Cirrus or Cumulus? — Mental Health for Yourself and Community

            “I’m too busy to look up!! Have you even been paying attention to what’s happening to us out there?!” My sister in the struggle asked this in response to my wondering what type of clouds she preferred. The look on her face warned that unless I explained myself this conversation would be short because what point is there to speak with the delusional.

            We had been discussing the compound, sustained traumas facing Black people in this historical moment. Deeply rooted, structural racism puts Black and Brown bodies on the line every hour of any given day. Supremacists are loose in the land, their sense of superiority exemplified by extrajudicial killings,  their atrocities emboldened by leadership referring to the era of Jim Crow and segregation as “a time when America was great.” This is not news to any person growing up Black in America; however, in these times narratives that conflate social issues and criminalize Black people while absolving white supremicists have been weaponized. All aspects of our personood  – physical, psychological, and spiritual – are under blatant attack.

            This is the reality  of the world in which I live even if it is not the just world for which my sister and I have been working. But I was not proposing magical thinking, ignoring the daily violence to stare myopically into the sky until the danger goes away or death takes us. My point was that we must be intentional about healing ourselves and our communities in the midst of resistance. Like the violence, the idea of self-care is not new. In Ready from Within, Septima Clark said”I never felt getting angry would do you any good other than hurt your own digestion – keep you from eating, which I liked to do.” James Baldwin wrote in I Am Not Your Negro,        “In America, I was free only in battle, never free to rest – and he who finds no way to rest cannot long survive the battle.”

            These icons of the resistance articulated an essential fact about stress and burnout: mind and body are linked. We have the science that proves it: cortisol, serotonin, dopamine, norephinephrine are all directly related to emotions.  When stress, the physiology, meets emotional state, the psychology, under prolonged and extreme conditions the resulting crash is called burnout. The corollary in communities and neighborhoods is stress, the physiology, manifested in glaring inequities forced into the limelight by the pandemic and when white officers kill Black citizens with apparent impunity. Rising rates of anxiety, depression, rage, and hopelessness are the psychology. If we are not intententional about healing, the crash is next.

            Which brings me back to the the flabbergasted look my sister gave me at the mention of cirrus clouds. “How do we live and not die if we waste time looking up?” that look demanded. First, we must take care of ourselves. No one knows our personal needs better than we do, and “self-care” is about our individuality. Equally important is to acknowledge that we are bound to others in the struggle. Witness, how quickly events captured on Facebook Live! or TikTok become organized responses by activists on opposite sides of the country. That connectedness is an essential dimension of solidarity and also of the healing.  

            Challenge yourself to keep heading forward, but not at the expense of your health, sanity, or well-being. Routinely do a body scan to identify where you hold stress. Is it perpetually hunched shoulders, or an acidic stomach, or that endlessly bouncing knee? Allow yourself to feel those sensations so you learn to detect their presence, then pause to look up at the clouds. Create a moment of respite and release. Take time to feel whatever you are experiencing. It’s not therapy, it’s strategy.

            When you’ve found your moment of peace, reach out to collaborators, friends, loved ones, families of victims. Lean into those crisis spaces where structural trauma dwells and grab hold of someone.  Send a text, post a status, make a phone call. Celebrate the lives of those stolen with their families left behind. Tell their stories, say their names: Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Logan. Find solace together in spiritual or religious practices of the faith tradition precious to you. Recognize that there is no disrespect in sharing a moment of joy together. That carrying on is not the same as forgetting. And then host a virtual dance party; log into the shared space Verzuz,  holla for your artist of choice; create, play, rejuvenate. 

            To rest is not a break in your forward momentum. It’s just plain good health.

Originally published on Black Lives Matter Global Network

Spirituality and Freedom: August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean

Psychological research on happiness supports the importance of spirituality and religion as tools to reduce burnout. Using an anthology of African-American music and August Wilson’s play, Gem of the Ocean, we will explore “religion” and “spirituality” across time and situations. Our overview will include the Old Gods of Africans in their homelands; “hidden religions” of chattel slavery; The Church in modern communities of color; and The One, the 7th Kingdom, technology as the new god.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Dr. Bryant is a community psychologist, which means asking, What can be done to empower individuals in traumatizing situations to take charge of their lives? She is the Director of the Social Action Project (SOCACT), an arts-based action research project operating in South Bend, IN and Durban, South Africa. She is a psychology professor at Indiana University South Bend, teaching courses in social justice, civil rights, universal human rights, and world religions.

