Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Shattering Stories

 Shattering stories, dashing hopes, smashing dreams, stomping on possibilities.

We are living in what feels like this whirlwind of movement that only leaves destruction in its wake,

So it is somewhat fitting that this morning, my husband, in his big former linebacker elegance and grace was whizzing through the library to kiss me goodbye on his way to an early meeting, gym bag and briefcase haphazardly on his shoulder, when in less than two seconds, he whirled around and hit the cabinet with my carefully curated mug collection and before either of us could stop the impending disaster, two of them catapulted to the hardwood flood and shattered in several pieces, the force of his gait and the velocity of the wind in that turn made this an impossible-to-safe-situation.

"Ohhh, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

"I would clean that up."

"I don't have time."

He hugged me in remorse as he almost ran out the door to our garage, the clock ticking on his day.

I sat at the kitchen counter table just stunned.

Felt that in my gut.

Sadness. Emptiness. Vacuum.

Memories of when I got them, one, granted was a small run I bought by a great woman artist who got some of her artwork in the stores, it was just a cool one testament of my "Mom Day" life at the time.

The other was a carefully chosen one from an art fair when I used to live in St. Louis when I spoke directly to the artist who has a similar affinity to coffee as I do, a kindred connection. 

It was one of the first ones I bought when we moved there from the Kansas City area, so it is fourteen years old.


So I lamented.

Yes, these are just material things.

Yes, I have enough to rival a coffee shop.

Yes, they mean something to me.

Yes, I am drinking from a cool mug now.

Yes, I can go almost a year and not drink out of the same mug twice.

Yes to all the yes.

And yet, I was left with the vacuum of sudden and unexpected loss of something that mattered to me, that held meaning for me, that was a container of stories, and represented culture to me.

So I let it sit there.

The rubble will be unmistakable from either side of my house, if you come in through the side door and make that little turn and step up into the hardwood floor open floor kitchen or if you come in through the custom glass double front doors to the hardwood foray and make that little turn to meet me near the sunroom, you will meet the brokenness.

I am not in a rush to clean it up.

It may stay there all day.


Letting me feel all that I feel about the loss.

I moved the other latte mugs to the other side of my coffee station, away from harm, surrounded by others like them that just six feet on the other side of the open doorframe from the library, sit other equally displayed mugs with equally as cherished and important stories. Some of them are thirty years old, All of them are curated and all irreplaceable.

So it had me thinking this morning about the state of affairs we are in now.

I was recovering from my first cold in two years for the past two days, so my life has mostly been herbal tea, water, and snuggles under a blanket in a state of near consciousness as my immune system fought off this forgotten invader. It was in a state of somewhat wakefulness that I decided to scroll into the world and see what I missed.

With horror, I saw the bombings and buildings in rumble, where people lived and had hopes and dreams.

Then it was was sheer terror that I read of the intentional destruction of artifacts representing a culture's presence going back to the 5th century. Obliterated.

These items could not be moved to the other side of the room to a more secure location.

They were targeted.

No one could save them, could not catch them before churches were destroyed and libraries were crumbling.

And it has me thinking about the tenacity of terrorism.

Now, I've also watched with equal horror the mistreatment of the ones who were deemed to not be like them, in escaping terror, they were further assaulted by the isms that plague this life. 

But it was something in seeing antiquity targeted with all attempts to annihilate any memory that has me hearing the collective gasp and the deep lament of those who preserve culture for the future.

Like I did this morning.

No, these coffee mugs, only two, are not part of some world renowned collection of a people trying to preserve their heritage. No, they are simply my memories and for both of them, the dreams of women who took their gifts to create something beautiful for others to enjoy.

They won't impact the world.

They won't have white glove archivists trying to piece them back together.

They will just have my sadness and my husband's regret, for a while.

I will do something with them, maybe find a mosaic artist who can create something out of the shattered pieces, but I will not just toss them out.

Neither will those preserving their lives in the midst of terror.

They will find a way to hold onto and keep what is precious, even if is only what fits in a satchel, their memories will restore what hate can never destroy.

Even when the rest of the world stops tuning in to the news cycle because there will be something else, like the coffee shop owner yesterday who talked about inflation and gas prices. "Those are out of our control, but being decent human beings to each other is something we can do, right?" 

He was a nice guy from Brooklyn, he and his wife ran the daytime café in New Haven. It has beautiful displays of the butterflies indigenous to each of the coffee regions.

Those who experience the world unsettling beneath them, the numbing uncertainty of what will happen next, there is no quick picking-up-the-pieces.

For them, it sits for moments and moments.

So I am thinking about them, this morning.

How many in fleeing danger in homes or from nature have had to watch with the incapacity to save it, all that was precious to them become dust and debris?

It makes us uncomfortable, if we are honest.

To deal with someone's sadness.

To sit with loss.

To lament what can not be replaced.

Our quick fix, quick run, quick scroll life does not afford us that.

Like my husband in his unintentional quick turn this morning, we have to rush on to the next thing with no time to stop, just a hurried, "Oooh, I'm so sorry" as we dash out the door, we all move on from that which hurts.

But what if we sat with it?

And felt it?

And absorbed it?

And lamented it?

What if we gave it the due honor it deserves?

What if we let ourselves feel what we feel?

And not try to brush it off as if it didn't matter?

What if we let it sit in the atmosphere for a while for all to see what hurt so they will know the reason for the downcast eyes, the dazed look, the tears in the corner of the eyes.

