Oral History Item Type Metadata
Transcription of Asherde Gill Interview
Becca: This is Becca MacKillop and I’m here with Asherde Gill and Asherde has agreed to be interviewed about her experience at the Women’s March on Washington in January of this year! Um, Asherde is a sophomore, she’s an Anthropology and Film Studies double major, she’s from East Flatbush, Brooklyn . . . um, can you tell us about some of the activities that you’re involved in on campus?
Asherde: Um, well I’m in a comedy group called Damsels in Excess, we do improv and sketch comedy um, I work for the office of community engagement planning events on campus and also working with Cleveland Elementary School um, with third graders helping them read and improve their literacy scores or whatever. Um, I also do films, I write poetry. Um, I’m an emerging leaders member um, with the Multicultural center and I was in the Sedehi Diversity Project this summer. I love . . . creating things.
Becca: Thanks, Asher. Um . . . you also started a book club.
Asherde: Oh yeah! I am the founder and president of the Muhlenberg Intersectional Book Club, where we read books that talk about the experiences of women and queer people of various backgrounds and right now we’re reading Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.
Becca: That’s awesome. Um, and you’re also involved with America Reads?
Asherde: I said that.
Becca: Which you said. So eloquently. Beautiful, okay um Asher hopes to go abroad next year, she wants to go to both Indonesia and Prague so she’ll be gone for the whole year, is the plan. Um, so that’s her college career. Can you tell me a little bit about your growing up and . . . where, who, how.
Asherde: Okay, I grew up in . . . I was born in Manhattan but I moved to Brooklyn, New York when I was around like two or three years old. I grew up around like, only like, black women. Like, that was my entire like . . . (Laughs) Like, anyone who, everyone who raised me like my aunts, my grandmother, my mom, cousins, like all black women. Um, and they all just were like spoiling me and like, loving me, and helping me be the person that I am today. Um, yeah I stayed in Brooklyn for elementary and middle school and that was cool because everyone went to school in the same neighborhood so we were all really close so I got tired of that so I wanted to go to school in Manhattan and start like . . . like I was always like craving to like break out of . . . Brooklyn and see different things so I asked my mom to let me go to school in Manhattan and she let me did, do that and so I went to school in Chelsea High School in Soho and that’s like how I got to Muhlenberg, because of the people that I met at Chelsea High School.
Becca: Is that a big high school?
Asherde: Um, there are about 400 people there. It was two schools in one so the three floors were like, was Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School and that’s what, the school that I went to and we were basically doing vocational work and I was training to be like, an IT person, and work with computers. (Laughs) And like, that was my three years of high school was like, doing like Sysco Computer Technology and . . . like getting those certifications. And then the top school was the iSchool and that was a Google like, Google like proxy school where Google was paying for the school and seeing how the students . . . like how their, the students were being educated and how that could improve education as a whole.
Becca: Wow. That’s so cool, I didn’t know that at all. And you have a little sister.
Asherde: Yes, I have a little sister. She’s eight, her name is Madison. I was, like begged my mom for a sister for so many years and she was like “no” and then like . . . Madison came.
Asherde: (Laughs) And I got my way and we’re the best of friends. And I miss her all the time. And she’s just like, like kids are so fun and creative and cool, and I just hope she never loses that. But yeah, that’s my best friend. A pal.
Becca: Wow. (sighs) I love that. Um, okay. So, you went to high school in Chelsea, grew up in Brooklyn, now you’re at Muhlenberg, you’re involved in a VARIETY of activities and extracurriculars and . . . can you talk a little bit about your two majors? And what they mean to you?
Asherde: Yes. So I love making films. Like, I love like . . . ever since I was a kid when my mom and I would watch like The Wizard of Oz, or like The Lion King. And then she would make me watch old movies that I hated. (Laughs) And like, we would watch the weirdest like AMC and the Hallmar- not the Hallmark channel but there’s this channel that is dedicated to movies that were made in the sixties and fifties and forties and they were all grey. And I, I hated them but . . . as I got older, I started to understand them, like the comedic effect that they had. And . . . I don’t know it was just really funny watching like . . . we would watch women, like female movies that were all female cast and they were just the silliest things but they were really funny and . . . I don’t know, my mom was just kind of instilling that love of like, really good filmmaking in me. And like just encouraging me to like . . challenge the way that I thought about the way that films were made and the reasons why they were made. And, it was just a fun time bonding with her and being able to be silly. And, some of our best moments were like, we were like . . . like, she would pick me up from school and we would like skip down the street to our house singing like “we’re off to see the wizard,” and like those things that made me love films and like love the, the part of creating and then now I’m just a person that is really invested invested in social change and I see films as a way to . . . do that. And a way to use my voice and to have a powerful impact on the world. And I guess that’s what I, like what I saw in those shows that I hated as a child but love now. Um, and anthropology, I just love cultures and people and . . . my professor really like . . . did, does a good job of teaching those classes and she’s like the reason why I am an anthropology major now, and yeah. I love the way those combine. Like I want to use what I learn in anthropology and . . . I also do like Africana Studies but I wanna use that to have a voice in the films that I create.