The Spirometer

Strange how the familiar and benign can become scary if we look just below the surface. Writers for the old 80’s t.v. show, Tales from the Dark Side, knew all about adjusting our angle of vision. They took banal, everyday events of a life to a whole new place. At the start of each episode, Donald Rubenstein intoned, Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But…there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit…a dark side.

What could be more a part of the fabric of the modern world than technology? We are living inside episodes of every science fiction, science-fact story ever told! We have portable communicators that talk back to us. Satellites can pinpoint our location with startling precision no matter where we are on the planet. Devices measure our heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, even our stages of sleep. Smart speakers can play our favorite music or tune in to our preferred radio station. The delete key has replaced white-out to correct typed text. Every conceivable modern convenience has a computer onboard: cars, stoves, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners; if you choose, you can even have a conversation with your house.

Through these devices we are tracked, monitored, profiled, and surveilled – and we agreed to it all. Every one of us has checked that box. You know the one. It is the last barrier to getting access to something you want. You have to check that box and in doing so you also accept the Terms of Agreement though few of us have ever read them. In the process we have perpetuated the exponential spread of technology, which has become so ubiquitous that we no longer see it.

In fact, Kevin Kelly’s TED® Talk compares its growth to the evolution of the organic world. He calls technology the Seventh Kingdom, following right after Animalia. He proposes that humans have given so much of the stuff of life over to computers that the line between humans and machines has become fragile. The distinction is nearly undetectable when we consider the sophistication of artificial intelligence. New software in psychology can learn to identify your mood and suggest ways to feel better if you are sad or activities to maintain your happy face. Siri, a virtual personal assistant , can find any obscure fact that sparks our curiosity, anytime, anywhere we have our phone. And don’t we always have our phones?

Kelly takes his social analysis further by explaining that computers have one operating system, to which he refers as The One. Every device, in every hand, of every person runs through that same portal. We turn to The One for guidance. We tell our secrets to The One. Our prized possessions are curated by The One. Our bodies are regulated and monitored by The One, for our own good (as in the case of, say, a pacemaker) and for the sake of society (as with electronic monitoring of individuals on probation). Kelly proposes that we accept this fact. “Go ahead and tell it everything because all of us will benefit.” His message resonates out there; as of this writing, Kelly’s TED® Talk has had more than 14,000 views.

So what does the Seventh Kingdom have to do with the humble spirometer, a device for measuring lung function? Innovators in the field of medicine have been tinkering with this device since 129 B.C.E. Periodic advances, especially during the 1800’s, ultimately led to the design used in 21st century medicine. I received my very own spirometer following both knee replacement surgeries. Like its high tech cousins, it has become a common device whose beneficence is assumed.

However, medical historian Lundy Braun revealed the dark side of this ordinary medical instrument. In her book Breathing Race into the Machine she discusses the practice of “race correction… the idea of racial difference in lung capacity.” Pulmonologists, drawing on the assumptions of scientific racism that embraced categories of “problem people,” designed the stigma into the mechanical specifications. A button on the device produced different measures of “normal” depending on the patient’s race. This widely accepted practice was used by insurance companies to minimize disability claims. Black workers had a harder time qualifying for workers’ compensation than white workers because of a feature built into the machine. Racism was part of the underlying code used to develop a diagnostic tool intended to benefit pulmonary patients.

Like the spirometer, high tech tools are built using codes. These codes are articulated through the language of the programmers, who are individuals, embedded in a particular social context. The coders’ attitudes and assumptions drive technology’s design even more powerfully than their skills with DOS precisely because their biases are implicit. Witness the story of a glitch in Google maps software. When announcing the user’s arrival at “Malcolm X Boulevard,” the software stated, “You have reached your destination, Malcolm Ten Boulevard.” Or some of us are old enough to remember a time when cameras used film that had to be sent to a developer. Kodak, the tyrannosaurus of the marketplace, used default settings in the developing process that favored white complexions. The result for us, and hundreds of thousands of families around the world, was a childhood of pictures in which my loved ones and friends were shadows with eyes and teeth.

