Yes, spring is in the air! I was so fortunate to jumpstart the new season at the inaugural Black Women Rise Conference in West Palm Beach. Talk about March Madness! This conference epitomized March Gladness, as black women activists—lesbian, straight, trans and queer identified—gathered to share their hearts and hopes together.
The luminary list began with the keynote speaker, Angela Davis, whose consistent message of “SOLIDARITY!” will reign throughout eternity. Equally as impressive were the many panelists, presenters and performers who told stories of their struggles for
equality and justice for all while expressing the persistent need for selfcare, particularly in these challenging days and times.
Even with this glamour and gladness, what I enjoyed most was the laughter. The laughs were healing and heartfelt as sisters of all races gathered together at every opportunity to embrace, enfold, enliven and enlighten.
What made this Black Women Rise event so special is that the conference aimed to be multicultural, multi-generational and multi-racial, and it truly was. Because most of us are engaged in educating the “other”—whoever that is perceived to be—it was with a collective sigh of relief that we embraced one another as activists. Community Activists! Social Activists! Political Activists! Sexual Activists! Cultural Activists! The key word “Activist” united us beyond our individual differences, our personal likes and dislikes, and for that, we were all grateful.
I often share that I became a Comic Activist as a result of being the first out black lesbian comic in the nation to use lesbian material in my act, and of launching my comedy career in San Francisco at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I experienced first-hand the healing power of humor when comics like Marga Gomez, Karen Ripley, Danny Williams, and I were added to show bills and increased the monetary profits of the event. (Laughter opens up the hearts and minds of people as well as the pockets!) In turn, that money was used to directly assist someone who was sick or in the hospital with the early diagnosis of GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency Disease).
We were in the throes of the Ronald Reagon regime—a President who rarely mentioned HIV and AIDS during his two terms. Yet, I watched and participated in a level of gay and lesbian activism that enabled our beleaguered communities to stand on their own feet and take care of themselves … rather (s)heroically I might add! The Cable Car Awards in San Francisco were created to honor those valiant activists at such a critical time in our collective history—an award for which I was nominated several times, and could not win away from the lovable Marga Gomez.
What this lesson in activism taught me is that just as Black Women Rise today, we can all rise because we’ve already risen and no one can take that away from us. Let’s choose to spring forward, to revitalize ourselves for the next wave of the fights ahead … for equal rights for all!
Yes, we can gather and meet individually, yet make no mistake. Our power is in our ability to spring forward together, united in our “peopleness”—my preference for “humanity” because even our language could use a few tune-ups (that’s fodder for another article). Let’s never forget that “SOLIDARITY!” rocks, and that laughter helps us to roll with the punches.
There’s joy in our struggle. What we’ve gained in our united hearts, minds and souls is ours to keep. Happy spring!
© 2017 Karen Williams Karen Williams loves spring because she gets to start her garden! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org