Thursday, June 4, 2009

Memorial Service for Dr. Tiller in Virginia Beach

What: Memorial Service and Candle-light Vigil for Dr. George Tiller
where: The community center of Lynnhaven Colony Congregational Church, United Church of Christ. 2217 West Greatneck Road. Virginia Beach, VA 23451
when: Sunday, June 7th at 7pm
contact person: Jenna Randall (cell) 215-459-8102
Why: Because a man of such great courage and deep commitment to the rights of womankind deserves to be remembered and honored.

service will include: eulogy/tribute statement, readings from, a prayer and a call to share.

This is an open event for anyone who wants to honor Dr. Tiller. Come and bring anyone else you know who might care.

**Nb** This event was organized by Jenna Randall and NOT Lynnhaven Colony Congregational Church. Any views expressed at this event are not necessarily views held by the church as a whole.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thank you abortion providers

In response to Dr. Tillers murder and as a tribute to his life, NARAL Pro-choice VA is collecting notes of thank you and appreciation to send out to the abortion providers of VA. I thought I would share the one I wrote for them here.

June 2, 2009

To all abortion providers in the state of Virginia,

To say Thank you for what you do is not enough. Not only does it take years of schooling, a steady hand and a strong heart to do what you do, it also takes an unfailing commitment to the rights of women-- a commitment so deep that it puts your own lives in jeopardy. How unimaginable is it that the surviving abortion doctors across the country have had to suit up in bullet proof vests and hire security and watch their backs and worry for the safety of their families, loved ones and communities—all because they are willing to perform a procedure that is perfectly safe and legal. There should be no war over this, but there is and the battlefield is the body of every woman in America. Abortion providers brave the fights and brave the harassment and the death threats and the bullets and the notoriety—just so they can go do their jobs and Thank God they do. Thank God that you continue to work, despite the fact that your profession has a mortality rate. Because of you all, our bodies are given back to us to possess. Our lives remain our own and motherhood remains a beautiful choice and not an imposed prison sentence. Please know that thousands of women stand behind you and support you and thank you for all that you do.

--Jenna Raffaella McKean Randall
Virginia Beach, VA

Thursday, April 16, 2009


i keep it a secret how much i truly love it--mainly because i im afraid im not very good at it. i could have been maybe if i had given myself a chance. when i was a kid, my music teacher, mr. webb told my mom he thought i had musical aptitude--a good ear, i always sung the right notes back to him when he tested us, he thought i had a natural sense of rhythm. he asked my mom if anyone in the family had musical talent. (i had aunts who used to go sing in italian clubs in south philly and my dad used to sing and played every stringed instrument under the sun.) mr. webb was after me for years to take up an instrument or join the glee club. i was way too shy for that though. the idea of opening my mouth up infront of people to SPEAK, let alone sing, was terrifying to me when i was a kid. i'd rather go home from school every day and shut myself up in my room and sing at the top of my lungs to my 'Cats' soundtrack (the record du jour for me when i was a little girl)--let it be a secret how much i really loved it. singing was my very first love and the very first and very last thing i ALWAYS find myself doing when i am truly broken--it always was. i always feel like i dont have a right to claim it as mine because then somehow that means i have to prove that i am good at it and i don't know that i am and really i don't think i have to be good at it for it to be comforting to me, i guess.

when i was in my early teens, i lived my life to the sound of sarah mclachlan's voice--purposely just nearly off pitch she sung, teetering on the edge of cracking always, with that half yodel thing she used to leap from one note up to another. if her songs were colors, they'd be greys and blacks that suddenly break into blinding whites. her lyrics were melancholy and her voice seemed strong yet breakable when it needed to be and i was hypnotized. i'd play touch and solace and fumbling back to back to back and sing along to every note until my throat was sore because i lived in an ugly house with a crazy man and the sound that seeped from the speakers was the only thing that could envelop me and take me out of there. i was sad and angry and scared. sarah was for the sad. but ani was for the angry. ani difranco doesn't play the guitar--she attacks it. you listen to her play and you picture smoke coming off the fret boards--i imagine strings popping and breaking and wood splintering left and right. dilate was ani's most pissed off best. not a pretty girl too. she took every nasty feeling i ever had and gave it a rhythm and a tune and it was like she could pull out the ugliest parts of me and absolve them by making them into art.

