February 2021 WATERritual

Raising Up Diverse Women in Democracy 

with Diann L. Neu and Anali North Martin

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 7:30 PM ET

The recording is available on SoundCloud here.

Preparation: Have a glass of your favorite drink nearby for toasting.

Call to Gather

Good evening. I am Diann Neu. I am here with Anali Martin to welcome you to this WATERritual, “Raising Up Diverse Women in Democracy.”

As the first woman to hold the Chilean presidency, Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, reminds us, “For me, a better democracy is a democracy where women not only have the right to vote and to elect but to be elected.” Tonight, during Black History Month, we raise up the women past, present, and future who hold a role in being participants, supporters, representatives, and activists of democracy.

We celebrate and support womanists who are on the forefront of the struggles for liberation.

We join our sisters of African descent in the United States to resist racial, gender, and class discrimination and all forms of social oppression. We come to learn and be nourished by womanist wisdom in order to be inspired to work against racism and white supremacy so that the world will become a place of justice, equality, and peace for all.

Women in politics are the stars of the season, with Kamala Harris breaking the political glass ceiling for all of us. So tonight, we raise up the diversity of women in politics and give thanks for their courage and witness. And we give thanks for women artists who honor these diverse women by bringing their works to life through different media and platforms.

Song: “Ella’s Song” by Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock (from Breaths, Songtalk Publishing Company © 1983), Sung by Resistance Revival Chorus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYmaOzaGI-Q&ab_channel=ResistanceRevivalChorus

We who believe in freedom cannot rest,

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. 

Raising Up Womanists

This Black History Month, we listen to the wisdom of womanists to inspire us.

Alice Walker, novelist, poet, activist, defines womanist as: “Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”

From In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden: Womanist Prose (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1983)

Thank you for your Womanist Wisdom, Alice Walker!

Katie Geneva Cannon, Womanist theologian, founder of the Center for Womanist Leadership, first woman of African descent ordained by the United Presbyterian Church in the United States reminded us before she died:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjhtUGqFCWg

“Being a frontrunner in a lot of this work, people wanna dismiss the truth that I speak as anecdotal. Okay, if I don’t have a scientific database, where I can prove that what I’ve experienced is true for so many people then it’s not true. So, the epistemological sea of forgetfulness is when people take truth that hurts, truth that goes to the core of the being, truth that goes to the marrow of the bone and people wanna say, if you can’t prove it scientifically, factually then it doesn’t exist. So, what I try to encourage people to do is, that kind of truth that stings like a serpent’s tooth, that kind of truth that makes your teeth itch. The kind of truth that causes some people to lose their minds, up in here, up in here. So even when people call your truth a lie tell it anyway, tell it anyway.”

From Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology (0:00-0:59)

Thank you for your Womanist Wisdom, Katie Geneva Cannon!

Emilie M. Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt University Divinity School, professor of womanist ethics and society tells the truth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjhtUGqFCWg

“Black women in America are morally bound…to be justice seeking whole human beings. Even in the face of being told sometimes relentlessly so that we are less than whole, we are less than human, don’t believe that lie. Don’t live our lives in a lie. We cannot live our lives in the folds of old wounds. It’s not healthy; it’s not life-giving; it doesn’t bring in justice; it doesn’t bring in the next generation. So that’s what the moral imperative is for black women: to live life beyond those old wounds, those old, old folds. Know they’re there but we don’t have to live in them and through them. Take seriously that this is the land of the free. Create spaces and more spaces and more spaces of freedom, so that people can become who they are, what they’re about, what they can be, and that there are no limits. And in the midst of that, do so with a strong sense of justice, bringing others along with us.”

From Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology (10:28-11:57)

Thank you for your Womanist Wisdom, Emilie Townes!

Raising up Diverse Women in Politics

As a result of the historic election in the U.S., we raise up diverse women in politics who are beacons of democracy!

Kamala Harris, you are the United States’ first female vice president, the highest-ranking female elected official in U.S. history, and the first African American and first Asian American vice president. You shattered the political glass ceiling.

