Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: An American Lament

On the death of many things

It’s the day after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death, and centuries after our founders declared themselves the owners of what did not belong to them.

troubled in her soul
the old woman weighs options
floating through her head

the clock ticks and chimes
outside cars rush by on wheels
today’s news falls heavy

even this poem
doesn’t know where to begin
or end

The arrival of Covid-19 turned the world into a tinder box. It also put on display the arrogance and ignorance of POTUS. Sadly, we’ve become accustomed to daily lies and innuendos, spread by all means possible.

Due to Covid-19 realities, I‘m in a boat with many senior citizens. Will there be a reliable, affordable vaccination before I die? In the meantime, writing has become my link to myself and to the world.

Late last week I had a particularly teary day, and went to bed feeling powerless. Even though reading books, writing, and working on An American Lament are important, I still felt restless and discouraged, especially in light of Black Lives Matter.

The next morning I checked my blogsite and found a comment. The commenter had been doing research on a slave market in her town, and stumbled on Haunted, an old photo and poem I published in August 2019. I teared up. Not because she left a comment, but because of what she said about herself and about the connection she felt with me. She lives in Deep South Georgia. The old slave market has become an issue. Will it remain in the center of town?

We talked on the phone this week. As a consequence, I’m turning another corner in my life. I spent most of my childhood and youth in the Deep South. I was, and still am determined to be my own person. I want to do what I can before I die. This unexpected connection is talking to me, pushing me. Some things can’t wait.

Besides, what better way to honor the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, along with the courage of Black citizens standing up for what’s right for all of us.

Thanks for visiting.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 September 2020
Image of the road ahead found at airstream.com

Is Mr. Trump the Problem?

Or is he a convenient and problematic distraction?

After working on An American Lament and reading Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, I can’t in good conscience say Mr. Trump is The Problem. Nor is he the Solution.

Our Problem began the moment white people arrived on these shores, proclaimed this “our” country, and wedded politics with religion.

Yes, we can say this was ‘allowed by law’ back then to explorers of so-called ‘undiscovered’ lands (a figment of the imagination). However, it stretches my imagination to say this means we’re legally a White Country run by and for White People with the occasional Great Exception.

Jesus, like all children of Israel, was one of the Disinherited. He was a man without a country and without the protection of the reigning monarch. When they came for him, he endured a mock trial and was hung on a ‘tree’ with other convicted men. This scenario has been played out over and over in the history of slavery in the USA.

Today, many white citizens claim to be following Jesus and following Mr. Trump. Yet choosing to serve both is not an option.

Nor is it about which party we choose to follow. We can no more ‘follow’ a party than we can ‘follow’ Mr. Trump or any other POTUS. Not if we say we’re following Jesus of Nazareth. Though we vote, we aren’t pledging allegiance to the winner. Our allegiance is already clear.

Unfortunately, the white Christian church has too often chosen to follow and actively support those with Presidential Power. Though there are remarkable exceptions, they haven’t become the rule. Instead, many white churches have retained the name “Christian” while marching to the drumbeat of politicians, big donors, and fat endowments.

Howard Thurman argues that each Christian church (of any color or ethnicity) must be the one place in life where privileged and underprivileged persons work together. Not on great projects, but to ensure an environment that supports fellowship between the so-called privileged and the underprivileged. Not a program here and there, but the kind of everyday fellowship that produces “a sense of mutual worth and value.” On both sides.

I can’t help thinking about programs such as AA or AlAnon. Places where each member is considered worthy and valuable. Not because each member is herded through a process, but because, in Thurman’s words, it’s “a real situation, natural, free” (p. 88).

A tall order for any church, regardless of its membership.

Happy Monday, and thanks for reading!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 September 2020
Photo found at theviresvision.wordpress.com

Glory Falls | Maya Angelou

It’s Labor Day Weekend, and we have yet another timely poem from Maya Angelou. My brief comments follow. Please note that periods indicate indentations in the poem.

Glory Falls

Glory falls around us
as we sob
a dirge of
desolation on the Cross
and hatred is the ballast of
the rock
….which lies upon our necks
….and underfoot.
We have woven
….robes of silk
….and clothed our nakedness
….with tapestry.
From crawling on this
….murky planet’s floor
….we soar beyond the
….birds and
….through the clouds
….and edge our way from hate
….and blind despair and
….bring honor
….to our brothers, and to our sisters cheer.
We grow despite the
….horror that we feed
….upon our own
….tomorrow.
We grow.

