I was at the women’s march for you

Women's March | Sedruola Maruska

I live in a sleepy New England town with a population of about 8 thousand.

We live in a nice home, drive a van and the kids are part of a very good school system.

We go on vacation, travel to see family & enjoy a nice life in our sleepy town.

On Saturday, January 21, 2017 I went on my first protest march. The women’s march was a beautiful experience of unity & love.

I’m done having babies, so I didn’t march for my reproductive rights. I marched for my daughter, nieces & friends who don’t need to have their choice taken away by men in suits with no clue about a woman’s body.

Women's March | Sedruola Maruska

I have insurance so I can go get checked out as needed without feeling that I’ll need to ransom an ovary to do it. But there was a time when Planned Parenthood was my only option as a temporary worker with no insurance and very little money.

College for me was almost 30 years ago so assault on campus is not a personal concern. . . but it is if I consider that my nieces and their friends are currently in college and should be heard when they say they were assaulted. My son will one day be in college and he needs to know assault is not acceptable. My daughter will also one day be in college and she needs to feel safe going and being there. I can’t always be there to protect, guide and defend them.

I do not encounter the daily trials of hunger, abuse, gender discrimination or even racial discrimination that many do, so I could sit home and choose to believe “If it’s not my reality, it’s not really happening.” I chose not to do that. Why? Because I know that many that came before me marched, fought were beaten and died so I could have what I have today.

I want my children, and yours, to have tomorrow.

So, on Saturday, January 21, 2016 I went on my first march and became an activist! The Women’s March created in me an activist for women of color, lesbians, disabled women, aging women, young women, poor women & rich women. Because no matter how “safe”, “heard” or “privileged” you feel, you’re not.

I didn’t know what to expect. Having seen many “Protests gone wrong” I knew there was a slight chance of mayhem. I went anyway.

I knew my intentions, and the intentions of those with me, were to make our voices heard. There was no hate, just a sense of love and needing to do right for the coming generations.

So I marched and joined my voice with millions around the world:

  • For my son. He’s learning to respect those who respect him, stop when told “no” and stand up to bullies. He’s learning to be a good man by watching the men around him and aspiring to greatness by watching our leaders . . . I cannot let him watch a “leader” who undermines all that he’s learning to become.
  • For my daughter. She needs to know that there are no limits to what she can accomplish. She needs to know that her body is her own and no one she dates or votes for has the right to tell her what she should do with it. She needs to see and know that leaders are leaders because they hold high ideals. She needs to be safe on campus or on the streets.
  • For women of color who wake up every day to face this world with love & grace even though this world greets us with resistance. We know we and our children are targets for hate, yet we still rise, work and contribute to society.
  • For our right to have equal pay for equal work. We don’t need to be judged by the color of our skin, we need to be judged by the skills we bring to the table.
  • For my LGBT family and friends. They deserve to live their lives free from bias, full of love and free of violence. They deserve marriage, babies and all the same access as any of us do.
  • For women around the world. Because when our rights as women are eroded anywhere it weakens the rights of women everywhere. We are a wave rising together, and the number of women, who in their own countries joined the march, shows an understanding of the moral wrongs that need to be right.
  • For all women. Because human rights around the world are women’s rights and to have a man & cabinet that do not respect our rights is not okay.
  • For me. Because I needed to connect with others, men & women, who felt as strongly as I do that a racist, misogynistic person in the highest post in the land was not okay.

I marched for all women, even those who opposed the march, because in the end we will all benefit.

What good will it do?

If marching did no good, why would we keep exercising our right to do it? The march wasn’t the whole wad, it was only the beginning of a movement. The march was to galvanize and send a message, the real work comes after the march. It comes in the form of taking 10 actions in the next 100 days and doing our part in our worlds once we leave the march.

So, on Saturday, January 21, 2017 I marched because I believe that being a woman doesn’t mean second class, it means life. I marched to solidify my determination to do my part to have conversations, teach, love & support all women.

Ways to make a difference

  1. Call your representatives. You can email or contact on social media, but nothing makes an impact as much as calling and having their phones ring off the hook. You can easily find your representatives number by Going To This Website  and entering your zip code! They do listen.
  2. Join an organization that’s already working for you. Here are a few suggestions: Women’s March, ACLU, SwingLeft, Action Network , Injustice Boycott
  3. Learn as much as you can about what’s happening on major issues: Climate Change, Women’s Health, Healthcare, National Security
  4. Learn about your upcoming mid-term elections and who your candidate is. Help them by spreading the word
  5. Start an action group in your area by just banding with others and deciding what your main cause will be.

