The Joyful Song of Activism with the Resistance Revival Chorus

By Araceli Cruz

They stand side by side, dressed all in white. They clap in unison, snap their fingers to the beat, and they sing, commandingly. The women of the Resistance Revival Chorus sing about freedom, about love, and unity. Sometimes, when they’re on stage doing their thing, their voices are outshone by what they’re truly bringing forth: support and healing. They take the stage at events where relief is needed, where compassion and understanding need nourishing.

When they’re singing together, the group—comprising more than 60 singers—serves almost as a lifeline. Their white clothing feels like clarity or much-needed air. Take for example a performance in which the RRC backed up a prominent artist who’d lost a long court battle against her accused assailant. Her song was about praying and redemption, and the Resistance Revival Chorus sang along with her, stood beside her, and lifted her up. She was pop artist Kesha, and the stage happened to be the Grammys, in front of millions.

“It was very powerful to stand by Kesha’s side after such a traumatic experience that she was bringing to the world,” Geminelle Rollins, a member of RRC, tells Auburn. “But it’s always inspiring, every day. Whether we’re rehearsing, recording a song, or singing at the Grammys, being with a group of women is just so comforting.”

It was among a group of women—a historic gathering, in fact—where the RRC first came together. On Jan. 21, 2017, the Women’s March gave life to the RRC. It was there, in our nation’s capital, that Women’s March Artistic Director Paola Mendoza brought together a diverse group of ladies to “bring song to life in the spirit of collective joy and resistance.”

Rollins, Mendoza, alongside Ginny Suss, Nelini Stamp, Shruti Ganguly, Alyssa Klein, Jenna Lauter, and Sarah Sophie Flicker are just a few of the women that make up this radiant group. They don’t have one leader, however, because they lead together as one.

While the founding RRC members perform on bigger stages—including recently at Joe’s Pub and the 31st annual Tibet House benefit concert at Carnegie Hall—RRC have inspired similar choirs to sprout in various parts of the country. The RRC has specified what is needed to start a choir that will reinforce the women’s movement, and they only have a couple of requirements: practice, be passionate, and sing anywhere your voice is needed. They must also wear white, as it’s a “symbol of solidarity in line with the history of the resistance.”

Since the Women’s March, the RRC and their steadfast message of beautiful resistance and empowerment have only gotten stronger. Within a year of their existence they’ve performed pretty much everywhere from Times Square to a Barnes and Noble, because no stage is too small when you’re building a coalition of peace. That kind of drive, however, can deplete even the strongest of performers.

For Geminelle, being empathetic and having perspective is key, especially with so many causes that need their assistance. She says having a stable footing on spirituality and work is fundamental for the RRC to thrive.

“I think that first and foremost, it starts with us being compassionate people, it starts with us being fed up with all of this injustice that we are seeing every single day,” Geminelle says. “It’s important for me to stay grounded in order to continue to move forward. Through this idea of being a compassionate person, I’ve surrounded myself with other compassionate people like the Resistance Revival Chorus, and so being amongst women who are fed up, who feel this compassion, who have, at one point, felt helpless or hopeless and they’re coming together to find that sense of hope and sense of help. And us finding each other, that radiates.”

What’s extraordinary about each RRC performance is their united fire. It’s immensely inspiring to hear their message of hope and freedom through song as other people among them fight for civil rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and human rights. They make you feel that change is really possible. They give listeners the strength to believe in themselves. It’s kind of odd to think the RRC wasn’t always around—but in many ways they have been.

As the RRC states, music and protest songs have always been a hallmark of the great civil rights movements. Singing to bring forth a revolution is essential, as is fearlessness.

“There is no act of courage without vulnerability,” RRC singer Sarah Sophie Flicker says. “I think the reason why this movement is led by women is because we are implicitly taught to be comfortable with our vulnerability. Because without vulnerability it would be all bravado and ego, which is all the things you see in this administration.”

Geminelle says that it’s through her work with the RRC that she has learned more about her responsibility as an artist and applied her moral courage to share a message of inspiration.

“It’s a matter of understanding your truth,” Geminelle says, “and being bold enough to speak it.

Meet the Resistance Revival Chorus and join Auburn in its 200th at Lives of Commitment in NYC on April 26th, 2018 as we honor these women of moral courage, who are dedicating their lives to advance justice in our time.

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