We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.
~ Denise Levertov ~
Denise Levertov wrote this poem for Karen Silkwood but they could be written for the Arab Spring.
I say this because I had the profound privilege of hearing Tawakkol Karman the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Yemen also known as the Mother of the Arab Spring speak last Saturday. I had urged you, my reader, to get out and see the Venus transit for the rare opportunity. When I heard from daughter, who works at a language school, that Mrs. Karman would be at UC Berkeley I jumped at the chance for this rare event. Here is my experience:
Usually when you go to Bolt Hall Law School you are there for a lecture you don’t expect to be greeted by lovely children handing out programs and beautiful ladies in hijobs ushering you in and giving you drinks and snacks. Aw Middle Eastern hospitality I think as I look around and see I am the only Westerner and for a while the only woman with her head uncovered. Oh, should I leave, I wonder, but the smiles and polite nods keep me there. When my daughter arrives she is greeted like a family friend by the sister of the Nobel Prize Winner and I am invited to admire the sisters baby. The sister is a student where Jessie works. I will tell you about what was said and done but you must know I feel like I have 200 new family members after sharing this evening with the Yemeni community in the Bay Area.
After a bit of a wait Mrs Karman was ushered in with a constellation of guards while she beamed a radiant smile from under her burnt orange and blue hijab and is seated among flowers while we listen to a Quran reading and poetry reading in Arabic. I didn’t need a translator to tell me of the joy, passion and pride felt by this community.
Were we to get a lesson on how to create a revolution? As she spoke and it began to dawn on me I was in the presences of the Mother and the Midwife who birthed a whole new country with a constitution and freedom and justice for a people.
She speaks of the bravery of the youth that went out into the streets with “their casket in one hand and the desire for justice in the other. Not as martyrs but as people who want freedom and equality for themselves and the next generation.” She did not speak of herself or her prize. Her focus is on the future. What is next a new election a new and different government. This was all being translated so I often got lost but what I heard was the smile and the songs the people would join her in. There was “no open your page to” it was spontaneous proud and joyful.
When a man in the back loudly disagreed about, what I learned later, was the need to overthrow the current president became too belligerent the guards went up, and I swear, they petted him to calm him down. Then the whole crowd began to sing to him. He looked embarrassed and quieted down.
So this is what a revolution headed by a woman looks like, I think. Venus is still close at hand.
I really felt the strong Mother presence during the question and answer time when the question of rights of Jews in Yemen comes up. Mrs. Karman firmly stated that every one should have rights just like you[from Yemen] who are living in the United States have rights and freedom. That’s when! I lost myself and called out “yes!” and all the woman around me turned around and gave thumbs up and big smiles.
We are steering the elements
that are to become a whole new solar system
they are coming together in our hands, this is what
“we are who we’ve been waiting for” means.
We are truly living a revolution!