Why I'm Staying
By Diana Matthews
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]he day after the election, I had four calls booked with screenings hosts. At the time those appointments were made, I had assumed I would be feeling very differently than the emotional state I found myself in that morning.
I got home at around 4am after having been at the Javits Center in Manhattan where Hillary Clinton was set to take the stage. Under the glass ceiling of the convention center, she was to give her victory speech, symbolically shattering the roof above us.
Even now, it hurts to think about.
Of course, we found ourselves in a very different position than the one we had prepared for when the chairman of Hillary for America sent everyone home in the early hours of the morning, ensuring us that the final results weren’t in, and it wasn’t over ‘til it’s over.
An hour later, Donald Trump was celebrating his win. And it was over.[divider type="white" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]W[/dropcap]hen I woke up on November 9th, I was reeling. The light outside was eerie, as if it was threatening to rain and I felt like my apartment had shrunk; I was craving a cocoon of safety and a barrier from reality.
As it turned out, my calls that day were all with Canadians who were looking to screen Dream, Girl. It was an incredible cross-section, events in the works from St. John’s, Newfoundland all the way over to Kelowna, British Columbia. The election was top of mind for all of us, as you would expect, but every person I spoke with offered me optimism and hope. As I chatted with them about their screening plans, I was buoyed up for the duration of the calls by their excitement, vision and forward-thinking positivity.
Inside, my heart was broken.
The final blow came as sat on my couch, wrapped in a blanket, and watched Hillary Clinton give her concession speech. She was passing the baton, the responsibility, to women and girls across the country to make the definitive crack in the glass ceiling. I wanted to lift my arm and receive it but the heaviness was overbearing.
Wiping away tears, I saw a text from Erin and a missed call from Komal. The text read, “I’m heading into the office” and when I called Komal back, she told me we’re launching a free week for the documentary.
Slowly but steadily, I got ready and made my way to the subway and into the office. I felt like the Tin Man after Dorothy oils his joints, awkward and uncoordinated at first but then energized to move into action.
Komal and Erin already had a plan sketched out on the whiteboard when I arrived and we spent the rest of the afternoon sending emails, writing copy and finally, uploaded the film to our website.
The sadness was palpable but the work pushed us to act.
Dream, Girl was officially online for free, a gift to our tremendous community who were hurting and scared. It was our contribution to facilitating the healing process we knew we were all about to undertake.
The next day, our team came into the office to a flood of Facebook notifications and messages in our inboxes. Words of support, encouragement, vulnerability and love. It was incredible to see everyone come together at a time when it would’ve been so easy to fall apart.
I called my first screening host of the day and immediately heard her sadness. We talked about fear, shame and uncertainty and offered each other the space to be honest about where we were at. When I told her I was Canadian, she asked if I was going to move back home. I told her no, that I was committed to staying and continuing the work I believe in and she replied, “Thank you, thank you so much for staying.”
It was a strange moment. I was at a loss for words and struggled to process the sincere gratitude she was expressing to me for not turning my back and retreating. It made me realize that unlike so many people, I have a very easy way of not being present for the next four years.
But I choose to say.[divider type="white" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]U[/dropcap]nlike many people who promised to move to Canada if Trump was elected, I never made it an option. Sure, I thought about how difficult it would be to stay if he were president but I never considered packing up my things and moving back to Calgary.
I had a conversation about it with my mom a few weeks ago. She told me, “Your role and presence will become even more important if he wins. It is where you need to be to create meaningful change, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.”
It wasn’t an option to go home and it never was.
I am devastated by the new reality we find ourselves in. But I am resolved, now more so than ever, to authentically embody my values and beliefs and fight for that which I know to be right. The empowerment of women and girls globally is my life’s calling. And the protection and proliferation of our rights is at a critical level of importance.
I stand with my team, my friends and sisterhood, and the incredible men in my life who have come to my side as allies with their words of encouragement to keep going and work harder for a future we all so desperately wish to realize.
Over 11,000 people from around the world watched Dream, Girl during the free week. The community response has brought our team through this dark moment and when I say the words of support and connectivity were our reason for getting out of bed in the morning, I’m not exaggerating.
Kate McKinnon said it best when she opened SNL as Hillary Clinton singing ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen: “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”
I am where I need to be. I am here, with you.