Thursday, December 29, 2016

From Atlanta's Cliterati to the Women's March on Washington: Here I Come! #HearMyVoice


I discovered Charis via my friends Scott and Stephanie. Once upon a time, I'd dreamed of going to grad school for creative writing. Then I found Scott and Stephanie's series of free writing workshops, Lost in the Letters, and suddenly all the camaraderie, validation and inspiration I wanted from a formal institution cost me only a drive into Atlanta and a few hours of my time every month or so.

Last year Scott and Stephanie married each other and headed to Virginia. However, the Charis Books table at their last annual conference has been a beautiful parting gift. Known as the South's oldest feminist book store, Charis has spent 42 years bringing independent voices to Little 5 Points. However, beginning in 2017, the business is moving to a new larger location affiliated with Agnes Scott College in Decatur. The new space should afford Charis and its supporters more opportunities to share their voices in the coming years. Given the current political climate of fake news, censorship and fear of our differences, I feel the timing for the move is ideal. Now more than ever, all people need a safe space for authentic, unadulterated self expression. Charis also needs your support during this time of growth, and you can offer that by clicking right here!

I find it super fitting I received an invitation to the Women's March on Washington at Charis. I had ventured to the city to read on the topic of Resistance at a monthly open mic series, endearingly named Cliterati. Every poem and song shared a sense of power, passion and poise, which pulled me to attention. This was enough to seed a personal movement within my mind. However, the reader just before me asked a simple question: How many of you are going to march in Washington? I took this as a direct call to action. The personal movement I was seeding for myself suddenly had momentum and direction. In moments, it had grown beyond me, and I knew I would be coming home and asking my family to support my upcoming absence January 20-22. Fortunately, this request was very well received.

My relationship with activism has grown slowly. I began as a campus activist in high school.I volunteered to be president of our local Amnesty International chapter and joined IMPACT, a small group of students living the words behind our acronym: Inspiring Minds Promoting the Acceptance of Cultures Together. With Amnesty and IMPACT, I spent many afternoons perched in the cafeteria with petitions to free prisoners of conscious, and I helped organize an annual assembly on Martin Luther King Day. As time passed, I moved from the classroom to the computer, where I actively signed electronic petitions and shared them across social media. However, it wasn't until I began volunteering with PeachTree NORML in August 2015 that I became genuinely active about my activism. I have certainly never marched before. I have also never visited my nation's capitol Washington, DC.

Leading up to the march, phrases like #HearMyVoice and #WhyIMarch are trending. I want to share a few of my reasons for marching now:

1. Human rights have intrinsic value, and women's rights are human rights. This opinion is not universally accepted as truth and is sometimes denied. I cannot ignore this.

2. As point #1 indicates, we desperately need some new stories to help us better understand our individual and cultural identities. No more focusing on moral propriety. Instead, the new stories need to focus on what it means to be authentically human.

3.  I want a hand in creating these stories, and I need to write from a position of direct experience.

4. Our world is changing, and our rights to our individual voices are being threatened. We can counter this with a creative renaissance which educates and empowers everyone to speak with more strength and compassion than ever before, but it is our responsibility to show up and live the revolution.

I would love to read your comments about what this march represents to you. If you choose to join me, here's a another list for you! These are some of the most helpful resources I've found:

The Official Website: While registering here isn't necessary, it is recommended. It helps planners get a better idea of how many people to accommodate during the march itself.  You can also search the site for state affiliated groups which are planning sister marches and/or assembling people to travel to the March on Washington as a group.

The Women's March on Washington Georgia Chapter: I have been navigating my trip to the march with guidance from this group. Currently some seats are still open on shuttle buses departing from cities throughout Georgia.

What to Bring: This article offers great insight which pretty much boils down to sturdy boots, comfortable layers, a coat, gloves, a hat, a scarf, sunglasses, your cell phone, baby wipes, money and ID worn close to your body, a sharpie & some duct tape.

Safety Procedures: I choose to focus on having a peaceful experience. I also think a dose of reality and awareness helps facilitate that.

As I've suggested in my reasons for marching, I genuinely feel the opportunity to speak up and embrace creativity as a means of change is huge. Here are links to some interesting opportunities to do that:

GA Women's March Video Project Call for Submissions

Women's March Public Call for Art!

Even though I am super excited to witness the 2017 inauguration from the perspective of the women's march, I also believe that each private act of speaking out is also a very important part of the movement. So, use your voice, wherever you may be. Also, allow for it to shake, sing, whisper, bellow and (maybe most importantly) change.

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