to hear them share their truth, I was moved and awed and touched. Not only are they in it, I was reminded just how deeply they've BEEN IN IT. For a very long time.
And then a white woman took the stage. Reverend Ranita Lamkin. A preacher from Cape Girardeau's St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church.
And she let us white people have it. Appropriately so.
"I'm gonna talk to the white people for a minute, if that's okay." She paused. And then she let out a penetrating laugh. It was part witch, part hyena, and part big sister. You know, the big sister that you simply can't lie to? Hide from? She's gonna use it as leverage. And you never win. That kind of laugh. (Of course this is not a transcript, but it's close.)
"Hey all you white people taking selfies with Black people just so you can post it on Facebook to show you were a part of something. You're not allowed to do that. You can't do that! That's not right. Shame on you. Stop it."
"Hey all you white people. Going to church and hoping and marching and praying? Thhpptpt" She let out raspberry sounds. A few times. "That ain't enough! Prayin' ain't gonna change policy. Open doors. Prevent injury. Provide food, clothing, shelter, health care. Prayin' ain't enough."
"Hey all you white people. I know. There are laws. And you like to follow the rules. But when the rules are wrong, when people are struggling, when people are dying, you can't keep wondering about when the rules are gonna change. CHANGE THEM! Stop following the rules and push back on the rules. Make things right."
"Hey all you white people. If you're not out here when the confrontations surface, when the tear gas erupts...if you're not out here to protest police brutality arm in arm with all your brothers and sisters, to feel the pain of mace in your face as you protect our youth, then your presence here today is vanity." And she smiled at the women of color, the other speakers, sitting around her. And looked back at us, as if to say, "These women have been doing this for a very long time. For generations. Where have you been? What are you doing? Besides marching?"
"Hey all you white people, if this march is all you're doing, that's being a sloppy human being. Use your position, your skin color, your privilege to make things right. Stop being a sloppy human being."
The overall message of the morning was positive. We are better together. We are effective united. We must #speakourtruth. And we women must also adopt an unapologetic attitude. #NoMore.
This moment spoke to me. My honest reflection on what I've done with my time during the past year is ongoing. As for the upcoming months, my presence will be more than last year's and deeper than the intellectual space I find comfortable.
March. Act. Vote. #WomensMarch2018
PS It wasn't lost on me that the one year anniversary of the first march also corresponded to a government shut down. And who the greatest victims of that shutdown will be. We have MUCH work to do.