Joie Grandbois is one of the members of the Maine Pagan Unity Day Association and is on the board of directors. She participated in the Woman’s Rights March in Portland Maine. This is her experience and reflection on the March.
Q:Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you participated in this march?
A: My name is Joie and I live in Portland, Maine. I am partially self employed as a performer, artist and teacher but I also work part-time as a paralegal and research assistant. I have many fears and concerns regarding the actions of the new administration.
As a woman I worry about my reproductive rights being taken away, as a non-traditional worker who has health insurance through the ACA which is under threat of repeal and as a member of a community that is made up of a diverse group of LGBTQ people, immigrants, women, minorities and other who are greatly at risk from the promised policies of this administration.
I could not in good conscience stand aside and do nothing. I do make calls to my representatives and voice my concerns in other ways as well, but sometimes it is important to physically stand up and be counted. To be a part of a strong visual representation of those who are not in agreement with the way things are heading.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience at the march? How many were there and how you felt while you were there?
A: I marched in Portland. When I was there I guessed that there must be a couple of thousand at least but then the Portland Press Herald said it was over 10,000!!! It really was awe inspiring to be a part of such a large slice of the community all coming together. It was a little overwhelming but in a good, good way. At the end of the day I felt so hopeful. Just knowing I was not alone meant so much.
Q: That’s amazing. Can you tell us about the sign you were holding?
A:Sure. I carried a sign that had the names of several friends who could not be a part of the march. Some were disabled, others were fighting the flu, a couple had to work or had other obligations. It felt good to be able to help them be a part of the march even though they could not be physically in the space a that time.
Q: Have you been involved with any other political movements like this?
A: I was pretty heavily involved with the peace movement leading up to the Iraq war. I was very active with Peace Action Maine and Bridges for Peace (we did vigils on bridges across the state on Sundays). I have helped organize buses to DC for national marches and helped organize several other local protests and events.
I stepped back from organizing for a time as I, like many activists, started to become a bit burned out. I am still pretty active on a personal level. I’m one of those folks who calls and emails my representatives and I often show up for marches and protests of causes I support. I think as a citizen it is important to make your voice heard in as many ways as possible.
Q: I was there in 2004 when Michael Moore was supposed to visit and hold a rally for peace and voting. That was the first and only time I have been able to be active. It was an experience still hearing him from the conference call they had. What advice would you give to people who want to get involved but are not sure how to?
A: There are a lot of resources out there for finding out when actions are taking place. Facebook groups, peace organizations, women’s health groups, LGBTQ organizations, group for people of color, immigrants and so many more. Deciding what you want to support can be a bit overwhelming particularly when there are so many worthy causes and actions to support and we all have only 24 hours in the day.
It also means taking a look at yourself and seeing what you are capable of. Some of us are able to take part in direct action activities like the Greenpeace activists on the crane in DC today and others may find calling their representatives or showing up for a march to be more in line with what they are capable of doing.
There is no action too small really. Any action is better than nothing. I would suggest attending an organizing meeting for the particular issue you are interested in. Bring a friend if you are worried about going alone – when I went to my first protest I had a tiny little sign made from a pizza box top. It had a peace sign painted on it and I was sooooo nervous. I just felt like I had to do something and I heard about this protest outside of Senator Collins office. When I arrive folks were friendly and welcoming. It was a small step but every first step generally is.
I would also remind folks that activism can be a heady thing. It is easy for it to become all consuming; it is exciting and a relief to finally feel like you are doing something. But remember to take time to regenerate and rest too. Burn out is all to common in the activist community and I think even more so for women as we are culturally conditioned to be caretakers.
I am remember now too, when I think of being an activist. I was one of those kids in my high school who was boycotting Coca Cola and other companies to pull out of South Africa when apartheid was still in effect. I have always considered my self a feminist since I was very young. So I have been politically active and aware for much of my life. I think maybe because of that was easier for me to take a stand on things.
For others who are new to the idea or who have only recently had their eyes opened to the troubles of the world it can be an overwhelming thing – there is SOOOO much to be fixed.
Q: Do you think these marches and protests are going to have any lasting effect? If so how do you think we can ensure that they are successful?
A: Hmmmmmmm….yes I do. Maybe not on their own, though the images of the marches from around the world and the sheer numbers are crazy impressive, but I think it inspired a lot of people to get involved. There are a lot more folks coming out for this than I saw at peace events in 2003. I think you are seeing a lot of folks who have been pretty comfortable with things; we do tend to live in bubbles.
Sometimes it takes something becoming personal to spur someone to action – it would be nice to have everyone instantly empathize with each other issues but that sadly isn’t always the case. It can take having something personally impact someone or someone they love to inspire them to act.
My hope is that whatever brought people out to the marches this weekend, that they connected with others, that they have begun to see that issues like fighting racism and sexism, reproductive rights, protecting the environment, healthcare, equality, LGBTQ rights, etc. are all connected. We need to stand up for each other if we are going to make an impact.
We need to show up for each other. I think at least a few people likely made that connection on Saturday and will take steps to stay active.
So that is my long winded way of saying yes, I think the marches will have a lasting effect in that it showed people they do have a voice. Hopefully on they keep using
Q: Is there anything next on your agenda to continue this work?
A: For me it is continuing to make my voice heard by calling my representative in the state legislature and congress. It is showing up for events as much as I can. It is also doing things like building community, reminding folks they are not alone in this, and also remembering to celebrate the victories when we have them and to use those victories as foundation to work towards more. And it is a lot of one on one, face to face conversations. We need to continue to connect. Social media is great for organizing, but we need to go deeper than that and start more human to human conversations.
Q : Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?
A : I’ll add that we all need to take a look at our lives and see where we can make changes. I think that one thing Saturday showed us was that while we all feel we are just one person, when we all come together we can really make our presence known. There are other ways we can do this – by being careful where we spend our money for example.
Are you spending it locally when possible?
Are you supporting companies that are doing good things for the communities they are in and the environment? You may show up for environmental protests, but what are you doing in your own life to support that.
You may be all for equality, but have you looked at what ways you benefit from inequality?
Do you come from a place of privilege?
We think of activism as something we do “outside” ourselves – we make calls, we march, we post on Facebook and Twitter, but it also has to include a deep look inside ourselves and at our lifestyles. We are after all the only thing we really have any control over and if we don’t work to change ourselves our impact on that which outside of us is reduced. Integrity means something….
Trite as it may sound, we do need to be the change we want to see in the world.