And what if in stopping to notice, to not step over the destruction, that we stop, and pause, and take in a deep breathe of remembering, appreciating, and cherishing the loss.

Maybe it will make us a bit better, a bit more understanding, a bit more compassionate.

Yes some of these things are simply inanimate objects, but to others, like people born on the water who had to leave their worlds behind, it held deep spiritual connections to the essence of who they were, and they have to figure out how to move forward without the evidence of their existence.

But they will rebuild.

Like so many before and after.  

The people will remember.

And the memory holds boldly, defiantly, preparing to renew itself.

Like my mugs, they will reform, not in the way I held them and benefited from them, but refurbished with something beautiful being born from the pieces, like beauty from ashes.

What I know is that what was meant to tear them down will not succeed.

If we refuse to let it.

The collective we.

We can not and will not let it simply fade away.

Because even shattered stories tell a tale.


©2022 by Antona B. Smith, Taye Foster Bradshaw Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved


Monday, March 7, 2022

Bloody Still on Monday

 There is an iconic picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his wife, the beautiful Coretta Scott King and all there other now legendary names of the Civil Rights Movement immortalized as they crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama.  

It is striking. 

Dressed in suits and Sunday best, these clergy and community leaders dared to defy systemic and institutionalized racism in the Jim Crow South. They marched to proclaim on The Lord's Day that all God's children were deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness this country so boldly proclaims as our high tenants.

We know the story.

They were battered, beaten, and bruised.

Not all walked out unscathed.

My namesake was there, Sister Mary Antona Ebo, FSM, the only Black nun in that collection of clerics from Missouri who took that trip south because "I had to be here." 

Her story has been told over and over by those who never spoke to us, the family, about who she was, or revered.

And that is ok, that is what happens with public figures, they become larger than life, but they had a life.

In 2015, in the fledging emerging after Ferguson's high from the previous October when the activists were trying to figure out their what next after the cameras left and they couldn't elicit the same roaring emotional response to yet another chant, some of them sought out her wisdom.

She was failing in health and in the final year before she passed away in November 2017, she was not fully lucid or aware. She lived long past my mother, her dear friend, long past the Rabbi who was her escort, long past so many. 

Sister Antona Ebo was too frail to make the journey south for the Fiftieth Anniversary Commemoration.

My son was there, he was still as student at Alabama State University and their cadre of scholars made that journey every year along the back roads from Montgomery to Selma.

This morning, I couldn't help thinking about her and then about today.

Yesterday was Bloody Sunday Commemoration.

My fraternity brothers were there in large numbers, their regional conference coinciding with the date.

The first and only woman VP and only Black Asian woman and her husband, the First Gentleman, made that crossing. 

Mirroring the iconic images of the first Black President years earlier, she is centered, surrounded by noted leaders and dignitaries, by wheelchair bound elders who gave their all for civil, social, and human rights when the consequences were dire, followed by scores and scores of young people eager for a change they could see today, they marched across that bridge.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and For the People Act have been stalled in a racially motivated, systemic oppression minded, just mean-spirited senate. Not unlike the Bull Conner and dog hoses, they have chosen to ignore the call of the people to be full citizens of the republic.

It is still Bloody on Monday.

We are watching with horror a war of a little man who wanted to be king and almost toppled this government when he installed his puppet as president. We are still paying that price.

There is a truck convoy, tardy to the party, trying to replicate what they saw happen north of the Border, while the tide has shifted but they still want to have their little boy fun and say they did something.

The same kind of women who screamed and hurled slurs at little kids trying to go to school are the same ones that hurled insults to the President at his State of the Union Address and are the same ones that have been at school board meetings, sidewalk temper tantrums over public safety, and every kind of display of adults losing their human decency.

There are many activists on Instagram and on Twitter. There is a post circulating reminding us that "White Supremacy Doesn't Take a Day Off." 

It has been exhausting to live through the ever evolving subtle changes of the same evil for five hundred years.

I woke up this morning thinking about all those who are at rest now, names we know and names we don't know, who keep pressing.

Some in public and some in private spaces, not the ones with book deals and multimillion dollar homes or jobs granted to them by some white liberal philanthropist who wanted to be a part of it. No, not the ones pushed into the public spotlight making their money on the body of a slain Black boy or Black girl, but the many many who were left behind in Selma, left behind in Ferguson, left behind in Baltimore, left behind in Minneapolis, left behind left behind left behind, after the dignitaries leave.

It is still Bloody on Monday.

And white women are still calling the police on little Black boys in school because they are "scared."

And white men are still insecure about their existence so they legislate women's bodies while trying to keep their "rights" to steal, kill, and destroy.

Black men, especially the hotepians, are still trying to emulate what they perceive as power and influence, wielding their rhetoric on social media and across pulpits.

Black women are still at the bottom of the social barrel trying to live their lives free from the exploiters and imitators who take the creative flair and make millions on what is natural to us.

The POC Crowd is still trying to erase the work of African Americans while benefitting from being the exotic other that EuroAmericans tolerate for being white adjacent.

While the lure of the crowds and the energy of the chants has waned, the call for justice remains. The issues pointed out in 1965 remain the same. 

The question now remains will there by tangible change? Lasting? In this rapidly browning nation? Or will it become an apartheid state? 

It is still Bloody on Monday.