Anyone who knows me knows that at this stage in my life, I am not fond of tears. It is a personal shortcoming of which I am quite aware, but I've navigated my life successfully to this point with a stoicism that has served to protect my very tender heart that lies beneath. When I was young my mama used to tell me I had a "soft heart" because I cared so much about the plight of all the world's living things, people, animals and the very planet itself alike. I was that teenager and young adult at every protest and every rally for every cause I believed in. Around my mid twenties I developed a callus and toughened my skin to protect myself. The pain of the world was so great and relentlessly continuous. I learned to "care less" As a survival mechanism. But something happened in me back in 2011 when Troy Davis was unjustly executed. That was the first time in many years I found myself thinking "Wow, this is the world I am still living in. Just because I stopped noticing doesn't mean the horrors stopped happening. Not much has changed." And I found myself thinking of the mothers who daily lost children to the burn of the fire of this white supremacist system. And my "soft heart" shed its callus and felt the pain. I was never able to reapply that callus, And I didn't want to either. I mean sure, I had tough skin but what good is that when the world is going down in a blaze. My tough skin would not really protect me in the end. It would just make sure I was anesthetized when the fire consumed everything in its wake.
This summer has really taken its toll. Weekly we have been presented with facts and footage of the onslaught of death by the state that is taking place in America. Unfortunately, this is just a carryover from the very brutal year black and brown folks had last year at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. And it does not seem to be stopping as we embark on this next season of the year. For this reason, I cried yesterday. I cried heavy hearted, salty tears for every life lost. I cried for every child's innocence that was stripped from them this year because they lost a parent to state sanctioned violence, or because a parent had to take a moment to warn them about the world they send them out into every day. I cried for my own feelings of insecurity about navigating this world that is hostile to me a Black, Queer, Woman, in every way. And I cried for the years I spent shielding myself from it all.
And then I started writing. It is the only weapon I have ever wielded with any skill, well that and singing. I started writing poems at 11 yrs. old to try to make sense of this crazy world and to combat the cruelty that was my daily existence growing up in a place where I was the only black face in a sea of white ones. Poems lead to songs and prose. Writing was the tool my "soft" adolescent heart used to cope and soon became the only language I knew how to speak. As an adult I have often found it hard to express my heart's concerns verbally. But give me a pen and paper and I will recount the history of how we got here, theories of how we fix it and anthems to strengthen our hearts as we work to make it a reality. I lost the edge of my sword though, when I toughened my skin. I mean, how could I herald solutions in poem and prose, if I never gave voice to the intense pain of the problem? It is the question I asked myself after Troy Davis died and kept asking as I bore witness to the madness that has played out in this second decade of the new millennium. The answer was a firm "You can't."
And so, I've been writing to give voice to the pain I have suppressed for over a decade now, regarding the state of this planet we all share; in songs and Facebook posts mostly. LOL! But those social media rantings have brought me to this place where I now tearfully pick up my sword sharpened on the stone of grief and wield it for those whose voices have been silenced by an unjust system and violence sanctioned by the state. My mama was right. I do have a "soft heart." It can be my burden at times, but I know it is also my secret weapon against this system of oppression. Apathy is the friend of the status quo. Fear is the tool of tyranny. But compassionate, tender hearted outrage has often changed the world.
So, if you have found yourself in tears this summer. If on this Fall equinox your shoulders quake with sobs as you hear and read about the state of the world. It's okay. Your pain affirms your humanity and speaks to the beauty of your soft heart. As you sit with those tears and maybe even the feelings of helplessness that sometime accompany them, know that you are not helpless. There is SOMETHING you can do. We are not all great strategist or orators, but we all have talents that can be focused in the direction for justice. Take your skills, whatever they may be and find a way to use them for change. There is a need for the compassion that comes with true humanity right now. THAT is your place to fill. Whether you know it or not, YOU my "soft hearts" were made for this time.
xx One Love
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty..." 2 Corinthians 10:4