Interview with Marianne Williamson, founder and host of Sister Giant
Marianne Williamson photo by Elizabeth Granli, collage image by Meryl Ann Butler for OpEdNews
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My guest today is Marianne Williamson, internationally acclaimed spiritual lecturer and best-selling author of 12 books.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Marianne. You are also the founder and host of Sister Giant, a conference in Washington, D.C., that just concluded. Many of our readers are not familiar with Sister Giant. Can you tell us a bit about it, please?
Marianne Williamson: Sister Giant is a series of weekend conferences that began as a call to women to become more active in transforming the world. My question was, and is, around the relative quietude and complacency -- perhaps this is changing now -- of Western women in the face of so many global challenges. We based the first conference on three films: The Burning Times, a film by the Canadian Film Board on the burning of the witches during the Middle Ages; Iron-Jawed Angels, the HBO special about the Women's Suffragette movement; and Pray the Devil Back to Hell, about women in the Liberian Civil War. I wanted to explore how we got quiet, where we have not been quiet, and examples of women best showing up now. Scholars were there to help us understand all three of those situations and apply their meaning to our own lives. It was wonderful.
That first conference was followed by two and now three more, evolving into a focus on more current political events. Bernie Sanders was our keynote speaker in 2015 and again this year.
Like millions of other people, after Trump was elected I just wanted to do something, and I thought perhaps doing another Sister Giant would contribute to the energy of this moment. We hosted a fantastic assortment of speakers -- people that I read and listen to and learn from, on topics I think are among those most important right now. I partnered with Derrick Harkins, Vice-President at Union Theological Seminary and former Director of Religious Outreach at the DNC, and it was a great weekend. Thousands of people were feeling quite lit up at the end of it.
JB: I heard that! OpEdNews was well represented at Sister Giant - Editor-in-Chief Rob Kall, Managing Editor Meryl Ann Butler, Senior Editor Marta Steele, and OpEdNews contributor Mike Rivage-Seul - and the reports were glowing. [Readers: there are at least ten articles about Sister Giant* published so far on OpEdNews; Check them out!] The timing seemed very fortuitous, coming on the heels of the Women's March on Washington and all the satellite marches. Like the Women's March, did you get a bigger turnout than you expected? And if so, what do you attribute that to?
OEN Sen. Ed., Marta Steele; Managing Ed Meryl Ann Butler, and Ed-in-Chief Rob Kall attended the Sister Giant Conference
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MW: I didn't really have expectations. It was certainly bigger than other Sister Giants we've done, but, on the other hand, there hasn't been a moment like this, before. I was trying to respond to the urgency, the upset people were feeling after the election; I just knew we had to get together, that's all. I read somewhere that the "fight or flight" pattern in reaction to stress applies to men, but that women "tend and mend." To me that's what Sister Giant is, even though it's not just for women. Millions of us had to go through a state of shock and grief after the election, obviously. But then we could all instinctively feel when it was time to get it together and start to DO something. And we have! Look what happened this last week: Human shields in front of deportation forces; Standing Rock; thousands at Congressional Town Hall meetings throughout the country. Sister Giant was and is just one of a myriad things that are part of the larger Resistance. We're all doing what we feel guided to do, and no one's piece is more important than anyone else's.
Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich, speaking at Sister Giant
(Image by Meryl Ann Butler) Permission Details DMCA
JB: How many people participated in this year's Sister Giant? And what specifically went on there to help people "tend and mend"? While your conference enabled its participants to glimpse a brighter, more active and proactive path, many more of us were not able to partake. Can you talk more about specific workshops or sessions so that we can have more of a taste, albeit second-hand? We all know on some level that we have to do, and keep on doing, but we don't necessarily know how to go about that.
MW: There were almost 2,000 attending live, and 4,000 on livestream. People can still see the video archives if they go to www.SisterGiant.com . And people who participated did a lot more than "glimpse a brighter path." They heard some very profound sharing from people who have spent decades of their lives working to understand certain political and spiritual issues more deeply, and pursuing strategies for change. People can see ideas for further action on the Resources page at www.SisterGiant.com , plus there's a Community Forum there, etc.
Right now I'm feeling I should do The Spirit of Citizenship Rallies in five cities: they would be day-long, mini-Sister Giants culminating in evening workshops on political activism leading up to the 2018 midterms: cities like Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta, one of the cities in Florida, perhaps Denver. The locations aren't totally determined yet. My own deepest concern now is voter suppression; the more active we get, the more I assume there will be those doubling down on the nefarious trend of systematically narrowing the voting franchise. One of the speakers at Sister Giant was Ari Berman, who wrote the book Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. I want to do everything I can to help put focus on that issue in a meaningful way.
Once again, people have obviously moved into action now. The spontaneous activism we're seeing is really stupendous. I've always been clear that Americans have a way of staying asleep to really important matters for far too long, but boy, when we do wake up, we slam it like nobody's business. And we're starting to do that. Someone, so brazenly standing for who we aren't as a nation, is reminding millions of us who we are. And making us willing to take a stand.