Today we lived through D-Day.
First day of the new administration. First day of our fight.
My coworkers and I decided to wear all black as a sign of mourning but also as a show of solidarity.
My boss, soft and kind, in his mid-60’s who as a gay white man has faced his set of barriers but still owns a different privilege than us, my extremely intelligent and academic coworker, a fiery red-haired white American woman who just turned forty and is fiercely compassionate and an activist, my friend/coworker in her late 20’s who is a quiet, hardworking but really funny young woman who loves music, especially from her ancestral country of Mexico, and who is proud to have been born here in America- we found a way to connect.
Our decision to do something which at first seems so small, like wearing uniformed clothing, not only created an opportunity for conversation and presented a united front but it also gave me such a feeling of kinship and safety that will prove invaluable in the difficult times ahead.
I tried to stay off of social media and not give website visit counters any contributions all day and in order to rally and stay hopeful I turned to good ol’ music.
I sat tapping my pen along with the beat from Kendrick Lamar’s unexpected anthem Alright. I watched perhaps for the hundredth time Beyonce’s MTV performance of Freedom and thought about what that means to me now.
I revisited my roots and soared with the voice of Lila Downs on the Frida Kahlo movie soundtrack imagining doves and fire, meditating on how to channel the strength of that inemitable, queer, disabled Mexican woman in my life.
Then I decided I’d look up if Spotify had any topical playlists for the day. They did not, but my search for “inauguration” turned up President Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech. Needless to say, listening to it today was difficult, and I had to pause often to take a moment to think and try not to get emotional at work. Hearing the hope and promise that speech held eased the burden a bit but made the stark difference between that day and today even clearer.
I don’t know exactly what I clicked that took me to an album which has Maya Angelou reading a selection of her poems set to music and with accompanying vocalists. What better voice to pay heed to on a day like today than civil rights activist Maya Angelou?
The poem I heard in the author’s own voice was, “Still I rise.”
It was tailor made for how I was feeling and I’m sure how many of us are feeling today that I have to share it.
Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
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Let us honor those before us that have paved the way for us today to have the freedom to be who we want to be.
Let us find ways to connect with each other now and spread a message of resistance to hate and take upon us the great burden of compassion and love.
Let us rise.