jeudi, novembre 10, 2005

Ode to Rosa: Icon # 1

An incredible medley of melancholy, rumination and peace swept over me on October 25th when I read on cnn that our beloved Rosa Parks had passed. Her death coincided with the death of my own great Aunt Roc (they died only days apart). And I began to think of the death of the great ones this year. Ossie Davis. Johnnie Cochran. August Wilson. Shirley Chisolm. Luther Vandross. These are black men and women who have set the bar for those who will come after. My Great Aunt Roc was the last surviving relative of my maternal grandfather's family. And I thought about the death of those who remember what life was like for Blacks in America in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. As these people pass over into the next life, who will continue their work. Rosa risked her life to be afforded the dignity and respect she so deserved.

Could I even possibly know what that's like now? I'm worried that as these luminaries pass --- Blacks will become more and more complacent, letting the vitrolic racism that most certainly pervades our country continue. My Great Aunt Roc is dead and I have so many unasked and unanswered questions that will remain so. My maternal grandmother is 92 and my paternal grandmother will be 90 on the 25th. My maternal grandmother is a marvelous quilter who embroiders history in about a week's time. My paternal grandmother raised 9 kids in the 30s and 40s. They are living legends, griots whose historical knowledge and reminisces are invaluable.

I mourn not only for the death of Rosa and her American legacy.
I mourn not only for the death of my Aunt Roc and her being the last living legacy of my grandfather's family.
But I also mourn for how easily black people have and will forget.

I wanted to honor the passings with a special eloquence, thus chosing the ever magnificent Gwendolyn Brooks and her poem "To Black Women"

where there is cold silence ---
no hallelujahs, no hurrahs at all, no handshakes,
no neon red or blue, no smiling faces ---
Prevail across the editors of the world
who are obsessed, self-honeying and self-crowned
in the seduced arena.

It has been a
hard trudge with fainting, bandaging and death.
There have been startling confrontations.
There have been tramplings. Tramplings
of monarchs and other men.

But there remain large countries in your eyes.
Shrewd sun.
The civil balance.
The listening secrets.

And you create and train your flowers still.

"I have only one solution: to rise above this absurd drama that others have staged around me"
---- Franz Fanon