It’s hard to believe that it’s only been one year since Mitch McConnell threw me off the Senate floor for reading Coretta Scott King’s letter. So much has happened since February 7, 2017 that I don’t know where to start.
But rarely a day goes by that I’m not reminded about that night – and reminded about the fire it stoked in people in Massachusetts and all across the country.
We’ve had 18 town halls across Massachusetts in the past year (#19 is this Saturday in Franklin), and every one of them has had more than one woman wearing a “Nevertheless” T-shirt. I’ve seen them in giant script, in discreet print, with Rosie the Riveter, and in cats’ faces (purrrr-sist).
In Malden last week I saw a new one I hadn’t seen before, and I complimented the woman wearing it. She said that she had been watching the whole event unfold on C-SPAN 2 last year (while she was supposed to be studying). When it was over, and she saw me read Coretta Scott King’s letter online, she said to herself that she had to have a “Nevertheless” T-shirt. So she made one up, ordered a bunch, and then offered them for sale. She said she made over a thousand dollars, which she then donated to an organization helping women get elected. (Woo-hoo!)
I loved her story – and I’ve loved seeing every single T-shirt, bracelet, necklace, headband, coffee cup, poster and anything else that celebrates “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” Not just because of all the cool swag you can find on the Internet these days – but because it reminds me that women proudly own their persistence all the way.
I also love the babies. Oh how I LOVE the babies. Every person who has stopped me at the airport or the Dunkin Donuts to show me the pictures of their daughter or niece or friend’s third cousin once removed. Here’s the latest one I received from Brian in Arlington, MA – whose granddaughter Elise is already flying the colors and ready for action. Can’t start too young!
Every Persist moment is special, but sometimes they stop me dead in my tracks. I was in the drugstore a couple of blocks from our house, wandering in the toothpaste aisle. A young woman came over. Shy smile. Bald head. She wanted to thank me for fighting to save health care. We talked a bit. She said she also wanted to say thanks for encouraging her to fight for herself. She had never been politically active, but now she was in the fight – writing emails, making calls, organizing other patients.
Then she pulled off her coat and pushed up her sleeve. There it was, tattooed on her arm: Nevertheless she persisted. She said: “I will persist.” I said believed her – and I do.
That night a year ago tonight wasn’t about me. It was about all of us. Every single person who was tired of being told to sit down and shut up. Every person who read Coretta Scott King’s letter or watched our video and decided this was their fight, too.
I know how hard it is to keep up this fight day after day after day. This isn’t the fight that any of us wanted. But sometimes the fight comes to you. And when it does, you can either run away, or you can square your shoulders and take it on. That’s what persisting is all about.
To everyone who shared your stories with me and everyone who believe in what we do together, I want you to know this: I carry your stories with me in my heart. It is an honor to persist by your side.