Last night, I watched Glory. Denzel Washington handsome as always but so young. Morgan Freeman before gray settled like snow in his beard. Matthew Broderick with his unlined face.
I had never seen it before, even though I knew of the Massachusetts 54th from the sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gauden. When I first saw that sculpture, I wanted to wish away the fact that my eyes saw right away that the men marching were black. Now, 3 years and many understandings still to go, I realize that such a wish is an advantage of my privilege and a diminishing of the stories those men lived.
But last evening, as I sit in my warm house and watch men march shoeless in snow, as I see a white officer come to understand that his position of authority matters far less than his position as an equal man, I find myself refired for the work ahead.
And stunned by how many stories are still to be told, how many voices still unheard, how many silences that need to be opened so these people can speak.
This morning, I watched a video about Cliveden, a plantation house outside of Philadelphia, a place where they have chosen to enrich us all with the full story of the people enslaved by the Chew family and of the Chews themselves.
I will visit that place and celebrate the fullness of life told there.
Here, at God’s Whisper Farm, we will tell all the stories, too. Of the Berrys, Yowells, Tuckers, yes, but of the people who lived here without choice, whose names were hidden, quiet, stolen at times. All 13 of them and the people they loved.
I hope my friend who stands in the quiet shadows of sunlight finds good in that journey.
So, so, so many stories yet untold. So many names unuttered for decades, centuries. So many people neglected in our history.
When I consider the number of plantations, the number of people enslaved on those plantations, the reams and reams and boxes and stacks of papers to be read to find these people’s names, to piece together just small bits of their stories, the weight of all this untelling sits heavy with me.
Yet, that giftly burden is one I carry with joy and will for all my days. The honor and privilege of researching the lives of enslaved people. I know of no greater calling.
No greater work than to help push open the door as they speak to us all.