The Feminine Ferment, with Claudia Salazar Jiménez

Book Reviews, Fiction

The experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it.
–Vladimir Lenin

I’m writing this right after attending a May Day mobilization in Oakland, California, where black and brown people took to the streets to commemorate and continue the struggle of workers. To pay homage to the labor movement, and to continue the resistance of working class communities in the Bay Area and around the world.

And as I march, I look around me and see the beautiful faces of GABRIELA San Francisco — an organization of Filipino women for self-determination and liberation in the Bay — leading, chanting and marching with strength and vigor.

I think of all the revolutionary women I’ve learned about, from whom I’ve derived so much inspiration and strength to continue resisting: Gabriela Silang, Lorena Barros, Assata Shakur, Audre Lorde, Bai Bibyaon Ligkay, Angela Davis, Cherrie Moraga. I think about these women as I was reading Claudia Salazar Jiménez’s Blood of the Dawn (Amazon | Indiebound), a fiction novel about the women of The Communist Party of Peru, known as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) in the 70’s.

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Blood of the Dawn (Amazon | Indiebound) is a novel about the lives of three women during the emergence of Peru’s Shining Path, a Maoist guerilla group which started out of universities and distinctive for its promulgation of the strong role and participation of women.

At the center of the novel are three women: Marcela/Marta, Modesta and Melanie, women from different classes of Peruvian society. Melanie is a young photographer, who wants to travel to the country’s small villages and record what’s happening. Modesta is a farmer who’s contented with her life, a witness to the civil war around her. Marcela on the other hand, a teacher, is someone who ends up becoming a member of the Shining Path.

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change… I am changing the things I cannot accept. 

— Angela Y. Davis

I remember the first time I heard Angela Y. Davis speak in Berkeley, at the Empowering Women of Color Conference in 2011. There I was surrounded by women of color, listening to a black woman revolutionary speak about building movements, in spite of our vast differences.

Today is Davis’s birthday and her continued resistance is as critical as ever. My inbox has been flooded with news of executive order after another on immigration, on refugees, on cutting funding for sanctuary cities, on the Mexican border wall. I thought of Davis:

Walls turned sideways are bridges. 

— Angela Davis: An Autobiography
(Worldcat | Amazon | Indiebound)

After a historic women’s march over the weekend, I was ecstatic by the mobilization of so many women, men, queer and trans folks, children, older folks. I was reminded of the transformative power of ordinary people coming together. But I was also made painfully aware of how many folks — specifically white people — don’t show up to mobilizations for immigrants, black people and other people of color.

How do we then build bridges with folks who have traditionally benefited from our oppression? For starters, there’s “Healing from Toxic Whiteness” which is a training program for white folks committed to racial justice. There are also tons of resources and literature available out there, including a post of resistance literature I compiled earlier this week. Best of all, there are many organizations and grassroots groups doing the actual work that folks can join.

As for us who have been resisting and in the struggle for so long, may we never lose sight of seeing the world we want to live in, may we continue to build alongside each other.

You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.

— Angela Y. Davis

 Here’s a list of necessary reading by the revolutionary herself:

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Happy Birthday to a Revolutionary: Angela Y. Davis

Sunday Spotlight