By Barbara Belknap, GTW Regional Coordinator, Juneau, Alaska
On December 1st, Alaska’s new Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor Byron Mallott were sworn into office. It was a momentous day for the Alaska Native community because Byron Mallott is a Tlingit from the tiny village of Yakutat. It was also a momentous day for Progressives in the state because both men are compassionate human beings.
A week before the Inauguration, Bruce Botelho, a former mayor of Juneau, came to the church where the Juneau Pride Chorus practices and, on behalf of the new Governor, invited the Juneau Pride Chorus to sing Christmas carols at the reception in the Governor’s Mansion on December 1st from 2:00 to 3:30. One hundred and fifty people from around the state were invited.
I’ve been a member of the Juneau Pride Chorus since 2002. I love it. I get to sing every week. It’s fun and my brain gets regular and rigorous exercise learning new music. I show my support for the LGBTQ community, including my sister and her wife, and I have a community of caring and funny women. Singing with the chorus is one of the few times when I don’t think about another thing except the music.
On Monday, Doug and I watched some of the Inauguration, which was in held in downtown Juneau, on television. Then I put on the chorus outfit of black shirt, black pants, and tie-dyed rainbow scarf. Doug dropped me off at the Mansion and I headed into the basement where our Chorus Director Leslie Wood told us to meet. We did a run-through of the carols, lined up single file with the Soprano Ones and Twos first, my Alto Ones group, and then the Alto Twos. Precisely at 1:55, we followed Leslie upstairs and wound through the guests in single file, making our way to the far wall where we arranged ourselves in two rows. The chatter of the guests paused as we lined up. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” was first and that got everyone’s attention. One after another, we sang traditional Christmas songs to an appreciative audience.
At one point, Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Mallott made their way to an open space in the living room and stood side by side watching us sing. Both men were smiling. Governor Walker’s eyes got misty. For the lesbian women, this experience was momentous. Many of them fought back their own tears. After years of being marginalized by their government, they were included and even celebrated on December 1, 2014.
The Juneau Pride Chorus website says, “We are a chorus of mothers, daughters, sisters, lovers, and grandmothers. Our common bond is a love of singing as we join to celebrate our diversity.”
Our Gather the Women website says, “Gather the Women Global Matrix™ (GTW) is a global sisterhood that connects women through circles. We create a safe place to share our true selves. Meeting in circle, we find our voices, claim our power, and celebrate our self-worth, leading to personal and planetary transformation.”
How can we doubt that women will, indeed, change the world?