After two semesters of courses and teaching composition classes, I am finally returning to regularly going to yoga classes. I’m finally returning to doing both yoga and meditation on my own. In these moments I am able to slow down my world, listen to my breath, and focus on what my body is saying to me. After I end my sessions, I return to the world with a renewed, focused mental clarity. I then start thinking on how the lessons I learn in these sessions relate to other aspects of my life, especially with regard to progressive work in the South. I feel like so many progressive folks I have seen, especially while living in Alabama, feel worn down and seem defeated, despite working their damn hardest at times. I wonder, though, what would happen if we started doing more internal reflection, focusing on our local progressive groups’ heartbeats, breaths, intentional inner thoughts.
I have been thinking a great deal this week about the importance of visibility in social justice and progressive political movements in the South. As my team at Neighbors for Equality has been preparing ideas for future work in North Carolina, we have been discussing visibility. Last year we wrote and helped encourage others to embrace the power of the written word. While I think that oral conversations are vital for our visibilities in the South, I also think that we must also embrace and encourage the written work as a public act of dialogue. If progressive voices are not present, they are silent, and a community appears to be monolithic. If progressive voices speak loudly, we are present, and we hold the potential to shift and sustain a public dialogue. We become visible.
Most of us experience a variety of conversations on a daily basis without giving a second thought to what exactly we are doing. We share information with others, exchange stories with one another, and engage in dialogue. We can do such through a variety of mediums now, such as in-person and online. While having a conversation is a ubiquitous aspect of our society, we often give little thought about its possible impact and power. Conversations, though, hold powerful implications on abilities to not only affect people’s opinions on issues, but also create a stronger sense of community for organizing efforts.
When I first moved to Alabama from North Carolina, I was surprised when I bought my first set of groceries at the local grocery store. I bought the same items I would usually buy, but something was different. These same items, it seemed, cost much more here, no matter what store I went to. When I travel to North Carolina, I stock up on pantry goods at the discount food stores to bring back with me. As my students in my class and I have been researching local circumstances of poverty, we have been delving into the politics behind such. Two states apply their full sales taxes to home food consumption, with no additional rebates to offset any costs: Alabama and Mississippi. These Deep South states are also ones that hold some of the most regionally-vulnerable populations in regard to poverty. Grassroots organizing has a place in this issue that affects people on the local level of their homes.
Voting rights have emerged as a crucial issue, again. In the 2012 election, many issues regarding voter rights emerged across the United States. These issues are continuing to grow, and the groups that have the most at stake with new voting requirement laws are the most vulnerable, those who perhaps need to express their electoral voice the most. What I want to discuss today is not so much the idea of the voting rights, but, rather, the issue of regional privilege and power within the South. It is time for southern progressives to come together and build each other up in the fight for a Blue South.
In a strange twist on Republican policy initiatives, women’s breasts have become hot topic issues, again. In Asheville, North Carolina, a topless protest had at one point exceeded 2000 participants, although this year participation had declined. From acts such as this, Republican legislators in North Carolina have written and promoted a “topless bill” that would send women to prison for baring their breasts, explicitly including the nipple as part of the “crime.” As of February 26, the bill has been sent back to a committee. Rep. Tim Moore had even quipped, “You know what they say, duct tape fixes everything.” Clearly Rep. Moore has little knowledge or concern for how sensitive the nipple area is and how illogical and offensive that remark is. This issue, though, is indicative of a greater political issue of expressing opinions with our bodies.