By Barbara Belknap
I’m very tired today. Last night I didn’t feel well, but I pushed myself and went to a Planned Parenthood online conference meeting about a half mile from our house. It was worth it. There were several young women there, three of us over 50, and Alyson, the brilliant young local Planned Parenthood Legislative Liaison. She and I met several years ago when I testified before a legislative committee on a woman’s right to decide how many children she will have. My husband’s hobby is genealogy and so many women ancestors of his and mine had one child after another until they were in their 50’s. In the 1960’s, women finally could control how many and when they would get pregnant. It was a revolutionary moment.
Because Alaska is so big and there is no road system between Juneau, the capital city, and the rest of the state, we have a public television program called Gavel to Gavel that covers the legislature from beginning to end. I told the women in the room and online last night from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Seattle that Alyson and I felt outnumbered until the hearing got around to public testimony. Women called in from around the state to testify. I knew so many of them that there was an immediate flood of hope and solidarity. I testified as well, surprising many of the legislators who knew me only from my job as Executive Director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. While I was working, I could only testify on matters relevant to my job, but I was freed from those constraints once I retired in 2002. (I also used those honed skills to testify at hearings for same sex marriage.)
Today, my intention is to write this blog with heart, and my heart is with women’s power. Here are the lyrics to two songs the Juneau Pride Chorus (I’m a happy Alto 1) will be performing at our concert the end of February. They are such powerful songs because they hold the truth for women around the world.
“1000 Grandmothers” lyrics by Holly Near
Send in a thousand grandmothers they will surely volunteer, with their ancient wisdom flowing they will lend a loving ear. They will lend a loving ear. First, they’ll form a loving circle around the wounded wing, then contain the brutal beasts of war sweet freedom songs they’ll sing, sweet freedom songs they’ll sing. A lullaby much stronger than bombs or threats to kill, a force unlike we’ve ever seen, they will break the murderer’s will, they will break the murderer’s will.
To the prisons we shall send them. Most violent men will weep when a thousand women hold them strong and pray their souls to keep, and pray their souls to keep. Let them rock the few who steal the most and rule with youthful charms so they’ll see the damage that they do and will fall into grandma’s arms, two thousand loving arms.
(This is my favorite part.) If you think these women are too soft to face the world at hand, then you’ve never known the power of love and you fail to understand. An old woman holds a powerful force when she no longer needs to please. She can cut your shallow life to bits and bring you to your knees, we best get down on our knees, and pray to a thousand grandmothers. Will you please come volunteer? No longer tucked deep out of sight, will you bring your power here? Will you bring your power here?
“On Children” lyrics by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and the daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but they are not from you, and although they are with you, they belong not to you. You can give them your love, but not your thoughts. They have their own thoughts. You can house their bodies, but not their souls, for their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You can strive to be like them, but you cannot make them just like you. You can strive to be like them, but you cannot make them just like you.