Over the past few weeks on the podcast we’ve talked about grief on a more personal level in our lives, but we also recognize we’re in the midst of an unrelenting season of trauma and grief on a collective scale. So today, Dan and Rachael invite guests Danielle Castillejo, Rebecca Wheeler Walston, and Rev. Michael S. Chen to the podcast to continue a conversation about the nature and impact of collective grief. As you’ll hear Dan say, you may not see how your story fits into this conversation, but “part of the development of wisdom is to enter a world we may not be familiar with” and we encourage you to be open to hearing the wise words these guests have to share.
- Read a blog post by Danielle Castillejo, “Emergency Mental Health Care: How Therapists of Color Contend with Racial Trauma”
- Listen to the the first two episodes of this series on grief with Mary Ellen Owen and Jeanette White
Rachael: Well, I’m back with Dan and we have some guests who I’m going to introduce in a moment. But as you know, we’ve been in a conversation on The Allender Center podcast on grief and we’ve talked with Mary Ellen Owen. We’ve talked with our colleague and friend Jeanette White and we’ve been in this conversation on the impact, the realities, what some of the transformative realities, the healing aspects of grief. And mostly we’ve been doing that, talking about grief and the losses that we experience on a more personal level in our lives may be in our family, in our in our core relationships, but we also know and we’ve been naming that we are in the context and in the midst of a an unrelenting season of trauma, tragedy and loss in our world, both in our nation, in the larger world right now and still a very much in the midst of a pandemic. And it has been an unrelenting season that has just felt like wave after wave and we’ve been talking about that. So today we have invited Danielle Rueb Castillejo who has also been on our podcast and we just re shared an episode we did with her earlier on story in a well lived story. She is a therapist, a writer and educator and activist. She’s also a part of our team and has come through some of our trainings and is I would say a friend and member of the islander center. She you know, I think Danielle, you would also say you’re a wife and a mother and deeply embedded in your community and also we’re joined by Rebecca Wheeler Walston. Rebecca is one of my favorite people in the world. She, I would say, also is one of our core team members. She’s also part of the Impact Movement. You’ve been introduced to Jimmy McGee. Rebecca Wheeler Walston is another one of our hugely significant partners with the impact movement and has been from the beginning of our partnership. She’s also a lawyer and just an incredible I would say counselor and therapist.
Dan: We have a third guest and I asked permission to introduce him because as appropriate as it is for you to gush about him being your beloved and your one and only. He’s also my beloved. He’s not my, not my one and only. So I will say having Michael Chen with us is a great privilege. Michael also works with the impact movement uh, and as well as in a doctoral program at Eastern University and blends remarkable level of both scholarship and profound engagement with other human beings. Plus he is your beloved. So all that to say what a remarkable. I just, I would just like to continue introducing them. We have other things to do but to say that Daniel is also a neighbor and an incredible weightlifter. And as well, Rebecca is just one of the most witty, playful and delightful but frightening human beings on the earth. So anyway, all to say, we’re stepping into hard waters because there are many who know collective grief at the level of the death of a politician or a famed person, something where the whole nation comes to uniquely grieve together, but each of them representing in broad sense, different communities than just the whole United States bear a different kind of collective grief. So as we enter in to these conversations, important for us to step back and say, there may be a lot of what you hear today that doesn’t fit initially your experience, but part of the development of wisdom is to enter into the world that we may not be familiar with, but it’s so easy to be defensive against rather than open to hearing. So again, what an honor to have the three of you be with us, Ladies and gentlemen, where would you like to take us?
Rebecca: I wonder if it would be wise to start with the definition of collective in the context of collective grief. And how it might differ from a sense of individual. And part of my sense of that is that collective grief to me has to do with my capacity and my ability to locate myself in the context of a story that might actually not have to do with me individually. But because of my sense of belonging to a collective people or people group or community, I have an immediate sense that somehow this story is deeply connected, irrevocably connected to my own. Therefore, I need to understand it. I need to be able to locate myself and my loved ones in it, and then I need to be able to move through it with some agility.
