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“Hope is a flame shining bright in my soul.” ~ P. K. McCary
I was born less than a hundred years after the emancipation proclamation. That fact was lost on me until recently. I guess, as we get older, our skills for understanding grow and our hindsight increases. So in hindsight, the passing of time is not insignificant. Time is fluid and as such, everything that happens is but a moment in the fabric of the good and the not so good times of life. And that fabric shapes our lives in more ways than we imagine.
What triggered this realization, I believe, had to do with something I was asked to do and then the pieces started falling into place. I was asked to tell my story or a story for the campaign created in the region of North America called tangible hope. There are many campaigns going on in the world centered on issues such as nuclear disarmament, immigration, racism, police brutality and more. The list is very, very long. The list is so long, a person could become overwhelmed with the choices. Do I work today on ending police brutality or feeding the homeless?
I ask myself similar questions almost every morning. I usually schedule those things I wish to accomplish, but I’m flexible to what comes my way. I’m a peacemaker, which makes activism high on my list of priorities. That’s why it is near impossible to find and tell one story and have it represent the concept or meaning of tangible hope. It is both. Even as I was having a hard time deciding on one story, I understood the need to allow storytelling to serve as a vehicle for not only helping people grasp the concept and meaning, but to embrace and encompass it as well. The truth is that there is not just one story. There are many. Every story has the power to influence and inspire, but not every story can resonate with everyone.
My story starts with this new realization. Often I have defined myself as a child of the Diaspora. I cannot tell you where my ancestors hailed from. I’m a Texan and two of my children are as well. My youngest was born in Washington, DC. We are Americans whose roots were cut away because of the enslavement of some of my ancestors. And it is here that the concept and meaning of tangible hope resonates so deeply with me and where the separate and conjoined significance of each word plays a part in the work that I do.
Tangible means something concrete. Hope is defined as a wish or desire. A tangible hope could be a concrete desire, something that a person can truly expect, but hope can be so intangible as to be fleeting for many. We can recognize the symptoms of hopelessness in the choices we make and today, the world thrums with anticipation of desires gone amok. Will we survive the consternation of those who feel that they aren’t being heard or worse forgotten? Will hope serve as the bridge to something better or must we face the storms of discontent because we have forgotten its power, its gift?
Hope does not disappoint. ~ Roman 5:5
I was taught that I am the hope of my ancestors, a hope that belies the struggle of those enslaved. Both sets of grandparents articulated this biblical adage from Romans in some way or another to us growing up. In spite of the hardship that many endured, including those who were beaten and killed, somewhere in the tangibleness of their present situations, they had a hope that was unfathomable … far from concrete and on the surface, foolish to anticipate. And yet, this hope resides in me. As a black woman grown, I am a representative of that hope. Maya Angelou expresses this in Still I Rise:
Out of the huts of history’s shame … I rise.
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain … I rise.
I am a black ocean, leaping and wide,
welling and swelling, I bear in the tide
leaving behind nights of terror and fear … I rise.
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear … I rise.
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Tangible hope resonates in me because I anticipate the power and promise of it, knowing that it exists, even when I sometimes can’t grasp it in the so-called realities of our time. Maybe that is why being reminded that while I’m not so far removed from slavery in America, the shame and burden of that time, I am still the hope of their suffering simply because I am here.
I am here, passing hope to my children, grandchildren and those I love so dearly. My gifts come through that hope—the ability to listen, to care, and to get back up when realities knock me down. The hope that lives in me and in others carries us through the tough times of grief and sadness. I know I can get through these times because the intangible hope of the slave is made tangible with me.
Tangible is the seen. But, tangible hope is much more. Because this tangible hope lets you believe, hope, even in the darkest hour. It is the flame that serves the soul well, to believe in peace and justice even when you can’t see it clearly through the haze of all the troubles of the world. It is the flame that starts small, but burns bright because it can do nothing else. And the more flames lit by the stories of triumph and courage, the brighter the world will be. So, tell your stories. Light flames across the globe for all of humanity and together we can find peace and love that derives from that tangible hope.