There are many ways to make sure your voice is heard that are easy but effective. Learn what they are and take action.

I feel a lot of frustration, but I’ve decided that channeling my frustration into action keeps me from feeling sick, useless and a victim to circumstance.

We cast our vote so we have all the right to work so our votes counts. How will you join the movement?


Deprogramming the “Marriage” expectation

Deprogramming The Marriage Expectation | Sedruola Maruska

I lived in the East Village of NYC with my Sister and a roommate for almost two years. What an amazing gift it was. We worked, played, partied (cause we lived next door to a club that let us in for free, you know . . . noise) and loved life! It was a dream come true cause every kid growing up in the boroughs of NYC wants to live in “The City”.

Thanks to my sister, I did. I’m 7 years older than my sister which means my crowd at that time was younger. The crowd I’d been hanging with before had all moved on to a different life.

Deprogramming The Marriage Expectation | Sedruola Maruska

So, in the late Winter / early Spring of 2001 I made two life-altering decisions.

I’ve heard that worry is a product of not making a decision. Once you make a decision, no more worry. It works, I do it all the time. . . but I digress. . . because I’m opening up and I don’t know you yet.

It’s like on a first date where you can’t tell all. . . then you drink a bit and all comes out. . . I have that story too, but not for now. . .

Anyway, the first decision was to buy my first apartment, the story of which will be in another post one day I’m sure. The second decision was to date anyone that had nerve enough to asked me out.

Let me clarify something. I’m a New Yorker for life. I’ve moved a lot in my time, but New York City is home. That means, I’ve grown up with diverse people around me all my life. But when it came to dating someone to potentially marry, in my mind he was always black.

Now, let’s go back to living in NYC with my sister and why I made my decisions.

I was tired. Tired of dating, tired of hoping and mostly tired of feeling like I was waiting for something, anything to happen so my life could start.

Ladies, PLEASE stop making your girls feel like they have to find someone to be somebody or do something.

I was 32 years old.

All. . . yes, ALL my friends were married. I was making new younger friends And in constant dialogue with myself to counter messages I’d been getting since my 20’s.

Questions:

– When are you going to get married?
– You’re not married yet?
– Why aren’t you married yet?
– Why aren’t you giving those boys a chance?

On and on and on and on. . . .

Heaven help little girls that keep getting the message that being married is an accomplishment and if it doesn’t happen something’s wrong. It’s a beautiful thing, but too many girls feel it’s the “holy grail” and when they find realities on the other side, well, 50% divorce rate right. . . ?!

Answers (to others):

– When I find the right guy
– No, I haven’t found the right person yet
– Well, I just haven’t found the right guy
– *smile politely* I do, just hasn’t been the right one yet

I was tired of making excuses for useless, inane questions that should never have been hurled at me in the first place. Why are women expected to get married and men expected to get jobs? We’re expected to work UNTIL we’re married then we stay home and raise kids.

Please don’t misunderstand I’m a wife & mother. I fought hard to stay home with my babies when they were  young. It’s a REALLY hard job I get it. I also get that it’s not for everyone. To thrust that expectation on everyone is insensitive. To make it the “holy grail” of a girls life is cruel.

Answers (to myself)

– I’m going to get married when I find a man that I’m truly excited to say I’m going to marry. . . not before.
– I’m not married yet and that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that or with me. I will not marry just any guy that smiles at me
– I’m not married yet because I want to marry for life, not so I can say I was married, but so I can say I AM married and that’s where I want to be
– If they can’t treat me the way I know I should be treated, they don’t deserve to be with me. Jumping through hoops for the rest of my life is not an option

I had that dialogue with myself more than I care to recall. Over and over again I had to deprogram my thinking, my feelings and counter the insensitive questions that came my way.

So I made two decisions in the early Spring/ late Winter of 2001.

The first was to buy my own place because I’m a grown woman with a job and waiting or a man to provide me with a mortgage was stupid. I started looking, found a place I fell in love with in Brooklyn and my sister and I bought it. . . not that quickly (another story) but we did that year.

The second was to date anyone that asked me out. Why did that have to be a decision? Because up till then, marriage potential men were always black in my mind.

So, out loud I said: “I’d rather be in love than alone. So, I will date, with an open mind and heart, anyone who ventures to ask me out.” An intelligent black woman is intimidating to some. I was her. So if a man asked me out, he was at least worth a drink.

