“Celebrating Our Lives Is Revolutionary”: The Reale Womxn’s Rally

Brynn Laurel

10/17/2020- Kansas City, Missouri

A crowd gathers for The Reale Womxn’s Rally at Mill Creek Park in KCMO on October 17

Photo by Andrei Stoica

A crowd gathered Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Mill Creek Park, KCMO for the Reale Womxn’s Rally. The event, led by Justice Gatson of Reale Justice Network, was co-hosted by a number of other groups, including the KS/MO Dream Alliance, Black Pockets LLC, KC Tenants, Operation Liberation, and others.

Moon Brown of Black Pockets LLC explained the importance of the event’s intentional centering of Black and brown womxn. “We believe that celebrating our lives is revolutionary,” they said. “I don’t want to just say our names when we’re not here any longer.”

The event included a number of speakers, who covered topics including reproductive justice, the Supreme Court seat, voting, housing, and climate justice.

Speakers like Adin Alem of Sunrise Movement Kansas City drew many different topics together. Alem spoke about learning to garden, being an immigrant, and learning her family’s history. As she learned to rely on intergenerational knowledge, she said she also came to see how her family’s experiences connected to climate injustices, colonization, and systemic racism.

“Climate change was not an equalizer like people said it was,” she said, noting that Ethiopia, for example, contributes only 0.03 percent of the world’s carbon emissions (compared to the U.S. at over 14 percent), yet it sees substantial and devastating impacts from global climate change. Like many countries in Africa and the Global South, Ethiopia experiences effects from other countries’ carbon emissions at a disproportionate rate.

“The climate crisis is an extending hand of white supremacy,” Alem said. “We are not here because we want to be here. We are here because we have to be.”

Jenay Manley of KC Tenants spoke of housing as a crucial concern for women facing economic insecurity, domestic abuse, or other risk factors. She said housing justice is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since evictions have continued in Kansas City—something KC Tenants has mobilized against in recent months.

“If we don’t have a place to live, how can we live?” she said. KC Tenants was responsible for the KC Tenant Bill of Rights that was implemented in June 2020.

“Listen to Black women when we demand things change, because it is not the solutions you all are talking about. It’s the solutions Black women are talking about,” Manley added. “Know that when we say defund the police, we know the solutions that need to come.”

KJ Brooks of La Chingona Collective spoke about anger, and the ways in which that’s often stigmatized, as well. “I’m angry every day of my life. I’ll live angry. I’ll die angry. And I deserve to be angry.”

“Please actually protect Black women,” she said, noting specifically that white queer allies often “won’t show up for us in the streets in the same capacity that we show up for them.”

Instead, she said it’s other Black women who truly protect Black women, and that movements need to follow their lead.

“Thank you, Black women, for protecting us,” she said in closing, taking a moment to praise a number of local leaders—Justice Gatson, Nikki Smith and Dawn Oliver-Dysart of Operation Liberation, and Sheryl Ferguson of It’s Time 4 Justice.

Diana Gonzalez of the KS/MO Dream Alliance also spoke on the services KSMODA offers to the community, ranging from help with DACA to scholarships and other assistance.

“We have the right to choose how we want to live our lives,” she said—a sentiment echoed by many of the speakers, including a representative from Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Oliver-Dysart and Nikki Smith of Operation Liberation closed out the speaker lineup, discussing the work Operation Liberation is doing to bail out Black people who are being held in jail—sometimes for a year—because they are unable to pay bond.

Oliver-Dysart shared her own experience of waiting for her son to be released on bond, reflecting on how nerve-wracking it was to wonder if he would be able to get out, when he would be able to get out, and what might happen in the meantime. That experience shaped her work in helping to launch Operation Liberation years later.

“No mother—no Black mother—in Kansas City should ever have to feel that way again,” she said.

Published on: 10/18/2020