Maya Angelou, poet; found in Sterling’s Poetry for Young People series, page 47.
Published in 2013 by Sterling Children’s Books, New York, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Editorial material © 2007 by Edwin Graves Wilson; Illustrations © 2007 by Jerome Lagarrigue|

On Monday, we celebrate Labor Day. Typically a holiday to celebrate the end of summer, the beginning of the school year, and all people who count as laborers. Who, of course, have Monday off unless they’re indispensable. A day for fun, relaxation, sports, the beach, the boardwalk, hiking in the mountains, and hotdogs.

In light of this, Maya Angelou’s poem may seem out of place. Yet given our history of slavery, her poem is a grim reminder of the cost slave laborers and people of color paid and still pay today. It also suggests a connection with Jesus’ death and resurrection. This connection can generate growth away from the horror of hate and despair. It can free the soul to “soar beyond the birds and through the clouds,” despite the horror “we feed upon our own tomorrow.”

Is there room for me in this poem? For you? I don’t know the answer for you. However, I believe this poem invites me to become brave. Not just in my personal homework, but in our current political context that reeks of unfinished business.

I’m grateful for your visits, especially given all that’s going on around us these days. I pray we’ll find ways this weekend to nurture our spirits and bodies with courage and strength. Plus enjoy unexpected moments with friends, neighbors and strangers. And grow just a bit closer to the persons we were meant to be.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 September 2020
Book Cover image found at amazon.com

How to outlaw teaching slaves to read or write

Below is one example. Other states had similar methods. Sadly, this is only part of the unasked-for baggage our educational systems struggle with today.

A Bill to Prevent All Persons from Teaching Slaves to Read or Write,
the Use of Figures Excepted (1830)

The North Carolina General Assembly first prohibited anyone from teaching slaves to read or write in 1818, then strengthened the law in 1830 (in the bill reprinted here). The following year, another bill made it illegal for not only slaves but free people of color “to preach or exhort in public, or in any manner to officiate as a preacher or teacher in any prayer meeting or other association for worship where slaves of different families are collected together.”
__________________
Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this state: Therefore

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that any free person who shall hereafter teach or attempt to teach any slave within this State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, Shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in the State having jurisdiction thereof, and upon conviction shall at the discretion of the court if a white man or woman be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned and if a free person of colour shall be whipped at the discretion of the court not exceeding thirty nine lashes nor less than twenty lashes.

Be it further enacted that if any slave shall hereafter teach or attempt to teach any other slave to read or write the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace and on conviction thereof shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.

Credit text: Legislative Papers, 1830–31 Session of the General Assembly.

For nearly three decades I taught and worked with seminarians in a multiracial, multinational community. Most students were able to thrive. Still, there were some I couldn’t reach. Today I wonder how this legacy of punishing black and brown students and their teachers is being passed on.

These are heavy days and heavy nights. Reaping the Whirlwind comes to mind yet again. Not because of what’s happening now, but because of what was set in motion centuries ago. I pray each of us will become part of a solution.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 September 2020
Image of NC Freedman’s School (1860s) found at ncpedia.org

A lesson in humility

Great Blue Heron by John James Audubon

Aging waterfowl
Gaze into moving mirrors
Searching for treasure

This morning I watched
As daylight faded quickly
Into today’s tasks

Life slips into dreams
Grown old before their time
Bowing to reality

Growing old is a lesson in humility. Not so much about who I am, but about what I can do in the space of one day. Upkeep is a harsh taskmaster. Not to be ignored. And yet…

Life keeps slipping by, whether I’m ready or not.

This week I’m working through the sixth (of seven) sections in An American Lament. I’m also thinking about how to participate in ways that require more than my everyday bravery or courage.

What I most want to do is listen to the untold, under-appreciated stories of at least one traveler in a life and time I thought I knew, but didn’t. One story at a time. Unfiltered.

I wonder…How do you hope to spend your one precious life?

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 August 2020
John James Audubon’s Great Blue Heron print found at http://altoonsultan.blogspot.com/

weak as water

weak as water
the old woman bends
bowing to the floor
intent on finding
her lost coin

so quickly ages
drift just beyond sight
daring us to recall
or recoil from truth
about the past

Two sides warring with each other. Wanting to know and not wanting to know. Looking and looking away. Betrothed to truth and living in half-truth which is falsehood.

I don’t know any other way to describe what’s happening in me as I work through An American Lament. Yes I knew and I didn’t know about the history of slavery and racism in this country. Yes I want to know more, and please clear the table now. I’ve had enough.

Do I regret beginning this journey? No. Yet the internal duel shines a spotlight on what’s at stake, and challenges me. Not as a reader or leader, but as a white follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, a Jew, son of Mary and Joseph, on his way to die as a criminal would die.

Is this really what I want (with all my heart) to do with my one precious life?

Prayers for wisdom, courage and grace in these troubled times,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 August 2020
Image found at freebibleimages.org

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