I am a political junkie. I’ve always been interested in politics, but I have never wanted to run for office myself. In a state like Alaska, running for office and winning is not an insurmountable goal like it is in the other 49 states. There are just over 735,000 people in our huge state and about 240,000 voters. Rhode Island, America’s smallest state, has a tad over one million people and 838,000 registered voters. It’s the kind of place where you can run for Assembly or the Legislature and win even if you aren’t rich and famous.
When I watch election returns here in the United States, I want to see how many women are going to Congress. This year, as of tonight, there will be 100 women in Congress out of a total membership of 535. These women do not all share my values, but it is important that women’s voices are heard and that people see the faces of women holding hearings, voting in the Capitol, and talking to the press.
I support good women candidates if they run, and men who support women’s issues. Gather the Women is not a political organization, but I think it’s safe to say that our members around the world care about issues that impact women, girls, humankind, and the environment. A circle of women in a living room, a circle of women under the shade of a tree, or a circle of women in a peaceful retreat center in Canada all share their belief in women’s capacity to heal the world and each other.
About 15 years ago, a friend of mine and I put together a series of events here in Juneau, Alaska, that we called “Hearing Women’s Voices”. The first one was held in a classroom in the high school. The women came and each one found a desk. They filled the room in a very wobbly circle. Some joked about having flashbacks to school, but most were quietly curious about what we were going to do. There were no African American women in our group, and I am sensitive about using it here, but for some reason this poem resonated with me today, the day after the United States elections.
When everyone had settled in, Andrea walked into the middle of the room and began reciting Maya Angelou’s poem:
“And Still I Rise”
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
If you recite this poem out loud, you will feel stronger. You will rise.