Behind every feminist is a shithole

Behind every feminist is a shithole.

On the infamous Election Day of 2017, I was on my way to a conference in Cleveland. During a layover in San Francisco, I watched the news in an airport bar. I couldn’t believe it. I looked around and realized that I was surrounded by people who would probably feel a much greater impact than my white ass. I kept thinking about the young translator in Uganda who had asked about Trump earlier that year. I’d brushed his question off with a wave of my hand and assured him that Trump was just a joke – some sort of publicity stunt. We didn’t take him seriously. Yet here we were. It felt like I was in a movie. I kept waiting for Wonder Woman to swoop in and save the day. On my redeye flight, I sat next to a screenwriter. She was beautiful and confident and black. As we switched our phones to airplane mode before receiving the final results, we both knew the country was screwed. Nonetheless, I offered up, “May tomorrow bring good news…” and trailed off before I choked on my sadness. When the plane landed the next morning, the plane was eerily quiet. “Damn, sister. It really happened,” she whispered from the seat next to mine. As we parted ways, I wished her strength and luck.

And 2017 was an encouraging year for women in a lot of ways. We worked together. Healthy conversations happened around the country. But then our president opens his mouth. So while Trump denies making ‘shithole countries’ comment, I want to tell you about my great-grandmother, Sofia, who came from the #shithole country of Russia. I’ve held my heritage close to my heart for all my life and envisioned myself as the descendant of a brave Russian Warrior Goddess. For Christmas, my 93-year-old grandfather sent me a letter with stories about his parents. Sofia’s parents died when she was 3 and she ended up being taken care of by the town’s leader. She had a steel plate in her head after being kicked by a horse. Later, she injured her leg and overheard the plans for amputation, so she ran away. She healed herself by soaking her leg in a stream and wrapping it with leaves. She stole food from the gardens of families nearby for sustenance while healing. Her journey brought her to Germany and Scotland before final arrival in the United States in 1907. My great-grandfather was actually her second husband and is wearing sunglasses because he was blinded in a mining accident. Sofia was murdered while my grandfather was a teenager, so I never met her, but am grateful for the brave journey she made on behalf of her future family. She is one of my sheroes. Her memory played a powerful role in my upcoming album, Rise, where she passes on her strength and resilience to me.

So, cheers from one #shithole country to another. May we all continue to unite and rise above our greedy, racist president.