Thinking about the state of our world, its complexity, as in the really bad things that happen on beautiful summer days; I am reminded of how fragile peace really is. I think of the litany of names that will forever be etched into our collective memory. I feel for their families a deepening concern, because they are left to pick up the pieces after the news has gone off, after the ashes have been carried away into the clouds. What about the children left behind, the husbands, wives, and significant others with the burden always there? Who will comfort the circle of friends that knew the departed in ways the media never could? And when will time heal the wounds left in the historical record, the lashes that never really heal, but get reopened year, after year, after year, as if pain is a natural response for trying to live at all.
These and other things sit with me, and I think about my ancestors and their unimaginable struggles. I think of some of the great writers and thinkers of color that everyone can name, but I also think about my own family members whose sacrifice is the reason I am even here for the privilege that is the challenge of the day. To be able to read and write, I owe that to them, to be able to have a meal in a restaurant, I owe that to them, to be able to voice how I feel in any given situation, I even owe that to them; and so it is, that I am quite literally on the shoulders of giants, as one day someone will undoubtedly rest on mine as well.
I remember admiring my uncle Stephen, for his strength and charisma. He, like my father, was his own man; a pugilist, seven-time body building champion, man of God. I quietly watched him and admired how he always chose his words wisely, peppering them with wit and brutal honesty. I never heard him use profanity, he rarely even raised his voice, but that’s what a fighter is. Someone that could hurt you but won’t, someone whose shadow would easily darken the path, and yet he allows the sun to light your own way. I remember once, I had a bully on the school bus and I told uncle Stephen about it and later in the week, he showed up, in his workout gear, muscles everywhere. He simply picked me up from the stop that day, showing up as an uncle, as an elder. And right now, if I ask him about the state of the world and how I should show up for those looking at me like I looked at him, he’d say to me in his own way “Beloved, criminals hang, men stand”. And so even when my mind wants to run in the streets or when I want to say something demeaning to someone choosing to pick the other side, I just stand for what I believe to be characteristic for the men in my family, whose quiet strength will win every time.