D: So Rebecca, how would you put yourself into that?
R: I can recall. There was and I can sort of recall this and then not because of the trauma nature of it, but I can recall the weekend when what hit my facebook feed was the death of Philando Castile, the death of Alton Sterling. And then I woke up that Sunday morning to a police officer being shot at the hands of an African American male in Dallas, Texas. Right? And my instantaneous sense being the mother of a black son that I needed to understand the particulars– and I say need not want, I’m not talking about a morbid curiosity with, with, with like violence as an entertainment thing– I’m saying like it hit my body in a, in a way, as the mother of a black son, I need to understand what happened. I need the particulars and the details and the specificity of it so that I can move on behalf of my son and do it quickly and wisely and with some agility to protect him. And so so it’s that sense and At that time my son was probably eight. and I remember thinking that I up until that time I had shielded him from all of the violence that was happening in the country like when he was born, that’s when Trayvon Martin, like he’s in his first couple years of life when when Trayvon Martin loses his life and then there’s name after name, after name after name. And I made this conscious choice as a mother to, to not introduce that to him, to block his access to news, and social media so that he wouldn’t know, right? to protect his childhood so that he could be a little kid. And on that morning I distinctly remember feeling like I was out of time. and I remember trying to process to think how do I make this decision? And I remember thinking like he’s just a kid, he’s not in danger, only Tamir Rice who lost his life in a city park playing with nerf guns of which my son has dozens. And so I just remember that morning feeling like I am completely out of time to shield my son from this issue. Therefore I need to move and move quickly like by the end of the day, by the end of the week to have a conversation with him about keeping himself safe.
D: The weight, just hearing the words. It’s a gravity that is hard even as a dear friend to respond to. and to say and to ask even more of you to say what, what did that open for you of grief particularly of collective grief?
R: Probably later that afternoon he came running through my kitchen in his favorite hoodie which is a black hoodie with BB eight on the front and BB eight is the little orange robot in the new Star Wars, right? So he comes running through the kitchen like with all of the force of an eight year old boy with with his favorite nerf gun in his hand and he’s bolting like for the door so that he can go and go outside and you have to understand in my, in my neighborhood, Nerf wars, is a it’s a whole thing like in a matter of seconds there’s like a dozen eight year old boys like running through my backyard and there’s like orange, you know, bullets flying everywhere, right? And I just remember like I froze when he went as I watched him run past me up where I froze. And I remember thinking do I, do I stop him now or do I give him one more afternoon of Nerf bullets? Right? And he left and I remember hearing the door slam and I just stood at my kitchen counter and wept over the fact that by the end of the day, this would be the last time he would leave my kitchen in a black hoodie with the orange nerf gun in his hand. Mhm.
R: Well, I think that’s the nature of there being different collectives because I would imagine there are many people listening myself included. That is not a collective terror or grief that you’ve had to feel in your body and experience in your body. And yet as those called to love our neighbor and to move toward creating a world that takes seriously the suffering and take seriously injustice in some ways. We don’t get to not know other people’s collective. We don’t get to not know the collective stories or collective grief. I think that’s part of what’s interesting even about the shape of this conversation is there are multiple collectives present. And I would be curious from you, Danielle, or you Michael, as you’re hearing, Rebecca name Something so unique in particular to her collective and yet not unique in particular in the sense of knowing what it is to need to protect those to share common bodies in a collective story?
