That’s what I felt when I saw Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis, 76 years old and a civil rights icon, leading a sit-in on the House floor on June 22, to protest the feckless and amoral Republican refusal to pass a single gun control measure following the death of 49 people in Orlando.
Similarly, when Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy led a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor 10 days prior to the sit-in, I became excited about America’s future. Someone was taking a stand. Not a sound-bite. But a bona-fide act of resistance from a senator who said he remembers Sandy Hook Elementary every day where 20 children and six adults were shot to death.
Filibusters, protests, sit-ins and rallies are the stuff of fantasies for justice junkies like me, who get off on watching people screw up the courage to put their beliefs on the line, and tell you about it because they want you to join them in their quest.
The Lewis-led sit-in lasted about 25 hours. Despite the lights and cameras being cut, despite detractors calling the sit-in a stunt and older white male Republicans giggling in the seats, the protesters went, they sat and they made an impact.
We shall overcome.
When the Patriot Act was up for its first vote, I assembled.
When the second Iraq War was authorized, I protested.
When the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act couldn’t pass Equal Protection muster to bar Edie Windsor from relying on the same inheritance tax treatment hetero couples enjoy, I gathered at Jefferson Square to celebrate.
When the Supreme Court ruled a state must issue marriage licenses to same sex couples and recognize out-of-state marriages of same sex couples in the state where they may now be found, in Obergefell v. Hodges, I celebrated at my friend’s wedding, where they read “Let’s Go Crazy” as part of their vows.
When a grassroots group of women leaders decided we would pursue ratification of a local Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women Resolution through the Metro Council, I addressed the need for it publicly, and privately.
When approximately 14 different groups assembled at the Judicial Center to condemn systemic racism in jury selection and the potential removal of Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens, I stood among them.
When the world mourned victims of the ISIS attacks in November in Paris, and Americans divided over whether to accept or reject Syrian refugees here, I stood with friends in Jefferson Square to support compassion, reason and non-violence.
When a lone-wolf gunman murdered 49 people dancing at a gay bar in Orlando with a Sig Sauer MCX rifle, I mourned with the city, and with the world, on the Big Four Bridge.
When the mayor asked us to show the world we aren’t afraid at the Pride Festival, I bought my Lady Boss socks, found my Apollonia hat and met my girlfriend, who was dressed like the Statute of Liberty. We marched for love, and against hate. Just like we did the year before in solidarity with our friends we adore.
And today, I will rally with Planned Parenthood to recognize Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellersted: that personal rights, including the right to choose whether to have a child, still exist, and the government must weigh the benefit of laws made to restrict access against the burden of them on those the government seeks to control.
The personal is the political.
It’s personal for the women who founded various organizations to heal sex trafficking victims, and who were victims themselves, including Kristy Love, a trafficking victim who went public to give a voice and a hand to those who need it most, women addicted to alcohol and drugs.
It’s personal for my friend Sadiqa Reynolds, now head of the Louisville Urban League, who said this about seeking justice:
“My mother was not an activist in the traditional sense, but she went out of her way to help others. She was an abused woman, who left her husband, her mother, her six brothers and sisters and her job. She left New York with me and a suitcase. Even with a black eye, I saw nothing but strength. She worked her way up at the telephone company. Once there was a planned protest of the company, and a planned protest of the homes of some of the managers. My mom told me, ‘If they come here, we will let them use the bathroom, give them water or whatever else they need. They are fighting on the outside and I am fighting with them on the inside.’”
It’s personal for me.
In the words of John Lewis. “We will continue to push, to pull, to stand up and, if necessary, to sit down.”