APPROVED BY NINA CHANEL ABNEY AND W MAGAZINE.

Nina Chanel Abney’s large-scale paintings confront the social issues of the Black Lives Matter movement and the relationships between police officers and people of color. Irreverent, bold, and pop-savvy, they’re layered with words and faces in a bright mash-up that recalls Matisse’s cut-outs.

Poster by Nina Chanel Abney for W magazine.

To the single mothers in Chicago and Berkeley, the “fatfemme” taking up space in front of and behind the camera, the historians at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Spelman College, the poet-warrior-mother whose prose incites tectonic shifts in the hearts of her readers, and to the many more women and femmes who have shared their stories as they raise our children, write or revise our history, embody survival: We owe you. We owe you our grandest thank you and support—we owed you yesterday, we will owe you in the future, but we especially owe you today on International Women’s Day.

It is you and your work that has kept me buoyed in moments of self-doubt, courage, and process. Today, like everyday, is a day I want to be surrounded and embraced by women and femmes. I want to bathe in your resplendence.

Full disclosure, I’m challenged by the concept of a “Day Without Women,” because I couldn’t imagine a day where women aren’t instrumental in every single aspect of life. Moreover, I’m actually fascinated by the prospect of constructing a day, month, or movement that is dedicated to expanding how society defines womanhood. Personally, I’d love to dedicate more days to uncovering ways we can assemble an architecture for a “new womanhood” that is more radical, celebratory, and inclusive. More than anything, I believe that today is a day for reflection. Today is a day that we should spend editing, recharging, and re-considering what we’ve been taught about the world around us.

In our political climate, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with how our vocabularies are constantly evolving as they are transmitted around the internet. In my work personally and professionally, I write content for digital and analogue platforms, “read the comments,” and understand very intimately how the echo chamber of social networks can impact our brains and hearts. On Fridays, I might see an unfurling of positive images and on any given Tuesday, I might watch someone be shot point blank in the back on my Facebook feed. And so, in a cyberspace riddled with “pussies grabbing back” “now more than ever,” I’m curious about we can use the language of protest to promote inclusion and destroy oppressive binaries.

How can we use our hashtags to incite and inspire conviction in each other? How can we simultaneously uplift women who stay home from work, those whose work is in domestic spaces, those who live with illnesses that prevent them from working, those who are incarcerated, and those who cannot afford to miss a day at the office?

The women’s movement of today has to be more complicated than any we’ve ever seen. It’s time to get difficult. It’s time to break the rules.

I think that a good start is being thoughtful about who we are referencing when we use words like, “we,” “they,” and “us.” Solidarity is to be earned and without it—collectivity is frail and progress is doomed. In addition, we must be reminded that danger, wellness, and survival are all relative to our levels of access and privilege. Therefore, it’s also important to strive for more than equality. It’s a time to be abstract in how we view the future. Rather than concerning ourselves with where we start the race to freedom, it’s a great exercise to think about who’ll be at the finish line.

In the essay, “What I Think It Is I’m Doing Anyway,” Toni Cade Bambara writes, “I am well aware that we are under siege, that the system kills… but death is not a truth that inspires, that pumps up the heart, that mobilizes...” As Bambara notes, moments of crisis don’t afford everyone an opportunity to survive. Each day, women around the world are in an absurd proximity to danger. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Kuantan city, Malaysia, and elsewhere, women’s lives are at stake. Where can we find truths that inspire us?

Perhaps today can be a day for seeking alternative motivators for women and femmes across the globe. The election and initiatives like the Women’s March inspired us to speak truth to power, but I’m wondering if we can spend today thinking about the power that we harness internally. How can we, as women and femmes, celebrate and nurture our own power?

We have to claim the future we want.

Kimberly Drew is the Social Media Manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, creator of the Tumblr “Black Contemporary Art,” and the voice behind @museummammy on Instagram and Twitter.

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