And still… Color of Sorrow
A small group of students with an array of skin tones, wait, loosely gathered on the school steps, reluctant to enter the daunting white hallways of school power, waiting for mettle enough. They turn as you appear from the parking area, offer silent courage, and together you enter, ready to see who will turn their back in the unknown of another day.
You, a man who works for them, who speaks in their language, who they respect but do not know your heart carries a bitter taste of fermented fruit that fights with joy. You stand strong for those youths, facing their dark secrets that are only whispered for fear reality will crumble into nothing but explosions of hate. You struggle to embrace love in a two-step dance of hope as you are blocked from the incline of power, that sneaky career slope of smiles and stalls, with their shim-sham promises. Again and again you must swallow the taste of rust in your throat from another subtle insult. But still you persevere, still believe, you can somehow beat them at their shell game.
A cocky backyard blue jay screeches at you as you enter the pigeon shed, two dozen cooing and racing pigeons look up, and then turn their heads away. You think at least there is honesty from the birds.
The remarkableness of you, another black man continuing to try still, fighting to hold to faith you no longer speak aloud, but hold to as engine through decades of barren promises that litter the streets of living, while boys and girls are still being ripped from their families, husbands and brothers slaughtered on cement altars of hatred, women’s dreams skewered on bruised careers and red hot treacheries.
Your rented house has tan decorator rocks and green accent pebbles circling in designs to present the house as worth the monthly cost of living behind invisibly barred windows.
Your memory shelters stories and decades of secret histories, you hold as sacred, in remembrance of so many splintered dreams, and you know you cannot give up As you ready to step into the school dramas, you recall those holy journeys and whisper a vow to not let them fade into the world’s rewritten memory.
Twenty years working for the high school district, a lone black man. Hired to assuage the white administration’s conundrum over conflicts students of color find on their passage through the mean hallways. Hired to get them to the gates of completion and a flimsy piece of paper that promises nothing.
You tell the students you are nourished by the people who came before. Each one who still showed up, persisted with determined dreams in their voices, brave passions in their loins, and resolutely continued on each day. You speak out loud your reverence for their courageous generosity toward life that is so cruel, you help them hear their strength. You offer those young people hope with your own life of continuing on, remembering the pain, knowing the dangers, facing the daemons each day and, still, like those earlier heroes, embrace tomorrow with its disillusions, and continue on
© Copyright 2023 by Sharon Lopez Mooney, “Color of Sorrow”, originally published in Brown Bag LLC, Issue #6 Spring, ed. Benji Knight, Knoxville, TN 2023