GRIEF RECOGNIZED

As a condolence, people will often say, “Sorry for your loss.” The heart of the matter is that our loved one is not lost or misplaced; we know exactly where they are. But, the death of a loved one is not the end-all to what others call “loss”; so many other things are lost when a loved one dies.

Melancholy is a sculpture created by Albert Gyorgy. It portrays the void that death leaves. The sculpture depicts a figure made of copper sitting on a bench slumped over, with a giant hole in the center of it. This hole represents the massive void that we all feel when we lose someone dear to us. Many people have expressed their appreciation for this sculpture for it portraying the exact emotions they feel, but perhaps haven’t been able to put into words.

Click on https://linktr.ee/DonnaNotDiva to follow me in my social media platforms as well as connect with my podcast to listen to my episodes on grief.

Every Beat Of My Heart

4/7 I found the following post in my draft file; the sentiment is still the same.

My friend texted me about her mother’s condition as she battles COVID. My heart sank as I read the text but, as life usually does, I was distracted by my plans and I did not respond right away. As I scrolled through my texts, two days later, my friend’s text popped up to remind me I had not responded.

Rather than type out my prayer response, I tapped the microphone icon to pray out loud. I needed to hear my voice as I shared it with my friend. What surprised me, as I prayed, was the tender tone of my voice. It was gentler than usual. This epiphany gave me pause to think about the tone of my voice as I’ve “encouraged” others in the past.

What I heard today was my heartbeat in that prayer, a precious moment of heart connection with my friend as I felt her heartache as she watched her mother struggle to breathe, as she realizes there is nothing she can do but cry out to God for His intervention.

I’ve probably always known this but have not really thought about the heart to heart connection of prayer. I remember the elders of my past who prayed that we would have love that ran from heart to heart, from breast to breast. Prayer links us to the hearts of those for whom we pray.

Sometimes we are so focused on the prayer that we miss God’s heartbeat in our prayers. Prayer is not just a vocal expression but it also a moment of a linking of hearts, a moment of sensing God’s heartbeat in our prayers and in hearing His heartbeat, we feel their heartbeat, their heartache, their struggles, their brokenness.

I heard God’s heartbeat this morning. I heard it in my prayer as my heart linked to the heart of my friend.

Psalm 69:13 –

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.

At an acceptable time, O God,

in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

p.s. My friend’s mother recovered and is doing well.

The Slap Heard Around The World

If you’ve been anywhere in the world, you know the story: Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during the live broadcast of the Oscars. Though the expletives Mr. Smith screamed were muted, other countries were quick to provide the audio. I had’t watched the Oscars in years, but this year I tuned in just in time to witness it all first hand. I was so startled by what I saw that I turned off the TV and headed over to Twitter to see if what I saw was actually what I saw because I knew Twitter would be on it.

There were so many theories, fake/not fake and everything in between. I didn’t know what to think so I just began to try and process my own feelings. I needed to talk about it, to get it out, so I went into a Clubhouse room on the subject at hand, moderated by black men and women. I definitely was less than eloquent because I still wasn’t quite sure how I felt in the moment. Now, I am a little more logical (at least I think so) with my thoughts.

Regardless of the backstory about Mr. Rock and the Smiths, regardless of whether or not the joke was tasteless, regardless of whether Mr. Rock knew about Ms. Pinkett Smith’s condition, regardless of it all, what I witnessed that night was a black man intentionally walking up to another black man to slap him, live and in living color! B***h-slap, Pimp slap, call it what you may, it was meant to be disrespectful and belittling. The stereotype about black men being violent and aggressive immediately came to mind and that’s what broke my heart. In fact, the moderator of the Clubhouse room I was in that night, shared a tweet by a man he knew, a man who is not African American: “Why did we let them in?”

The idea that Ms. Pinkett Smith was a damsel in distress who needed to be rescued from the mean old comedian by her knight in shining armor was almost laughable. Listen, I’ve watched some of her Red Table Talks where she has shared her opinions and her past. From all I glean, Ms. Pinkett Smith can stand her ground and cut Mr. Rock a new one if she so desired. My goodness, she often refers to her relationship with Tupac Shakur (Pac, as she calls him) as well as her past addictions so she understands the sharp edges of “that life.” Was Mr. Rock’s joke the worst or roughest thing that she has ever had to deal with in life?