You make a difference for democracy. 

Nancy Pelosi, you are the first and only woman speaker of the house in 2007 and again in 2019, and the second-highest ranking elected woman in U.S. history, second in the presidential line of succession.

You make a difference for democracy.

Michelle Obama, you are a graceful and gracious model as the first African American First Lady of the United States, who passionately advocates for girls’ education, for healthy families, and for respect for all women.

You make a difference for democracy.

Eleanor Roosevelt, you were a pioneer who changed the role of the First Lady through your active participation in American politics. You were a diplomat, journalist, activist, and advocate for a wide range of human rights issues who later served as a United Nations spokesperson. Because of your leadership, more women were empowered to enter political life.

You made a difference for democracy.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, you transformed the role of First Lady to one of First Partner. You paved the way as the first female senator from New York, the third female Secretary of State, and as the first major party nominee for President of the United States.

You make a difference for democracy.

The 12 Women in the Cabinet and key administrative positions — let’s say their names: Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy; Isabel Guzman, Chief of Small Business Administration; Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior; Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence; Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce; Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative; Neera Tanden, head of Office of Management and Budget; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Cecilia Rouse, Chairperson of Council of Economic Advisers; Samantha Power, Administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury; Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State; Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett, Justices of the Supreme Court — you are a diverse group of women who provide a breath of fresh air combined with professional, activist, philosophical, and technical leadership skills.

You make a difference for democracy.

The 24 Women in the Senate — let’s say their names: Lisa Murkowski, Kyrsten Sinema, Dianne Feinstein, Mazie Hirono, Tammy Duckworth, Joni Ernst, Susan Collins, Elizabeth Warren, Debbie Stabenow, Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Deb Fischer, Catherine Cortez Masto, Jacky Rosen, Jeanne Shaheen, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marsha Blackburn, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Shelley Moore Capito, Tammy Baldwin, Cynthia Lummis — you bring women’s voices, experiences, and insights to structures of justice.

You make a difference for democracy.

The 119 Women in the House of Representatives, and specifically these black women serving in Congress — let’s say their names: Terri Sewell, Barbara Lee, Karen Bass, Maxine Waters, Jahana Hayes, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Val Demings, Frederica Wilson, Nikema Williams, Lucy McBath, Robyn Kelly, Lauren Underwood, Ayanna Pressley, Brenda Lawrence, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Alma Adams, Bonnie Watson, Yvette Clarke, Joyce Betty, Sheila Jackson Lee, Eddie Johnson, Gwen Moore — you represent the values, needs, and hopes of people in your districts.

You make a difference for democracy.

Women in State and Local Governments, you attend to the needs and expectations of neighborhoods and communities at the grassroots.

You make a difference for democracy.

Women Firsts in Political Office in the Last 100+ Years — let’s say their names: Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President in 1872; Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress in 1916; Hattie Caraway, the first woman to be elected to the Senate and serve a full term in 1932; Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968; Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman on a major party’s presidential ticket as vice-presidential nominee in 1984; Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American woman elected to the Senate in 1992; Condoleezza Rice, the first female African-American Secretary of State in 2005; Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House in 2007; Kamala Harris, the first female vice president, the first African American VP, and first Asian American VP in 2021 — you paved the way for the Women in Politics for the next 100 years.

You made a difference for democracy.

Women in Training for Future Political Office, you are a hope for humankind.

You make a difference for democracy.

Women who will one day be President of the United States, we await your leadership and pray that it will come in our lifetime.

You make a difference in democracy.

Girls born today who will be Political Leaders tomorrow, to you is given the challenge of a world bursting with possibilities. Remember the stories of your foremothers as you make your mark on the global community. Your time is soon.

You make a difference for democracy.

