Feminism | Posted by Katie Koestner on 05/7/2014

An Open Letter to TBTN Event Holders

Katie Koestner

I was 18 years old when I joined you.  Many of you had been holding Take Back the Night events in rain or snow, amid hecklers, for years. Some of you were already making your way to radical, already past liberal.  Some of you were done with patriarchy.  Separatists.  Some of you had carried broomsticks with tampons affixed on top.  You had dyed your dormroom bedsheets black so that you could march as witches through campus. I didn’t know how much I would adore your gumption.

Some of you were not yet born.  Maybe you found TBTN when a night/day kicked you in the gut-heart-head.  You heard about us and showed up to see what this TBTN thing was, to see if you fit in.

It was the spring of my first year of college when I finally found a way to crawl my battered mind over to James Madison University.  You had asked me to kick off your march.  I discovered at that moment that I was not alone.  That there were others who stood up against rape.  As we gathered in the quad, I was adrenlaine-flushed with our rebellion.  I was addicted.

So, then I’m up to Michigan where marvelous women in their 30s and 40s were standing on the quad with purple hair and black leather. I thought: These women are tough.  How do I get there?

Next, down to Florida.  We ended the rally with our signs leaning against the walls of a club.  The girl band was loud and demanding.  Women were everywhere being loud, being seen and being bold.

No, I don’t know all of you.  I have met hundreds of you, thousands.  I was sure I had given up on trust, but I trusted each of you more than I could have imagined.

Now, more than 40 years after the first Take Back the Night march and our candles burn still.  What will be in 40 more?  It will be our daughters, our students, our sons, our grandchildren.  What will they know, experience?  What hot temper will they uncover from outrage at injustice?  It is a gift to be firey, unabashedly bold.  Some of you were there on the Mall in 1994 amid 250,000 when we gathered to protest Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder.  It was hot, July and invigorating.  I was yelling it out on the the stage, “I am here today because I was raped.”  My four minutes followed by the Indigo Girls.

It should not take us 20 years to mobilize again, but it has.  Time is of the essence and more years will slip past.

What is your wishlist for TBTN?  Your TBTN.  Share it.  Send it.  Let’s see what we can do with it, so you can continue your fine work.   Rekindling that collective energy is on my to-do list for TBTN.

I am asking you to share your passion and your anger.  I am asking us to collectively help the woman who just moved away from her campus TBTN and wants to start another in her new city.  I am asking for your generosity and your trust.  I may not be the one you wanted to trust; but I am determined, dedicated, and passionate.  I am willing to build bridges when we need them.

I hope you will decide to help us.  We need each of you.  Each of your voices, and nooks and crannies.  Every one is valid, relevant and essential.

With strength,

Katie Koestner

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