By Niki D’Andrea, November 2020 issue.
When former professional soccer player Joanna Lohman took the stage at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2017, she was clutching pages of a prepared speech. But it was three hours into the assembly, and she decided the crowd had been standing still long enough. With a grin, she tore up the speech and started pacing the stage. “It is time that we move! It’s time that we march, and we rise up!” she yelled. “Let me hear you! When I say ‘rise,’ you say ‘up’!”
It’s a scene captured in the new documentary Resisterhood, which follows the journeys of six diverse activists (see sidebar) working to protect civil rights and inspire others to join the movement in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.
Producer/director Cheryl Jacobs “CJ” Crim spent almost three years filming Lohman and the other activists as they spoke at events, ran for office, marched, and even got arrested. The Women’s March that Lohman attended was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, and the springboard of a movement that led to the 2018 mid-term election putting a record number of women into the U.S. Congress.
The film — available on Tubi, Roku, Pluto TV, and other platforms — premiered on Amazon Prime on September 22, aka National Voter Registration Day. Not a coincidence. “Every single person who’s over the age of 18 needs to get out and vote,” Lohman says over the phone. “That is the strongest way we can exercise our democratic rights, and come November, if we all go out and vote, we will flip who our president is and hopefully be taking steps in the right direction when it comes to human rights and LGBTQ equality.”
A former member of the United States women’s soccer team and midfielder for the Washington Spirit, Lohman’s life was soccer until 2017, when she tore her ACL in the Spirit’s season-opening game. Her injury, which ultimately became the impetus for her full-time activism, happens on camera in Resisterhood, and Lohman says watching it was an emotional experience.
“I was really heartbroken,” she says, “but then to see where my life has gone since was really uplifting for me. It also really inspired me to continue on my mission, because with COVID, it’s difficult sometimes to keep that momentum because you’re stuck inside, you can’t see people, and you feel really isolated. And now with RBG’s death and the Supreme Court vacancy, it’s just hard to not get lost in the negative. So, I think that this movie came at the exact right time because I think I really needed something positive.”
Lohman, 38, was well-known to soccer fans for her blonde “Johawk” hairdo with artistic patterns shaved into the sides, and for being out and proud. The self-proclaimed “Rainbow Warrior” says as a professional athlete, she received messages from people who told her she helped them come out to their parents and to feel strong and be their authentic selves. “I never in a million years thought that by living my own personal truth and by being open and honest that I would have this impact,” Lohman says. “And it really propelled me to take a stronger role and to be more of an activist because I realized I could be a voice.”
“I realized how privileged I was to go to work every day and feel a hundred percent supported to be myself,” she continues. “When I go to Africa, for instance — I went four years in a row — it’s illegal to be gay in those countries. So, to know the platform that I have is safe, I think that being an activist was something that I had to do and it just fit so organically in my life.”
As we head toward Election Day on November 3, Lohman says the message of Resisterhood is more important than ever. “I think the message of the movie is not only to keep the faith and to keep hope, but really to lean on one another and lean on the strength of our community,” she says. “We have outlasted worse times in our history, and this will pass, but we need to really rise up and to have a strong voice during this election so we are not forgotten and we are heard.”
Meet the Resisterhood
“The film did a great job of painting a broad picture of human rights. It wasn’t just one story or two stories,” Joanna Lohman says. “I felt like everyone can relate to someone in this film and can take pieces from their own missions and really find hope and inspiration from it.”
Meet Lohman’s fellow Resisterhood activists:
Dr. Jean Gearon. The great-granddaughter of a suffragist who participated in the original women’s march in 1913, psychologist Gearon transformed her eight-member book club into the Women’s Alliance for Democracy and Justice, with more than 400 members.
Margaret Morrison. Now 84, Morrison marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. She continues to participate in marches today.
Luis and Soraida Gutiérrez. Then-U.S. Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (Illinois-D) and his wife advocated for the rights of Dreamers and immigrant families and inspired their daughter Jessica Gutiérrez to run for Chicago’s City Council.
Mimi Hassanein. A woman of Egyptian heritage, Hassanein ran for public office with the support of her large family, including 15 grandchildren.