This began as a speech for #womensmarch2020 in Nashville,TN – 10/17/20. It has grown. Allison Russell is one half of Birds of Chicago, one quarter of Our Native Daughters, one hundred percent Human.
I Don’t Believe in the American Dream…But I Believe in the Dream of America.
Sojourner Truth’s Dream. Harriet Tubman’s Dream. Ida B Wells’s Dream. Audre Lorde’s Dream. Marsha P Johnson’s Dream. Breonna Taylor’s Dream. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Dream.
My name is Allison Russell. I’m a mother, a musician, a writer. I’m a Scottish Grenadian Canadian – a mixed heritage, queer, black woman. I am a new immigrant. I left the universal healthcare, cleaner air and safer streets of Canada – for love – and for the Dream of America. My cross-border, mixed heritage family and I have lived in Nashville, TN along the path of the Trail of Tears, for 3 years. These lands have been stewardedby Indigenous Peoples for well over 10 thousand years. I’m a new immigrant – unless you’ re Indigenous – so are you.
I’m a survivor of 10 years of severe childhood sexual, physical and psychological abuse. My primary abuser was my adoptive father. A white American man – twisted by intergenerational violence – raised in a white supremacist family, in a sundown town, in Southern Indiana. We are all connected. What happened to him as a child, in America – harmed me – decades later – as a child, in Canada. I left home at 15 – run, or die. I’ve slept in cemeteries. On park benches. I’m not a college graduate. I’m not famous. I’m not rich. But I am the hero of my own story. We all are. We all have a sphere of influence, a voice and a perspective that matters. We all carry our scars.
I am a Daughter of Diasporas – Black and White. I’ve been called a “Nigger” by white folks. I’ve been called an “Oreo” by black folks. I’ve been shamed for the texture of my hair and the darkness of my skin – by both. I’ve been mocked for the way I speak. I’ve been spat on in the street. Assaulted by police. I’ve been refused bathroom service. I’ve been followed and harassed. I’ve watched the bus drive past. I’ve been told to go back – “go back to Africa.” I could go on and on… I’ve been on the outside – looking in – it taught me…Compassion. Forgiveness. I’m a bridge.
We’re all standing on our ancestors’ shoulders. Whatever our differences, our lineages – we all come from long lines of survivors. Our differences are riches. We see colour and it is glorious. We’re all human equally – not separate species. Race is a construct, built by bigotry and greed…We are family- broken and bloody though we may be. I give thanks to Quasheba– Quasheba, my many times great-grandmother. She died enslaved, dreaming of freedom. She founded generations. Because of her monumental resilience, her greatness– my child and I get to live – free.
We, who stand at the intersections of the margins – have the clearest view of the page. Our vision is needed. Representation does matter. We can’t afford to leave any minds behind. We’re poised on a precipice – we’ve pushed our planet to the limit. In this time of pandemics – not just Covid- but the insidious, deadly human pandemics of Bigotry and Abuse – we need Truth. We needTruth. Reconciliation. Reparation. We need representatives who put the health, happiness and inalienable Equality of we, the people they serve – and the health of our Mother Earth who sustains us – above all.
I have a green card. My child and my spouse are American. I live here. I pay my taxes here – but I am not an American citizen. I’m one of over one hundred million people in this country who can’t vote…Too many of whom have been purposefully disenfranchised due to the systemic racism we’re still battling- the bigotry written into the original text of the Constitution of the United States of America. From 3/5ths – down to one third, so I’ve heard…
I want to be a good ancestor- to leave this country, this world better than we found it. For my daughter- Ida – and for every child – for all the generations to come. I am so grateful to all of you- who can – for voting. For voting, and for considering the millions of us- who cannot.
I am a hopeful agnostic…The only things I know for sure – are that Love never dies…That Empathy is a Superpower, not a weakness…That Democracy- though abused – is still the least abusive system of government, we’ve yet conceived… And I know – I know in my blood and bones – that when we who are called “minorities”– who are “othered”- disregarded and underestimated – I know that when we cometogether – we are the majority- by a landslide.
Marquita Bradshaw’s historic nomination – gives me hope. Kamala Harris’s historic nomination – gives me hope. These protests and marches – thiscourageous coalition – the anti-racism mission led by Black Lives Matter – all the movements to dismantle bigotry, our radically inclusive, intersectional communities –give me hope. Because we believe in the Dream of America. And when we dreamtogether – we rise– “High as the listening skies!” Let’s take this hope, this empathy, this community, this conviction, this coalition– and get out the vote like never before – because weare the Dream – and the best is yet to come… “Facing the rising sun Of our new day begun Let us march on Till victory is won!” We march. We vote. We rise.