My name is Deirdra Jeneva (“Jen”) Brown. I am 52 years old and I live in Poughkeepsie, New York. On January 21, 2017, I joined with my Baha’i sisters Tamara Williams and Nancy Ewing, and tens of thousands of women across the country and around the world, in a show of strength and solidarity, speaking into a broad range of social justice issues, gender equity being just one of them. I was born into and formed by the era of civil rights protests. I was born a year after President Kennedy’s assassination, and I was a toddler when Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were murdered. I have no personal memories of these events; but my ideas about, and deep personal commitment to social justice was no doubt animated and infused by the events of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
I walk through this world as an African-American, as a Woman, and distinct from that, and perhaps most significantly to me, as a “Black-Woman.” Living at the intersection of “Black” and “Woman”, I found my voice (of necessity or by design) very early in life. I don’t remember a decade in my life when I did not push back publicly (protest) against institutional racism, gender discrimination, and criminal injustice while issues of sexual harassment, domestic violence and healthcare parity needed attention but were secondary. So obviously participating in a protest march wasn’t a challenge in the sense that it “took me out of my comfort zone.” I was already “activated” and marching; I had been for years.
I wasn’t sure what I would find on the Walkway on January 21, 2017. Would any sector speak into the impact of institutionalized racism on “Black-Women” our children, or would my “Black-Womaness” again (as usual) occupy a role of silent support to the wider, mainstream, largely white Women’s agenda. Who would be out there, who would be heard? Initially I resisted the idea of participating.
But I am also Baha’i. I am guided by a faith that compels me to speak into the social discourses of the day. My participation in building Unity upon a foundation of justice and Truth, is (for me) a spiritual imperative. So I went to the March. My husband prepared signs bespeaking principles of gender equality taken directly from the Baha’i writings. . . . and the March, for me, was a warm joyful, shower of spiritual affirmation. I remain hopeful about the work ahead.
©2017 Nadine Robbins. Unauthorized use of the images and copy from these stories is prohibited.