there was sarah and there was ani and there was gospel. black gospel. based on slave spirituals that spoke of the most unimaginable, gut wrenching hurt--being caught in a world that hated you and having no one else to depend on but God--looking to heaven and waiting for the day you die because life ain't got nothing good for you. because life is forced work and whips and rape and stolen children and scars and weary, creaky bones and calloused hands and sad, tired painfully soulful eyes. i understood hurt. i understood needing to look to another world to survive in this one. i did not understand God in those songs--only the longing. God would come later--but it's still the longing--the depths of human misery, the unspeakable capacity that people have to hurt one another, and the relentless resillience of the human spirit to hope for something better despite it all. that's something i understood from an unfortunately young age. gospel music is raw--scratchy and full of moans and wails. wailing to God with a voice so rough, if you touched it, it would scrape off the skin. the absolute necessity to make art out of pain in order to live--sing it out because if you keep it in, it's gonna kill you. reach out to God cuz he's all you got. my soul finds a home in this.

sarah, ani, gospel, and a little later on, in came celtic. byproduct of the riverdance craze--pbs was exploding with all kinds of celtic music specials. i was like 16. there was something about the fiddling that made my blood jump. it was organic. chalk it up to the irish and scottish genes--the 'McK' last name. i loved it. it sparked an interest in celtic mythology--druidism and irish musicians. pbs played a half hour special that featured this flame-haired woman with a long nose and the voice of heaven's highest angel. she sat and plucked at a harp and sang so beautifully of swans and bonney portmore and highway men and celebrations of harvests. loreena mckennitt. i had never heard of her. i went out the very next day and bought every album i found with her name on it. there was something so rooted about her music--she sang of ancient sensibilities that the modern age has dulled in most people. a love for nature, when people looked to stars to understand where they were on the earth. pagan rituals by bonfires. Samhain and Beltane. she blended ancient celt rites with middle eastern rhythms. it was like some kind of audible drug. the music was beautiful--but her voice--that beautiful voice that rang out like a bell--full and round and reverberating. she was like this otherworldly creature sent down to earth to sing our hearts into a calmer pace. i put her cds on and lit candles up in my room, opened up the window to let the air in and watch the flames flicker. it was like casting a spell, communing with ancient ancestral spirits. it sent me into a wiccan phase. every phase i have ever gone through has always been precipitated by some kind of music.

so what's the phase now? religion? no, that's not a phase, but it has its music, life sustaining as blood. it's like another form of communion for me to sing a hymn. though most of them are still foreign to me. it's the mere act of singing to God--to me that's what true worship is. of course, the first thing i got into when i went to church was choir. how could i not join the choir? my very first week as a church goer, i snuck all nervous and shaky into thursday rehearsal and met the sweetest man who told me over and over again how glad he was that i came. not exactly the man you would picture when you think of a choir director. motor cycle helmet at the foot of the music stand. the most delightfully off-color sense of humor. i loved him immediately and was overjoyed to see how patient he was with my musical illiteracy. i couldnt read a single note--but really i didnt need to because from behind me, i could hear the sweetest voice singing every note i needed clear as sunshine on a beautiful day. i was amazed at how much the voice reminded me of my beloved loreena. i never imagined i would turn around to discover the voice was owned by this little unassuming woman dressed in linen--oranges and greens--and birkenstock sandals. i told her she had one of the most beautiful voices id heard. she said something like 'hardly' and seemed to look at me cautiously from behind her glasses, almost like i had no business giving her such a compliment.

i would soon discover that the only thing that outshone the beauty of her voice was that of her soul. she is the kindest person i have ever met in my life. a saint. a person God put on this earth to remind the rest of us of what we should aspire to be. and of course it was music that first brought her into my life and, it seemed, in her, all my past music loves converged--the folk elements of sarah and ani and the gospel interlaced with the wonderfully hotblooded celtic--she was part of a band that blended all these things together with a dash of--joy of joys--feminism. maybe she is what i would have been if my parents weren't crazy. if maybe i would have listened to my music teacher when he told me to pursue instruments and singing and whatnot. if i had people who werent' too preoccupied to support me when i was a child--if i had a mom who pushed me just a little more and a dad who did not scar me...i don't know. there is no use in wondering what i would be now if my past had been different. my past is just that--past. i need to let it be the memory it is. and anyway, the point of this whole post is not familial dysfunction, but the solace i sought within it. that solace was always music. it always came out thru my voice. i still hide how much it truly is a part of me. i still want to deny that i care whether or not i am good at it. i want to make up for lost time, to assure the little girl i used to be that it's ok to sing in front of people, especially if they ask you to and if you make mistakes, then there are ways to learn how not to make them again. i want to understand why music moves me the way it does. i want to understand how to write down the tunes i have in my own head. but i'm afraid of discovering i can't do it. all of my life i have always been afraid that i just cannot ever measure up--to what others can do and to what others expect me to be able to do. im the person who never let herself try because she was too afraid of failing...i hear that same sentiment echoed in my son today. he loves to say 'i can't'. i used to say 'i can't' all the time and my mother let me get away with it. and so i am left with unexplored loves as a result. that's what song is to me--an unexplored love. something i wanted but was too afraid to reach out and try to grab. it is part of me without me really possessing it...there's gotta be a deeper reason for why it has always spoken to me and why i always felt compelled to sing back--whether in tune or not...i always want to sing back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

YOUR heavenly father

the only good thing to come out of my brief stint as a Regent student:

Jenna R. M. Randall
SFRM 501
February 6th, 2009
Reflective writing # 1

Matthew Chapter 6

It’s amazing to me how you can read a passage of scripture a million times and, every single time, it will give you something new. I’ve read Matthew 6 more times than any other part of the bible. The chapter will live in my heart forever. It’s where the lilies grow. And the lilies are what brought me to God; for me, they will forever be a symbol of my conversion…but I digress.