I recall a television interview a talk show host had with Ms. Pinkett Smith some years ago (it may have been Oprah, I’m not sure). The question came up about her then budding relationship with Will Smith. She shared how she had rebuffed him many times because she thought he was too goofy. But, aside from that revelation, she said at some point about their relationship (I don’t think they were engaged at the time), “If this don’t work out, I’m going to have to go out and find me a woman!” Now, granted, it’s been years since I watched that interview, but the gist of that statement has stayed in my head; I even see her body posture as she leaned forward and laughed along with the host and the studio audience. It was kind of like her saying, “He’s my last resort.”

Chris Rock was startled in the moment at the Oscars but still managed to make a joke about the moment: “Will Smith just slapped the *!&% out of me!” I’ve read somewhere Mr. Rock is on the autism spectrum and has a hard tie picking up on non-verbal cues which may be why he did not step back or flinch as Mr. Smith approached him.

I’ve seen other videos of him in that moment after the fact and for a fleeting moment I see a little boy who does not understand the why of the moment and then slowly realizes the complexity of the moment. I hope that he receives the comfort and support he deserves as he continues to process “the slap heard around the world.”

Many of us wrestle with some internal somethings and have had those moments where we wanted to act out our fears and frustrations. But, it is in those moments that many of us have also had those internal conversations with ourselves about timing and consequences.

As an African American woman, I’ve learned and know how to keep the straight face even as I’ve had the explosions go off in my head. I would guess that as a black man in a majority white industry, Mr. Smith has experienced some of those same moments so I have to wonder, why exactly did he “choose” to make an example of another black man?

I’m pretty sure a Red Table Talk is on the horizon!

And the beat goes on!

p.s.I found the image below, an image I deem kind of appropriate for my post, where I think Mr. Smith just might be this moment in time as he processes, “Next.”

The Andy Griffith Show And Me

I am not able to give you the why for this particular binge on Prime Video. Actually, I do very little binging of any programs though “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix has been the one exception. Anyway, I watch the 8 seasons of the Andy Griffith Show over and over though I have have more of a preference for the black and white seasons than the last two seasons in color.

I do not know why I’m stuck on the show. I do not watch it during the day, only when I’m ready to go to sleep. In fact, I’m probably sleep before an episode is halfway done. The series cycles as I sleep and should I wake up during the night, I tap on the next episode only to fall asleep immediately.

I do wonder why I’m stuck in this Andy Griffith loop. There are so many reasons why I should not be a fan. First of all, it’s set in a small town in the South during the 60s, not a great time or space for African Americans. Secondly, there is no true representation of African Americans in small town Mayberry though I think I have caught glimpses of one or two in a crowd or perhaps one walking down a street. Actually, this is probably a true representation as Mayberry only has a population of 2,000, majority white, I’m sure. The businesses and companies would be owned by them, of course, and the black population would be peripheral to any of their stories. Thirdly, Andy Taylor is a sheriff and southern law enforcement history with African Americans is not pretty for that time period.

There is one episode in color (there’s an irony here) that features an African American man but that man has to have the credentials of being a retired pro football player who also happens to be a pianist who plays classical music beautifully, an object lesson for Andy (maybe a challenge to the view most whites had of African Americans back then). They could not bring in any old person to represent the black community, only the exception would do. This individual would have to be the exception to the perceived rule in order to have the right to be on screen with the white folks up close and personal. A kind of “that boy is a credit to his race, ain’t he!” moment for the white viewer.

But, that’s not the only issue I have with Andy and his crew. What is up with Barney Fife? This man is so full of himself, it’s embarrassing to everyone, yet everyone rushes to make sure he’s not embarrassed, that his feelings are not hurt. In doing so, Barney Fife can continue to live in his fantasy world of bluff wrapped in bravado as he struts the stuff he thinks he has. Andy does call him out from time to time but almost always circles back to apologize for nothing. I often just wish someone would lower the boom on him, that he would summon up the guts to apologize for the snafu he has caused instead of him always being the hero. I’m pretty sure a narcissist wrote the script for Barney.

