Women's March on Washinton

Who Cares About Art When Everything is Terrible?

by Mandy J.

 

“The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.”  

-Toni Cade Bambara

 

When I was standing at the top of a hill on Boston Common, looking down over the throngs gathered peacefully for the Women’s March, my first thought (after wondering, “does this pussy hat make my outrage look big?”) was about art. Everywhere I turned, everyday Americans had poured their rage, fear, sadness - and often, senses of humor - into artful signs, posters, costumes, and even puppets. Often these were made by people who never even considered themselves artists to begin with. It was seriously thrilling.  If you were at the march on Washington or any of the sister marches, you know what I mean, but if not (or just for fun), check out this small selection of the creative stuff marchers posted on social media.

The organizers of the Women’s March knew about this intersection of activism and art, and in the lead-up to the march itself they, in collaboration with the Amplifier Foundation, invited artists to submit poster designs. The results are poignant, defiant, thought-provoking, and gorgeous.

Art inspired by, and in service of, the resistance has come from all over. From those protesters who wouldn’t even call themselves artists, from creatives whose art has long been deeply political (see political cartoonists), and from artists who used to keep their politics out of their studio, but felt they could no longer do so. KQED Arts’ series “First 100 Days: Art in the Age of Trump” is a terrific cross-section of the range of art being made in response to the new, orange-hued world order.

As for me, at the time that Donald Trump was elected to the most powerful seat in the world, I was knee-deep in classes for painting and illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design (Continuing Ed). My media of choice were charcoal, graphite, watercolor, and oils. That all changed, nearly on a dime, on November 18th, 2016, when my close group of friends conceived of Daily Grab Back. I’m still in school, but now I illustrate the revolution, one bite-sized piece of activism at time, with my nascent graphic design skills. Life is funny that way.

 

 

But who cares, you say?  I mean… REALLY? Our environment trembles on the brink of disaster, our public schools are imperiled, our democracy is under attack, hate crime is on the rise, and autocracy occupies the White House… who gives two Sharpies about ART at a time like this? For one thing, art can be a central component of social change. Writing about a similar explosion of art during the Occupy movement, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers wrote, “activist art turns a protest into a spectacle, from a turn-off to a turn-on, from an event ignored to one that is widely reported. The protest itself becomes art.” I definitely see this in our movement. The sea of pink hats on January 21st was the most obvious demonstration of this. Also check out things like the Bowling Green Massacre and “Nevertheless, She Persisted” memes on social media, as well as the logos and other graphics associated with the alt-government Twitter accounts, and even the “missing” stickers placed on milk jugs all over Congressman Paul Cook’s (CA-R) district as a commentary on his availability for a town hall with constituents.

But more than that, a healthy society just needs art - and artists to make it. I don’t want to be a part of a culture that doesn’t nurture creativity in all its forms, political or otherwise. It’s no coincidence that the current administration wants to completely do away with the National Endowment for the Arts AND the National Endowment for the Humanities, making it that much harder for the arts to flourish in the US. 

If you make art, keep making it. If you love art, keep loving it. If you are in a position to support the arts, please do. Those Sharpies? They’re not as cheap as you think and we’re gonna need a lot of ‘em.

 

Donate Your Public Transit Card

If you attended one of the over 500 Women’s Marches held across the US, and you have an unused balance on a public transportation card, why not donate the remainder to a shelter or charity that distributes them to those in need of transportation for vital appointments? For those who attended the march in Washington, D.C., Martha’s Table is collecting SmarTrip cards. They can be dropped off or mailed to:

 

Martha’s Table

Attn: Trish/Martha’s Outfitters

2114 14th Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20009

 

For those who attended a march in another city, use this previous Grab to find a shelter near where you marched. Call them and ask if they are accepting donations of unused balances on transit cards and send them in. Keep the momentum of the March traveling forward.

 

We March for Her, Part 5

If you missed Part One, start here.

If you missed Part Two, start here.

If you missed Part Three, start here.

If you missed Part Four, start here.

