37 Chicago

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters. As I watched and listened form my seat, I began to hear all the notes from the past three years swirl about me. The courage and fear of Ruby and Will. The race pride and anger of men like Rafiq. The desire to let go the desire to escape, the desire to give oneself up to a God that could somehow put a floor on despair. And in that single note-hope!-I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s of dry bones. Those stories-of survival, and freedom, and hope-became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more that black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to claim memories that we didn’t need to feel shamed about, memories more accessible than those of ancient Egypt, memories that all people might study and cherish-and with which we could start to rebuild. — P.295, November 2, 2021

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