Finally, the chauvinism is blatant. The women are referred to as girls, almost always. The men leer at pretty women and make sly remarks. Andy and Barney have long time girlfriends but marriage is anathema to them. Thelma Lou and Helen know this to be so and are quietly resigned to their plight. Barney is a two-timer (with Juanita at the diner) and everyone seems to know it except Thelma Lou. This would never be so in a town that small. Sooner or later, she would discover his infidelity. Maybe she does know but Barney is so clever at gaslighting that she refuses to believe the rumors. Also, the women are petty, excellent at jumping to conclusions. They withhold their favor (slight sexual innuendo, here), the pleasure of their company until they get their way. The men quickly give in to the pettiness because they don’t want the women to be upset with them and withhold their favor. Yep, men wrote their scripts too.

I have not pointed out any specific episodes because any episode will fill the bill with why I should not be binging this show, but binge I do. There is no reason I should long for those black and white moments, especially in the light of what I know about the timeline of the African American in the South. Plus, the view of women through the lens of the writers should shut me down, as well and I have run into a few Barney Fifes in my lifetime.

Yeah, there is no real reason for me to continue to watch The Andy Griffith Show.

I wonder what a therapist would make of of this!

Sausages and Love

I was downtown for a medical appointment. The friend who dropped me off went into a store that’s been a part of the landscape of downtown for years, at least as long as I’ve been in California, 48 years.

Done with my appointment, I walked over to the store and found my friend standing in front of the meat counter. In the glass enclosed case in front of me were trays of sausages. My mind immediately went back to the member of the church who would go home to Texas and when she returned, she would gift me with some Texas sausages. I loved those sausages but could never find anything close to their taste. I would occasionally search for it in California but never could quite get to the taste of those Texas sausages.

But, here in front of me in this glass enclosed case are sausages labeled Texas Brats. I bought four of them right away with the hope that this would be “the taste!”

As soon as I got home, I cooked one. As soon as it was done, I bit into it. Yes, there was the taste! I planned to cook the rest for Saturday morning breakfast.

That Saturday morning a memory hit me like a ton of bricks and I cried. It was a memory of a Sunday breakfast of short plump red sausages, steak, and rice and gravy devoured around my grandmother’s kitchen table. This was not the usual breakfast; this was a treat, the Sunday after Market Day breakfast. Market day was that day when my grandfather get dressed in his khaki shirt and pants, slip into his blue jacket and would hitch a ride to town with a cousin (if she stopped and blew for him on the road that ran in front of the house) or he would walk out to the highway and hitch a ride into town. I do not remember what else he would bring back from market, but those short, plump, red sausages were a mainstay. I have searched for those sausages, also, but I have not been able to find them. The memory of them makes me both droll and smile. Drool because of the taste and smile because I was seated around my grandmother’s cheesecloth covered kitchen table warmed by the wood stove and her love.

It’s been a challenging year, this year of the pandemic, racial unrest and political chaos, loss and isolation. I’m so very grateful for the memories that warm my heart when it seems the world has grown cold. Memories that remind me of simple things, red plump sausages and love.

NIP IT, NIP IT IN THE BUD!

I am not much of a television watcher but when I do watch TV, I choose programs that do not require me to think too much or have to follow a plot line, figure out “whodunit” or enter into someone’s contrived reality. I like resolution at the end of a program which is probably why I like home make-overs and food shows.

When I climb into bed, I log into programs on my iPhone that don’t require me to think. I connect, turn the volume down, and before the program is even five minutes in, I am asleep. When I awake during the night, my phone is asleep, too, because the episodes stop at a certain number, waiting for me to tap “continue.” I, instead, go back to sleep, the program having accomplished its mission assignment.

Lately, I have found some favorites, episodes of individuals cruising British canals in their narrowboats … and the Andy Griffith Show. Yeah, no hard thinking here.

You did hear me correctly, the Andy Griffith Show. I unapologetically watch those old black and white episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. I’m not so enamored of the episodes in color because some of the nostalgia of the time is lost for me, but I will also watch them from time to time.

I do, however, have an issue with the show and it’s probably not what you would think.

I am well aware that if any black people or people of color lived in Mayberry, they had no ties to Andy or Barney or Aunt Bee or Helen or Thelma Lou or Floyd or Goober or any of the other residents of that small fictitious North Carolina town. There weren’t any visible black kids or children of color in any of Opie’s classes. If they lived in the area, they probably had their own stories of joy and sorrow on the other side of the tracks.