Reading this chapter aloud, slowly, with no scalpel in hand, I was struck by how many times Jesus uses the phrase “Your heavenly father”…your, your—possessive pronoun. I stumbled over the word—simple, four letter thing—consonant outside and soft vowel center. The word kept echoing in my head. God Is. This much I finally know—but God is mine? I have not even been a Christian for a year yet. I keep feeling like there are steps I have to go through before I can claim that God is for me—as if the right to God is something I have to earn by punching some kind of religious time card—logging in all my hours, needing a certain amount before I can say out loud that I am a Christian.

Your, your… I was afraid to pronounce it, but I felt this pushing. The Lord was saying to me “Go ahead—it’s ok.” God is just as much in me as He is in any other person, whether they were born into their faith or whether they just declared it 5 minutes ago. The minute I gave my heart to God, a mutual possession took place. We became each other’s. I may not be able to say it with the same time-tested phrases that life-long Christians have at their disposal. I may still be in the process of rediscovering the year in a liturgical sense. I had no idea what ‘Advent’ was before 2008. I only learned the word ‘Shrove’ a few weeks ago. The hymns most of my church’s members can sing with their eyes closed have to be, for me, pulled out of every staff printed in our worn out hymn books.

I am a new kid on the block in man’s church. But in God’s church, I was always a member. God’s church has no walls. It has no rote. He doesn’t care if my communion is a wafer or some bread or if I’ve taken it one time or a million times. What matters now is that I can come to Him now and say “Yes I WILL partake of Your body for You ARE mine and I am yours and it took me all my life to realize it and all I can do is fall on my knees now for Your love is that great. Your mercy surrounds me. You save me.”

My Heavenly Father does see what’s in my heart. He does know what I have need of and He has always given it to me, whether I gave Him credit for it or not. He shows me patience. He does not require that I recite litany from memory. He requires my heart. He requires my soul and no amount of time could make those two things any more or less valuable to Him. I pray in a room by myself and keep it secret because no one else need hear me stutter to speak. I know my prayers are rough around the edges, like a piece of unsanded, unworked wood still growinig up out of the earth. My prayers have not yet been turned or stained or polished or carved by years of church life. But God takes them as they are. And He still answers them.

The Lord gives me what I need—just as the Scripture says—without me fretting. And He gives it to me simply because He made me—not because I can give Him a ritual song and dance that I’ve practiced for years. There are no hoops I need to jump through for me to be of God and for God and for Him to be of me and for me. So yes indeed He is my Heavenly Father too—He always was. Nothing has changed. The only difference now is I have sense to acknowledge Him and to claim Him out loud and to praise Him with every beat of my bursting heart that He has held in the palm of His hands since the minute He formed me and gave me breath that I should live. Hallelujah Lord, I have finally arrived.

blog, what blog? song, what song?

i almost forgot i started this thing...let's clear the cobwebs away with something nice and corny: how 'bout some half-assed would-be lyrics to a song that i don't know how to the write notes for?...

(not a) godless woman


i drempt this up the night you showed me where the lilies grow...

i said 'youre gonna have to duke it out with annie--she's my cocaine, you know'

there aint no sacrament that tastes as good as what we got below

but you would not go

and then i awoke...

and i saw the ink i bleed

is the blood i need

to write this song

and the word i heed

and what i believe

won't last this long

and the scars that tell the story

on my arms are thick and strong

as i need to be

if i refuse to see

im not a godless woman


i wrote this out the morning after i felt you shift the ground

you told me more than i could handle without ever making a sound

i had no idea i was lost until the day i was so suddenly found

and i feel you smile

'gee it took you a while'

and this life i knew

and the years i blew

don't matter now

and i look to you

and what i eschewed

and i wonder how

and the scars i got on my arms

they still speak, but they cant do no harm

cuz i know by now

and i can say out loud

i'm not a godless woman


and youre why i lived the night i thought i'd give it all back but somehow i still woke up

and i couldnt see it then--as the nurses tended to me i blamed it all on them cuz i did not want to breathe but it wasnt their machines

it was you moving through me....


