Heroes for My Daughters: Bonnie Tinker

img_0047When I first met Bonnie Tinker she was coming out of jail. I was legal observing for a large anti-war march where she and her son had been arrested. Her wife, Sara, waited patiently outside the jail with us for hours while Bonnie and their son were booked on various charges. Police had used unprovoked violence, pepper-spray, rubber bullets, and bean-bag rounds against unarmed activists in a misguided attempt at crowd control.

Late into the night we were getting updates from inside the jail and I would talk to Sara to give her any news we’d received. Finally, in the early morning hours Bonnie and her son were released. I wrote down their names, charges and court dates so we could provide them with attorneys, then made sure all of them had a safe ride home.

I didn’t think of Bonnie again until I volunteered to legal observe an action organized by the Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies. Sara and Bonnie, both in their 60’s, joined other older women (and later, men) to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were arrested for smearing red paint on the outside of military recruiters’ offices and for sitting-in, and obstructing access to the offices. Bonnie and Sara were also arrested for blocking the movement of a tank during a parade here in Portland. Bonnie was holding a sign with a dove which read “War is not the answer.”

Bonnie was a tireless activist in Portland. The Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies staged courageous sit-ins, demonstrations, and protests throughout the last part of the Bush II years and waged a weekly campaign against military recruiters. Bonnie was also founder and director of an organization called Love Makes a Family, which supports “nontraditional” families, specifically those with same-sex parents. At a time when others would presume to define who and what family is, Bonnie stood up and said simply, “love is what makes a family.”

Bonnie Tinker died in July 2009.

She was right-hooked by a truck while riding her bike at a conference in Virginia. She was an abuse survivor and activist who worked every day for peace and justice. Bonnie Tinker is a hero, not because she was larger than life (she wasn’t) or changed the world (for many, she did), but because she touched so many lives, and continues to inspire others to work for change. When I think of the few times I met her, I am still touched by her life, her work, and her passion. I hope my activism can inspire others and honor her memory.

We all have something to share and to contribute to the greater good. The world needs no more inaction. If Bonnie taught me anything, it’s that you must find your passion and live for it every single day with love and honesty.

Heroes for My Daughters: The Jane Collective

img_0045From 1969 until the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, Jane counseled women about abortion and helped gain access to underground abortion providers. Jane initially sought to screen abortionists and find competent providers but felt that so long as women are dependent on providers they remain powerless.

Officially known as The Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation and operating in Chicago, the collective counseled women of every class, race, and ethnicity and offered services at little to no cost and no one was turned away for lack of payment. The members of Jane believed reproductive control was essential for their liberation, therefore it was critical that every woman who came to Jane must understand the active role she was taking in her life. To do that, she must be in control of the procedure. The members of Jane realized the only way this could successfully be accomplished was for Jane to control every step of the procedure. Every woman who came to Jane for an abortion was included and in control. She was not a passive recipient of a procedure, but an active participant. In a situation where many women feel powerless, Jane sought to give each woman a sense of her own power, in hopes that she could take back her body, and by extension, her life.

Following in the footsteps of the Underground Railroad and the sit-ins at lunch counters throughout the south, the group members deliberately and actively broke the law to set others free. Because simply providing information about abortion was illegal, Jane was the code name for the group and its members. Few, if any, records were kept, and the collective even chose not to record the minutes of meetings.

At a time when 5,000 women died each year from complications relating to illegal abortions, not a single woman who was served by Jane died. More than 12,000 abortions were performed for roughly $25 each, and again, no one who couldn’t pay was turned away.

In her memoir, The Story of Jane, Laura Kaplan, a member of Jane wrote,

Those of us who were members of Jane were remarkable only because we chose to act with womens’ needs as our guide. In doing so we transformed illegal abortion from a dangerous sordid experience into one that was life affirming and powerful.

In May of 1972, Jane was raided and 7 of its members arrested. In 1973, after Roe became effective in Illinois the charges would be dropped and their records expunged. The collective disbanded shortly thereafter. It is this sort of history that we must keep talking about, keep sharing with each other and our children, lest each new generation comes to believe our freedoms have been given to us by 9 men in black robes. Emma Goldman said, “Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty.”

Heroes for My Daughters: Mara Abbott

Updated to add: Please read her piece for the Wall Street Journal about her 2016 Olympic Road Race. It can be found here

img_0046Last Sunday was a quiet day for sports in most US homes. Some people were watching golf or World Cup. Maybe even a few were watching the Tour de France. It was tough watching Lance go down then get back up, only to finish the day too far behind to catch up. While all that was going on, something amazing was happening.

On Sunday, Mara Abbott became the first US cyclist to win the Giro Donne, the womens’ Giro d’Italia. Not only did she win, the 25-year-old won by more than 2 minutes. Sadly, I haven’t seen any video and only a few pictures from the podium–none from the race itself.

We live in amazing times, technologically speaking. I can sit in bed and watch international sports live on my computer. But I can’t find pictures from one of the largest, most prestigious races in the world.

Mara Abbott isn’t a hero because she won this race. Mara Abbott’s a hero because she climbs mountains better than I can climb hills. From the USA Cycling website:

Abbott attacked about 28 kilometers into the stage, and only [Cervelo’s Emma] Pooley was able to stay on her wheel. By the 50K mark Abbott and Pooley shared a lead of 1:05 over the peloton. Eventually, the gap grew large enough that Abbott became the virtual leader on the course. Pooley began to fade before the second of three summits, the Passo Bernina, leaving Abbott to ride on her own through the finish line.

In Saturday’s penultimate stage, Abbott again went off the front with Pooley amidst the mythical Stevlio climb, but in the final kilometers Abbott attacked and again rode solo to the stage win.

That would’ve been a sight to see.