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The Best Of Dayton Youth Radio: Cha Cha And Me

Emma Johnson
Basim Blunt
/
WYSO
Emma Johnson

Last weekend several cities including Dayton participated in the fourth anniversary of the Women's March on Washington. In this Best of Dayton Youth Radio, originally broadcast in 2017, Emma Foster tell us about she and her grandmother's involvement in that historic march.

"I became a feminist in part because things started hitting me in the face," says my grandmother, who I called Cha-Cha. She's one of my most important role models because she taught me how to stand up for myself as a person and as a woman and taught me that if anyone ever bothered me to "kick 'em in the balls and move on."

"Don't listen to fake news or alternative facts," she says. "But read the newspaper and pay close attention and then you need to act."

Cha Cha taught me how to use my voice, but she didn't always know how to use her voice, "I grew up in a very conservative household, very traditional for the 50s and 60s. A woman at that stage couldn't get a mortgage without having her father or her husband cosign for it. I couldn't get a credit card in my own name. The hardest issues were the economic ones."

From marching in the 60s to knitting pussy hats for her granddaughters and for the women's march on Washington, DC, she has inspired me to be bold, be loud.

"Can you tell us why you started knitting pussy hats?" I asked her. "Cause that's one of my favorite things that you do."

"Well, I started knitting the pussy power hats because it's a symbol of the movement and it appeals particularly to those young people that need the inspiration and need to be inspired to have the stamina to stick this out. And I like to knit. So it's fun. It makes me happy to sit there knitting resistance. That's how I look at it," she says.

The night that Trump won the election, I messaged Cha Cha to tell her how sorry I was. I stayed up all night and realized that it doesn't matter how qualified a woman might be, how smart or strong. I realized that women always have a disadvantage in comparison to the rights of men.

"Trump won this time, but he did it by collaborating with the Russians and appealing to the basest in people," says Cha Cha.

"So what do you think is the worst thing that could happen during this presidency for women?" I asked her.

"I don't know that its the worst thing necessarily for women as much as for Black women and Hispanic women and Muslim women who risk living in this country. The number of hate crimes that have happened since Trump took office is scary."

Cha Cha and I have been to multiple protests together. The first one we went to together was a protest against the Muslim travel ban.

I am proud of the woman that you've become and the fact that you are active and involved and that you did go to that march," says Cha Cha. "That march was a memory for me, too. The Trump administration is reversing a lot of the social gains that we've made over the last 40, 50 years. This is going to be an interesting election in 2018 because we are going to raise hell. We are nasty women and bad dudes."

I want people to wake up. I don't want to hear another one of my friends say I'm not going to vote because my vote doesn't matter.

"I know this is your first serious venture into politics," says Cha Cha. "And I know from my experiences in the 60s and 70s that you're going to win someone, you're going to lose some. And yeah, you cry and you feel like life is over and then you pick yourself up and you start all over again."

I did this story because I think that my grandmother has spent far too much of her valuable life fighting for the rights that she should have and given in the first place. I fight for her every day and will keep fighting until she has the rights she has been denied, the rights that all women are being denied. 

Emma Johnson is a graduate Stivers School for the Arts and currently attends Washington University in St. Louis, where she continues to advocate for women’s issues. Special thanks Leslie Rogers and Eva Maksutis of the Creative Writing Magnet. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.stivers.org/  Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, the Vectren Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.