I do recall one episode where a Native American was integral to the plot and in one of the colored episodes (no pun intended), there was a former professional football player who came on the scene to coach Opie’s football team. Yes, I know, he was made more palatable to the viewers because of his history and what he brought to the community, his athletic prowess.

Yeah, I do not watch the show to see people who look like me. There are no main characters who look like me; heck there are no characters who look like me though I think I once spied a black man walking down the sidewalk as two of the characters had a conversation.

No, the absence of black people or people of color does not bother me; it is a sign of the times. It is, rather, the comfort and simplicity of the episodic story lines that remind me of a time when life seemed simpler maybe because I viewed it through the lens of a child under her mother’s care in a small town.

What irks me about the show is how Barney Fife, Andy’s know-it-all deputy, is allowed to continue in his delusions of grandeur and no one checks him or calls him out. Episode after episode his ego (dare I say narcissism) leads him into ridiculous situations from which he has to be rescued.

He makes an ignorant assessment of a situation and off he goes on a Barney tangent and Andy has to bail him out. He makes a dumb decision that turns into a victory, again because of Andy, and he is allowed to take credit for that victory. In his attempt to appear knowledgeable, his ignorance is on full display and no one says a thing. In one episode when a prestigious club invites Andy to a meeting of the good old guys, Andy brings Barney along with him. Barney, in full Barney mode, keeps his foot in his mouth throughout the evening. When the invitation is extended to Andy but not to Barney, when Barney is informed by Andy that only of of them was chosen, Barney immediately rants about how could they not accept Andy as a member. Pure Barney perspective that it’s always about him. Though it is apparent that he does, from time to time, recognize his shortcomings in some episodes, he refuses to be less than the blowhard he really and truly is. His insecurity is cloaked in a braggadocios flow that everyone allows to run unchecked even when they are trapped in its undertow.

Yes, that Barney character gets on my nerves. But, wait, what about the Barneys in our lives today? Do we have the courage to redirect their thinking, to challenge their choices and to love them back to reality? Do we allow them to continue in their delusions of grandeur without calling them to accountability for their own actions? Andy and all the others did not want to hurt Barney’s feelings so they covered for him, rescued him, time after time, from his own foolishness. I wonder, if this were real life, how this impacted Barney’s progress in life, especially when he found himself surrounded by those who left him to his own devices, stood on the sidelines and laughed at him and his shenanigans.

Here is the irony of one of Barney’s pet sayings, “Nip it, Nip it in the Bud.” No one ever took the steps to nip Barney’s antics in the bud!

I wonder whose lack of growth are we enabling in friends and family when we do not call them back to reality or allow them to learn the lessons that are rooted in failure? Who do we need to tell, “Nip it, nip it in the bud!”

When I have my Barney moments, will I accept the counsel and wisdom of a friend?

I’m just wondering.

The More Things Change…

March 13th will mark one year for me, the beginning of the year of the unusual not just for me but for the entire world

Yes, it has been a year of change all around. This year is quickly coming to an end on the calendar but not so much when it comes to the side-effects, confusion, misinformation, . There is an old saying, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Julius Caesar was warned, “Beware the ides of March.” No one warned us and maybe we, like Caesar, would have ignored the warning anyway. As it stands we e were lulled into a false sense of security. Who us, worry? We are America, the land of the free, the home of the brave. No foreign enemy has every set foot on American soil to wage war against against our democracy (9/11 notwithstanding). But, March 2020 came in like that proverbial Lion that continues to hold us at bay with its roar while we shelter in place and wonder when will it all end?

The changes have snatched the covers off a lot of things, stuff that had often been cloaked in intentional silence. But, in the heat of change, when those covers were ripped off, we startled onlookers looked out the window and immediately saw that the Emperor who walked among us was stark naked. Why had we not noticed his bare nakedness before?

Maybe we were stuck in some kind of mind matrix, comfortable in the assumption that the beat goes on and when the rhythm changes, it’s always to the good. Yeah, that’s where we were. Today, not so much.

