Friday, April 04, 2008

The Promised Land

For Alexis

This clip always affects me.

Because I wonder what he saw that made him draw the comparisons between himself and Moses. Was he frightened? Had he made peace with the fact that he might be denied longevity?

And I wonder what he saw from that mountaintop. What was the promised land? Why was he so sure we'd make it?

And 40 years later, I am sure that the way I and so many others probably once understood the promised land--as something already existing that we just had to struggle to reach--is wrong. I don't think it already exists. I think it's up to us to shape and create.

Usually I always dream of the promised land in terms of "withouts"--you know, without racism and colorism, without sexism and the damned patriarchy, without homophobia, without ableism, without fundamentalism, without so many of the borders we draw, without the grind of poverty, without that feeling of being overwhelmed--by circumstances, sadness, life itself--without, without, without...

I can't list them all.

So, today, as I lie around, I'm going to think of the promised land "withs."

And no, I can't list all those either.

But at the base, I think, it has to be shaped...

With love.

Which might sound trite.

But if you've heard this woman and this woman talk about love, then you know it's not trite or a given at all.

It affirms.

It transforms.

It sustains.

It promises.

So, again, I'm not sure of what exactly our created promised land could look like, but I am always inspired by Alexis who wrote this for our sisters:
“wishful thinking” or “what i’m waiting to find in our email boxes”
1. you wake up each day
as new as anyone
there is no reason to assume
you would be supernaturally strong.
there is no reason to test your strength
through daily disrespect and neglect.
you don’t need to be strong.
everyone supports you.

2. if you say ouch
we believe that you are hurt.
we wait to hear how we can help
to mend your pain.

3. you have chosen to be at a school,
at a workplace, in a community
that knows that you are priceless
that would never sacrifice your spirit
that knows it needs your brilliance to be whole

4. your very skin
is sacred
and everything beyond it
is a miracle that we revere

5. we mourn any violence that
has ever been enacted against you.
we will do what it takes
to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
to anyone.

6. when you speak
we listen.
we are so glad that you
are here, of all places.

7. other women
even strangers
reach out to you
when you seem afraid
and they stay
until peace comes

8. the sun
reminds everyone
how much they love you.

9. people are interested
in what you are wearing
because it tells them
what paintings to make.

10. everyone has always told you
you can stay a child
until you are ready to move on

11. if you run across the street
naked at midnight
no one will think
you are asking
for anything.

12. you do so many things
because it feels good to move.
you have nothing to prove
to anyone.

13. white people cannot harm you.
they do not want to.
they do not do it by accident.

14. your smile makes people
glad to be alive

15. your body is not
a symbol of anything

16. everyone respects your work
and makes sure you are safe
while doing it

17. at any moment
you might relive
the joy of being embraced

18. no one will lie to you,
scream at you
or demand anything.

19. when you change your mind,
people will remember to change theirs.

20. your children are safe
no one will use them against you.

21. the university is a place where you
are reflected and embraced.
anyone who forgets how miraculous you are
need only open their eyes.

22. the universe conspires
to lift you

23. on the news everynight
people who look like you and
the people you love
are applauded
for their contribution to society.

24. the place where knowledge is
has no walls.

25. you are rewarded for the work you do
to keep it all together.

26. every song i’ve
ever heard on the radio
is in praise
of you.

27. the way you speak
is exactly right
for wherever you happen
to be.

28. there is no continent anywhere
where life counts as nothing.

29. there is no innocence that needs your guilt
to prove it.

30. there is no house
in your neighborhood
where you still hear screams
every time you go

31. no news camera waits
to amplify your pain.

32. nobody wonders
whether you will make it.
everybody believes in you

33. when you have a child
no one finds it tragic.
no map records it as an instance of blight.

34. no one hopes you will give up
on your neighborhood
so they can buy it up cheap.

35. everyone asks you your name.
no one calls you out of it.

36. someone is thinking highly of you
right now.

37. being around you
makes people want to be
their kindest, most generous selves.

38. there is no law anywhere
that depends on your silence.

39. nobody bases their privilege
on their ability to desecrate you.

40. everyone will believe anything you say
because they have been telling you the truth
all along.

41. school is a place, like every other place.
no one here is out to get you.

42. worldwide, girls who look like you
are known for having great ideas.

43. 3 in 3 women will fall in love with themselves
during their lifetime.

44. every minute in North Carolina
a woman embraces
another woman.

45. you know 8 people
who will help you move
to a new place
if you need to.

46. when you speak loudly
everyone is happy
because they wondered
what you were thinking about.

47. people give you gifts
and truly expect nothing
in return.

48. no one thinks you are

49. everyone believes
that you should have all
the resources that you need,
because by being yourself
you make the world so much

50. any creases on your face
are from laughter.

51. no one, anywhere, is locked in a cage.

52. you are completely used to knowing what you want.
following your dream is as easy as walking.

53. you are more than enough.

54. everyone is waiting
to see what great thing
you’ll do next.

55. every institution wants to know
what you think, so they can find out
what they should really be doing,
or shut down.

56. strangers send you love letters
thanking you
for speaking your mind.

57. you wake up
as anyone.

-Alexis Pauline Gumbs April 2007


Anonymous said...

i love your new template!! and thanks for this great post.

lex said...

Elle!!!! I am so honored I don't know what to do. I almost drowned my friends computer with tears. To have anything to do with your radical love is my wish come true!
So much love,

elle said...

thanks, justme. i'm sort of worried about using a "free" template from a site--scared the blog will implode or something. but i wanted a change.

lex, love to you, too. your words and work are beautiful, inspiring, and needed. i'm so blessed to "know" you.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...