Photo by The Washington Post
We write while the earth moves, while the motion of history pulls or, at times, drags us forward. Our essays and poems are the footprints of witnesses. 2020 should be described as nothing more than a scab of darkness. A year filled with too many graves and lost prayers. 2020 is a year of too many failures and leaders and governments ignoring science. It has been a year of blue disaster on the part of policing our cities across America. The death of George Floyd made the world realize that Black Lives Matter. Gone is Black invisibility. To embrace “All Lives Matter” is once again an unfortunate way of saying, I cannot see the wrongs committed against Black people.
Let us always remember that Black people were considered property in America and not given the rights or protections similar to other human beings. Black Lives Matter because Black people refuse to be furniture. Black people will no longer be treated like a fallen deer under the knee of a hunter.
It is important to view Black Lives Matter as a global umbrella moving people under it to action. The #BLM Movement is a protection against the hard rain of racism. Many people are beginning to see and understand Blackness with 2020 vision.
As editors of this special section of Voice Male, we invited a diverse group of writers to share their voices in our pages, giving them a shelter from the storm. We wanted to lift up Black voices but also ask, how do people who are not Black view our changing world? What are women writing when they review the past actions of men in their lives? Is there a common ground we can call America and how do we weave our stories together in search of a common language? We believe in the power of the personal narrative. Writers are capable of challenging systemic power and institutions of white supremacy. When we claim our voices, there is hope for change and healing. Our collective healing begins when we share our stories and find a calm in the storm to listen—really listen—to one another.
Our essay collection begins with SooJin Pate’s story of raising her daughter in a racist world. Pate must teach her child—and herself—how to be resilient and hold on to the hope that change is possible. Fighting for this change is not the onus of Black people. Holly Karapetkova points out in her essay that racism is an addiction that all white people can succumb to if they do not work hard every day to confront and reject racist thoughts and beliefs. In a blend of jazz and personal reflection, Clifford Thompson imagines a “Wonderful World” in the future where our children will not feel the rain of racism he has endured his entire life. In one of the featured poems, “What a Wonderful World?,” Sean Murphy questions whether the world Thompson dreams of is even possible in our country where we must reconcile with such a dark history of oppression. How can a world without racism be realized? Rachel Reinhard may offer some ideas for this in her discussion on growing up with a different perspective on race living in a “community of people committed to making the world anew.” Lynda Tredway shares this sense of commitment; she writes about taking accountability for white violence through quilt making—promoting community healing piece by piece.
And what can be said for the women—and men—holding pieces of themselves and whispering me, too? Julie Walls holds up these pieces of herself, courageously sharing her story of survival and searching for a safer, kinder world. When we share our truth, we take back our power. Sarah Trembath has devoted her life’s work to exposing the darker truths of our country’s history. Her story reveals how challenging it is to have conversations with people who believe in the myths of old history books, and yet our ability to build connection with those who think differently is crucial for hearts to change. Truth and community are also at the root of Emily Ruth Rutter’s essay; she believes Beloved Communities are only attainable when we can acknowledge our ancestors’ wrongs and reject those white supremacist institutions we have been raised in since birth.
Focusing on where we are now in America, John Feffer examines how our lives have changed dramatically under quarantine conditions during a devastating pandemic. He wonders how the demise of both white privilege and American privilege will change the way our country is seen by the world. In his essay, Aaron Jenkins looks at systemic oppression as well. He feels compelled to venture out of quarantine to march with his students, praying for the Black bodies killed in America’s white power rainstorm. Radical feminist and writer Robert Jensen lends his critical expertise to examine “entrenched injustice” and call for the end of all hierarchical systems. And in the midst of great despair, we circle back to our children who carry the hope for our future. Zeina Azzam writes to her not-yet-born grandson with the tenderness and love of a woman who has seen too many wounds from racial discord and wants something better for all children entering the world.
Too many of us are walking around with wounds. In this special edition of Voice Male, we welcome you, our readers, to listen to the stories of our writers. Their voices call out for a better world and the healing of ourselves and our nation.