I was listening to Gov. Janet Mills’ inauguration on my car radio when I was stunned by the voices of two little girls singing the Alicia Keys’ hit “Girl on Fire.” The power of their voices moved me to tears. When I got home, I went right to my computer where I found that others, too, had felt the power.
On Facebook I saw Portland fifth-graders Shy Paca, 11, and Natalia Mbadu, 10, beginning to sing and as they raised their voices, the new governor jumped to her feet and started singing and dancing. Soon she was joined by Speaker of the House Sara Gideon and the chief justice of the Maine Supreme Court, Leigh Saufley.
“Oh, she got both feet on the ground/And she’s burning it down/Oh, she got her head in the clouds/And she’s not backing down.”
Clearly, the women on stage identified with the song, and everyone who heard them was uplifted by the big, brave voices coming out of those two little girls. When Mills embraced them in love and gratitude, a new era in Maine history began. Maine had not seen love and gratitude on display in Augusta for many years.
Here were two children, two little girls, two little black girls, two African immigrant children, giving defiant voice to justice. In their singing and in the response to it, it was as if a great weight had been lifted and we could breathe once again.
We have been living in a dark time, but I believe women and children will be the ones to lead us to a brighter future.
We have the teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting speaking truth to power, and leading the call for an end to political acceptance of gun violence. We have women taking a stand once and for all against sexual harassment. And we have women seizing power from the patriarchal establishment that has failed us all so badly.
This year, a record number of women are serving in Congress, with 102 women in the House of Representatives and 25 women in the Senate. Still, this is not yet justice. Women are 50 percent of the population, but only 20 percent of Congress. Their voices, however, are being heard loud and clear.
Hillary Clinton was destroyed by Republican dirty tricks and lies, but in her place we see powerful women stepping up – Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand – and a new generation rising: Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Yes, Rep. Tlaib, D-Michigan, upset Trump supporters by promising to “Impeach the mother—!” Nothing to apologize for there. Thank heavens someone is saying it.
And did you catch the uptight right’s attempt to smear Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, by releasing a video of her dancing on rooftops while a student at Boston University? Bright, beautiful, committed – and a good dancer to boot. What’s not to like? And I sure prefer a Latina coed dancing on the rooftops of Boston to Trumpian fantasies of Muslims dancing on rooftops in New Jersey on 9/11.
Ocasio-Cortez is the face and voice of a new direction in America, just as Paca and Mbadu are the faces and voices of a new Maine. It is going to take women and children and people of color to deliver us from the paroxysm of sexism, racism and xenophobia that afflicts our culture.
I welcome the change and I am not alone.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.