23rd February 2004
My mother, Harriet McCollum, died in late November after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Although the worry and torment that has resided in my heart for many years has suddenly dissipated, the space these feelings took up is strangely empty. I know some will know what I mean when I say that the wind has been knocked out of me – and my sails. I am sure that for me, the practice is to sit with the feelings and let them roll on through. I am grateful for having turned 57 years old February 7 because at this point in my life, I can sit still.
The first verse of “A Woman’s Work is Never Done” was inspired by my mother’s wonderful care-giver, Alma Davis.
As I’ve sung that song in concert around the country after recording it on Avalon, I have taken the opportunity to talk about Alma and what I’ve learned about care-givers – what it means to give care and take care of someone else. I have been thinking a lot about our leaders, the executive directors of our organizations, the feminist bookstore owners, the feminist therapists, the women’s music distributors, the feminists in political office. I have also been thinking about what it means to be committed to a community and feel a calling to take care of it – do what we can to hold our various overlapping communities together through the dark times we’re in.
So it is in that context that I share the following..
I have just completed an interview with a reporter for USA Today who is doing a profile on Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. These extraordinary old feminist lesbian warriors were the first couple to be officially and legally married in San Francisco, California during the recent civil disobedience action there.
In the interview, I was asked why these women are significant. Well… have you got an hour? Del and Phyllis have been involved with every significant civil and human rights movement since the McCarthy era. They have put their passion and intelligence into both progressive policy development and political action – whatever was needed whenever it was needed – to help create a world that is inclusive and just. They have been mentors to a generation of women like me who identified in them the essential impulse of feminism: to reach out to and work with other communities while taking every part of our feminist lesbian selves with us.
For decades many of us have looked to Del and Phyllis for political analysis, a fresh understanding of shifting progressive politics, and for pragmatic inspiration. These two women are the definition of being “In It For The Long Haul.” Whether they were organizing to get a “lesbian and gay caucus” at the White House Conference on Aging or working with a resistant democratic party to support more women to local and national politics or helping to integrate feminist organizations with both lesbians and women of color, these two women have had a blazing vision of an inclusive world and they have put their lives and hearts on the line to achieve it.
I loved working as associate producer on the 2003 documentary profiling them – “No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon.” because I got to hear so many parts of their history I didn’t know while helping to be sure their legacy was captured on film for posterity. Raising money for that film was truly a labor of love.
However, NOTHING tops escorting these two extraordinary “Community Care-givers” and true “Lesbian Mothers” to the wedding reception held February 22, 2004 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel – in the biggest ballroom they have – for lesbians and gay men who have been married in the last days. Thousands of people – newlyweds and well-wishers – joined Linda Tillery, Vicki Randle, Melanie DeMore and me as we sang four-part harmony to “Chapel of Love.” What a complete knock-out!
(Here is a website with the latest information on marriage equity.)
P.S. Gay marriage is out of the box. It will never be put back in. The noise is just politics.