 

We are all feeling a little emotionally drained and defeated right now. The day we couldn't fathom really happening came and went yesterday, and we are left reeling with the aftermath. There have been immediate changes and executive orders; and, well, it can feel frightening. Daily Grab Back is going to harness all of the strength of these 27 amazing individuals and seek solace in the fact that we know we aren’t doing this alone. We not only have these women to look to, but we also have all of you. You are there with us every single day, Grabbing Back, and we will not back down. It’s not over and you're not alone.

Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith is an author, LGBT activist, feminist, and book publisher for women of color. Barbara was born on December 14, 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio, and shares that birthday with her twin sister, Beverly. Their mother was the first in their family to receive a college education and expected the girls to do the same. She died when the twins were nine, and the girls were raised by their aunt and grandmother, who continued to press the importance of education. Barbara received her BA from Mount Holyoke College and her MA from the University of Pittsburgh. Smith co-founded the Combahee River Collective in Boston, and co-authored the Combahee River Collective Statement in 1977 with her twin sister, which was one of the very first examinations into intersectionality and different types of oppressions including racism and heterosexism. It marked the beginning of black women being unapologetic about their sexual orientations and how this related to their social justice work. In 1980, Smith and colleagues founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the very first US publisher for books by women of color. In 1994 Barbara received the Stonewall award for Service to the Gay and Lesbian Community and in 2005 she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. We march for her.

For more information on her life, click here.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem is a feminist organizer, writer, and political activist. Gloria was born on March 25, 1934 in Toledo, Ohio. She attended High School in Toledo and then  Washington DC, where she graduated. She then went on to graduate from Smith College in 1956, and after that spent two years in India as a Chester Bowles Asian Fellow. When she returned she was hired by Warren Publishing as the first employee of Help! Magazine. Gloria would go on to start her own feminist magazine, Ms., with Dorothy Pitman Hughes in 1972 - which was also the year she became the first female to speak at the National Press Club. Gloria has authored many books including “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellion” and “My Life on the Road.” In 1993, Gloria’s concern for child abuse led her to co-produce and narrate a TV documentary called “Multiple Personalities: The Search for Deadly Memories,” which would go on to win an Emmy. Gloria has been a spokeswoman on all issues of equality including race caste systems, child abuse, and gender roles, and she continues to break boundaries to work on social justice and peace. We march for her.

For more on her life and a complete list of her works, click here.

Hannah G. Solomon

Hannah was born into a large Jewish family of ten children in Chicago, 1858. When Hannah was a child, her parents set the tone for civic engagement, with her mother forming the Jewish Ladies Sewing Society and her father founding the Zion Literary Society. In 1876, Hannah and her sister joined the elite Chicago Women’s Club as the first Jewish women. She married at the age of 21 and went on to have three children with Henry Solomon. In her mid-thirties, she began the work to form the National Council of Jewish Women, with the support of her husband. Then in 1894, the NCJW joined forces with the National Council of Women to work together towards social change. These combined organizations would help set the foundation for the early social welfare system in Chicago. Hannah also worked on instituting Chicago’s first juvenile court system, and worked to improve laws regarding the city's children. Her legacy has had a profound effect on our welfare system, as well as how we now care for Wards of the State. We march for her.

To read more about her life, click here.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman has been referred to as the “Moses of her People.” Harriet was born into slavery between 1820 and 1822 in Maryland. She was named Araminta Ross and her parents were Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross. When Harriet was 12, she intervened while a fellow slave was being beaten after attempting escape and suffered a blow to her head that left her with severe headaches and narcolepsy. Slaves weren’t allowed to marry, but Harriet married a free black man named John Tubman in 1844 and renamed herself Harriet. In 1849, Harriet and her two brothers escaped slavery and went north, using the already existing Underground Railroad. Her husband refused to join her and remarried. Harriet returned to the south at least a dozen times, bringing at least 80 “passengers” on the Underground Railroad to a new life of freedom up north. There was a $40,000 reward for her capture or death put out by slaveowners, but she was never caught and she never lost a passenger. After the war was over, she joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the fight for women’s suffrage. Harriet risked her life over and over to give others a taste of freedom. We march for her.    

For more on her life, click here.