The more things change…

The Pandemic demanded our attention, snatched us out of our comfortable comfort zones and threw us into a swirling vortex of “What now?” The cacophony of clashing political voices stopped us in our tracks. Neighbors and friends chose colors previously relegated to the Bloods and the Crips to became gangsters for their cause which they saw as a call to immediate action. They demanded that opposing voices shut up when they tried to speak up to out about the blatant injustice paraded under the guise of “Make America Great,” a statement that raised the question, “Make America Great for Whom.” Social media because the platforms where duels of words took place, the goal being to destroy credibility and undermine support. Fake news abounds, conspiracy theories thrive and instead of burning books, people gather to burn masks and decry the ignorance of the masked and hand sanitized.

The more things change…

Change ripped the covers off the undercover agents of white supremacy. The agents who had managed their “leanings” behind the corporate shield of eligibility and “we already have one,” and tentative pats on the head. The racial divide was always in place but suddenly those agents stripped themselves of their white collars to align themselves with their blue collar brethren wrapped in their 20th century confederate flags. They unified in this new manifest destiny of continued greatness to excoriate those who did not join in their lock-step demand that not only should America remain great, it should also remain supremely white controlled.

The more things change…

March 13th will mark one year for me, a year of change and self-evaluation. It has been a year of distress as I’ve watched the world evolve into planned chaos and no one seems to understand the power of unity for the well being of everyone. We live in our separate camps and give the side-eye to anyone who dares to cross over to offer a peace offering. We trust no one but those who mirror our reflection. No one will take the initiative to storm the Maginot Line of the mind. We shelter in place behind our closed doors. We hold tightly to what we believe is our right and we wrap ourselves in our self-constructed self-righteousness and the Emperor? He still has no clothes.

The more things change…

When Grief Takes Up Residence In Your Heart

The world has entered into a season of profound grief. It is most likely a season of common grief that is shared around the world. Quarantined inside the four walls of apartments and homes, isolated from loved ones and physical touch. Jobs have been lost. Homes have been lost. Income has been lost. Relationships have been lost. There is food insecurity and housing insecurity that results in the new homeless. All are common events around the globe.

But, the most overwhelming loss, the most devastating loss, is the death of loved ones, some, too soon, others, too young, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and partners. All are losses that fiercely deposit grief into our hearts.

It is interesting to me that death always seems like a thing that never happens until it happens to someone we know or someone we love. Death is not embraced as a part of life so when it does take up residence in our living rooms, we are so surprised that it would dare cross our thresholds. As such, too many of us are not prepared for the grief that follows to demand absolute control of our thoughts.

Moment by moment, we are drawn into the shadows of life with only “Why” as our companion.

Those individuals who express a faith in God may turn to Him with their “Why,” but are often too broken, unable to quietly process His response through their grief and the anger that they even have to ask the question.

What do we do when grief takes up residence in our hearts? Well, here is what grief experience has taught me:

  1. Breathe intentionally, even if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself to take deep breaths
  2. Do your best to center yourself in the moment, heart wrenching though it may be
  3. Accept the depth of the pain but try your best not to wrap yourself in it
  4. Sort through the memories, literally/figuratively, welcome the laughter and the tears
  5. When the broken moments/meltdowns come, go with the moments then come up for air
  6. When you feel like retreating from the crowd, retreat without explanation or apology
  7. When you need help, seek help, either a good friend or a professional counselor or a grief support group
  8. Don’t feel compelled to explain your pain, your tears, your silence
  9. Distance yourself from individuals who try to fix you and/or dismiss your grief
  10. There is no need to take care of everything in those early days; handle what needs to be handled now; leave the rest for later

Zig Ziglar, the Master Salesman and motivational speaker, wrote that grief is not only unavoidable, but desirable because it “brings us to the point of realizing the vastness of our love,” and it “puts us in a position to trust God alone for our restoration, that it “is perhaps the most profound way of expressing love; the more we love a person we have lost, the greater our grief.”

This is not a truth any of us would want to embrace but it is definitely understood by every broken heart.

In the beginning, the grief that takes up residence in our hearts is cold and hard, slow to dissolve, but as the moments roll on, memories begin to warm our souls to eventually begin to melt the cold lump in our hearts.

I have read in the Bible that God captures our tears in a bottle. The context may be one of acknowledging our pain but I find it somewhat comforting to think that God cares enough about me to keep track of my sorrow. While most people are embarrassed by or turn away from my tears, God captures them.