Becca: Sounds very carefully chosen, those two together.
Becca: Um, cool. So. You said you’re really invested in social change. How did you hear about the Women’s March?
Asherde: Um, so I . . . I was like, I’m always like online so I heard about it through that. And everybody at school was like, “how do we go and when do we go?” and I was like, “Oh, I wanna go” but also like, “I’m not gonna fight to like, get on a bus.” Cause that’s what was happening was they had one bus that they had like, told a select few people about. And I was just like, “well I guess I won’t go because . . . I can’t make it to the bus. And then my friend Jordan was like, “I’m going. My aunt is picking me up and then we’re gonna drive to D.C. and then where I live.” he lives in Silver Springs, Maryland, “and then we’re gonna go to the Women’s March. Do you want to stay at my house for four days and come? My mom is like, totally for it.” (Laughs) And so I was like “sure?” So his aunt picked us up and we like, drove to Silver Springs and I stayed at his house for four days. And it was probably the best experience ever, his mom is like, an angel. And his whole family is just sweet. And . . .
Becca: Which Jordan is this?
Asherde: Jordan Hill. (Laughs) Yeah so like, his mom like bought me food all the time and I was like, “I can pay!” and she was like, “no!” and (laughs) it was just a really good time and then we went to the Women’s March (laughs). We went to the Women’s March on, what day was that? I don’t even remember, it was . . .
Becca: January 21st.
Asherde: January 21st. We went to the Women’s March on January 21st and it was . . . it was a . . . I don’t want to say like fun because I don’t know if that’s the way to describe it. But it was just like . . . a really proud . . . I was really proud to be there, in that space. (Pause) With those people. Because he has a great family.
Becca: The Hills.
Asherde: The Hills. King of the Hill.
Becca: Okay. So my next question was gonna be, “how did you make the decision that you wanted to go?” but I feel like you already answered that. Do you have anything else, I mean . . . is there anything we didn’t touch on?
Asherde: I was just really hoping that I would see like, Angela Davis, or someone great there. And I did. So.
Becca: You saw Angela Davis?
Asherde: I saw Angela Davis. She was four people away from me like, is that- does that make sense? Yeah.
Becca: Wow. (Laughs) That’s awesome.
Asherde: She just walked through the crowd, like she parted it like . . . like Moses with the Red Sea. (Laughs)
Becca: (Laughs) That’s awesome. Um-
Asherde: Did Moses part the Red Sea?
Becca: I think he did. Sounds right.
Asherde: That’s how she parted the crowd.
Becca: Like Moses.
Becca: Cool. Umm, okay so what did you have to do to prepare for the day of the march? Like, what was on the agenda?
Asherde: So, the march was the day after the inauguration. So we sat in Jordan’s living room and like, we just talked crap about Donald Trump. And then we drew like, a bunch of posters that we were gonna take to the Women’s March. And I didn’t realize that like, the posters were gonna be a big deal at the Women’s March but they were. Our posters were really bad but (laughs) they weren’t great at all. But, they said nice things. Yeah, that’s all we did the entire day, we just hung out and made posters and made snacks cause, we were the only people at the Women’s March in our year that brought snacks. And you gotta have the snacks for any march like that. Aaand yeah. That’s it. We just like made posters and hung out and made snacks for the next day.
Becca: What did your poster say?
Asherde: Ummm. Uh, it was an Angela Davis quote. I’m trying to remember . . . . . . . Some Angela Davis quote.
Becca: What did Jordan’s say?
Asherde: His said like, “Equality for All” I think. (Laughs)
Becca: Okay. Um, we’re back. We took a brief pause and we’re back. Um, okay so you talked about the planning process. And the agenda. Um, so . . . sorry, I was reading. Anyway. I got distracted. The point is, the question is had you ever been involved in a protest or a demonstration before?
