The class had started three Saturdays before; I used this poem:
At last I am free
At last I am a woman free!
No more tied to the kitchen,
Stained amid the stained pots,
No more bound to the husband
Who thought me less
Than the shade he wove with his hands,
No more anger, no more hunger,
I sit now in the shade of my own tree
Meditating thus, I am happy, serene.
Sumagalamata, 600 BCE, India
The poem seemed so alien in the 2011 mid-Manhattan summer setting of AF3IRM’s school. On the other hand, it was terribly familiar, underscoring the persistence of women’s vision, of a world where she could have “the shade of my own tree,” for space safe enough for her to be, independent of her mandated social roles. The stories from the participants of their own mothers, grandmothers and aunts underscored the continuity of this struggle for women’s rights, equality and emancipation, and made this ceremony of remembering even more soul touching.
(This essay appears in full at the www.rainandthunder.org journal.)