These stories are relatively innocuous about problems that has since been corrected, but they provide a glimpse into much deeper hidden assumptions with scarier ramifications. Consider facial recognition software used by law enforcement agencies from local to federal to international levels. Analyses of contours and contrasts on which the software depends are most accurate with white faces; the software cannot “see” dark faces clearly increasing the likelihood of false positive identifications involving people of color.

Ostensibly neutral job recruiting software divides applicants into categories and weights their files based on names, SES, and zip code because it is unlawful to use race; however, studies have shown each of these categories to be statistically correlated to race. Health care “hot spotting,” uses SES to predict where health problems are likely to be concentrated. Computer modeling based on the “broken windows theory” – predicting that neighborhoods with more broken windows will have higher crime rates — is still being taught in criminal justice curricula. These data inform urban planners deciding where to build free clinics versus private hospitals, public schools versus magnet schools, lofts versus subsidized housing, chain grocery stores versus specialty markets, liquor stores versus malls, jail bond offices versus professional suites.

Technology is not neutral.

I will say it again, louder, for the people in the back.

Technology is not neutral.

Technological advances, especially those designed intending to address inequities, can mask destructive historical fault lines with far-reaching implications for communities of color. On the surface these innovations appear to be benevolent fixes. Proponents exclaim, It’s a machine! Computers cannot be biased! Therefore, software and hardware are distributed as a means to level the playing field and foster inclusion. Actually, like the spirometer, they accomplish the antithesis due to common usage without interrogation. We are caught up in the wow-factor of the technology or mystified by the complexity of the code supporting the functions. We are not wondering what stereotypes and social myths lie hidden inside the Terms of Agreement.

If we are, indeed, evolving toward Kelly’s Seventh Kingdom, we must ask better questions along the way.

This blog was written for Gemstones in the Sun

If I’d Known I Was Going to a Knife Fight I Would Have Eaten Breakfast

            I was riding my bike the other day thinking about this question of nonviolence. A woman was walking toward me on the same narrow sidewalk. I could tell by her expression that she was already deciding to be unhappy and to do me violence. Not in the sense of throwing me off my bicycle, but in that head shaking, finger wagging, hip cocked way that we Black women so frequently substitute for conversation. Due to my skillful ridership, she and I ultimately passed one another without incident, but the encounter crystallized my thinking.

            Nonviolence is a concept. People whose names are recognized around the world represent its principles: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Theresa. Real nonviolence is the ability to move from the abstract concept of greatness to everyday life. It is about ordinary people making everyday choices, or it is not about anything.

            It’s people whose names will never be recorded in history books: the woman who runs the soup kitchen even though she is rousted every month by the local gang; the sister who can fill a city Commission meeting to capacity before a crucial vote on housing discrimination; surrogate mothers who have taken in a young person and are teaching them alternatives to lashing out at the world.

            As straightforward as this sounds, the process is convoluted, protracted, and often just plain tedious. The reason is almost cliché: because we’re all in this boat together and if we don’t row together we’ll sink together; because if I don’t speak up when they come for my fellow person, who will protest when they come for me; because the world is a global village and it takes a village to raise a child.

            When that woman was walking toward me, daring me to battle for her side of that strip of concrete, her challenge triggered something in me. For the briefest instant a very real and totally primal impulse rose and replied in kind. She heard the howl. It was clear in her stride. For the span of a breath – two breaths at the most – the morning balanced on the knife edge.

            Then I remembered the sanctity of anger. I was raised as a military brat during the early attempts to integrate the armed forces. (I am here to testify that the Great Social Experiment was deeply flawed.) Because my father’s career field was missile defense, his assignments were mostly in the back waters of the back woods. That’s where they keep the missiles and that is also where political correctness isn’t even a late night television show.

            I learned over those years that not every battle deserved my fiery attention. Anger has transformative power, especially when it morphs into rage. It can purify, preparing the way for something new to be rebuilt. In this process of creation, my anger — and when unleashed, my rage — is sacred. I can choose when to engage.

            When the red veil lowers, time shifts into Matrix-slow-motion. I visualize a clearing, open and grassy if it is in the forest; if it is by the sea, an open expanse of sand, encircled with large, flat stones. It is a circle existing outside of time and space where neither physics nor metaphysics apply. It simply exists. In the middle of the Clearing is my Guide, sometimes in human form, sometimes not. I enter the circle hearing the first question, Whose problem are you bringing to the Clearing?

