In times of anger and grief and sadness… dance

July 11, 2016 Leave a comment

(Above: Video of a Boston #BlackLivesMatter protest)

In times of anger and grief and sadness, it is easy for me to retreat or to read endlessly or, worse, to tune out as if lives are not at stake.

There is much to depress us this week and, if we are awake, most weeks. I remembered this week that it is also possible to have joy during these hard times. In fact, as a colleague said to me, perhaps it is not just possible but necessary. We need to connect and celebrate because of all the craziness, not in spite of it. Perhaps it is a way of creating the world we want for ourselves and our children while in the midst of the world we need to drastically change.

Here are some moments of connectivity that brought me comfort or joy this horrible and regular US/global week:

  1. Working at a place where we talk, hug, cry, pause. Specifically, a conversation Friday with our leadership team and an opportunity to show sadness and ask for more from myself and my white colleagues.
  2. Friday night dinner and candles with friends of my children. They brought music, inquiry, appetite, laughter. They shared how, as young people of color, they are struggling and dreaming.
  3. Conversations with friends across so many differences in which we live each other, push and hold. There were texts and conversations and emails sharing news of exhaustion and what we need. The connection and honesty is what mattered most.
  4. Being invited to a call of Jews to craft a response to police brutality and racism. It felt great that a people I am part of was not shirking our duty.
  5. The ability to do racial justice work every day. A colleague posed the question: If IISC were working in the highest leverage ways, could we prevent the next murder? This week I head with colleagues to work with a Foundation investing in racial equity—acknowledging that we cannot continue to act, talk, grant and invest in the same old ways if we are to make change. We may not prevent the next murder but we are trying to change the systems that make those murders so frequent.
  6. Organizing and action. Saturday I took my son to a #BlackLivesMatter rally and a dialogue organized by women newer to the political process. My twelve-year old liked (as did I) the ability to come together and generate ideas and commit to a piece of action. The atmosphere was grounded in both love and anger, not dismissive of the pain or the long history of violence against people of color.
  7. A white woman suggested that we disarm police.
  8. Art, music, poetry. I attended an amazing poetry slam with performers ages sixteen and up. I was moved and heartened by the honesty and energy. They took the pain and struggles –from racism, to interpersonal violence, to depression – and turned it into beautiful and pointed words.
  9. Community. Build it. Nurture it. Come back to it in times of sorrow. Eat good food together and dance.

I fear for the bodily and mental safety of my Black and brown friends and family. I fear for the souls of my white friends and family. Michelle Alexander asked this week of herself, and I am asking of myself, “what do I need to do to walk with greater courage?”. We must keep acting and do so with more urgency and creativity. As we do that, we also need to connect, laugh, have fun and rejoice in the beauty that is possible. In coming back to community we are both nourishing ourselves and propagating good in the world.

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