It is our individual responsibility to continually educate and reeducate ourselves about how we have arrived here – 2017 Trump America. This is a daunting task, and one that cannot be taken lightly. It includes studying our history through today’s eyes and then engaging in the critically thinking necessary to keep publicly testifying the ways that history has shaped the present. It is this continual affirmation: 2017 Trump America did not randomly happen, and those who are marginalized are not so because they “deserve” to be. The injustice and inequality are the results of the conscious decisions of individuals and institutions which have shaped what is now collectively accepted as our “given” societal codes and norms. If our “givens” were scripted, then they are capable of being rescripted. This is the lifelong task of many among us, and I believe they are the heroes among us. However, I fear that their life’s work has been rendered unfathomable in Trump’s America, where social progress is being besieged and assaulted at every turn.
When Baltimore OUTLoud profiled Julia and Vanna Belton in October 2015, they had just renovated and opened Flavor Restaurant, Bar & Lounge on Centre Street. Their story was pretty damn epic: married in 2014, they met two years after Vanna had almost completely lost her sight in a week’s time and had come to terms with life as a visually impaired person. The couple, both with backgrounds in the restaurant business, hit it off right away and began their personal and professional relationship, vowing to one day open a restaurant/bar in Baltimore where the LGBT community would thrive and feel safe. They were also determined to fight Vanna’s condition and seek a cure.
“It’s a heart rending time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country... our dignity, our character, and rights are all under attack.” So spoke America Ferrerra as she gazed out over the hundreds of thousand of women who descended on Washington on Saturday, January 21st for the Women’s March. Women who came from all over the country, sleeping on friends’ floors, crossing coasts, and riding buses through the night to be there. We wore pink pussy hats, accepted free doobies, and marched bearing homemade signs or bearing the five official images of the March. We broke out into impromtu verses of “Lean on Me” and cheered and chanted our throats raw as four-plus hours of speakers proclaimed that Donald Trump is not America.
It's mid-January 2017, and we are holding it together. Some of us are feeling energized by the need to mobilize against the incoming Trump administration, others brace for its onslaught. Many people eagerly ushered 2016 out with swift and pointed kicks to the rear, relieved to see the back of a year which encompassed the Orlando shooting, unceasing waves of wartorn refugees, increasing violence and unease around the globe, the passing of iconic celebrities, the rebirth of lurking racism and homophobia and the election of the crudest, most sexist, and least prepared celebrity to the presidency, just to name a few. These events proved too much for even the toughest among us to swallow. Certainly we need a lifting of the gloom as Inauguration Day arrives.
Last week, Madonna received Billboard’s 2016 Woman of the Year Award with a speech that was, well, quintessential Madonna: fierce, raw, defiant, in your face, and no holds barred. At the same time, it was vulnerable and halting, passionate, cynical, and brutally honest. Most notably it spoke to the power, the daring, of a woman surviving over the long haul.
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