Asherde: Um, yes. I went to like, I’ve been going to Black Lives Matter protest in high school. And like, without my mom. Like, I don’t ever tell my mom when I’m going to a protest, I kind of just go. And I started going in tenth grade, like eleventh grade, around that time. And I would just go in, I would be in Harlem with my friends in the middle of the night and like we’d see them and we’d join them.
Becca: How many did you go to in high school?
Asherde: About four?
Becca: Why didn’t you tell your mom?
Asherde: Cause I thought . . . my mom is like . . . She was like an activist in her day I guess, and she would say no to a protest. (Laughs) So, you kinda just gotta go! And not tell your parents that you’re going. Cause they, they make a big deal out of it. Like, they think you’re gonna die or something. And like you can but like, I’m not gonna die.
Becca: Do you think that you would let your kids go? If your kids were in tenth grade?
Asherde: Yeah! I would bring my like, my three year olds to a protest. Well, probably to a march. Marches and protests are different, but like I think that like . . . like an important thing for kids to be involved in. Like, you know, they’re just smart. Kids know what’s going on like they’ll see it on TV so . . . and they’ll talk about it in class with their friends. So why not make sure that their not saying like, ignorant like uninformed things.
Becca: So, you said that there’s a difference between a protest and a march. What would you highlight as being the fundamental differences?
Asherde: While like, marches are a lot more like kumbaya. And (laughs) like nice. Like it’s like it can get out of hand but the point of a march is to kind of say “we’re here.” And show up in the masses and like, make a statement. And . . . make sure that the world sees that there are a lot of people that care about this specific issue. And, people come and talk, and give speeches, and performances, and sing at marches. I think a protest is a way, a lot more like . . . your body is physically out there, ready to take whatever comes at it. Like, I don’t think people went to the Women’s March like . . . there were tons of kids at the Women’s March, you know what I mean? Like you don’t, you wouldn’t bring a kid to a protest where they could potentially be like . . . hit. At protests you see a lot more of like cops ready to be violent and arrest people and . . . they have their gear and they’re ready to like, do whatever at any moment and that’s just not the vibe at a march. Which is like . . . they’re for different kinds of people. Like, I think protests are more for the people who have had enough, and are ready to like, fight and like, get arrested. Because there is power in getting arrested at a protest. But like marches, you’re not going to a march to get arrested.
Becca: So do you think it was very intentional that it was named the Women’s March?
Asherde: Yeah. I think it was just like . . . I saw like, about like four police people, whatever you call them, like when I, where I was. Like it just . . . wasn’t . . . like it wasn’t the Women’s Protest. Which is fine, like it’s okay to have a Women’s March it’s just . . . that’s what it was.
Becca: Did you see any police officers wearing pussy hats?
Asherde: Yeah! Actually, there were women that had like, they had like their gear on and then they had the pussy hat (laughs) which is like . . . and they were really nice! Like they were smiling and they were having a good time but it’s also just like at a protest that’s just not the vibe that they come in. Like, it’s okay at a women’s march to say that you’re for women. But it’s not okay for a police officer at a Black Lives Matter march to be like “ah, Black Lives Matter” like it’s just two, they . . . I don’t know. You, you wouldn’t frown on someone at a women’s march, a police officer at a women’s march wearing a pussy hat, you’d call it like “funny” and “happy” that they’re on your side.
Becca: Mm Hmm. . . Yeah. (Pause) Some people were . . . kind of . . . like annoyed at the complicity of the police presence at the Women’s March and they didn’t think it was funny when they wore pussy hats and things like that. Um . . . I don’t know if you . . . can speak to that.
Asherde: I just, I didn’t feel it necessary to interact with police at the Women’s March. Mainly because, I know that’s not how police are at other protests. I just thought it was like . . . like who are you protecting in those different marches and protests. It was very clear that they weren’t against people so I get that like people were annoyed by them wearing the, the hats. But it’s also like . . . that’s a privilege in itself to have a march where you can have police, you can be annoyed at police because they’re on your side.
Asherde: You know, that’s not something that happens, like you would never see a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest with a pin that said “Black Lives Matter” (laughs) and I also don’t know how people would feel, like I also would feel some kind of way if (laughs) a police was at a Black Lives Matter protest wearing a Black Lives Matter pin. Like, what are you doing?! (Laughs) Like, it’s also just like who’s side are you on? How can you like say that you’re for marginalized people but you’re participating in the institutions that are doing the marginalization?
Becca: So, okay that’s a good segway because one of the major criticisms of the Women’s March is that um, intersectionality came into the planning process too late in the planning process or that it was um, retroactively read into the planning process and that it wasn’t there at all when they were planning the march.
