New year. New president. New struggle. (And the same old struggle.)
2016 has been a frightening year, but political paralysis in the face of the coming administration isn't an option. As a way to push through the dread, we reached out to writers, activists, thinkers, artists, and general shit-stirrers to ask them for their 2017 political resolutions, in their own words. They told us what it means to make a path forward when it can feel like the ground is dropping out from beneath your feet.
The political and cultural times we are living have forced me to take stock of my life and my work, and I continue to ask myself: How can I be most useful to my communities? The answers I have come up with as I process these times is to continue to tell the truth—no matter how harsh they may be—to create art and stories that offer us reflections of ourselves and a vision for better possible futures, and to invest myself and my resources in grassroots, for and by the people-led, organizations that explicitly center me and my communities. From TGIJP [Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project] in the Bay Area, Trans Justice Funding Project in NYC, BreakOUT! and Women with a Vision in New Orleans to the Black Lives Matter network, SNaP Coalition in Atlanta and North Carolina's Youth Organizing Institute—these organizations are on the ground, providing direct resources, advocacy and communal support to some of the most marginalized folk around our country who have long had to resist and take care of themselves in friendly administrations. With this latest shift, we cannot risk being most exacting about who will be most impacted. We must bring the margins to center.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, racial justice and civil rights advocate
As a Muslim American, I am feeling more emboldened and committed to the causes I have worked on for over 15 years—racial justice, immigrant rights, and women's rights. My political resolution for the new year is to be in perpetual outrage and publicly oppose any policies implemented by this new administration that target communities of color, Muslims, undocumented people, women, and/or LGBTQIA communities. 2017 is the year for the silent majority to speak up and speak out.
Sister Simone Campbell, American Roman Catholic Religious Sister, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
I believe that we activists and committed residents of the United States are being called to a different level of engagement and action. We can’t just keep doing the same advocacy emails, letters, and visits. These challenging days call for something new. But the way to the new is through “deep listening.”
In 2017, I resolve to listen more deeply to the wee small voice within and act out of that sacred space. This deep listening is risky business because it often calls on me (and any others who are listening) to change in some way. But as hard as it will be, I believe that it is a radical step into deep listening that can reveal the new. It is in this very struggle that community can be nourished and work together for the struggles ahead. Won’t you join me in this listening? Let us share together what we hear in that internal silence. Then, we will be prepared to act together for the 100%. Then we can treat all with dignity and finally heal our nation. For such a challenging time we have been called. In 2017, I resolve to do my part to respond.
Dr. Willie Parker, Chairman of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist providing abortion care in the South
In 2017, I am choosing determination over defeat. The difference? Effort. Nothing beats a fail but a try. Experience is not what happens to you, experience is what you do with what happens to you. Regarding this political experience, I am not content to stay angry about the outcome of the presidential election. I will not spend the next four years being right about how this election went wrong and what could have been or should have been different. I will spend them in active pursuit of democracy.
I began November 9 focusing my efforts on helping people in the roughly 49% who didn't vote and those of us who did to do a deeper dive into the political process. I know that if I am not politically active, my other efforts can be thwarted by those who are. Mahatma Ghandi said, "If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircle us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake." In electing a president, we do not coronate a king or queen. We choose the CEO of our country, who serves at our pleasure, not the other way around. I plan to remind those in my sphere of influence of that fact, and I will work to make this the country that I want to live in by working for progressive government, one election at a time, from local to national.
Mimi Nguyen, associate professor of Gender and Women's Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, punk, zine maker
In the wake of the recent election, and all the possible and likely consequences for vulnerable populations, I have wondered how best to respond, and how best I respond. In my day job I organized both a bystander intervention/de-escalation training as well as a hate crimes survival self-defense seminar… I am also working with a group of faculty across the University of Illinois system to secure protections—sometimes called sanctuary—for our undocumented students.
At the same time, I am doing what I can to generate hubs of usable knowledge and support campaigns of mutual aid, something that we can all do to protect one another. I started a website to collect intervention/de-escalation resources, for instance. In the days after the election, my friend and colleague Toby Beauchamp started to raise funds for legal name/gender changes for trans individuals before January 20, in legitimate concern that obtaining the right identity documents will become much more difficult under the new administration. He has distributed funds to almost 70 people, but still has over 40 requests pending, and the funds raised so far are not enough to cover them…I believe that so many strategies will be important for the fight ahead, including direct action but also wild theory, grassroots lobbying as well as creative wellness, and that any one of us can do our part.
