Dear Black Family

P97A6783 (2)Dear Black Family,

I was never the kid in the Christmas commercials – poking her head out of her room, trying to catch a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer; sprinting down the stairs, outpacing the rising sun, as if the gifts beneath the tree might vanish into thin air. As if the day itself – the magic – might vanish before her eyes.

Perpetually reserved, I was never that kid on Christmas morning. But it’s the only way I know how to describe today. And how I felt when I woke up. It felt like Christmas morning.

I’ve spent the better part of the last three months wildly overwhelmed by the task at hand. Overwhelmed by what the dream we envision requires of us. And our bodies. Overwhelmed by the litany of deaths. The photographs of sobbing black mothers. The way our moment mirrors the not-so-distant past. And the fact that it shouldn’t. Overwhelmed by the unanswered question of where I should stand in it all.

And then February was approaching. And I felt this inexplicable burning. For what this month – our month – could hold for me. Or perhaps, how I could hold this month. Or embrace the movement in a way I have been burning to for months. Black History Month finally felt like a month about me. My history. My people. My future. Black Lives Matter finally felt like my story. My voice. My fears and my anger. And this Black Family finally felt like my own.

*     *     *

I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about white allies. About the way this work burns. And what it means to have a choice over whether or not the fire will consume your body. And what it means when you don’t. The perpetual burn of dark skin. Deeper and more visceral than any sunburn those more lightly complected might have to endure for a few summer days. Ours is inescapable. And so I wonder about the ways in which we, as black folk, are meant to engage with the fire. Maybe Martin swallowed it, and from that his words burned till they were spoken. Maybe Angela allowed it to sear her arms, and realized that the only way to bear the pain would be to raise her fist in power. And, in sitting, maybe Rosa allowed it to cover her, to become part of her. Till she herself was a fire that would not be extinguished on that bus.

I am moving past the paralysis, the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where I should stand. And I’m simply rising to my feet. I am taking back my body. I am embracing the fire. Till my words burn. Till I raise my fist in power. Till I cannot be extinguished.

And, this morning, I woke up feeling like those kids in the Christmas commercials.

For possibility. And hope. And gratitude. For you. Your anger. Your energy. Your relentlessness. For the way you carry and honor your black bodies, so that I might learn how to carry my own.

In gratitude and power,

Kristen

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