            If it is my problem, as in something that I can control (and, therefore, can change), my Guide invites me into the Clearing. Together, we explore options, examine motivations, and I probably cry more than once. When I have done the work laid before me, I know because I can leave the Circle with a sense of purpose. If I am holding back or avoiding or lying to myself, my leaving is shadowed with doubt and disquiet.

            If the answer is that I bring someone else’s problem to the Clearing, the next question is, Why? If my problem with someone else is me, then I am the source of my own anger and frustration. In these instances, my time in the Clearing involves many tears and unsettled leavings before the day arrives when the work is done.

            All the activists I know — and I include myself in this company —  are driven individuals. We are dedicated to the ideal of social justice. We are willing to work tirelessly, without ceasing (and many times without pay) to bring about the world that we envision in the seventh generation beyond our own. This, our greatest strength, is also the razor in our collective apple.

            How do I balance on that knife edge? How can I choose peace in the moments before confrontation seems not only inevitable but also a biological imperative?

            By being in the heart of myself. I was riding my bike, legs pumping, hair flying, coat flapping. And even though that ordinary moment had brought me up close and personal with one of humanity’s most potentially destructive traits, I still chose to believe.

 I believe in truth and honesty and faith and hope.

 I believe in love and honor and loyalty and mercy.

 I believe in compassion if there can be no forgiveness.

             I also believe that sometimes compassion must roar and that spirituality can — and should — use teeth and claws. I believe that being nonviolent means living in paradox: to be a woman of peace who is not afraid of a knife fight.

            But it was not going to happen that day.

How Far have We Come? That’s the Wrong Question.

Once again the time has rolled around when the country celebrates Black History month. The inevitable question always comes up, How far have we come since the days of MLK and the March on Washington?

As a person of multiple statuses threatened by deeply entrenched implicit biases, the question is a moving target. Asking, How far have we come? flattens our collective vision. Haitian historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot called this phenomenon different views of “pastness.” The lens we use to explore whether social realities and political power have changed distort the social narratives. Worse,  the shortcomings symbolically ally themselves with systemic structures and customs rife with implicit race and gender biases.

Consider the conventional social justice yardsticks of reducing paternalism (feminism) and racial arrogance (Civil Rights Movement). Ideologically and in practice, the rift in contemporary feminism is still about race. The arch has, indeed, shifted toward recognizing the power of women in public spheres. Witness the political realignment in the recent mid-term elections. Women reshaped the political landscape by casting our votes and by becoming elected officials. At the same time, the gender-based wage gap still exists; women must work until Tuesday of the next work week to earn what men earned in the previous week. Non-white women must work even longer. In regards to having significant influence on corporate culture, in 2018 only 24 Fortune 500 companies were led by women; there were no black women CEOs in 2018. (Ursula Burns ran Xerox from 2009-2016, so there are lessons to be gleaned her story.)

Racial arrogance has been, and with clear historical evidence, defined as white racism against nonwhites, particularly against blacks. Legal redress has come in the form of eight Civil Rights Acts (1866, 1871, 1875, 1957 due to pressure of the Civil Rights Movement, 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1991). This sounds like progress. Yet for black women, racial arrogance came in the double burden of being stereotyped as much by black males as by whites. More than one author in Guy-Sheftall’s anthology, Words of Fire, speaks out against black women’s intellectual work being dismissed, our sacrifices trivialized, our contributions subordinated. In their 1970 essay, The Liberation of Black Women, Pauli Murray speaks frankly about the “bid of black males to share power with white males in a contining patriarchal society in which both black and white females are relegated to a secondary status.” Murray calls out the organizers of the iconic March on Washington for having done the same even in that pivotal historical moment, saying the “historical neglect continues into the present.

In 2017 millions of women and our allies marched in 600 rallies held around the world to gain rights and protections for ourselves and those precious to us. Here in South Bend over 1,000 people took to the streets. The atmosphere was electric, filled with passion and determination to make change happen. Yet, our local Women’s March for all its fire and fury and chants of solidarity was a microcosm of the problem facing third wave feminism. Images from that day showed a sea of white faces and the faces of the same 12 Black women, cycling in endless loops through the various social media platforms.

To widen the lens on how to view progress since the I Have a Dream speech of 1963, I take inspiration from the new generation of Black, female intellectuals. Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s edited anthology referenced earlier links the lived experiences of Black women, prevailing over the dilemma of competing identities, across generations, and around the world. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor interrogates the evolution of black feminism since the Combahee River Collective in How We Get Free. N. K. Jemisin’s speculative fiction How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? provides compelling heuristics if, for the length of a story, one is willing to suspend cherished ideas.