 

Raising Up Diverse Women Worldwide

Video: “The Women are Coming”

Made by Washington Women’s Leadership Initiative (WWLI)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUujjBqpxOg&ab_channel=WWLI (2.30)
 

Raising Up Diverse Artists and Activists in Democracy

Artists, poets, musicians carry the soul of a culture. Here is artwork that inspires.

Quote: From “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman for 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration

Artist: Kimothy Joy, https://www.kimothyjoy.com/

 

Shanthi Chandrasekar, Roopal Shah, and Sowmya Somnath of Maryland co-created an Inauguration Kolam 2021, a South Indian ritual modeled after geometric Indian art traditionally created by women as an energetic welcome, especially for Vice President Kamala Harris. They will assemble the final art installation of 2,000 tiles formed on recycled cardboard by people across the country in DC. —

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq4o6rVGDEE&ab_channel=Indiaspora

 

Reflection | Sharing

Think about what you heard and saw from womanists, pioneering women in politics in the U.S. and worldwide, and women artists. Like these women, we participate in democracy by voting, campaigning, writing and calling our political leaders, attending public hearings, running for public office ourselves, acting on our convictions, creating poems and art, and more.

What are your reflections after hearing these womanists, women in politics, women artists, and women in democracy?

How do they make a difference? How will you make a difference?

We will have a short time silent reflection, during which you can type your reflection into the chat.

 

Toasting the Diversity of Women in Democracy

Let us raise our glasses together to toast the diversity of women in democracy.

Blessed are you, God of Goodness, Spirit of Resistance, Holy Trust,

for giving us this drink to celebrate womanists, women in politics, women artists, and women in democracy.

We toast them with gratitude for breaking glass ceilings,

with gratitude for being brave, courageous, and strong,

with gratitude for living a spirituality of resistance,

with gratitude for breaking silence and speaking truth to power,

with gratitude for the precious gifts women bring to the struggle for democracy.

Let’s drink with gratitude for diverse women in democracy yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

 

Take Action for Democracy

Let us put our prayers into action. Here are some possible ways:

  • Participate in your local government: stay informed, spread truth, support officials fighting for social justice, vote in local and national elections for candidates who make a difference, and help campaign for progressive women candidates.
  • Learn about and support the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership through Union Presbyterian Seminary: https://www.upsem.edu/cwl/
  • Visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture when it reopens, or virtually now: https://nmaahc.si.edu/
  • Encourage girls and young women to develop their leadership, artistic, and activist skills.

Sending Forth

Let us go forth to struggle, resist, and rise up, unafraid, to move mountains together

Let us go forth to resist racial, gender, class discrimination, white supremacy, and all forms of social oppression.

Let us go forth with gratitude for our democracy.

Go in peace and keep democracy alive!

 

Song: “Rise Up,” sung by Andra Day and skating by Kaitlyn Saunders, Written by Cassandra Monique Batie / Jennifer Decilveo, © BMG Rights Management https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27VN9qXPZso&ab_channel=BidenInauguralCommittee

You’re broken down and tired

Of living life on a merry go round

And you can’t find the fighter

But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out

And move mountains

We gonna walk it out

And move mountains

And I’ll rise up

I’ll rise like the day

I’ll rise up

I’ll rise unafraid

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousand times again

For you

For you

For you

For you

When the silence isn’t quiet

And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe

And I know you feel like dying

But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet

And move mountains

Bring it to its feet

And move mountains

And I’ll rise up

I’ll rise like the day

I’ll rise up

I’ll rise unafraid

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousand times again

For you

For you

For you

For you

All we need, all we need is hope

And for that we have each other

And for that we have each other

And we will rise

We will rise

We’ll rise, oh, oh

We’ll rise

I’ll rise up

Rise like the day

I’ll rise up

In spite of the ache

I will rise a thousand times again

And we’ll rise up

High like the waves

We’ll rise up

In spite of the ache

We’ll rise up

And we’ll do it a thousand times again

For you…

 

ⓒ 2021 Diann L. Neu, dneu@hers.com, adapted from Stirring WATERS: Feminist Liturgies for Justice