And Still We Rise

And Still We Rise September 1, 2015

The poet Mark Nepo writes that when “we find ourselves in an emergency at night, in a life-changing crisis or a passage that feels quite dark, we need to lean into life, not away, and strike ourselves against the situation in order to release our soul and see by our own light. How we hold this is crucial” (The Endless Practice).

I have turned my attention to the poets in this last week as the nation has turned its attention to New Orleans and the Gulf South for what has often been a weirdly voyeuristic recapitulation of Hurricane Katrina and the recovery (or lack thereof) in the past ten years.

In Meditations of a Humanist, Jewish poet Emil Weitzner adapted Psalm 90 into a beckoning balm over 65 years ago:

“Let us then value our days, hallowing each with grace as a trust bestowed upon us, acquiring a heart full of wisdom and love for the living of earth. Through all the days we suffer and all the years though we sorrow, rejoice and be glad always, for the precious gift give thanks. Live for the good each day.”

I have needed these reminders for my own equilibrium, to release my soul and see by my own light, in this surreal time of trauma triggers and shameless exploitation of the stories of the most vulnerable – yet again, 10 years later, after Hurricane Katrina, after the Federal Flood of 2005, after the widely and deeply disrespectful, inhumane response from our governmental institutions….

At the office, where every member of the staff at the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal has a Katrina story, we have encouraged each other “to do what you can and tap out when you need to.” Supporting and being a part of the #GulfSouthRising movement and the Greater New Orleans Organizers Round Table have been key ways for me to live for the good each day, leaning into life while experiencing my own river of emotions.

On October 16th, 1995, almost 20 years ago, speaking to the trauma of slavery and its generational legacy on Black Lives in America, the poet Maya Angelou left the Million Man March with this exhortation:

The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain
We are a going-on people who will rise again.

And still we rise.

To the 100,000 black New Orleanians still missing from this city 10 years after the Federal Flood of 2005 – you are not forgotten. This is still your home. We will continue to organize and fight for your right and ability to come home.

The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain
We are a going-on people who will rise again.

And still we rise.

The Seas are rising and so are we SMA 2015


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