Asherde (Laughs) It was just like . . . it was . . . real cute um, (laughs) like I, like just the lineup itself. You had like what’s her name, Ashley Judd and all of these people giving like speeches and having like everyone give them the utmost attention and respect. And then Angela Davis gets on stage and people are like, pushing and shoving because they want to start marching to God knows where. Like I, like it was like great but there was . . . The march was great but we weren’t marching anywhere, like really, like we just walked around like D.C. so like you could wait five more minutes to listen to Angela Frickin Davis to speak, you know what I mean? Like, it was just those sort of things where it was just like . . . you know, they tried to like put all of these women that helped plan it but putting Angela Davis at the end of a lineup, it shows like, where their importance is.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Asherde: But like also, at the same time like . . . Angela Davis was there. Like someone on that like committee thought to invite her which is, kudos to them. But like we, you know that’s what it is, when it’s called the Women’s March, you know there’s gonna be erasure of like, people’s experiences and people . . . like we’ve always had to fight to say like “we also are included in this.”
Becca: Mm Hmm
Asherde: Which sucks. But . . . And I also think that it’s interesting because like women, women’s marches are I feel like a play on “womanist.” And like womanism is like, putting the experiences of like black women and women of color at the head of any movement because those are the experiences that are gonna . . . whatever we like win from those fights affect everyone positively . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm
Asherde: But . . . I don’t know.
Becca: That’s such a good point.
Asherde: But it was sort of like an entertainment thing. And also like, were there seats at the front? Was there like, where the stage was where people were performing? Like I feel like there was like a stage and there was like this much space for seating like right in front of the stage. And then everyone else was standing. I don’t know.
Becca: It’s very theatrical.
Asherde: It was! It was a, it was a march! Like, that’s exactly what a march is. It’s, you go to a march to listen to people like . . . at a protest there are no leaders. Everybody at a protest is putting themselves on the line. But at a march it’s like people, which is why I have certain issues with marches, because it’s people who normally don’t put themselves on the line who suddenly find themselves on stage telling everybody else what they’re fighting for. And it’s like no we know what we’re fighting for because we’re at the protest the day before. And the protest tomorrow. And we don't get seen on the stage on a jumbotron.
Becca: Like Madonna.
Asherde: Like Madonna. And like, like Ashley Judd like she was on TV the next for like, her speech was really good like a lot of work went into it but like, Ashley Judd is not at a protest getting arrested.
Becca: True. (Laughs) She’s definitely not. Um, you touched on so many of the questions before I even asked them.
Asherde: Oh! I apologize!
Becca: No! That’s so good! That’s what I want to happen. Um . . . so I guess we’ll, we talked about macro-level issues, I guess I’ll ask what was your most salient memory about the day of the march? Like what sticks out in your brain?
Asherde: Mmmmmm. Anglea. Davis. Parting. The. Crowd. Like Moses with the Red Sea.
Asherde: (Laughs) She just like walked through like . . . (aside) can I curse?
Asherde: Like, she was like, a bad bitch. (Laughs) Like she walked through like, a regular-ass crowd where everyone was there and was like “you can’t touch me,” like people moved outta her way. Like, people were like whispering like, “oh my gosh, that’s her,” (laughs) And she didn’t like, blink an eye. And she kept walking. And I was just like “I read your book, I remember being in ninth grade reading your, like your autobiography, and reading your work and being like woooah this is who I’m supposed to be in terms of me as a person and like changed my entire life, and made me like, want to care about the way I like move through the world. And like made me want to” And like . . . like I wasn’t gonna go to college or do anything in terms of like, thinking and reading. Like I had no interest in that, I was just gonna do like, computer technology and that was it. But like sheee and like Assata Shakur and all of these people, they made me see the world in a way that I was like . . . I was moving through it blindly. And they opened my eyes. So like seeing her was like, that’s a real person. You know what I mean? Like, you read about Angela Davis in a book and you’re like, “Oh this figure,” but then you like see her and you’re like, she’s the same height as you. And you’re like “Holy shit like, you exist.” It-it’s weird. And it also motivates you because you’re like, we’re not far from each other.
Becca: Yeah, you were like four people away.
Asherde: Four people away. And I got her on video. And I put a little arrow next to her head. She has like, blonde hair.
Becca: (Laughs) That’s a really good memory, um . . .
Asherde: She like, her chin was high, you know what I mean? Like I’ve never seen someone like walk with their chin high. She was just like, I got somewhere to be.