i sing this out today because i see i never walked alone

and i cant be silent--i gotta tell the world all that ive been shown

i figure you don't give people stories like this if they're not meant to be known

you're here with me

right where you'll always be

and the story i tell

came from all of the hell

that went before

i got nothing to sell

my soul rings like a bell

because i am yours

and there's nothing that's worth a new scar on my skin

there's no power in sin

i am forgiven

im not a godless woman

i was never

a godless woman

Saturday, October 11, 2008

i am not a writer

words will not come when they are not ready. i was never someone who could force language out of myself just for the sake of it. i think about writers--like anne sexton and sylvia plath--my personal patron saints of literature--these women who would wake up before the sun to sit down at their typewriters and just hammer away at the raw materials of composition--an image, an idea, a metaphor, a literary device...doesnt work? take it apart. what can you salvage? what can be made new? just keep working and it will become SOMETHING. and it did--for them. it became their legacy--their immortality.

me? i dont write poems. they come out of me. just like child-bearing i have no choice what genes are selected when cells merge and begin to wildly divide. what's there is what's there and it grows and blossoms somewhere in me--beyond me--above me--until finally, through blood and pain and tearing, there is an emergence....

i envy writers who can WORK with their craft, sorting through scraps, fitting pieces, connecting the gaps over and over again--reworking and refining until truly they have shaped language into a form. instead of the form insisting upon them, they can insist upon IT--at least to some degree..

when i feel moved to write-it's like a blizzard--blind rush of i dont even know what--i barely feel like a part of it. when i was younger i used to say 'i dont know it just came to me.' i am puzzled still today about how to MAKE writing happen. so many people have urged me to write--that im publishable--that i have a unique, strong, beautiful, vital, even graphic voice. so many professors have pulled me aside whispering of gifts. 'do you realize youre the best writer i've ever taught' both professor fried and professor jones told me (and these are women who taught for over 30 years EACH). but it's not true. i am not a writer. i do not own this. i am just a channel. i wait until something tunes into me and whatever comes comes.

i'm a person who, every now and then, ends up making a poem because im trying to save myself--usually--from something else. monotony. restlessness. depression. much worse. when im writing, im trying to find a way to bleed without breaking the skin--and poetry is just a biproduct of that search...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

withdrawal is HELL

sucks when your body is dependent on chemicals it can't produce on its own. stuck like this 'til monday. won't be sleeping THIS weekend. should probably be more attentive to this whole medication refill thing--like actually taking action when the bottle is empty (but of course, action means nothing when you forget to pick the damn refill up and it's friday night and the fuckin pharmacy is closed for the weekend). so i'll shiver and twitch and creepy crawly my way thru til monday, which somehow feels lightyears away from me right now...

im a dumbass, what can i say...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gloria Steinem, you always did and always will rock my world

GLORIA STEINEM ON SARAH PALIN...written as only a shining feminist icon (and fellow smithie) could...

(This is from Yesterday's L.A. Times Op-Ed page)

Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

By Gloria Steinem September 4, 2008

Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women -- and to many men too -- who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley Chisholm, who first took the "white-male-only" sign off the White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.

But here is even better news: It won't work. This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.

Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be wrong, even on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say she can't do the job because she has children in need of care, especially if they wouldn't say the same about a father. I get no pleasure from imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign policy issues about which she has zero background, with one month to learn to compete with Sen. Joe Biden's 37 years' experience.Palin has been honest about what she doesn't know. When asked last month about the vice presidency, she said, "I still can't answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP does every day?" When asked about Iraq, she said, "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was unpopular, and she's won over Alaskans mostly by using unprecedented oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Now she is being praised by McCain's campaign as a tax cutter, despite the fact that Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Perhaps McCain has opposed affirmative action for so long that he doesn't know it's about inviting more people to meet standards, not lowering them.

Or perhaps McCain is following the Bush administration habit, as in the Justice Department, of putting a job candidate's views on "God, guns and gays" ahead of competence. The difference is that McCain is filling a job one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act.Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

I don't doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., she doesn't just support killing animals from helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn't just talk about increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power plant in her own small town. She doesn't just echo McCain's pledge to criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if one of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should bear the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human right but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it also protects the right to have a child.

So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has attracted is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for Dobson, "women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership," so he may be voting for Palin's husband.

Being a hope-a-holic, however, I can see two long-term bipartisan gains from this contest.Republicans may learn they can't appeal to right-wing patriarchs and most women at the same time. A loss in November could cause the centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party, which was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and should be the last to want to invite government into the wombs of women.And American women, who suffer more because of having two full-time jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and want to be at home for their children.

This could be huge.

Gloria Steinem is an author, feminist organizer and co-founder of the Women's Media Center. She supported Hillary Clinton and is now supporting Barack Obama.