Coming from a world of activism, Teka-Lark Lo of Bloomfield has attended many protests in her time. In her experience if there was anything to fear besides the police, it would be aggression from male protesters. The Women’s March was the first time she felt completely safe at a protest. “It was such a good vibe. I was so happy.” She attributes the success of the March to it being women-organized and revels in its huge turnout, over 4 million marchers tallied in the US alone. Teka-Lark, a transplant from Los Angeles, is a big proponent of women supporting each other. She created her Black Grrrl Book Fair in response to the lack of women and diversity at the LA Art Print Fair in Los Angeles. The Black Grrrl Book Fair places feminism as its focus, and much like the Women’s March, calls to women from all walks of life to participate. Black Girl Book Fair takes place on June 3 in Montclair. “If you’re a woman show up!”
As a professional singer and actress, Marlaina Powell of Montclair considers herself thick-skinned. Through meeting resistance over career choice from friends and family, Marlaina has learned to defend herself and is proud to be part of a community of artists accustomed to speaking out on matters of social justice. Although Marlaina supports the Women’s March, she did not feel compelled to attend. “Black people are used to marching. We’ve been marching since the 50s. We’ve been doing this work and we’ve been doing it alone in large part.” She feels that we cannot “begin to deal with sexism, homophobia and religious discrimination until we begin to tackle racism.” Marlaina finds that even a progressive town like Montclair has big strides to make with integration. Diversity and the magnet school system is what drew Marlaina and her husband to Montclair 5 years ago. They were surprised to discover that their daughter was the only black girl in her class, and was 1 of only 8 black children in her grade at Watchung Elementary School. The lack of black peers along with little diversity in the staff (only 2 black teachers in the school), led them to switch their daughter to Hillside. It was crucial that her daughters’ role models included black educators. As a PTA member, Marlaina fights for racial equality by pushing such actions as diversity training for staff. “I want the teachers to see these little brown faces the same way they see the white faces. They all have potential. Just because one is born brown doesn’t mean he is inherently less intelligent.” Revealing the underbelly of racism starts with us, in our families and in our schools. She asks that we keep an open dialogue with our friends and family, that we have the uncomfortable conversations which lead to more understanding, and that we work to make friends from different races, modeling for our children to do the same. She pleads that we continue marching when racial injustice strikes another Tamir Rice. “What I want more than anything else: I want black boys, black children, to be viewed the same way that white children are.”
Tiffany Loncar of Montclair felt prepared. It was within our grasp. Following the first African American presidency, the election of a woman as president would have a deep influence on her children's formative years. Tiffany recalls the sight of her children's feet alongside her mother’s in the voting booth and the happy tears in her mom’s eyes. “She worked her whole life modeling for me what women are capable of.” When election night was over she felt crushed breaking the news to her mom and children, angry at the women who failed to show up for Hillary. But she did not despair: “If we let things just go, we’ll continually and forever be considered second class, seen only through a lens that expects women to be the supporting gender.” Propelled to action, she formed a support group to focus on organizing buses from Montclair to attend the Women's March in DC. Her small group has organized an ever growing number of marchers (12 buses will be departing from Montclair alone) as well as organized a GoFundMe to cover bus fare for low-income and underrepresented residents in our area. Tiffany continues to wrestle with her disappointment and anger but she looks forward to marching in protest. She marches for and with her mother. She marches against misogyny, for the women past who have accomplished so much and for the women ahead who will continue to fight for equality.
The family heirloom that sits in Jackie Yarmo’s kitchen reminds her of the values instilled in her by her parents. It is a hand painted “Peace Now” sign crafted by her father that hung under their “big picture window during the whole Vietnam War.” She will be marching with her daughter, Ella, who is part of a generation across college campuses speaking out and educating us all on such issues as gender identity. While Jackie was texting with her brothers on election night, surmising that their Socialist dad must be flipping in his grave, Ella and her brother were texting each other, “You ok?” They keep in touch daily and Ella is proud of her feminist brother, a high school junior. Jackie’s mom voted for Hillary before passing away, but Jackie feels the fog of grief lifting and hears that urgent call to march on Jan 21. She seeks hope and to march with people who “believe that the world doesn’t have to be a bigoted, closed place.” Most importantly, Jackie and Ella will march for the people who need their voices heard, but do not have the privilege to attend.
Selma Avdicevic of Montclair believes in an America where people can succeed regardless of how they pray, what they wear, or who they love. She bought the ticket to that American ideal when she first came to New York as a 20 year old refugee during the Bosnian War. As legal guardian to her sister, she survived by keeping her head down and working hard to pay the bills and to earn a college degree. Selma’s determination continues and she proudly puts herself in the ranks of Nasty Women. She believes that being an American involves caring for your community. “It’s doing what you can,” she says. Selma cooks the dishes she grew up with for refugee families, and volunteers for her PTA and local food pantries. It’s been difficult for her to reconcile with the election results but she remains resolute. “If you love something you fight for it. If you have something that you strongly believe in, you don’t walk away. You fight for it. You make it happen. And that’s what we’re going to be doing."
Bosnian Stuffed Peppers
8 large peppers
2 medium onions
2 lbs of ground meat (turkey or beef)
1 cup of arborio rice
2 cups of chicken stock or water
sour cream (optional)
Heat the over to 350 degrees.
Saute the chopped onions. Add the spices to taste. Add and brown the meat. After it has browned, add rice and stock or water, and let it simmer on low until rice is cooked.
Clean the peppers by removing the tops and seeds. Stuff with the meat. Any leftover stuffing can be fitted between the peppers. Add half a cup of water. Cover with foil, and roast until peppers have softened, about 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
Holly Graff of Montclair marches for our country’s marginalized, for the fearful and the oppressed. “We are all connected,” she states and if you’re marching for one then you’re marching for others. Closest to her heart are the rights of LGBTQ and her teen daughter who woke with tears on Nov 9, saying, “I don’t want to feel afraid because of who I am and who I love.” Holly marches as a message to future generations to let them know that the 2016 election was not the voice of America. Holly wants to be part of the “very strong voice of dissent that stood up and resisted.” She and her daughter will march together, standing on the right side of history.
Shirley Suzuki of Montclair cannot attend the Women's March on Washington DC but plans to knit a dozen hats under the Pussyhat Project. Her hope is that the “hats will help marchers stay warm and make visual statements in support of women's rights, women's truths, and reclaiming our bodies, minds, and spirits from misogynistic rhetoric and oppression."
Kelly Knowles of Belleville marches for volition over our own bodies, she marches for the future of her daughters, for social services, the working poor and those below the poverty line. “The thin layer of stability that millions of people in the country are standing on is cracking and it’s going to be very devastating when the cracks turn into holes and the people start falling through.” Like many of us she went through a period of grief after the election but remains galvanized and takes her husband’s advice to heart, “There’s always time for tears but use them to gain strength and to become resolved, to act.” When faced with her daughter’s fears for the future, she says “We have a life worth fighting for and that’s one of the reasons she’s coming with me to march in DC.”