Becca: Like a queen.
Asherde: Like a queen. Like Moses. (Laughs)
Becca: (Laughs) Like Moses. Um . . . wow. (Laughs) Um what, so okay. That was your, that’s your number one memory. What, was there anything about the march that you were expecting to see or experience that didn’t meet your expectations? Big surprises?
Asherde: (Pause) I think I was expecting it to be like so gay. And it wasn’t so gay. Like NOT . . . okay so lemme not say “so gay” but like I was expecting . . . how do I phrase this right? The women’s march is for women. You know, women. Women women women. And like men can be there, right. But I feel like the men who came and showed up and were supportive they were like put on some kind of weird like, pedestal. It was like, “look at these men, thank you for coming.” And it was like no, fuck them. Like we don’t need like . . . like thank you I guess, whatever! But we don’t need like . . . it would have still been a women’s march without you and your like, penis. I don’t know (laughs) Thank you for like, coming wid ya poster and like wanting like attention and receiving attention from people. Like, there were women who were like excited about them being there and it’s like great, I guess. But also it’s like that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for yourself. You’re at the Women’s March because you’re a woman and you realize that like, that there’s things that you need to keep being a woman that’s thriving in this world. And it’s not because some guy like came and like . . . what do they call it, the pussy hat? Is that what it’s called? Because he was wearing that. Like, good for him! (Laughs) It’s almost like trivialized and made to be like this funny thing when there are people who like, take it seriously. But yeah.
Becca: So you were expecting it to be . . . gay. Gayer.
Asherde: I was expecting it to be gay as fuck. It was like (Laughs) I thought it was gonna be really gay. And like, it was gay but like it was “gay”, it wasn’t like GAY!
Becca: It wasn’t like Gay Pride.
Asherde: No. (Laughs)
Becca: Have you ever been to Gay Pride?
Asherde: I go to Gay Pride every year!
Asherde: Yeah. My first time was in ninth grade. And like, I still, like every year I lie to my mom. Because my mom doesn’t know that I’m gay. (Laughs)
Becca: (Laughs) This is -
Asherde: (Laughs) I’m just like, I’m going to like . . . I’m like, “I’m going to support my friends.” And she’s like “Oh good, good. Be supportive.” (Laughs)
Becca: So she knew you were going, she just didn’t know why.
Asherde: Yeah. She just, she thinks I’m being a supportive friend.
Becca: So, okay so typically I’ve been asking people um, how they would compare the experience of the Women’s March to A.) the experience of something like a Black Lives Matter protest and B.) the experience of going to Gay Pride and you’ve actually been to all three and can speak to that! So, how is the Women’s March different from Pride?
Asherde: Um, it’s actually kind of . . . I don’t want to say the same, but in the way that it’s for a specific group of people but then it becomes like . . . this thing of . . . this is like a Capitalist country that we live in so money like fuels everything. So then it becomes this thing about money and who can put money in. And then you get people who fund it and they’re like “well since I’m giving you money to fund this thing, this is what I want you to have.” So it’s, yeah it’s the Women’s March, yeah it’s Gay Pride but like “I’m paying so that you can have your lights and that you can have your jumbotron and your stage and you can have your performers and you can pay for all of this. So here’s what I want to see. At your Women’s March or at your Gay Pride. ” And it’s so fucked up. Because it’s like, you’re just giving us money because you know this is a thing that’s popular. And then you’re also saying, “Now do what I want you to do at your thing.” And it also is like so Gay Pride because like, you know, Gay Pride is no longer gay pride, it’s like straight pride in gay pride. And like, the Women’s March is like whatever pride in women pride. So. And like, the Women’s March was nowhere near like what a Black Lives Matter- Like Black Lives Matter protests are like militarized and like, demonized before they even happen. So that the police come there and they’re like ready with their riot gear. And they’re ready to like arrest you and like beat you up, and like, look like an army. Against people who like, have nothing on them. Like people who are wearing bookbags. And they’re ready to come fighting. And that’s just not the vibe. But again, they’re two different kinds of- it’s a protest, versus a march.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Asherde: But yeah, I, I can see how like the Women’s March is sort of like Gay Pride. In the way that it’s marketed.
Becca: You can commodify a march. You can’t commodify a protest.
Asherde: Yes. That’s a nice way to put that.
Becca: Well thank you, Asher! Um, just at the risk of running out of memory, I think that’s a good place to end. Thank you for being here!
Asherde: Well, thank you!