I haven't written about last Monday's Stand With Texas Women rally yet. Nor last Tuesday's State Affairs Committee hearing on HB 2. Things are moving quickly here in Texas.
This writing won't happen tonight. Tomorrow morning, I wake up early to don my orange "Stand With Texas Women" shirt and hop a bus to the Capitol, where I will be one of many protesters ready to make my presence known -- to the legislators so hell-bent on ignoring their constituents' wishes, to the media, to the women in other states (like Ohio and North Carolina) who are also fighting appalling restrictions on a woman's right to choose.
I'll bring paper. Maybe there will be time to write while I'm there, registering my opposition to the bill and supporting those who will be testifying.
It is an extraordinary day in America.
Today, the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court. Prop 8 has been left for dead. The Voting Rights Act has been shot down, but we will keep working for justice in that arena.
And last night, Texas saw an outrageous and gorgeous display of democracy in action as State Senator Wendy Davis performed a powerful filibuster to knock down SB5, which would have gravely curtailed women's rights in Texas.
I want to share my experience of last night.
Chris, Felix, and I were at the State Capitol from about 5:45 until 8ish last night. We decided to leave at bedtime because we figured we'd be too distracted with our son there to really engage with the incredible crowds of Davis/women's rights supporters. I found myself a little jealous of the parents there with tiny babies who were happily passed out in front-carriers, allowing their parents to mingle and protest with freedom. Boy, are those days gone with our toddler.
I must have gotten tears in my eyes at least a dozen times while we were there. The line to get into the gallery was about an hour and a half long, which was mild considering how long it got later. People wearing orange were EVERYWHERE.
In the Capitol extension E1 auditorium, a live feed played on the big theatre screen. The seats were mostly full -- all ages, all genders, pretty diverse crowd. Kids were playing and babies were being bounced in arms while people listened carefully to the proceedings. I grinned to see two eight or nine year olds dangling from the seating railing like upside down monkeys, and to see everyone around them happy to have them there. Kids at protests = a good thing.
On level E2, there was a big room with tables and people sitting everywhere, Tweeting, blogging, calling and texting, keeping their networks up to date with everything that was happening. A TV was set up in the corner where a small crowd huddled and listened to what was going on.
And the food -- food poured in constantly. Pizza, sandwiches, cookies, doughnuts, veggie trays, snacks, water... seriously the best fed protest I have ever been to. Supporters from across the nation (and possibly the globe) were just sending a constant stream of food for everyone gathered at the Capitol. (If my 2 year old remembers the night at all, he will remember it as the night of all those Tiff's Treats. Seriously. At least three dozen boxes filled with fresh cookies.)
On the lid of one pizza box was scrawled in big black marker: "KEEP FIGHTING. LOVE, NYC WOMEN." Every person who passed that box got choked up. (I later learned that the pizza joint from which this box came is owned by a high school theatre friend. Word up, Nicole. I'll have to come by and say hi sometime.) A young woman wearing a crocheted head band sat at the table alone with the pizza box and cried, tired and touched, and several passing people stood with her in that moment.
Felix danced in the middle of the room with a mouthful of donated pizza and insisted that I dance too, bringing to mind the classic Emma Goldman quote, "A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having."
Orange, orange everywhere. I overheard someone joke at a table, "Wow, if you're a ginger tonight you're just made of WIN." :)
A father pushed a double stroller around and around in a circle in the stairwell rotunda of the extension while his pregnant wife and their mother watched the proceedings.
In 2004, my husband and I marched on Washington at the March for Women's Lives. We protested the Republican National Convention in NYC later that year. We've been supporters of Planned Parenthood and NARAL for years.
Yesterday was something truly special.
There were so many young women and men in the rooms and halls, sharing information, keeping each other up to date. Passionate, informed, angry.
The sound of the crowds cheering and chanting in the gallery last night was the sound of a new generation of activists being born. "Let Her Speak!" just became the refrain for the next uprising of engaged activists. Forget "leaning in." LET HER SPEAK.
We left at 8ish to get home so we could put our son to sleep and watch the live feed without distraction. By the time we left, the E2 room was buzzing with people flooding in after work to support the filibuster.
Chris and I sat side by side with our laptops for hours, listening to and watching the live feed, talking with friends on social media, watching Twitter for updates from the over 100,000 people watching the proceedings. To expel extra energy and nervousness, Chris made a few fantastic images to share our support online, like this one for all the "Friday Night Lights" fans:
I will never forget the surge of pride and YES that I felt when the gallery of supporters burst into stunned anger, then cheers and chants.
I will never forget the roar in my heart when Leticia Van de Putte asked pointedly, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” It matched the eruption of cheering in the chamber.
Democracy in action. So powerful.
Texas has a long and proud history of strong, courageous women. Progressive folks sometimes forget that, preferring to paint our state as all one thing (ignorant, backwards, sexist, and racist). But that old anti-littering campaign phrase is most applicable here. Don't Mess With Texas Women. We will fight right back.
I am extra proud to be a Texan today.
And I can't wait for Felix's next protest.