Edith Windsor

Edith Windsor is an LGBTQ activist and a pioneer in operating systems. Edith was born June 29, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Edith’s family was hit hard by the Great Depression when her father lost his candy and ice cream store, as well as their home above it. Edith also experienced anti-semitism at school during that time. Windsor attended Temple University and became engaged to Saul Windsor. They broke off their relationship when Edith fell in love with a female classmate, but ended up getting married, only to result in a divorce a year later when Edith confided that she wanted to be with women. Edith received her Masters in Mathematics from NYU in 1957, afterwhich she began her 16 year career with IBM, where she attained the highest tech position at the company; Senior Systems Programmer. She met Thea Spyer in 1963 and they began dating in 1965. Spyer proposed in 1967 with a circular diamond pin, so as to not give Edith’s sexuality away to her coworkers, and this would lead to what is now referred to as “the very long engagement.” Edith and Spyer fought every step of the way for their right to marry, dealing with difficult health issues along their journey. They entered into a domestic partnership in 1993, when it was first recognized by the state of New York. In 2002 Spyer suffered a heart attack and by 2007, her doctors told her she had less than a year to live. Edith and Spyer went to Canada, where same-sex marriage was legal, and ended their very long engagement in Toronto on May 22, 2007. Spyer passed away two years later and when Edith was denied the right to claim a federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses on Spyers estate, she filed a lawsuit against the federal government that resulted in Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) being found unconstitutional and was issued a tax refund. Edith has been a trailblazer, not only in the tech world, but also for LGBTQ rights. We march for her.

For more information on her life and what she is working on, click here.  

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997 in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. When Malala was a young child, she loved to learn and would often toddle into her father’s classroom as he taught. When Malala turned ten, the Taliban took over the valley she lived in and forbade girls from attending school, or doing cultural activities like dancing or watching tv. Suicide bombings were prevalent and the push to suppress girls was at the forefront; by the end of 2008 over 400 schools had been destroyed. In early 2009, Malala started an anonymous blog speaking out against the Taliban and her desires to go to school, and by May she had been forced to evacuate her home and seek safety hundreds of miles away. When she returned a few weeks later to the Swat Valley, she resumed her blogging and began to gain recognition. In 2011, she had been nominated for the Children’s Peace Prize and had received Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize, but unfortunately not everyone loved her message and she was shot in 2012 at the age of 15. Malala was shot three times on her school bus by a member of the Taliban. She ended up in Birmingham, England to receive the best care. She would require multiple surgeries, but despite being shot in the head, she suffered no major brain damage, and after weeks of treatment and therapy, she began attending school in Birmingham. In 2013, she wrote an autobiography “I am Malala; The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.” She has since started the Malala Fund with her father and works to empower girls and encourage them to be leaders in their countries. Malala fights for education for all girls and believes that they can be an advocate for change in their communities. We march for her.

To learn more about Malala, click here.


We march for them. We march for you. We march for us.

 

We March for Her, Part 4

If you missed Part One, start here.

If you missed Part Two, start here.

If you missed Part Three, start here.

 

Yuri Kochiyama

 

Yuri Kochiya was an extremely vocal and sometimes controversial Japanese-American political activist. Born to immigrant parents in 1921, her life took a turn, when in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Yuri’s father was falsely imprisoned. His imprisonment took such a toll on him that he died the day after he was released, and Yuri and the rest of her family became some of the 100,000 people forcibly relocated to US Japanese internment camps. After WWII, she and her husband (whom she met during her family’s 3 year internment) eventually moved east to Harlem, and it was there that she became deeply involved in the civil rights movement, and in opposition to the Vietnam war. Her activism was influenced by meeting and becoming friends with Malcolm X in 1963, and at that time she began to focus on Black nationalism and separatism. She went on to agitate for reparations and a government apology for the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and partially in response to her efforts, President Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 which included reparations. After September 11th, Yuri was involved in activism opposing the profiling of and bigotry against Muslims, Middle Easterners, and South Asians that became more intense after the attack. Her relentless work on behalf of social justice for People of Color, especially Asian-Americans, continues to inspire activists today. We march for her.

 

For more on her life, visit here.

