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    All photos by Adam Mescan

    ​I arrive at the Louisville Women’s Rally with my woman body, my womb, borderline illegal. Knitted pink hats — some made for last year’s Women’s March on Washington — dot the hundreds gathered outside the Muhammad Ali Center. From above, it must look like pointillism. Do the hats shape a heart, a uterus? My beanie’s black. I hold no sign, like many of my clever (remix) commadres: I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA; Public Cervix Announcement; Don’t Agonize—Organize. Instead, I have paper and pen, that sword. I have my voice — albeit rusty, conditioned with politeness and quiet — which joins my sisters and our allies: Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Donald Trump has got to go.

    Even dogs are dressed in protest to the administration. People smile and selfie, Instagram, Snapchat. I remember a sign I saw being made at the Garage Bar Feminist Mini Fest (benefitting Planned Parenthood and where, at noon, it was difficult to tell if people gathered for mimosas or matriarchy) before I came here: Feminism isn’t performative. Sorry, Becky. I meet a small circle of older African American ladies. They’re part of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority founded at Howard University in 1913. “We marched for women’s suffrage!” one says, then talks about all the community work the group does. I thank them and think of the equality-scream echoing then and always. How the mouths of “herstory” have been shut silent.


    Photo: The Louisville Women's Rally was held on the anniversary of the Women's March on Washington.

    Before the speeches begin, I settle behind some teenage girls, one wrapped in a hijab, the other Latina, holding a sign that says, “Tenemos un sueño.We have a dream. I think of the Dreamers and all the mothers who have been snatched by the cold hands of I.C.E. I remember my time spent in Chiapas, Mexico, protesting “femicides,” gender-based killings. There women roared that they don’t feel safe in the streets. Machismo malicious, murderous across continents.

    Marta Miranda-Straub, the chief empowerment officer at the Center for Women and Families, begins with a damn bang. Miranda-Straub is “Cubalachian”: Cuban by birth, Appalachian-found. Her accent’s still strong as she tells us she’s been fighting for social justice over 40 years. “The wind is finally on our backs,” she says, describing how misogyny, sexism, homophobia and poverty have too-long been the lay of the land. She’s stout, hair maroon. She tells us CWF helped 8,000 domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors this year. She addresses the male allies: “Brothers, when you get called a ‘pussy,’ realize that’s the strongest muscle in the human body and say, ‘Thank you.’”


    Photo: Marta Miranda-Straub, the chief empowerment officer at the Center for Women and Families.

    Writer/spoken-word artist Hannah Drake gives us some hard-slung truth with her poem, “The Bell Tolls for You.” “Every time that I stand at a microphone I am speaking to shake this nation from its slumber,” she says. “Consider these words the alarm.” The alarm: the fact that 53 percent of white women voted for Trump; 65 percent of white women for Alabama’s Roy Moore. She ain’t scared to stab at the scab of white feminism, the entity she believes doesn’t acknowledge that women of color have been doing this civil rights call-to-action work for years. Repeatedly through the rally there’s the demand for intersectionality, a unity. Black Lives Matter. None of us are free until we’re all free. Drake asks, “Where were you when we were screaming? Your silence was deafeningly loud.”


    Photo: Writer/spoken-word artist Hannah Drake recites a rousing poem.

    I nod in my silence. Damn, don’t I know it; don’t I hide there so well. Plagued by some fear for forever, too long knocked down by society’s look-like-this be-like-that male-made media churn. I am privileged, yes. I was ignorant to institutional incarceration and other systematic oppressions up until a few years back. Where was I? Where was I? I apologize for the ways in which I’ve failed my black sisters. Further, for the way I’ve failed my mother (who, unable to speak out about the sexual harassment she experienced while working in the state capitol building, quit her job) and her mother (a single mom in the 1950’s). Twenty-seven-years-old, I step into the ricochet of change toward freedom with a gifted bell hooks book in my purse.

    “Y’all know I’m angry,” says the lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and Indiana. “I’m angry all the time.” A constant battle between the state and PPINK. In early 2016, Governor Matt Bevin’s administration sued the organization after asserting that its Louisville clinic allegedly performed illegal abortions without the proper licensure. They can now no longer provide abortion services. (Lexington’s clinic closed last January after being sued and denied a license by the Bevin administration.) Now there’s only one legal abortion provider in Kentucky: the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in downtown Louisville, its fate frazzling.


    Photo: Hundreds turned out on Sunday for the Louisville rally, and thousands more rallied and marched across the country.

    We chant: “March! Run! Win!” There’s a push for more women, people of color and trans people in office. One speaker tells us about Emerge Kentucky, an organization offering classes to grow female political leaders, after sharing sobering statistics about our representation in government. We promise to show up and show power in the voting polls. We sing: “Grab ‘em by the midterms,” joining local singer Carly Johnson’s smooth Southern lilt.

    Teary-eyed, I look at the faces around me — stars in the sky, brightening — and I remember last summer’s total eclipse. I was in Idaho in the line of totality when the moon eased over the sun, carrying night into day. A cosmic sign, a shift toward the feminine. A restoration. As these women’s words envelop me like a womb and this conversation continues nationwide, I know that we are unified — a universe in revolt. We are the daughters and mothers of a movement. 

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