We shall not, we shall not be moved. Just like a tree that’s standing by the water, we shall not be moved. We’re fighting for our freedom; we’re fighting for our children; we’re building a mighty union - black and white together; young and old together. We shall not, we shall not be moved. The Seekers
It’s very early in the A.M. - January 21st - as I sit in my small apartment writing this piece along with finishing the edits on two others. I had cried off and on the entire day before - the thank-you-God Inauguration Day of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
It had been an emotionally draining, and somewhat disconcerting day because of the body armor some were wearing, 25,000 national guardsmen stationed everywhere, some sadly catching catnaps on cold cement in a Capitol parking garage, and quick glimpses of secret service men scanning the crowds. It was so awful that life had come to this.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Good, decent citizens won this battle, but we knew a victory in this war fought for humanity’s survival would take time, resources, and hard work. When I watched those phenomenal fireworks just hours ago, I was reminded of the stark contrast from four years ago when celebrity entertainers refused to perform, and when I wrote the following in the aftermath of my book - the closing pages entitled “Where Is the Rage”?
There was an eerie quietness on these once mean California streets November 8th2016. It was indeed a strange night - a numbing kind of fear and disbelief. Alarming and potentially ruinous political ramifications loomed in a haze of total shock, despair, and chaos. What could we do now about what had just happened in America, now deeply divided and splintered with trepidation, anger, ignorance, greed, corruption, and such deep-seated hatred? A young man passes me on the sidewalk, tears rolling down his cheeks. He stops and turns. “I mean no disrespect, Ma’am, but what’s gonna’ happen to us now, and those people too, pointing across the street at a Latino couple pushing a baby stroller?
Four years later, this description fits our current days. The despot was right. They are just beginning, but I will affirm, so are we. I am baffled by how to respond to my children or my former students as to why ‘they’ have such stone hearts. It’s been that way for 400 years. What I can promise them is for whatever days I have left on the Divine book, I will fight for their future.
Like the night of the election results declaring Joe Biden the predicted winner, we exhaled a second time as one of my favorite entertainers, Lady Gaga, filled our hearts with joy and gratitude. The 81 million Americans who lived for this day would have been ill-prepared to face another four years of illogical, incompetent, and dangerous behavior and decisions from the top. ‘People of color’ were tired of watching ‘how the other side of the tracks’ lived . . . most so happy, prosperous, and free.
I pondered the surreal event of two weeks prior as America and the world shuddered in horror, the same way they did on May 25th when we witnessed the execution of George Floyd on a Minnesota street, his body smashed up against a tire by the knee of a white police officer. It was reported the seditionists believed they would not face any criminal charges; told by the outgoing autocrat just to ‘go wild’! Some reported they were tired of hearing about how the White House was built by slaves, and that in 1963, the mall was filled with 250,000 people of all races, creeds, and religions mesmerized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words at the March on Washington:
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality . . . I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that we shall overcome.
Every day for the month of December, I had the privilege of listening to my friend, and editor, who hosts “Conversations with Al McFarlane” interview some of the finest government officials and community leaders and activists - members of an impressive Minnesota ‘brain trust’, all who attest that ‘truth’ and the alarming data of inequities between white and Black/Brown could no longer be ignored. Multiculturalism IS what America is about although some segments of white privilege have been persuaded to believe otherwise. Messages from our guests were powerful and action-packed, filled with adamant determination that communities of color would have a voice, opportunities long been denied, adequate resources to rebuild, and their children would have a chance.
From the chief executive officer, the chief operating officer, and the director of the dental clinic and COVID19 response team at North Point Health and Wellness Center who challenge patients to make changes in their personal lifestyles - to try and reduce stress and anxiety; to stay motivated and engaged; and to look at the vaccine as the beginning of our healing and recovery; to the Commissioner of Human Services who agreed the death of George Floyd and the unearthing of racial inequalities has caused leadership to listen more and have difficult dialogues forcing a re-vamping of conscious and new roles in the scheme of progressing in a new world quite fractured but resilient. The intent, she says, is to both support and motivate the capacity of communities to step forward and be part of the solution side of the equation; to MN’s ‘top cop’ - the commissioner of public safety - who believes as does President Biden that ‘the unique challenges of the day have created an opportunity for necessary transformation’; to powerful and committed community activists, and civic and business leaders and owners who have announced that the day of reckoning is upon us.
“You don’t have to invite us to your table. We will bring our own chairs to our own table and follow our own agenda,” says the co-chair of “A Time of Listening, Action, Healing, and Reckoning”. As the executive director of ‘Common Cause’ will tell anyone . . . understand that when you remove everything - safe housing, food security, internet capabilities, equitable, accessible, and affordable health care, and employment beyond survival - people of color have nothing to lose. A Viet Nam vet and the founder of “The Turning Point, Inc.” addresses the true essence of this abhorrence and terror tearing at the core of our freedom and democracy - “What is it about our loving ourselves that you fear?”, he asks. Our host adds, “Just because ‘people of color’ begin to win, it doesn’t mean ‘you’ lose.”
One of the most gifted educators I have met challenges us to love them (our children) first - some who carry so many layers of pain and responsibility in their young age. They are traumatized by the stripping of their normalcy and the uncertain and sad events of our time. The commissioner of employment and economic development acknowledges the source of systemic racism as the culprit of disregarded inequities - those currently being addressed at DEED and other state departments. He reminds his colleagues that in a decade or two, 70% of the population growth in the Twin Cities will be people of color. And then there is ‘the people’s governor’ - once an educator himself - who, like most of us, worries about our children. Along with his lieutenant governor, he asks his executive team, “How can we fix this?” He intends to begin the process of healing his state by acknowledging the truth.
For now, I want to savor Wednesday, January 20th . It was a happy, yet emotionally draining day, and like me, many could not turn off the tears. We celebrated a man who has given more than 5 decades of his life to this country - a man who became a great friend and partner to a President who faced tough challenges, too - a man who knew suffering - a man who became a role model for never giving up and never giving in to evil and defeat. We were at peace as we watched him take the oath of office realizing the people had placed the weight of the world on his shoulders, but like the bust of the man who would have understood ‘the hills he would have to climb’, Cesar Chavez, it would be about the ‘people’ - their rights and their livelihood.
We celebrated as Kamala Harris stood before the first Latino woman to become a Supreme Court Justice with her beaming, proud husband, and gorgeous blended family close by to become the first woman of African American and Indian lineage to become Vice-President of the United States. The tower bells at Howard University rang, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority rejoiced. Her Indian village had their own fireworks, and little girls everywhere stood in front of televisions, their hand raised just like the V.P. when she took her oath of office. I thought about Lady Gaga’s stunning gold dove accessory wondering how many would accept its olive branch of peace and unity.
By the way, God had a front row seat on that important day. The clouds rolled in and then snowflakes began to fall. When it was time to begin the ceremony, the sun broke through to blue skies and began to shine. The spirits of Congressman John Robert Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Rosa and Martin, Robert and John, and Mandela and Biko were also present. They were at peace knowing the sacrifices and commitment they made for the cause of true freedom and the democratic way, and the defeat of an impending fascist regime were not in vain.
And every known nook of our nation, and every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful. When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid. The new dawn balloons as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see. If only we’re brave enough to be it. “The Hill We Climb” (an excerpt) by Amanda Gorman