The Huffington Post: March 8, 2011
On this, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, I want to take a minute to honor grassroots women’s activists across the planet – women, like those working tirelessly in Haiti, who have inspired their communities, united their communities, and led their communities, holding them together and pushing them forward.
Today, I want to particularly honor the women on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have organized and worked for peace and freedom over the many years of conflict that has been fought in their country and on their bodies. On February 4, the women of Congo, in partnership with V-Day and the Fondation Panzi (République Démocratique du Congo), opened the City of Joy, a revolutionary leadership community for survivors of sexual violence that will be the headquarters of a grassroots women’s movement in Eastern, DRC.
A group of women, called “Friends of V-Day,” built the City of Joy – they were possibly the first female construction crew in Congolese history. These women mixed the cement, carried loads on their shoulders, made the bricks. They built the City of Joy with their own hands, understanding, with each careful step, that making a world and living in the world are not separate. Each day that the women built, they took time to dance and sing. It was part of the day’s work, and now that spirit is literally built into the walls of the City of Joy. These women were aware that it takes a very specific constellation of ingredients to create a community, the way water, sun and earth all come together to build a new world. In the final days before the opening, the women planted grass, blade by blade, on the grounds of the City of Joy. That is how movements are born – individual green blades, planted one by one, nurtured by water and light, protected until they have grown into grass.
Today, I dedicate my piece, REFUSER, to all the builders, all the grass planters, all the individual, green, sparkling blades of grass. I dedicate it to all the girls and women joining forces across the earth, to create change and revolution.
From the Lebanese mountains
To the Kenyan village of El Doret
We are practicing self-defense
Versed in Karate, Tai Chi, Judo, and Kung Foo
We are no longer surrendering to our fate.
Now, we are the ones who walk our girl friends home from school.
And we don’t do it with macho. We do it with cool.
Our mothers are the Pink Sari Gang
Fighting off the drunken men
With rose pointed fingers and sticks in
The Peshmerga women
in the Kurdish mountains
with barrettes in their hair
and AK47’s instead of pocket books.
We are not waiting anymore to be taken and retaken.
We are the Liberian women sitting
in the Africa sun blockading the exits
til the men figure it out.
We are the Nigerian women
babies strapped to out backs
occupying the oil terminals of Chevron.
We are the women of Kerala
who refused to let Coca Cola
privatize our water.
We are Cindy Sheehan showing up in Crawford without a plan.
We are all those who forfeited husbands boyfriends and dates
Cause we were married to our mission.
We know love comes from all directions and in many forms.
We are Malalai who spoke back to the Afghan Loya Jurga
And told them they were “raping warlords” and
She kept speaking even when they kept
trying to blow up her house.
And we are Zoya whose radical mother was shot dead when Zoya was only a child so she was fed on revolution which was stronger than milk
And we are the ones who kept and loved our babies
even though they have the faces of our rapists.
We are the girls who stopped cutting ourselves to release the pain
And we are the girls who refused to have our clitoris cut
And give up our pleasure.
Rachel Corrie who wouldn’t couldn’t move away from the Israeli tank.
Aung San Suu Kyi who still smiles after years of not being able to leave her room.
Anne Frank who survives now cause she wrote down her story.
We are Neda Soltani gunned down by a sniper in the streets of
Tehran as she voiced a new freedom and way
And we are Asmaa Mahfouz from the April 6th movement in Egypt
Who twittered an uprising.
We are the women riding the high seas to offer
Needy women abortions on ships.
We are women documenting the atrocities
in stadiums with video cameras underneath our Burqas.
We are seventeen and living for a year in a tree
And laying down in the forests to protect wild oaks.
We are out at sea interrupting the whale murders.
We are freegans, vegans, trannies
But mainly we are refusers.
We don’t accept your world
Your rules your wars
We don’t accept your cruelty and unkindness.
We don’t believe some need to suffer for others to survive
Or that there isn’t enough to go around
Or that corporations are the only and best economic arrangement
And we don’t hate boys, okay?
That’s another bullshit story.
We are refusers
But we crave kissing.
We don’t want to do anything before we’re ready
but it could be sooner than you think
and we get to decide
and we are not afraid of what is pulsing through us.
It makes us alive.
Don’t deny us, criticize us or infantilize us.
We don’t accept checkpoints, blockades or air raids
We are obsessed with learning.
On the barren Tsunamied beaches of Sri Lanka
In the desolate and smelly remains
Of the lower ninth
We want school.
We want school.
We want school.
We know if you plan too long
Nothing happens and things get worse and that
Most everything is found in the action
and instinctively we get that the scariest thing
isn’t dying, but not trying at all.
And when we finally have our voice
and come together
when we let ourselves gather the knowledge
when we stop turning on each other
but direct our energy towards what matters
when we stop worrying about
our skinny ass stomachs or too frizzy hair
or fat thighs
when we stop caring about pleasing
and making everyone so incredibly happy-
We got the Power.
Janis Joplin was nominated the ugliest man on her campus
And they sent Angela Davis to jail
If Simone Weil had manly virtues
And Joan of Arc was hysterical
If Bella Abzug was eminently obnoxious
And Ellen Sirleaf Johnson is considered scary
If Arundhati Roy is totally intimidating
and Rigoberta Menchu is pathologically intense
And Julia Butterfly Hill is an extremist freak
Call us hysterical then
Give us our broomsticks
And potions on the stove
We are the girls
who are aren’t afraid to cook.
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