 

Winona LaDuke

 

Winona LaDuke is an environmentalist, an economist, and an activist for issues involving tribal land claims and preservation. She was born in 1959 to an Ojibwe father, actor and activist, and Jewish mother, artist and teacher, both of whom she credits for her activism. At Harvard in the late 70s, early 80s, she first became active in the school’s Indian political community, and at age 18 she addressed the United Nations on Indian issues. Winona graduated with a degree in rural economic development, and moved to the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation in Minnesota to become principal of the high school, eventually gaining a Masters Degree in Community Economic Development through distance-learning at Antioch College. There she founded the Indigenous Women's Network in 1985, and worked to bring awareness to the forced sterilization of Native American women. In 1989 she formed the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which is working to reclaim land that belongs to the Anishinaabeg people, reforest the land, create jobs on the reservation, and bring back wild rice cultivation. In 1996 and again in 2000, LaDuke ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Green Party. Today Winona works with the organization she helped found, Honor the Earth, doing speaking engagements all over the country on the topic of the Native environmental movement. Winona is currently standing with the Standing Rock water protectors, against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and against our environmentally-toxic reliance on fossil fuels. We march for her.  

 

To learn more about Winona LaDuke, go here. To find out about her current projects, go here.

 

Audre Lorde

 

Audre Lorde is a black feminist/womanist poet and activist. She was born in Harlem in 1934 to Caribbean immigrants. She learned to read and write at age four. When someone would ask young Audre how she was feeling, she would respond by reciting a poem. In grade school, when other people’s words no longer sufficed, she began writing her own. She went to Hunter College and then Columbia University, earning a degree in library science. She worked as a librarian for many years while continuing to write poetry and be involved in the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements. In the sixties she also began to write about her different identities as a black woman, a feminist, and a lesbian. Her poetry was being published regularly in literary magazines and anthologies, garnering her a National Endowment for the Arts Grant and finally a poet-in-residence position at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. She would go on to teach at John Jay College and Hunter college. Her writing won her acclaim and in 1973 Audre’s third volume of poetry, From a Land Where Other People Live, was nominated for a National Book Award. Black Unicorn (1978) is considered by some critics her best work. In 1980 she published a book of essays about her battle with breast cancer, The Cancer Journals, and in 1991 she was named New York State’s Poet Laureate. Audre died in 1992 of cancer, which had spread to her liver. Audre’s writing, both prose and poetry, focused on the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality. She gave voice to the complexities of motherhood and family, the complications of multiple and shifting identities, and global politics. She was one of the most influential and outspoken critics of the lack of intersectionality in mainstream, especially academic, feminism. We march for her.

 

To learn more about Audre Lorde and her writing, go here. To see what work is being done today in her name, visit this site.

 

Wilma Mankiller

 

Wilma Mankiller served as the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief for a decade (1985-1995) and oversaw many positive changes for the Nation and its people. Wilma was born in 1945 in Talequah, Oklahoma. In 1956 her family moved to California via the Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation program when the US government claimed the land of 45 Cherokee families in Talequah, citing eminent domain for military purposes. In 1963 Wilma married and went on to have two daughters. At that time she was involved with San Francisco’s Indian Center and became an activist in the late 1960s. She earned her BA in social science from Flaming Rainbow University, and did graduate work at the University of Arizona. In 1977 she divorced and moved back to OK with her daughters, and sought an entry-level position in the Cherokee Nation. By 1983 she’d risen to deputy chief of the Nation, and in 1985 she became principal chief. Despite the challenge of being a woman in a male-dominated arena, Wilma would go on to run two successful re-election campaigns, finally choosing not to run a third time for health reasons. Until her death in 2010, she remained active in the fight for Native American and women’s rights. Mankiller accomplished so much during her leadership including the following: the Cherokee Nation’s population swelled from 55,000 to 156,000, the tribal high school in Talequah was reopened, a hydroelectric facility was built, the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department was founded, and relations between the Nation and the US federal government were strengthened. We march for her.

 

To learn more about Wilma Mankiller, click this.  

