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    Words: Needed Inspiration from Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde

    By Michele Karlsberg

    Michele Karlsberg: For this issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, I present a guest article written by award-winning Minneapolis-based novelist Judith Katz.

    On the night of November 9, 2016, I went with my partner Paula to a prayer vigil at Shir Tikvah synagogue here in Minneapolis.  I’m not much of a prayer vigil gal, I went mostly to be with Paula and because it seemed like the right thing to do.

    We found ourselves in the company of a multi-denominational crowd of several hundred similarly stricken people. Some were openly weeping, others like me were shaking our heads, trying our hardest to figure out how to stay open-hearted and politically clear-headed in what promised to become an incredibly difficult time.

    Religious leaders from left-leaning religious institutions sat in a circle in the center of the standing room only crowd. Each offered some form of consolation—prayer, song, poetry. To be honest, I was skeptical about the whole affair, and cynical, though I was moved by the size of the crowd. And then, a revelation. A woman minister got up, unfolded a piece of paper and read this short poem by the late Adrienne Rich:

                                    My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
                                    so much has been destroyed

                                    I have to cast my lot with those
                                    who age after age, perversely,

                                    with no extraordinary power
                                    reconstitute the world.

    I nudged Paula in the arm. “Of course,” I said. “We’re dykes. We have Adrienne Rich. We totally know how to do this.”

    The next day, someone on Facebook posted this quote by Audre Lorde:

                                    Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose
                                    the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution,
                                    but more usually
                                    we must do battle where we are standing.

    “Of course,” I said to myself. “We absolutely know how to do this! We have Audre Lorde!”

    In the days that followed, photos and quotes by literary luminaries and resisters such as Grace Paley, Joan Nestle, and Robin Morgan appeared on Facebook. Queer and feminist theatre makers and visual artists posted messages of opposition to what we knew would be our coming status quo. We were urged by journalists like Masha Gessen not to normalize the behavior of the man who became our president.

    When Women’s Marches were organized in cities around the country the day after the Predator in Chief was inaugurated, I remembered holding hands with hundreds of other women and circling the Pentagon at the Women’s Pentagon Action following Ronald Reagan’s election. I am heartened by the excellent examples of resistance set by the folks in the Black Lives Matter and Occupy movements, and by the young people who blocked highways in protest and by the legal aid folks who posted themselves at airports around the country to help incoming immigrants in the face of the Big Mouth in Chief’s cruel, unusual, and illegal travel bans.

    The fact of the matter is, dykes of my generation have been through something very close to this before. Lorde, Rich and other artists/activists helped then, and they’re helping us now. We resist by paying attention. We act. We refuse with all of our hearts to shut up.

    Judith Katz is the author of two published novels, “The Escape Artist,” and “Running Fiercely Toward a High Thin Sound.” She has received Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and National Endowment fellowships for fiction. She is an academic advisor at the University of Minnesota.

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBT community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates twenty-nine years of successful book campaigns.