FINDING MY FAMILY ROOTS (grass not hair)

Yes!  I am still recovering.  No!  I am not giving up.

How do I become part of a  grass  roots movement to help effect a positive change?  ‘Tis a conundrum!  Or I should say it was a conundrum.

Two days ago I attended a circle conversation with Annie Leibovitz and Gloria Steinem and a hundred other women, including my own daughter.  Below you will read the takeaway from each of us.

MOTHER’S TAKE:

What is a circle conversation?  Exactly what it sounds like.

People, and in this case, people being mostly women, sat in a circle, in the Women’s Building in NYC, formerly Bayview Correctional Prison for Women.  Gloria Steinem and the NoVo Foundation in collaboration with the Goren Group are establishing this building as a place for women’s rights groups, a performance space, space for service providers for all and the community, workshops to help change and charge your batteries.  The purpose is to create a world free from violence, poverty and injustice.

Is this just another pie in the sky scheme?   I don’t think so.

As we sat in this circle, surrounded by Annie Leibovitz’s  brilliant new Pop-Up Show, WOMEN:  NEW PORTRAITS, all I could think was, what a match –  the venue, the portraits, Annie, Gloria, over one hundred women of every ethnicity and color and class, including some graduates of the prison.

And what were we all seeking?  Solace, yes! But answers, too.  I am never far away from, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it”.

Indefatigable Gloria stood for over two hours taking questions and telling so clearly what this circle conversation was for.

She repeated it enough that I think I may have gotten it!  She had no answers for anyone.  How’s that for a new thought.  Instead, she asked us to stop looking up.  Good suggestion.  Because if you look up in NYC, sure as shooting’ someone will run over you (car, bus, bike).  I think what she meant is, the answer isn’t up or out, it’s inside.

If I give it time and consideration, I will know what it is I have to do to make life better.  Remember, in a plane, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first if you are going to help anyone.

She invited us to be part of the problem, but also part of the solution.

Oops, did I forget to tell you what the circle was all about?  She reminded us the circle goes back to our roots… in the cave, in the tent, in a circle, to share our stories… to connect.

My friends, my time with Annie (OMG what a show!) and Gloria and my new best one hundred friends, that’s what I came back with… that is my grass roots.  Being with each other… not texting, not emailing, not calling, but finding the time the place (The Women’s Building is just one example) to meet with each other.  To agree and disagree, yes, but to connect personally.  Shake a hand, a little kiss, a big hug, an arm around my shoulder.  We all need it.  And if you don’t, then come together anyway… someone is bound to cook something good.

Two fabulous women called on all fabulous women (and never forget we are all fabulous!) to do a little world cleaning.  Honestly, if we do it together, it won’t take that long.  Promise!!!

If only I had let her get a word in, it would have been perfect!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

Annie Leibovitz’s “Women: New Portraits” exhibit is showing from November 18 – December 11, 2016, at the Former Bayview Correctional Facility, 550 West 20th Street (between 10th and West Streets), Saturday – Wednesday 10 am – 7 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 8 pm. It is open to the public free of charge, courtesy of the exhibit’s sponsor UBS.

DAUGHTER’S TAKE:

On art and hope and endurance  ~ By Pamela Schwartz

I had the privilege of attending photographer Annie Leibovitz’s opening of her photo exhibit in New York City titled “Women: New Portraits.”  The exhibit is in the prison gymnasium of the former Bayview Correctional Facility, a women’s prison until just 4 years ago, which is now on its way to becoming a Women’s Building of New York City. We shared the space with former inmates who attended as guests. Immediately inspiring.

And there was more: Annie partnered with Gloria Steinem in this 10 city, 3 continent tour, and the opening events include a “talking circle,” or opportunity to have a free-wheeling conversation. This one, occurring just a week after the election, kept returning to the question of where to from here.

The discussion was good. The words from the former inmates were powerful. But what inspires me to write are Gloria’s closing words. I want everyone to hear them.

So I paraphrase liberally:

This difficult moment is actually a reflection of our progress.  Gloria used to be one of 12 women screaming from the back of the room. Now Hillary will win the popular vote by close to 2 million votes. For women (and people of color and LGBTQ), possibilities are now immeasurably (and measurably) greater. That is a whole lot of progress.

She continued: Trump’s candidacy and now near presidency has given permission to a small but terrifying portion of our population who are haters of immigrants, people of color, gays and lesbians, women, people with disabilities, all who are defined as “other” from those who hate. This scares us a lot.  To help manage the fear, Gloria offered an analogy:

In a domestic abuse situation, the most dangerous time is when the victim is at the threshold of leaving the abuser. The abuser senses the loss of control and lashes out in a desperate attempt to regain it.  For the haters in our midst, we as a nation are leaving them. Our country’s color and cultures have changed and will keep changing. There is fear and resistance in response, which also makes for real danger. We must be extremely vigilant and protective as the change continues.

And to complete the analogy with vigilance in tow: next up is newfound freedom. And safety.

I love that vision for the hope it contains, the endurance it inspires.

Let us cultivate leaders who represent our multi-cultural and multi-gender reality – our freedom embodied – and couple that with the populist message that resonated for millions of Bernie Sanders’ (and Trump) supporters.

Perhaps then we can reach the vast number of voters who seek the change they deserve in a nation they can rightfully call their own.

We are on our way. It is scary and deeply promising all at the same time.

Both of these truths require the same thing: action. And that action is happening every day, everywhere, by millions.

As Gloria also said, protest matters.  As we show up, determined to protect each other and the ideals on which this country was founded, we can actually afford to feel hopeful and optimistic. We are on the path to greater freedom.

Thank you, Annie Leibovitz, for bringing us the visceral power of women.

Thank you, Gloria Steinem, for providing us the living history that strengthens all of our faith and resolve to make the change that lies ahead.

Annie Leibovitz’s “Women: New Portraits” exhibit is showing from November 18 – December 11, 2016, at the Former Bayview Correctional Facility, 550 West 20th Street (between 10th and West Streets), Saturday – Wednesday 10 am – 7 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 8 pm. It is open to the public free of charge, courtesy of the exhibit’s sponsor UBS.

This article will be published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on December 7, 2016.

One thought on “FINDING MY FAMILY ROOTS (grass not hair)

  1. You two ROCK!!! Thanks for putting words to your experiences. We need to keep sharing our strength and hope.
    Women’s March on Washington, on January 21st, anyone??

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