One final word: Give yourself the grace to grieve. When people ask, “How are you doing?” tell them how you are doing. They may not understand. They may not be able to fix anything but you will have given them the opportunity to step into your grief with you. That is the definition of compassion (your heartbreak becomes their heartbreak; your suffering becomes their suffering).

I am grateful that He is the God of Comfort, especially when grief takes up residence in my heart.

LIVING BLACK IN A POST RACIAL AGE?

This piece was written at least twelve years ago, but it still seems applicable to today’s cultural climate.

They tell me that Sam Cook’s proverbial and prophetic change has come to America via the election of Mr. Obama. I hear that the almost 400 years of deprivation, marginalization and disfranchisement is at long last coming to a close because America has finally elected a black man as President of the United States of America.

I am excited to hear the news, really I am. A black man is going to live in the White House! Wow! But even more Wow! than this mind boggling fact is the reality that a black woman is going to be the First Lady of the land! Does this now mean that the black woman will become the woman to validate the guest list of every simpering socialite? Will we become the women to watch and emulate (as if this were not already happening) simply because we favor (as in we look like her) our First Lady?

A thought that is a little worrisome, however, is the notion that we African American women will now have to be the standard bearer for our First Lady , and what if we drop the ball and do something dumb or ill-mannered and the effect is immediately translated to the First Lady of the land? What will I do then? After all, I have spent most of my life making sure I did nothing that would warrant the continuation of a stereotype; what am I to do now that my race and my gender is even more subject to the scrutiny of the masses?

Living Black in America comes replete with an unwritten compendium of regulations and by-laws and rules of conduct and good manners for those moments when we find ourselves in the presence of the majority culture, none of which are set in stone tablets anywhere. Nevertheless, most of my generation, as well as the generations that came before me and passed the image torch on to me, know the “shoulds” and the “oughts” of good behavior and living Black in America.

The older women who raised me (the village mentality was very much intact during my coming-of-age years) were always neatly kempt and tastefully stylish. They may have worn uniforms to clean Miz Anne’s house, but those uniforms were always crisply and starchily pressed. Every tightly wound, hard pressed curl and every stringently marcelled wave was neatly in place and the red lipstick (that always turned orange on us) stayed put even in the heat of the kitchen.

Perhaps it was the constraint of the weekly white uniform that dictated the dramatic dress of Sundays. I remember my grandmother’s faux hair, a length 0f curled hair (real or not, I do not know) that was attached to a band of elastic which she would slip onto her head and then comb her hair over it to blend the two. To handle the recalcitrant gray at her temples, she would use a black stick made of what I do not know to cover those unruly strands. It never seemed to occur to her that the goo she applied to her edges would eventually succumb to the sweltering summer heat of south central Texas to liquify into black rivulets of sweat that ran down the sides of her face.

Yes, Sunday meant dress-up and the cost of a black woman getting herself together to enter into the presence of the Lord was never too expensive or too demanding or too strenuous.

I can still “see” my mother on many a hot summer Sunday morning wrestling herself into long-line bras and latex saturated girdles. This main event of the morning was usually followed by the putting on of make-up which would then go into battle with the rapidly rising temperature usually resulting in another full application after the donning of the di regeur Sunday suit. A hat was always carefully and stylishly set upon her head, whereupon she would then hustle us into the car (if we hadn’t already walked ourselves to Sunday school) to get to church and congregate with all the stylish mavens of our Baptist Ekklesia. How these women managed not to swoon somewhere between the long-winded and rote prayers of the deacons and the whooping histrionics of the pastor is definitely a mystery.

No, denomination was not a divider when it came to Sunday morning style (unless you were of the Pentecostal persuasion and eschewed fancy dress, lipstick, powder and paint (those ancient trappings of the vile Jezebel, that wicked manipulator of King Ahaz and persecutor/prosecutor of the prophet Elijah); most of the good sisters of my southern community always dressed to the nines on Sunday.

But I digress, greatly. Change is here so I hear and we African Americans should be excited, nay, hysterical with ecstasy and unbridled joy. The long night is over! But I am a little bit concerned about this cultural leap into positive change, so I have a question. How long will it take my cultural eyes to adjust to the light of this new day? Can I really step into the sunshine of change and quickly shake the dust of the collective past of my people from my weary feet?

Have I, have we, truly overcome?