 

Diane Nash

 

For decades, Diane Nash has been an effective activist, strategist and leader in the civil rights movement, particularly the student’s arm of the movement.  Diane was born in 1983 and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Her grandmother was a particularly big influence on her, instilling in her the self-confidence that would inform her future activism. When she transferred from Howard University in Washington, DC to Fisk University in Nashville, TN, she came face-to-face with the full effect of Jim Crow laws. The outrage of segregated bathrooms and the like sparked the beginning of her activist career. She soon became a leader and a spokesperson for non-violent civil disobedience, such as the Nashville sit-ins that eventually spread to 69 other cities across the US and directly led to the desegregation of Nashville lunch counters. In 1960, after heeding the call from NAACP leader, Ella Baker, for students to follow their own principles and path, Diane co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  She also worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); and with the Congress of Racial Equity (CORE), coordinating the Freedom Riders and their non-violent protests against state segregation of interstate buses and facilities. SNCC, SCLC, CORE, and the NAACP would come to be known as “the big four” civil rights organizations. In part due to Diane’s repeated successful organization, these groups finally got a seat at the table. In 1963, President Kennedy appointed Diane to a national committee to prepare civil rights legislation, the outcome of which was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We march for her.

 

To learn more about Diane Nash and the Freedom Riders and to watch the PBS film, click here.

 

Sylvia Rivera

 

Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman of Venezuelan and Puerto Rican descent, was a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, and a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activist Alliance (GAA), and the Street Transvestite/Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR). Born in 1951 in New York City, Sylvia’s home life, as it was and is for many trans people, was difficult. By age 11 she was living on the street and working as a prostitute, eventually taken in by the drag queen community. Her earliest activism was with the civil rights movement, but she was also became involved with the anti-war and feminist movements of the 1960s. Her persistent focus in all her work was the intersection of race, income, and gender in gay rights activism, and she fought tirelessly against the erasing of the most marginalized groups - homeless, people of color, drag queens and transvestites - from the movement as it sought mainstream support. In 1970 she co-founded STAR to help homeless queer youth of color on the streets of New York, and resurrected it again in 2001 to work on more overtly political action. In 1986 the New York City Gay Rights Bill was passed, in part due to Sylvia’s hard work with GAA. At the 2000 Millennium March in Italy, Sylvia was hailed as “the mother of all gay people” for her work. Even as she lay dying in 2002, she met with leaders of the Empire State Pride Agenda to push for transgender inclusion in the organization and its agenda. We march for her.


To learn more about Sylvia Rivera’s legacy, go here.

We March for Her, Part Three

If you missed Part One, start here.

If you missed Part Two, start here.

 

Dorothy I. Height (1912-2010)

 

Dorothy I. Height was a prominent civil rights and women’s rights activist. Born in 1912 in Virginia, Dorothy was recognized early on for her talents as an orator and activist. In high school she won a national oratory competition and was awarded a college scholarship. She was outspoken socially and politically as a teen, launching an anti-lynching campaign. Dorothy earned a B.Ed in 1930 and a Masters in Psychology in 1932, both from NYU. Dorothy became a social worker with the YWCA in Harlem. Her activism spurred the YWCA to allow for the integration of all their centers nation wide. Dorothy established the Center for Racial Justice, where she continued her work fighting against racial injustice and for women’s equality. In 1963, Dorothy was one of the organizers for the March on Washington and although she stood with Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy was not invited to speak. This event furthered her resolve for the need for women’s rights activism, and in 1971 she help found the National Women’s Political Caucus.  President Obama has called Dorothy “the godmother of the civil rights movement.” We march for her.

 

Read more about Dorothy I. Height here.

 

bell hooks (1952-)

 

bell hooks is an activist, writer and scholar, best known for her work regarding black women and their perception in American society. Born in the deep south in a culture rich in segregation and patriarchy, bell sought to liberate herself from the confines from which she was born. The criticism she faced for being outspoken almost dissuaded her from expressing herself through writing. However, using the name she chose for herself, bell was able to construct a new persona from which she would draw strength and create distance from disapproval and oppression. bell has written and lectured extensively on the plight of the black woman, who in being excluded from the mainstream feminist movement are often forced to choose between honoring their race or their cause, as they seldom intersect. bell earned a PhD in English at the University of California Santa Cruz and has taught and guest lectured at several universities along the west coast. bell’s work emphasizes the need for solidarity among spheres of gender, race and class. Although some criticize her work as “unacademic,” bell counters that by choosing not to adhere to the rigors of traditional scholarship, she is making her work available to all. bell currently sits as a distinguished professor at Berea College. We march for her.

