Friday, April 25, 2008
L-R mom (Elvina W. Vaughn) and Rev. Qiyamah - Detroit 2007
L-R Haniyyah friend) and Libra (daughter)- Detroit 2007
L-R Betty (sister); Libra (daughter); Brandon (grandson); James (ex and friend)- Atlanta 2006
L-R 1st row mom & Rev. Q 2nd row L-R Gwen (sis); Brenda (sister); nephew; Jerome (brother) and Betty (sister)Atlanta
L-R Libra and Kaleema April, 2008 Chicago, IL My youngest daughter, Kaleema, came to Chicago for a human rights conference and so her sister, Libra, joined us and we had a wonderful weekend of it! I can't remember the last time we were all together in the same place.
L-R Mom and Libra
The following is a sermon that I delivered at vesper services on Wednesday, April 23rd, my mother's 85th birthday:
Spring is the traditional time of year when we celebrate new beginnings, when we are hopeful and our gratitude abounds.
Recently I saw a sign on a department store window that read:
Please pardon our appearances. Magical things are in store!
Spring strikes me as a magical time with shoots pushing almost magically above ground and blooms appearing almost magically.
Spring represents the start of new beginnings when hope is ever present and reigns supreme – full of enchantment and magic!
We begin to shed some of our cumbersome clothes. I say hello to my long lost friend, the sun that kisses my face and skin and I speak to individuals on the street and I feel a generosity of spirit that winter simply does not invite. Frankly, winter makes me cranky.
But enough about the weather. This sermon is about new beginnings.
I have two stories to share with you.
The first story is about my mother and her reflections on turning 85 today
The second is about my daughter and her dark night of the soul
A couple of years ago I hired a facilitator for a weekend family retreat. My intent was to address some issues that were inhibiting our ability to be close as extended family. Only five member’s attended. But it was a case of the right people at the right time in the right place. The next day when some tension surfaced between one of my sister’s and my mom I was amazed to hear my mom, “I would like for us to take a time out and then resume this conversation at a later time.” My mom was not a time out mom when I was growing up. She was a kick ass mom and take no prisoners. She had clearly been listening when the facilitator walked us through effective communications. My amazement was an indication that I was holding my mother hostage. In my mind she was still the mother of my childhood – totally devoted to our wellbeing, quiet and not very sophisticated. A woman whose life had been subsumed by a violent and possessive husband and the demands of too many children. Yet, her encounter with my sister taught me that she was still growing and learning well into her 80s and that she could assimilate new information and apply it immediately. She had also learned to advocate on her behalf.
I was not guilty of ageism. No, I was guilty of momism. Not seeing my mother as a human being capable of a life outside of my existence, nor seeing her as capable of choices and certainly not rebirthing herself. Instead, I saw her as my mother, with practically no identity or personality. But while I wasn’t looking she was working to heal from the affects of an abusive marriage and societal restrictions based on her gender, race and class.
This is a woman that only wanted three children and ended up with twelve pregnancies. A woman with a year of college married to a man with a third grade education, a self made man but limited formal education nevertheless.
In an interview that I recently conducted with her she said:
When I came along I wasn’t able to use birth control. One baby after another is hard. If when you get married you can plan your children to get time to know one another and space them. You need time to do things for one another. When I came to Detroit I came with the intention of taking up nursing. So I was never able to do these things. I accepted it because I felt God had a plan for my life whatever happened.
So many learning abilities and new opportunities have opened up (for women now). I grew up in a small town (in the South). There were probably opportunities that I didn’t know about. I wasn’t streetwise. I was bought up in a religious way and didn’t know about a lot of things. Although, as I look back I have no regrets. I know God had a plan for my life. I have no regrets even in my marriage. I don’t look back on it as a tragedy. I look at it as God’s plan for my life. If it hadn’t been then I wouldn’t be able to be where I am at. I matured and I understand life. I just feel so blessed.
New beginnings! Even at 85 years old. She is pretty amazing. She exercises and appears to be in her 60s or 70s. She is totally devoted to the church. My mother still knells at her bedside morning and night for prayer. She evokes the power of a prayer warrior. I believe that her prayers and those of my ancestors have prayed me, my people and others through life’s passages, celebrations and challenges and on to new beginnings.
My last Story is about my daughter and her dark night of the soul
During her first year of law school my youngest daughter called me one night in a complete meltdown. She was feeling unable to compete – not bright enough; not capable enough. You know that dark night of the soul when we simply cannot find any evidence of our worth and value. We believe everyone else is so much more than we are - brighter, more attractive and more socially engaging. I knew as I listened to her that it was time to remind her of our people and our roots. She knows the story but she needed to hear it again. I talked with her for over an hour. When I got off the phone I wrote down my conversation with her.
The resulting poem is titled, It is That Time and That Place.
It is now time to call on the memories of the ancestors when they thought they could not walk another step toward freedom – and yet they did;
It is that time and place to call on the memories of the ancestors when the darkness of their lives threatened to take away the hope and light and they reached a little deeper and prayed still another prayer to get through the long nights
to witness still another sunrise.
It is that time and place to remember the oceans of tears shed to deliver us to this time, to remember the bent knees and bowed backs and the fervent voices asking, begging and beseeching for loved ones sold off.
It is time to remember the laughter and joy though they had far less, and little reason for optimism and yet they stayed on the path towards a better day.
It is time to hold fast to the unchanging hands and hearts and prayers of the ancestors that have brought us this far.
It is time to make them proud and show them and ourselves what we are made of
To show them that their prayers and sacrifices and lives were not in vain and did not go unnoticed, nor have they been forgotten.
Did you not know that this day would come?
Did you not know that we would have to change places and that you would be the one praying and working for better times?
Did you not know that just as our ancestors were delivered that you would also be delivered?
Have you not seen the greatness and power of the Creative Energy in the Universe called God that moves and has its being through human agency?
Have you not seen God in your neighbor’s faces? In the homeless, in the battered woman? The trafficked child? The undocumented worker? The dispossessed?
It is that time and that place now to know that we must leave a legacy for our children
And for all the children.
It is that time and that place.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!
And for that, let us be eternally grateful for new beginnings!
I have shared the stories of my mother and my daughter in this season of new beginnings, in this place of new beginnings and among individuals considering New Beginnings. Let us take pause and reflect on the new beginnings in our lives.
Amen and Blessed Be!