North Texas Daily

Avant-garde protesting turns heads for human rights

Avant-garde protesting turns heads for human rights

August 30
23:30 2017

Samantha Hobson is seeing red.

With her peripherals blocked through a handcrafted bonnet, she experiences waves of emotions—flashes of nervousness, frustration and uncertainty—and remains calmly seated, hands clasped in anticipation.

She’s attending Michael C. Burgess’ The Colony’s Town Hall event with nine other women, dressed in personally-sewn red cloaks, similar to the ones seen on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Here, she hopes to creatively and peacefully advocate for the health care rights of over 24 million Americans whose coverage is jeopardized by the American Health Care Act.

No stranger to avant-garde styles of protest, Hobson, 30, is a Denton resident and graduate admissions guru. She is also the social director for Indivisible Denton, a group that strives to bring the community together in opposition of the president. She was moved by the recent presidential election and Congressman Michael C. Burgess’ support of the American Health Care Act, which warrants those with pre-existing medical conditions unable to receive coverage, declaring incidents of sexual assault and pregnancy.

“In January, I got to the point where I wasn’t sleeping, and I was reading news articles over and over again, just kind of lost,” Hobson said. “I went to the Denton Women’s March and reached out to ask what kind of local organizations there were. They told me that they had just formed Indivisible Denton, so that’s how I got involved.”

Hobson is a member of a “guerilla protesting” group, which offers alternative and often avant-garde ways of protesting. She is behind May 12’s “Funeral Procession and Die-In at the Square,” where she dressed up as the Grim Reaper and other protestors lay down on the Square and “died” in opposition of the AHCA’s laws.

After attending multiple rallies and marching for human rights, Hobson was inspired by a post to the guerilla group’s Facebook page to sew the Handmaid’s Tale cloaks.

The show depicts women stripped of their rights and oppressed in a dystopian universe, and uses these red cloaks as a symbol of silence and powerlessness.

Overcome with passion and the need to voice her concerns, Hobson soon found herself buying red cloth in bulk from Denton’s Scrap, a nonprofit donation-based clothing store.

“I ended up buying enough fabric to sew 10 cloaks, and it took two nights,” Hobson said. “I started at about 8 p.m. Wednesday night and sewed late into the night, and Friday night, I finished up everything for the Town Hall event on Saturday in The Colony.”

Saturday, Aug. 5, the day of the Town Hall meeting, Hobson found herself in a bind.

“I didn’t know if I was going to have 10 people show up to actually wear the handmaids cloaks,” Hobson said. “I thought, ‘you know what, if it’s just me, then it’s just me.’”

To her surprise, nine other protestors arrived at The Colony Town Hall and dressed in the parking lot. In reference to the show where women are forced to walk in groups of two for both safety and accountability, Hobson strategically planned for the Handmaids to walk in these same pairs. The Handmaids had seats held near the front row by other protestors, who got up and left as they made their way in.

“Various women of different ages and backgrounds were there, and a lot of them had never done anything like this before,” Hobson said. “One of our members is an art teacher, and she’s the one that actually made our bonnets using craft banner paper and some foam. It was all DIY kind of stuff.”

Holding up red, painted signs and boldly exclaiming “shame,” the Handmaids silently protested Congressman Burgess as he continued to advocate for the very laws the guerilla group was against. They also refused to respond when spoken to by locals.

According to Handmaid Danja Franklin, angry responses were expected, but the result was better than anticipated.

“It was not as bad as I thought it might be,” Franklin said. “There was a guy who was clearly confused and surprised by us and started to make fun of us, asking if we were Catholic nuns or something like that, and he didn’t like it when we refused to respond. I think he didn’t like feeling uncomfortable.”

The man who opposed, according to other Handmaid accountings, held up a “repeal Obamacare” sign, and was upset about their seats in the front row. Teacher and Handmaid Cassie Nguyen was aware of the risks of opposition, stalking and potential violence, but still arrived, ready to protest.

“My students, the youth, the future—that’s who I am fighting for,” Nguyen said. “I have to be brave enough to stand against the wrong thing.”

Hobson, sitting in her seat, was overcome with tunnel vision and uncertainty as to whether the protest would fare well.

In the moments of reality that struck, she wondered what she was doing, how effectively this would play out and what this would mean in the following weeks to come. She knew, however, that her message was heard loud and clear.

She plans to do more to raise awareness to social issues.

While Hobson may not know for certain what is to come, she takes comfort in the work she’s done, and is not stopping there.

“[Guerilla protesting] is like performance art in that it allows me to inform people, and it provokes thought,” Hobson said. “I oftentimes don’t know what I’m doing, but I feel in my gut that it’s right, that this is where I need to be.”

Featured Image: Dressed as Handmaids, women of Indivisible Denton use cultural references to make a statement as they protest in support of human rights. Courtesy | Indivisible Denton

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Christian Jimenez

Christian Jimenez

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