 

Read more about bell hooks and her writings here.

 

Dolores Huerta (1930-)

 

Dolores Huerta is an activist and labor leader, tirelessly advocating for the rights of migrant workers in America. Dolores, a Mexican-American born in New Mexico, was influenced early in life by her father, who was an assemblyman and union activist. Following in his footsteps, Dolores sought to help protect the rights of non-US migrant workers who faced poor working and living conditions and were targets of racism and violence. In 1960, Dolores started the Agricultural Worker’s Association, lobbying politicians for migrant rights. In the 1970’s Dolores’ work paved the way for legislation to pass which allowed for the collective bargaining rights of farmers. Dolores’ activism championed for comprehensive immigration policy and improved health conditions for farmers and migrants. Huerta’s work has earned her the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom and she has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Today, the Dolores Huerta Foundation offers support and training to low-income communities.  Dolores continues her role as an activist and lecturer on social issues including immigration, income disparity, and the rights of women and Latinos. We march for her.

 

Read more about Dolores Huerta here.

 

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

 

Marsha P. Johnson was a trans woman who became a prominent member of the New York City LGBTQIA community, and who was one of two founding members of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) as well as an active member of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Born in 1945 in Elizabeth, NJ as Malcolm Michaels, by the time Marsha moved to Greenwich Village in 1966, she was living her life primarily as Marsha. No stranger to the hardships of homelessness, bigotry and violence plaguing many members of the Trans community in New York at the time, Marsha put herself in the center of the activist movement. STAR sought to keep Transgender people off the streets and to protect them against the violence and intolerance they were often victims of. In 1975 Marsha became a subject for a series of paintings and portraits by Andy Warhol, putting her on public display as an icon of trans femininity. Marsha died in 1992, her body found floating in the Hudson River. The police speculated suicide, but those who knew the violence and vitriol Marsha faced as a public trans figure feared something worse had happened to her. Today, her death remains a mystery. We march for her.

 

Read more about Martha P. Johnson here

 

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)

 

Barbara Jordan was a lawyer and politician, earning her place in history by becoming the first black female senator in Texas. She went on to be elected to Congress in 1972, again a historical post for a black woman from the deep south. Barbara earned her law degree from Boston University in 1959. Her involvement in the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy helped to launch her career into politics. Barbara favored a political ideology of working within the existing power structures and staying community minded, something that sometimes earned her criticism from civil and women’s rights activists. In 1974 Barbara earned acclaim as a member of the Judiciary Committee with her pointed and insightful questioning of President Nixon during the Watergate investigation. Her impassioned remarks championing the constitution inspired the nation. When Barbara left politics she returned to Texas as a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Barbara Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. We march for her.

Read more about Barbara Jordan here.

 

 

We March for Her, Part Two

If you missed Part One, start here.

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson was a writer, ecologist, and scientist who called for drastic changes in the way humankind interacted and viewed the natural world. Rachel was born on May 27, 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Her love for nature was cultivated at an early age and she would eventually study marine biology, graduating from Johns Hopkins University with an MA in zoology in 1932. Rachel originally wrote books and pamphlets on marine life and conservation, working for the U.S. Bureau of Fish and Wildlife. Her books such as The Sea Around Us (1952) and The Edge of the Sea (1955) both won awards and became quite popular, encouraging her to leave her government job and become a full time writer. Her book Silent Spring, written in 1962, completely changed the way people thought about pesticides. She was called an alarmist by some, but courageous by others. A year before she passed away from breast cancer in 1963, Rachel testified before congress calling for better policies to protect human health and the earth. We march for her.

For more information on Rachel Carson’s life and a complete list of her works click here.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm was an author and the first black female congresswomen of the United States. Shirley was born on November 30th, 1924 in Brooklyn, NY. She spent some of her childhood in Barbados with her grandmother and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946. She began teaching and went on to get her MA in elementary education from Columbia University. Chisholm made history in 1968 by becoming the first black female congresswoman of the United States. She went on to serve seven terms, representing the state of New York. She fought for education and employment opportunities, as well as authoring two books: Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973). Shirley shattered glass ceilings and even had a presidential run in 1972. She passed away in 1980 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2015. We march for her.

Read more about Shirley Chisholm here.

