An Unfolding Hope

Yevette Christy

February 25, 2021

As it was for so many of us on inauguration day I was sitting in front of a screen, with silent tears, watching history unfold, change becoming more than a promise but a moment I could witness, feel, and testify to in my spirit and through my Black flesh. I was intentional about releasing the constant tension I live with as a Black woman and mother because I needed each diplomatic exchange to recharge my despairing sensibilities. There I was, off balance as a Black citizen of this nation, and still spinning from the last four years while trying to find my equilibrium in a moment that has meant so little for Black folk since its inception. But I did it. I relaxed and took in each powerful moment that treaded on and stood over every lie our nation has ever taught us, every lie we’ve consumed. A moment that allowed us to exhale, to celebrate and to release the communal anxiety over the mess we had gotten ourselves into. Yes, Donald Trump was our mess, but dear white friends, he was your son. A White, heterosexual, hypersexual male whose God was his privilege, power, and property. We, as a nation, gave birth to Trumpism. He was not some anomaly. He didn’t generate a new fear, he amplified our fears through the position of power we elected him to. He didn’t conjure up ignorance, hatred, and exceptionalism, he merely assembled what was already in us. He was the master’s successor, but he was your son. And yet, as Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn into office with the Bible of Thurgood Marshall, I saw another America, and for once, in that sacred transfer of power the dream of equality felt real, especially for women of color. Her victory felt like our victory, my victory. But then, and not so subtly, a dreadful knowing arose in me, deep, in my belly.

I settled away from the light of the screen, and an all too familiar shade covered my internal space. As our souls were taking in the beautiful and poignant moments of the inauguration I was reminded not to stay too long or to take in too many delicacies. Indeed, a new day was dawning, there had been a changing of the guard, but there was still civil unrest as evidenced so clearly by everything we’d seen in the last four years culminating on January 6, 2021 when domestic terrorists stormed our nation’s capitol, and we watched. The moment passed, President Joe Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris had been sworn in, and then, as I sat in the afterglow of having bedded down with hope, my seventeen-year-old son said, “Mom, I’m gonna go for a run,” I looked out the window, the sun was going down and we live in an area where Black men shouldn’t be running, at all. and I immediately took off my party dress, threw down my Kleenex, and returned to my post as a Black woman, a Black mother, because although those moments were beautiful and inspiring, we had just acquitted the officers who killed Breonna Taylor. As I held the door for my son to go for his run, I took a deep breath and remembered the words of Ms. Amanda Gorman…

Intelligent. Articulate. Beautiful, and poised in her Sunny Prada, with a caged bird ring on her right middle finger,[1]Ms. Gorman made my weary heart sing. As is the case those that are oppressed often sing with the greatest range, and speak with an unwavering clarity and power. “The Hill We Climb,” was a chalice of grace offered to a nation of brutes. I wanted to capture her words, steal them from the wind so that those who would not value her hope or the painful awareness it took to breath them could not find them to mock their inspiration. I didn’t want to share her. I didn’t want to share my strong Black sister. Why should she be pressed to create a fire from their dung, and then use it to inspire this nation, this White nation who capitalizes on our varying identities, but will not recognize or honor any of them? How is it that Black women, just like Ms. Gorman, can be murdered without any court rendering justice, but on today White people could stand so gleefully in Ms. Gorman’s hope, praise her eloquence, while complicit in the bloody realities that gave rise to her soul-stirring power? I envisioned the barrier between her, and the 15,000 members of the United States National Guard being cast down and how quickly she could become another tragic statistic on a timeline of Black people killed for no fuckin’ reason. I wanted, just for a moment, to keep her, all of her, from making this nation shine. I wanted to knock the chalice from her hand and fill myself, my people with the grace we would need to run on after this moment passed and the shadows returned.

Of course, she is her own person. I shouldn’t talk of holding her words or wanting to protect her personhood. She is not property, but for me, in those moments she was a child of my kin, a thread in the fabric of my Black family, and for a moment I didn’t want anyone else to feel the power of her grace, they didn’t deserve it. They didn’t deserve her.

I thought, for a moment, that maybe she was, “signifying,” you know, using appropriate language for a global message, inclusive language so the massa’ wouldn’t understand she was only talking to Black people. But I knew she wasn’t, not entirely. Because she couldn’t. Because hope is not hope if its fractured, hope cannot be handed out in bits and pieces, it must be whole to be reciprocated. Yes, Ms. Gorman was recognizing injustice, the ongoing struggle to lift the shade but she was declaring the truth, a hopeful truth, a beautiful truth, an inclusive truth that was for anyone who wanted to draw near in peace to climb the hill together. Even after all we’ve endured this young woman said, “We wish harm to none, but harmony for all.” Even after all the blood that has filled the soil of this land, this young woman courageously smiled at the nation that has betrayed her kin. Even after systems of justice continue to render un-just verdicts, she still offered a unifying voice of reconciliation and possibility.

In 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said he saw the mountain top, and in this hour Ms. Amanda Gorman is seeing the hills we climb. It would seem we’ve taken several steps back, and yet, in the face of American elitism, White supremacy, and exceptionalism, with a tragic legacy of so many who’ve been held in silence, it was Amanda Gorman, a young Black woman, who didn’t mind starting the climb, again, and yes, as always the invitation is open to all…and all means all…


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