I must have done a good job of deprogramming because about two weeks later I went on a pseudo-date (that’s what I called it) with a 6’3 white guy that I’d worked with for a year. We had a great time and we now have a house, two babies and a minivan.

Deprogramming is a bitch. There are so many messages we get along the way that we have to question over an over again so we can get to the person we are truly meant to be.

When I talk to my kids I don’t put expectations on them of what they’ll do in life. I simply expect them to be great humans. Message delivery is so important when shaping young minds. . . so love your girls, allow them to be exactly who they are going to be without the expectation that they need to have a man to be anything.

What’s your deprogramming story? I’m here to listen. . . comment below. 🙂


My worst mother daughter conversation to date

My worst mother daughter conversation to date | Sedruola Maruska

My daughter is five. She’s a bright, inquisitive and observant child, which sometimes leaves my husband and me at a loss for words.

Which is why this mother daughter conversation was a bitch.

It was the afternoon of November 9, 2016 and I was picking my kids up from my mom’s house after a long day at work. They were ready to go home and I was ready to be home, but I stopped in to say hello to my parents and thank them for their help.

My worst mother daughter conversation to date | Sedruola MaruskaWhen I went to greet my mother, we went through the regular niceties then she told me about a conversation she had with my daughter. Now, my mom is extremely proud of my baby girl. She recognizes her “genius” and always tells me stories from the home front. This time was different.

The TV was on and of course the news was streaming that a new person had been elected President. My children were familiar with  and emotional about what was happening.

Now, before you shut down or leave because you think you know where this is going, give me a moment, it’s not going where you may think…

My mom said that she asked my daughter if she knew what was happening. My daughter answered yes.

Grandma: Do you know we have a new president?
Granddaughter: Yes.
Grandma: Do you know who it is?
Granddaughter: Yes, Donald Trump.
Grandma: What do you think about that?
Granddaughter: I don’t like him.
Grandma: Why not?
Granddaughter: He’s not nice, he says mean things, he’s black.
Grandma: Oh, you don’t like black?
Granddaughter: No.
Grandma: You know that your mom is black. I’m black & Papa is black?
Granddaughter: No you’re not, you’re like me.

Pause…sigh

My mom, needless to say, was concerned over this exchange. This is a smart girl and she doesn’t know that her mom and family members are black? She doesn’t know that the newly elected President is not black? Say it ain’t so…

After getting that information on what had already been a trying day, I didn’t have the presence of mind to give a good response to my mom. I also didn’t have the thoughts or words to bring this forth with my daughter. But, it was there, in the background like a song that you really wish you’d never heard, nagging at me.

Forward a few weeks and my daughter and I are in the bathroom styling her hair for school. This was my chance. I was going to explain to my five year old that we’re black and that she should know this for future reference. She needed to know this information because, so many people that made up her genetic code were black. It was my job as her mother and as a black woman to make sure she knew she was black.

So in I went.

Mom: Baby, you know that mommy is black?
Daughter: Really?
Mom: Yes, and Grandma and Papa too?
Daughter: Am I black?
Mom: Yes, you’re my daughter so you’re black.
Pause
Daughter: Mommy, what is black?

Pause…sigh

At that moment I had no answers. At that moment I realized there was something bigger here. At that moment I realized that my daughter was right, in her understanding and programming of what black is, about Donald Trump. He is black.

In her mind black wasn’t about race, it was about character. In her five year old mind, she doesn’t look at, shy away from or love people because of race but because of character. So when my mom had that conversation with her, they were speaking two different languages.

When I had my conversation with her, we were speaking two different languages. Somehow, in her five years, the subliminal societal messages had gotten through that “black” = “bad”. It would be up to her, and those of us who love her, to then counter those messages with “black is beautiful”.

But here’s my question…what is black? When did we decide we were black? Did we decide we were black or was the “label” thrust upon us?

Was the label black placed on us because the world had already started using “black” for “bad” things and since our brown skin was closer to black, and we were “different = bad” we were called black?

It’s one of those random questions that comes up when talking to a five year old and not having the faintest idea of what the answer is. There are a few things I did learn with this conversation: 1) The messages that are getting through are not “favorable” toward black; 2) We spend a lot of our black lives countering the messages that get through early on.

The conversation with my daughter (and son) is beginning, am I ready? Am I ready to not explain the “black race” but to work on fostering the “black pride” the “black strength” that I’ve learned to embrace over the years?

If I’m not, I’ll make myself ready because my five year old thinks a person of flawed character is “black”. When it’s time to reconcile in her mind that she’s black, I’m hoping her 5 year old ideas of black will have been completely overshadowed by the truth.