our own narratives…

 Note before reading:  I have been immersed in reading about the Civil War for the last few weeks because two of my close literacy coaches and I are writing an integrated history and opinion writing unit for our former school district.  We all loved our jobs in our buildings and last May said goodbye to our the day- to-day teaching lives.  It is wonderful to be together doing something we all three love…writing teacher-friendly curriculum that will engage the students we continue to care about. After pouring myself into first hand accounts of slave diaries I still wonder why our country can’t seem to get this Civil Rights thing… right.

Last week after the verdict in Ferguson Missouri was read and destruction of a community began, many of us looked up and asked a myriad of questions…but the biggest one being,

Why, God, why?

Our friend on Carol who blogs with us, writes last week that her sons whom she adopted when they were in grade school looked at her, after the verdict.  In that moment she felt like she was the enemy.  If you haven’t read her post, please read it!  My heart seized when I read her lines.

I talk to the girls in my Bible study, and of course, everyone has something to say.  And today at church my pastor says,

We all have different narratives.

My take away from his thoughts were this:   the most important thing that we can do is to step into another person’s story to understand…and we need to understand each others stories.  Those of us who write story every week are very aware of our stories, but sometimes I wish we as American citizens, could all just collectively read and comment in kind ways on at least 3 people’s narratives…telling each other what we love about each other before we race to the judging people groups.

Have we learned anything from our history?  I say yes, violence and hatred simply is the worst option…it destroys the soul.

This is what I would tell all of you about my narrative.  So…most of you know…I was in Junior High in the late sixties…hmmm…so yay …I’m a baby boomer.  I’ve seen and felt our country in mourning and unrest.  And the narrative of my childhood was consistent.  It was of a father who believed and taught me that people of color matter. I count myself fortunate.  I know many who didn’t have a narrative like mine.   My dad very simply and humbly took a stand in our neighborhood.  In the 60’s, everyone in our town was white.  An African-American family moved into a house two doors down from my uncle and two blocks down from my family. People were extremely cruel…their house was vandalized, their children ignored.  Our families supported this family in friendship and love.  This is a part of me, this legacy will never be taken from me.

I also grew up at a camp, going every summer for one week.  There were many children that came to this camp from Chicago.  We all talked late into the night- every night, catching up on the year before.  One night one of our conversations went something like this,

Do you ever get to play outside after school?

Of course, every day, before dinner we go to the park or play ball …why don’t you?

Nope…too dangerous…at least every day someone gets killed in the street outside my house.

 

My friend’s narrative…very different than mine, I will never forget it.

I was home eating brownies with my best friend when a newsreel came across the screen on our small black and white.  “Martin Luther King Junior was killed today.”  I turned and looked at my best friend.  She simply stated,

Good another one is dead!

Her narrative…very different than mine, I will never forget it.

Newly married, Dave and I take a trip spring break to Florida.  We stop in the city where Martin Luther King was assassinated.  I see the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel.  I visualize.  I cry.  While there, we have dinner with family friends that live in the city.  We are eat lovely food that sat on a lovely white tablecloth.  The lady of the house, stabbed her meat with her fork looked at me and says,

We love our colored folks in Memphis, they can’t help that their brains are smaller than ours.

I gulp and exhale, looking the other way.

Her narrative also…very different than mine.  I will never forget it.

What can make a difference in this ‘hot mess’ that we still find ourself in?  I’m pretty sure it has something to do with reconciliation, education and merging our narratives. I think a massive Venn diagram is in order.

    …time to get to it everyone, time to get to it…

Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Romans 12:9 NLT

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

Let us look to leaders in our history who created positive change!

Let us look to leaders in our history who created positive change!

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6 thoughts on “our own narratives…

  1. We are products of our environment. We accept as right the prejudices of our parents. If we could all just truly place ourselves in another’s story I believe we would all have a different perspective on life. Too bad that people aren’t willing to do this.

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  2. I think we are still on this path of recognizing the power of our narratives – it’s what I loved about Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. Carol’s slice broke my heart.

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