I do the kind of work where I am often called to hold space for others while I am still processing the terrors of the moment. It’s never easy, but it’s necessary. And even though I believe I’ve often done some of my strongest and deepest community work like this, I am often left depleted, feeling as though I am in a nightmare cycle that never ends. How many more people must we lose?
Saturday I had a perfect day. Drove up to beautiful wine country in Napa. Laying in the radiant and hot sun on a soft blanket with a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc, delicious food, and good company. I was at peace. My mind at ease, my smile soft and easy. I didn’t know what was happening as we made our way back to the East Bay. I didn’t know that while I would make it home that evening that 10 people who reflect me would never set foot home again. I hold tight to beautiful moments too often not because of the need for joy in this world but because I am too scared that it will be my last. Nowhere is safe. And even though folk say that there is no such thing as a safe space, some people can move through life without the ever present threat of being annihilated. Some of us never make it home.
The terror never quite goes away.
I will never be numb to the pain, but I am numb to the response.
I do not believe that help is coming beyond the hands that have always held us together in community. The ones that have propelled us toward existence even today. Maybe more people could hold these hands that have grown so very tired.
A few months ago I watched A Love Song for Latasha, a short film about Latasha Harlins life. Her best friend recalls watching the news and the moment she realized that it was Latasha who had been killed. She says, “I never knew what terror was until I saw it.” We keep seeing this terror over and over and over again. I might be answering June Jordan’s question my whole life: “What shall we do, we who did not die?” If I’m lucky to live all of it that is.
I paused midday after an email from a friend reminding me to take space. That I am loved and deserve protection. I shut out the noise of the day and sat with my feet firmly planted on the ground, repeating chants that have been with my foremothers forever. I lit my candles and breathed in the scents of presence, allowing the smoke to cover me in that moment, where everything about my being is sacred.
Later, when I listen to the refrain in the song “There are black people in the future,” my body reacts with a question: How many? I hope that in my lifetime the response can still be, “Many.”