Angela Davis

Angela Davis is an academic scholar, author, and political activist. Angela was born on January 26th, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager in Alabama, she formed interracial study groups that were targeted and broken up by the police. She also grew up with several of the girls killed in the Birmingham Church Bombing of 1963. Davis moved to Massachusetts to attend college, continuing on to San Diego as a graduate student.  In San Diego she joined the Black Panther Party, and the all-black branch of the communist party, the Che-Lemumba Club. Davis began teaching at UCLA, but ran into trouble because of her political ties. She spent 18 months in jail after being charged with aiding a prison escape, but was acquitted after it was found she had nothing to do with the escape. She has authored five books including Angela Davis; an Autobiography (1974) and Women, Race, and Class (1983). Davis ran on the Communist Party ticket as Vice President in 1980 and 1984. She has been an outspoken activist for the abolition of the current prison system, calling it the new form of slavery in the United States. She is currently the Professor Emeritus of History and Consciousness and Feminist Studies at University of California at Santa Cruz, and continues to be an activist and lecturer. We march for her.

For more information on Angela Davis’ life and a complete list of her works click here.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a pioneer for transgender activism. Born on the southside of Chicago on October 25th, 1940, Major came out to her parents at the age of twelve. She began taking hormones and eventually moved to New York City. Miss Major and other transgender women were a major factor in the Stonewall riots in NYC, but transgender participation has been erased from its history and credit has been given primarily to white, gay men. Miss Major became an activist after a friend was murdered and the police refused to investigate, reporting the death a suicide. Miss Major moved to San Francisco and took on the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, eventually forming the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center in the 1990s. Miss Major was an advocate for transgender rights in the prison system helping women upon release and exposing the injustices they faced while incarcerated. In 2003, Miss Major joined the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project and later became the executive director. She is a fierce advocate in her community, a ray of hope for transgender women of color, and is lovingly referred to as both Mama and Grandma Major. We march for her.

Read more about Miss Major Griffin-Gracy here

LaDonna Harris

LaDonna Harris is a Comanche Native American social activist and politician. LaDonna was raised during the Great Depression and watched as her people faced huge cultural upheavals including land allotments, boarding schools, and urban relocation programs. After marrying an up-and-coming politician, Fred Harris, LaDonna began dipping her toes into activism. She was rejected by the Junior League of Oklahoma for her Comanche heritage and decided to form the national organization Americans for Indian Opportunity. She moved to Washington DC and was invited to the Oval Office by Lyndon B Johnson and immediately started teaching a series to members of congress called “Indian 101;” this series would last over 30 years. LaDonna spent her time working tirelessly to return land to native nations, helping tribes gain national recognition, forming the National Women’s Political Caucus and National Urban Coalition, and even ran for vice president on the Citizens Party ticket. LaDonna currently works to bring young professional Native Americans to the capital to be ambassadors for their nation. We march for her.

To watch a PBS documentary on her life and read more about LaDonna Harris, click here.

 

 

We March for Her, Part One

When the Women’s March on Washington released its “Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles” document this week, we at Daily Grab Back were pleased with the inclusivity and progressivism of the platform. In addition to recognizing the need for intersectionality and a particular focus on the needs and struggles of Black, Native, poor, immigrant, Muslim, queer and trans women, the platform also lists 27 revolutionary leaders that have paved the way for this march as having a special place of honor for #WhyWeMarch.    

Bella Abzug • Corazon Aquino • Ella Baker • Grace Lee Boggs • Berta Cáceres • Rachel Carson • Shirley Chisholm • Angela Davis • Miss Major Griffin-Gracy • LaDonna Harris • Dorothy I. Height • bell hooks • Dolores Huerta • Marsha P. Johnson • Barbara Jordan • Yuri Kochiyama • Winona LaDuke • Audre Lorde • Wilma Mankiller • Diane Nash • Sylvia Rivera • Barbara Smith • Gloria Steinem • Hannah G. Solomon • Harriet Tubman • Edith Windsor • Malala Yousafzai

Believing we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about these women and the contributions and sacrifices they made in the fight for justice and freedom, DGB will be running a special five part series in the days leading up to the Women’s March on Washington honoring these remarkable and heroic women.

