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We'll grieve for our sisters ... the loss of life, of dignity ... those things we experience through being treated as less than equal, or being actually enslaved or abused in some way. .. and honor those who came before us, activists who dared to push the boundaries of political protest to secure freedom ... our sisters who pursued equal rights with regard to a myriad of women's issues, including the right to vote, equal opportunity in education and employment, reproductive choice, etc.
There have always been those among us who have taken a wider view of freedom, however, and understood it to be not only a women's issue, but a universal one. Such women also understood that The Struggle is ongoing. As Coretta Scott King once said, "[The] Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation."
We women are the life bringers. Giving birth as we do is an important thing in the scheme of things ... important to survival, continuation. But that isn't all there is. Women bring life and contribute to the survival of all through the work of our hands.
Women also teach the values of our respective cultures to the generations.
But, most of all, women --some such as these --teach courage:
CORETTA SCOTT KING was known first as the wife of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then as his widow. Mrs. King rose from rural poverty in Alabama to become an international symbol of the civil rights revolution of the 1960s and a tireless advocate for social and political issues ranging from women's rights (a woman before her time, she stunned Dr. King's father, who presided over her 1953 nuptials, by demanding that the promise to obey her husband be removed from the wedding vows) to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Dr. King described Coretta as a partner in his mission, not just a supportive spouse. "I wish I could say, to satisfy my masculine ego, that I led her down this path," he said in a 1967 interview. "But I must say we went down together, because she was as actively involved and concerned when we met as she is now." Despite the now documented COINTELPRO* tactics brought against her and Dr. King, Mrs. King did not waver from her purpose. She lectured, read poetry and sang to raise awareness of the civil rights movement. When she stood in for her slain husband in 1968 at the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, DC, she spoke not just of his vision, but of her own --one about gender, as well as race, in which she called upon American women to unite and fight the three great evils of racism, poverty, and war. She became widely identified with a broad array of international human rights issues.
ANNA MAE AQUASH (of the Mi 'kmaq Nation from Nova Scotia, Canada) was a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who, in the 1970s, dedicated herself to defending the rights of Indigenous People. In South Dakota and elsewhere, Anna Mae quickly became known for her organizing skills and passionate idealism. She was outspoken and intelligent, keen to talk of treaties and The Peoples' freedom. Her dedication and ability to stand strong in the face of adversity eventually led to her death. She was found murdered in 1976 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), ultimately responsible through their COINTELPRO tactics for her untimely death, failed to conduct a thorough investigation --documenting the cause of death as "exposure" when, it was later found, she had actually been shot in the back of the head --because she was an Indian and a member of AIM, and perhaps to cover up the Bureau's own role in her death.
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JUDI BARI --Environmental activist, Judi Bari, made history when she stood up and renounced the tactic of tree spiking. A little more than a month after the public renunciation, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were car bombed. Rather than attending to the physical evidence, the FBI and the Oakland, California, police (based on their shared belief that the victims' political ideology was objectionable and a threat to the status quo) advanced an absurd theory that Bari and Cherney had been responsible for their own injuries. About four years ago, a federal jury found the FBI and Oakland police liable for violation of Bari's and Cherney's civil liberties, awarding millions of dollars in damages. (Given the recent roundup of the so-called "eco-terrorists," the Bari/Cherney case should remind us how easily the FBI has fallen into deceit over the years and conducted unconstitutional actions against political activists.)
These women (and numerous others) understood that freedom and responsibility are intertwined and to put responsibility down is to give away one's power. To give that power away means that others get to decide for us. Why would any of us ever surrender our power?
Coretta Scott King said, "Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul."
Our respective movements seek to address symptoms only --of the rank materialism that infects the United States. Materialism breeds greed. Greed in turn leads to oppression and a predisposition to violence in all forms:
+ in domestic assault, i.e., in our own homes, the presence of physical, psychological, and emotional violence against significant others;
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+ in racism and poverty, whether in our local communities or around the world, where "others" especially Indigenous Peoples struggle daily to merely survive;
+ in rape, not a sexual crime but one of domination and control and, in its worst form, used as a tactic of war;
+ in torture, the inhumane treatment visited on Abu Ghraib and GuantÃ¡namo Bay detainees, for example, but minor abuse compared to the treatment of men and women in this nation's own prisons; and