Nevertheless, she persisted.

Last night on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell inadvertently told the story of women throughout history: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Ironically, he meant his statement as a pejorative comment on Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was attempting to read Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter to the Senate regarding then-US Attorney Jeff Session’s nomination to a federal judgeships. In her testimony, King urged the Senate not to confirm Sessions, based on his poor record on civil rights.

McConnell and his Republican colleagues voted to refuse Warren permission to continue speaking. McConnell stated: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

A black woman who led the civil rights movement and a senator reading her words, silenced.

All of our lives, we have been warned. We have been explained to. We have persisted anyway.

Because we have children to feed and jobs to do and stories to tell. The strength that grows babies within our wombs sustains our persistence. We will never stop birthing a better future.

I am reminded of the words of another powerful woman of color, Maya Angelou:

“Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”

When my first baby girl was born, I wrote her a blessing: May you roar like a lion.

We will not be silenced. We will roar. We will persist.

emma-roar

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Aleppo

I don’t know why we haven’t been able to stop the slaughter in Syria.

I have a master’s in international relations from a Department of War Studies. There are many, many people who are far smarter and more learned than I am, but I have spent a significant amount of time poring over texts and historical accounts and theories of how diplomacy and war works. When faced with the question of why we can’t prevent and stop Aleppos, I still can’t come up with any better answer than the human capacity, even tendency, to see some people as “others”. Different from us. Dangerous. Less ethical. Less feeling of pain.

In all the major international relations texts I was assigned, the ones you’d find in any graduate IR program, I don’t remember coming across a chapter about what songs the Aleppo children or the Darfur children or the Chibok schoolgirls sang during their winter concert, like my eight year old sang tonight. They didn’t say anything about the children hoping to be selected to play the xylophone, like my Emma wished for and gave me daily updates about. They didn’t mention the way the children’s mothers greeted them after the concert, brushed their hair from their face and kissed the tops of their heads and paused to cup their hand around their babies’ cheeks, remembering those same cheeks at their breasts, flooded with a feeling of love so deep it would cause them to do anything to protect that child that was both part of them and so much more than them.

Maybe if the texts included these stories, we’d be able to figure out the rest, figure out diplomacy and no fly zones and freezing bank assets and not selling weapons for Christ’s sake.

Maybe if we read these stories that are so similar to our stories, their babies would become our babies, so we’d figure it out, because we’d figure anything out for our babies.

Fatima asks from Aleppo why we are not saving her baby girl. I am so sorry, Fatima. I am so sorry that too many of us cannot see that Bana is our Bana. But know that you are not alone in spirit, if it brings any small strength. As I watched my daughter perform tonight, I thought of Bana and wondered what songs she likes to sing and if she likes to play the xylophone.

We have failed you. May God have mercy on us. May God have mercy on Aleppo.