This is not the time to give up or hide away. It's more critically important to face it without hiding. For me, I need to be deeper into the movement. I need to listen to the community—what are the needs, what are the concerns? I have been able to do that in different spaces in the last few months, and I sense the urgency.
I have to be with my community, in this case the transgender community in general, but I always want to highlight undocumented transgender women because we will be the least heard in terms of the basic needs to survive. Another point that is critical in the work that I have been focusing on, which is the trans liberation piece—we are being challenged in the work that we do to center black liberation in the work. We need to look at what activists are doing with Black Lives Matter. How do we stand in solidarity? How do we support each other? That means in our own spaces, we really need to have conversations about anti-blackness. I think this is a moment that is calling us to connect struggles. I do believe that black liberation holds the key to all liberation.
At a personal level, I am ready to challenge power. I am ready to lose my freedom if I need to, to stand on the side of justice and what is right for the LGBT community. I am so ready.
My mantras for 2017:
Follow your purpose.
Know your worth.
Step out on faith.
Let the Universe provide.
Get out of your own way.
As a mom and a teacher, I cannot sit idly by as guns creep into every space–on college campuses, K–12 schools, grocery stores, churches and malls. Parking lots. Museums. Zoos. This is not normal. So, in 2017, I will buckle down in my volunteer roles with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown for Gun Safety. I’ll be at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21 because women’s rights are human rights. And we’re under siege. I won’t just wallow or cry. I will resist.
On January 20th, President-elect Donald Trump is set to take office. He has openly admitted to being a sexual predator. What does this mean for survivors of sexual violence and advocates who work to address and reduce the harms of a pervasive rape culture? What does this mean for the families of survivors and our communities? It means we will have to fight harder with fewer educational, financial, and legal resources. It means we will have to develop new strategies and tactics to counter sexual and racial violence. It means we have to stop paying lip service to intersectionality and we have to make it a part of our practice, not just our ideology.
It means we will have to remain clear-eyed about how our institutions embolden perpetrators while silencing survivors. It means we will have to build stronger bridges and coalitions to counter the ever-deepening stigma of rape in our society. It means we will have to enlist an abolitionist politic to contradict our desire to punish and cage as a means to attain justice. It means we must allow ourselves to radically imagine a future where we can be free from sexual violence. And we must follow up with direct action. We can do this. Yet we must begin by centering survivors. We must begin by listening to survivors. We must begin by believing survivors. We must begin with empathy. We must begin with transformative justice. In the words of Reina Gossett, a New York based writer and activist, we must begin by centering “disability justice, sex worker rights, gender self determination, queer and trans liberation and prison industrial complex abolition.”
Nikita Price, civil rights organizer at anti-homelessness organization Picture the Homeless, in conversation with Lynn Lewis, executive director of Picture the Homeless
Nikita: People need to come together and come up with one message, because for the next four years we're going to have to stick to it. And that's: We are the majority, we are the 99%, and this is what we need, what we want, and what we are striving for. We can't deviate from that.
No matter who is elected, or who has been tapped to lead us going forward, we have to continue with the issues we've been working on. The media and administration are going to be throwing all kinds of stuff at us, and we need to be united, staying steadfast in our message.
Lynn: The country as a whole seems to be further to the right ideologically than when Reagan was elected. So it's a revisit to Reagan with the added twists of 36 years of the neoliberalism and privatization initiated by Reagan to have taken root. Of renewed overt expressions of white supremacy.
Yes, we need to be clear and disciplined about what our goals are, not only what we don't want, but what we do want. What kind of world do we want to live in and recognizing that fighting for it will take tremendous sacrifices and stamina because there will be repression. This is a time full of opportunities. People are agitated, people are paying attention. To a certain extent the Democrats put a lot of folks to sleep even as their policies were harmful to many communities. Now is the time for us to make history.
In 2016, we were part of a coalition of women’s organizations called We Won’t Wait. The goal of the coalition was to lift up the stories and dreams of women across the country who you might not see on TV, but who are critical to the future of our country. Together, we did three million kitchen table conversations, and organized a women’s summit that brought together over 1,200 women of color and low-income women to share their stories and develop an inclusive economic agenda. In preparation for 2017, I’m making a list of 100 women whom I met at the summit who I think should run for office, and developing a plan to help them do it.