Collective storytelling amplifies the voices of those who have been marginalized.
Pantsuit Nation is excited to share our first collective story + action, from member Lynne Colombe, a group organizer, Water Protector and campaign leader at Standing Rock. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, located in North Dakota, with support from tribes across the country, are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across their land. The construction of this pipeline threatens burial grounds and the tribe's water source, itself considered sacred to the Sioux.
We can be active listeners. We can be activist storytellers. We can amplify THIS voice, and we can make a difference, together.
The best things in life; we don't ask for. These are the lucky things, like having a little sister who looks up to you so much that she keeps every single Barbie Doll you ever bought for her in the box; some of which remain unopened after 20 years. Luckier still if this little girl, grows up with the name you gave her your freshman year in college; and when SHE is 18, still thinks you walk on water. My little sister, Kayden, my confidant, my sidekick, and my teacher in life; had a beautiful son right before the New Year 2016; and I was so lucky to be his aunt. My profile picture is of my little nephew and I in late June or early July, 2016. This image became my profile picture on 7/17/16 and will be this way for at least a year to celebrate his short life.
The worst things in life; we don't ask for. My sister and my 6 month old nephew were tragically killed in a car accident; an all too common occurrence for young people on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota; but an inconceivable one for a mother and a child. Only 23 years old, she and my nephew, along with 5 other passengers, were broadsided on a poorly maintained road in one of our smaller communities. 5 of the 7 were killed. Every person on our Reservation was affected; and everyone in our lives were devastated. Mother and son were buried together.
In my grief, I was feeling quite sorry for myself. I was thinking only of myself and my hurt; until mid-August. Then, just a month after this tragedy, I found a light.
There are certain "battles" in life we are called to the front line of. Battles which are bigger than ourselves; battles that cause us to put our lives and emotions on hold and find a way to fight for a greater good. In August, my Tribe answered a call put out by the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, one of our original 7 historically, culturally, and linguistically connected Tribes (The Oceti Sakowin); a call to join them to fight the greatest battle known to any of our Tribes for the past decade; a call to fight for the preservation of the earth (Unci Maka) and clean water (Mni Wiconi). I answered that call for Kayden.
It started with a simple plan to go and help deliver some supplies in a borrowed pickup with friends. We did this. But upon returning home after a 12 hour round-trip, I thought to myself, late that night, "I can do more."
In this great time of questioning; with Obama going out, with the lack of fruition that I could see in his promise of past to help the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; I could see and still see with my own eyes; how he has not followed through with his promise. Now that Trump is in, we are fighting a true "David and Goliath Battle" against a company that wants to destroy ancient burial grave sites, again break treaties with Tribal governments, and now, hurt women and children.
What started as a peaceful protest, remains a peaceful protest on the side of the "Water Protectors" at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Despite our defenses being little more than lids from plastic tubs, these people, of all walks of life, have been putting their lives on the line to protect the Cannonball River from pollution and contamination. In the last large demonstration nearly a week ago, my friends were seriously injured by the police and hired Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Security Agents via rubber bullets, tear gas grenades, and more.
The greatest assault to all was to the women; with first-hand evidence via injury to women in the head, breasts, and other feminine areas. The public servants who unleashed this onto crowds of people armed only with prayers and statements over loudspeakers; blasted them with water cannons, as the people cried out for the police to stop, questioning constantly, "Why are you doing this?"
After that night, with some of my crew injured, I cried. I cried hard because in all my volunteerism in the past 3 months, there are quiet moments when I still just miss my sister. She would have been the first person that I would have called. She would have been the first to watch my children for me in all these days I have been away from home. She would have been the first person who went there by my side.
I do many supply runs on my own. I drive many miles alone; but in those times, I know I am never alone. Even though this is a battle that is truly the test of all tests; and at times, seems so bleak; We STAND. And in the Trump environment, even if there are times when we all feel so, so small as Native people; We are trying to save ourselves. We are tolerating constant low-flying aircraft, and a real police-like state. Yet, We STAND! We will not allow women to be targeted and abused! I have a couple of little angels by my side; and this battle is bigger than any one of us; bigger than anything that we could ever do alone; and we are standing for what we believe in.
Please consider a contribution to Lynne’s GoFundMe, which supports the following efforts:
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"And to the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to their neighbors, posted on Facebook — even in secret private Facebook sites.
Who We Are:
Stories spark change. Taken individually, a story can create a tiny opening in a once-closed space. It is a glimmer. It can shine as something that is true and raw and beautiful. But one story - a single voice telling a single story - is often all too easy to ignore, to shout over or drown out. A single voice can be targeted or silenced.
Pantsuit Nation exists to harness the power of collective storytelling. Millions of voices telling millions of stories. We amplify the voices of those who have historically been underrepresented or excluded. We listen. We empower our members to speak with honesty and without fear of attack. We are strong in our diversity. We invite conversation - true conversation - about the issues that are most fundamental to us and our identities.
We believe that feminism is intersectional. We believe that “women’s rights are human rights.” We believe that progress around racial justice, LGBTQ* rights, rights for people with disabilities, religious freedom, and the fight to combat hatred and bigotry in all forms is most effective when emboldened and humanized through first-person narrative. We believe that politics is personal, and that progressive movement occurs when the empathetic potential of a story is unleashed.
Stories spark change. Taken collectively, stories open us up to the vast and complex realities of what it means to live, work, love, struggle, and celebrate in our country. As Pantsuit Nation, millions of glimmers combine to create the kind of bright light that can’t be ignored or overshadowed.
What We Do:
Foster connection. Pantsuit Nation is a lens through which we learn about the lives of others, often in a deeply personal way. Our members actively create and promote a culture of interest, respect, and empathy that directly translates into a better understanding of how policy impacts marginalized people in our country. If we can be driven to care about the stories of others, we can be driven to care about the policies that affect them.
Take action. Pantsuit Nation members are committed to carrying out thoughtful, forward-thinking actions, whether it’s confronting a bully, volunteering at a local nonprofit, donating money to an important cause, or extending a simple kindness to another person. Through partnerships with national and local organizations, the collective impact of our stories and the actions they inspire has the potential to change the world.
Extend trust. This movement started within the confines of a private Facebook group. While we continue to value the security that environment affords, particularly to our most vulnerable members, we must also “[come] out from behind that and make sure [our] voices are heard going forward.” To do this, we will entrust our stories, selectively but confidently, to our neighbors, our online communities, and, ultimately, the public.
Pantsuit Nation, after one month, has expanded from a small group of friends to include over 3.7 million individuals all around the world. To say that this movement has potential is, we think, an understatement. We have so many ideas, and we’ll be sharing some of our next steps with you in another blog post later this week. In the meantime, share a story, listen to a story, and join us in being thankful for all that Pantsuit Nation has represented and offered to us over the past several weeks. There’s so much more to come!