Bella Abzug

Bella Abzug was a women’s and civil rights activist, lawyer and politician. A child of Russian Jewish immigrants, she grew up in the Bronx. After getting her law degree at Columbia University, Bella practiced labor and civil rights law. She defended Willie McGee, a Black man who was accused of raping a white woman in Mississippi and fought to appeal his death sentence and delay his execution. She also defended many people accused of communism by Senator Joseph McCarthy. She was involved in antinuclear and peace activism, as well as women’s rights activism and helped establish the National Women’s Political Caucus with Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971 and served 3 terms where she became known as a fearless and outspoken champion of women’s and civil rights. We march for her.

Read more about Bella Abzug here.

Corazon Aquino

Corazon Aquino was the first female president of the Philippines. After graduating from college in the United States, Cory became a mother of five and wife to Benigno Aquino, a senator and outspoken opponent of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In the 1970s, her husband was imprisoned, exiled, and upon his return to the Philippines in 1983, assassinated. Cory took on the role of leader of the opposition after her husband’s death, eventually running against Marcos in his attempt to legitimize his presidency in 1986. When she lost, amid widespread suspicion of voter fraud, she led a peaceful protest movement that became known as the People Power Revolution. Within weeks, Marcos relinquished power and fled the country, and Corazon Aquino became president of the Philippines. As President she created a constitutional commission to draft a new constitution, promoted civil liberties and human rights and began to restore economic health to the Philippines. Cory declined to run again in 1992, preferring to send the strong message that President should not be a lifetime position. We march for her.

Read more about Corazon Aquino here.

Ella Baker

Ella Baker was a Black civil rights activist who worked with many prominent people and organizations during the Civil Rights movement. Born in Norfolk, VA, in 1903, Ella grew up with a close relationship to her grandmother, who had been a slave. She graduated as valedictorian of Shaw University and moved to New York where she started the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League, a group which allowed Black workers to pool their money to get better access to goods and services. She became the national field secretary for the NAACP, eventually becoming the national director of branches. In 1957, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Ella became the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership conference, and through her work there the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was created, as well as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. We march for her.

Read more about Ella Baker here, or watch Fundi: the Ella Baker Story.

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs was a writer, civil rights activist, and philosopher. She was born in 1915 to Chinese immigrants. She earned a PhD in Philosophy at Bryn Mawr College, but struggled to find work as an academic after her graduation due to the barriers women and minorities faced in the academic world of the 1940s. After joining the Workers Party and working as a tenant organizer, she began what became her lifelong work of fighting for the civil rights of Black Americans. In 1953 she moved to Detroit and married Black activist, writer and auto worker James Boggs. She and her husband worked with Black Power organizers across the country, and later adopted Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence, which she used as a guiding strategy for the rest of her life. She led marches, gave lectures on human rights, planted community gardens and founded food cooperatives, organized workers and co-founded Detroit Summer, a community transformation organization. Prominent written works include “Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century,” “Women and the Movement to Build a New America,” “Living for Change: An Autobiography,” and “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.” We march for her.

Read more about Grace Lee Boggs here.

Berta Cáceres

Berta Cáceres was a Honduran environmental activist, a co-founder and coordinator of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, and an indigenous leader of her people. She was born into the the indigenous Lenca people in Le Esparanza, Honduras, around 1971. Her mother was a midwife and humanitarian and cared for the refugees from El Salvador during the turbulent civil war in Central America in the 1970s. As a student in 1993, Berta formed COPINH, which fought against illegal logging, and the presence of the US military on Lenca land. She was a proud feminist and supported LGBT rights, as well as other progressive and indigenous issues. In 2006 Cáceres worked with a group of Lenca people to fight against the constructions of the Agua Zarca Dam on indigenous land. The dam would have cut off water, food, medicines and supplies to the hundreds of indigenous people that called that land home. The national and local government not only did not consult the indigenous people, but also bribed locals for signatures, doctored the minutes of meetings, and lied to make it look like there was overwhelming approval for the dam. Though it took years of hard work and dedication, they were able to stop construction on the dam in 2013. Unfortunately Berta paid with her life in 2016, as many who fight against the corruption of the Honduran government do. We march for her.

Read more about Berta Cáceres here.