Originally published in the South Bend Tribune

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Catlett, Homage to My Young Black Sisters

Brother Man

Here I sit. In my car.

Trapped between the life behind me

and the life in front of me.

There you are.

I can see you through the side window.

Stumbling. Listing. Stopping.

One step. Faltering.  Weaving. Swaying.

Stopping. Leaning on your cane. Leaning with your cane.

Seconds pass. Too many?

The next step? Will there be a next step?

You move aside.

Did you hear the couple behind you?

Striding. Intentional. Purposeful.

She flashes you the peace sign as they leave you in their wake.

Thanking you for hearing them and making space for them to flow past?

Acknowledging you as fellow human being, perhaps caught

between bad choices in extreme situations?

Apologizing that their lives leave no time to ask you

Brother man,

Why are you weaving, swaying, faltering?

What happened? Last night, this year, at the last crossroads

when you turned left and not right?

Why the cane, ’cause it doesn’t seem to be workin’ for you.

How did you come to be here? Are you really alone?

Is this shambling walk determination to get where you’re going

on your own?

Every stumble a victory.

Each sway off center, even to the edge of collapse

and back again

a testament

to your resolve.

Are you  in distress?

Should the couple who strode past

have stopped to inquire?

Should I set my blinkers, rush hour traffic be damned,

shout out the window

“Brother Man, what do you need?”

Do you need our help?

Do you want our help?

Can we … help?

Light Bringer

Through storytelling we will forge a path to social justice.

The Social Action Project commissioned the Light Bringer from Umcebo Design in Durban, South Africa. The goal was to create public art to bear witness to one another’s unique story and to understand the roots of our shared experiences in today’s complex world.

Storytelling puts words on those feelings that drive us as we navigate joys, challenges, traumas and carry on. Our combined stories, from different sides of the planet — and from opposite sides of our town, help us reach beyond ourselves to create a collective voice.

The Light Bringer launched the Gathering of Faiths.

Personal Trauma, Public Issues

I am a community psychologist, trained to diagnose the intersection where personal trauma meets public issues, and a veteran of struggles for social justice. Steeped in the Civil Rights Movement, I envision the movement evolving to embrace gender equity and LGBTQ rights. Through these lenses I view the Orlando shootings and subsequent tsunami of discourse.

Support in South Bend was immediate and generous. The LGBTQ Center was inundated with donations, sympathy, and invitations. Even I, as an ally committed to the LGBTQ community but not of it, was asked for insight on helping survivors.

That’s what people of conscience do, isn’t it? When tragedy strikes, our collective response is to provide succor. Over 150 attended the LGBTQ Center’s vigil; later, Mayor Pete Buttigieg joined 200 others for a special river lights display. Islamic Society of Michiana and Universalist Unitarian Church hosted LGBTQ inclusive programs.

Yet as a psychologist, I am deeply troubled public commentary has rapidly shifted to “moving on.” Barely a week after the attack, I facilitated an emotional check-in at LGBTQ Center. The group scrambled to cope while the space to feel however they feel was rapidly shrinking. They balked at pressure – to demonstrate their pride, to show that fear will not win, to be resilient.

These sentiments are not inherently bad but each ignores multilayered psychological realities. The shooter’s behavior signaled deeply conflicted gender identity: control issues, domestic violence, failed relationships. He was a regular at the very club later chosen for carnage, further evidence of inner turmoil. “Moving on” requires comprehending what generates such devastating emotional pain that 49 lives are lost.

Victims’ families and compassionate witnesses will suffer for years: panic attacks, depression, sexual dysfunction, PTSD. Healing is a process without a timetable. Some suggest after sudden loss there can be no closure, only redirection. Powerful emotions, left unattended, set a trap for future battles.

The set-up explains my frustrations as an activist. Labels misdirected the conversation. The shooter as “terrorist” led to discourse on gun rights, ignoring psychological dysfunction. When internalized homophobia was acknowledged, race remained obscured. The shooter attacked a LatinX crowd, an underreported fact compared to the caliber of the gun even though LGBTQ people of color are particularly vulnerable.

