I cannot get the words of the Staples Singers song Respect Yourself out of my head. It’s been playing on a continuous loop since I participated in the Women’s March on Washington. Specifically, the line “If you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na, respect yourself”*. That day in Washington, women proudly expressed their dignity and their outrage that anyone try denigrate them or take away their rights. The support of sisters in protest was a powerful antidote to the bitter brew of defeat, rage, fear and disbelief that had felt ominous for weeks. Taking action did not stop with the march and was not confined to the women marching on the streets around the country and the world. Women watched the marches and followed the events on social media. Even though they did not physically march they were there with in spirit, declaring with the marchers, “Yes we can and no you won’t!” It was wonderful to see generations of women and men social justice activists in coalition. The continued acts of resistance are clearly a sign that people are serious and will not back down.
When coaching our clients it is common for the feelings of defeat, rage, fear and disbelief to emerge on the personal level. Our client’s feelings often stem from the same injustices expressed on the massive worldwide level of the marches. Defeat when a job or advancement in the workplace goes to a man rather than a woman who is equally or often more qualified. Rage when she finds out her compensation is far less than her male counterpart or that he has taken credit for her work. Fear that men known and unknown to her will psychologically or physically harm her. As well as, a profound disbelief that other women are colluding with and hold the same values as the systems that limits or denies their human rights.
Whether we are looking at the personal level or the global level, there are important messages and helpful lessons from the Women’s March on Washington.
- Respect yourself and others by speaking out when you experience or witness injustice. You are self-authorized, no permission necessary!
- Identify allies with similar values and build coalitions, knowing you may not agree on everything.
- Take action with kindred spirits for support, it is more powerful and safer than going solo.
- Social change requires multiple actions each necessary but often insufficient to create lasting change, keep it going, be relentless.
- Focus otherwise you will become worn out from fighting every battle that comes your way.
- Take care, take a break occasionally to distress, rejuvenate and reflect.
- Celebrate accomplishments along the way big and small.
- Honor the generations of activists who preceded you and the generations who are going to carry on with the struggle. A luta continua!
*Respect Yourself, Staple Singers, written by Luther Ingram & Max Rice