Public discourse cannot ignore deeply rooted structural antecedents, namely racism, homophobia, and transphobia. Sympathy following this tragedy cannot balance benign neglect preceding it. Where was outrage over Jodi Henderson’s murder by a man who bragged he beat a gay man to death? Who objected – and to whom – when hate crime measures protecting victims targeted for race, sexual identity, or religion died in the House?

Daily micro-aggressions are psychological attacks: decisions about which bathroom, introductions of spouses, responses to phrases like “that’s so gay.” Shunning by people, claiming a sacred text, whose skin is the same shade of dark as your own. When public narrative is rife with casual cruelties, how can healing occur?

I am concerned about “issue tourists.” People of conscience drawn to catastrophic events like passersby are drawn to massive interstate pileups. The gory details consume the mind, throttle the heart, and create affinity with the sufferers. As the wreckage is cleared, the outpouring flows away.

Don’t be that tourist. Get informed. Find out who stonewalled the Indiana hate crimes legislation. Spread the word if you know about (or operate) a program, nonprofit, or youth-serving organization inclusive regarding race and sexual identity.

Get involved. Show humanity to LGBTQ friends but also talk with straight friends and family. Attend Civil Rights Heritage Center events; join LGBTQ Center groups.

Write your personal story in a letter to the editor, a book, a poem, or lyrics.

Raising a fist in racial solidarity and flying the rainbow flag are the beginnings of an action.

Do, do step further in your walk toward justice.

Originally published in the South Bend Tribune

Hair Days

Ok. We’ve all had them. Those days which begin in negotiations with the hair. In my experience, this bit of diplomacy is often protracted and, ultimately, futile. My hair is twisted into dreadlocs that have been growing since the late ’80s. At 38″, they are almost as long as I am tall. (I am 4’9″. I can see you doing the math!)

Locs are spelled L-O-C-S, not to be confused with hardware meant to secure one’s belongings. Instead, l-o-c-s are a statement: racial solidarity, political stance, fashion forward, or simple convenience. Their meaning in any given moment depends on the context, my intention, and quite often, on the observer’s interpretations.

My l-o-c-s are independent thinkers. They are wiry and strong, some days resisting any attempts to style or direct them. They routinely arrive in a room ten minutes before I do and hijack all conversation. Inquiries about me, either in my professional capacity or in social settings, begin with the words, “You know, that little Black woman with the braids down to her knees…” Apparently, my l-o-c-s do not suffer in the least from mistaken identity.

They acquired a secret identity on my recent trip to Japan. One student traveling with me was a dedicated anime fan. She created a pencil drawing of my superhero alter ego. Not surprisingly given their tendency to upstage me at will, this other-me champion of justice and truth wields the power of sentient l-o-c-s.

Imagine the possibilities!

It’s an ordinary day, another lecture prepared, the last meeting attended. My l-o-c-s are hanging quietly down my back, moving only when I do and according to the known laws of physics. Then, suddenly, they whipsaw above my right shoulder, Warriors for Truth moving as one.

What foul deed alerted them? What will they do to right the wrong or to protect the innocent or to mete out justice?

Here’s where the mind movie has to pause for the Narrator. My 270 sentient l-o-c-s, motivated by righteous fury, are still attached to my one head.  There’s no need to do the math! Once again, I will be dragged along in a supporting role in the epic battles to come.

 [Whipcrack] Systemic barriers disintegrate, opening possibilities for all regardless of the shade of your skin nor the description of your gender identity. “… Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman…”

[Whipcrack ] Hatreds that polarize us behind lines in the sand in the country called Oppression dissolve. Now “…black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands…”

Not every crucial moment in a life changes the fabric of the whole society. Some of the most important struggles are small and quiet. At times like these, my l-o-c-s gather into hands, to reach out with the lightest touch, like a breeze slipping past a cheek.

[wind] This child stands up to the bully posting hate-speak on her Facebook wall.

[wind ] That woman and her kids all graduate the same day, she with a high school diploma and them with their bachelor’s degrees.

[wind] The guy over there got the brakes on his car fixed for half the estimate. There’s money for groceries after all.

[wind] She leaves him for the last time. No more lies to staff in the emergency room about broken bones.

[wind] They create an affirming space to be who they are, each becoming the person they came here to be.

My l-o-c-s don’t have a super hero name but they clearly have earned one. Wonder what they would call themselves…

[cue super hero theme song]