Danielle: Yeah Rebecca as you were speaking, I mean I was feeling frozen as you were speaking. And I was thinking back to kind of like just an underlying constant fear. I think that I’ve had with my family and I come from a location– I’m a Latina german woman married to a nationalized Mexican. He’s now a U. S. Citizen and we have four children, bilingual kids. So there’s the element of speaking Spanish and English and I was, I was thinking that so many, you know Trayvon and the other– Philando Castile, and thinking when you named them that as those stories came across, either social media or the news feed, that there was a deep resonance even in my family. And I think, I think even though it’s strange to say it, it’s almost like we didn’t have names for the Mexicans, we’ve lost, we didn’t have names, we didn’t have news stories about them, we have oral stories in our families or oral stories in our communities, but we didn’t have, there wasn’t the same national media attention. So when Trayvon Martin or Philando Castile or Tamir Rice are murdered, there’s, there’s a shock in us that I think comes awake even in my family, that was that it highlighted what was already there. Um, but yet we didn’t have like, outside of our oral stories, we didn’t have as many national news stories, that’s what I was going to and I was remembering, you know in El Paso Texas when I woke up and I saw that a gunman had walked in and I had shot up– had looked for Mexicans and just shot at random at will. And I started drawing a picture of a man holding his baby. Him and his wife were both killed in the attack and the baby survived. and I never finished it. It actually sits in my bedroom unfinished because I had written all the names on the piece of art and I just couldn’t. It felt unfinished. Almost like the art had died as soon as it had started. And so you know, then of course with the election and the profile around the border, I think just the constant feeling of not having the names to grieve has been an unsettling feeling. And it didn’t feel better when El Paso Texas happened. It didn’t feel better to have names. And although we grieved those names and I looked at my family and my husband and for a long time we didn’t walk into a Walmart. like we weren’t going in. And then when Adam Valero was recently shot in Chicago and I had a name, it didn’t it didn’t massage the pain to have a name. That’s what I realized. Like it didn’t make it better to have a name for the story. And I remember sitting, remember sitting with some, some of my friends from the immigrant community here and I remember her saying in regards to covid and the mass violence against are Asian American brothers and sisters in the country and the shooting of black men and black women and black Children. And Mexicans and the border. I remember her saying in a moment of grief, “estamos en tiempos usted más humanos”. we’re in times where we should be more human. and then she looked at me and she said and she was crying and she said, but God still hasn’t touched the hearts of everyone yet. And so I was like that kind of like that tension we’re talking about like that balance. And I found a lot of comfort in her words like, we’re in this time of trying to be more human, and just sitting with them and just there’s that kind of like that sense from our culture like and yet and yet God still hasn’t touched the hearts of everybody. And so here we continue to sit. like, in the pain of those losses. So yeah, that’s kind of it was coming to mind for me as he spoke about that.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for sharing what I’m hearing from both of you and I would resonate with this very deeply is this difficulty to enter grief um, out of these collective realities, out of the collective trauma that we face. And when I started hearing more and more about anti asian hate and anti asian violence, I had to notice that I was quite numb, that I was dealing with what I suspected, just very, very deep levels of grief that I could not access upon hearing the news. And I’m hearing that as well. In your stories that there has to be space, there has to be kindness. There has to be a graciousness to enter into the level of grief that we bear that we hold in our bodies. And it took time for me.
D: Well, there is almost a sense of there’s a grief that I cannot enter the grief. That there is in the absence of grief and awareness that there is something not fully human, and yet fully human, because no human being can bear all that is there to be engaged. Yet that interplay of, there’s something of my humanity lost and it takes so much to be able to own. But as each of you with different collectives than I as a white man, as you enter into collective grief, not just individual, but collective grief. There is an awareness, at least on my part, that I don’t, I suffer for what others endure. But there’s something of your own story that is so deeply woven, even if the story of what occurred is very, very different. So, I don’t know how you, how you speak about the holding of both individual and collective stories simultaneously.
R: I think part of it, the holding of both is this is a the sense that it could be me, right? Like when we’re talking about instances of collective grief, right? At least in the examples that I was turned out of the black american experience. And I think what Danielle and Michael both have alluded to in terms of the violence against the latin community and the violence against the asian community, that, like, there is this sense of, like, the violence is because of my membership in a particular community and therefore, like, it’s purely random, like, and, you know, I never want to say, but for the grace of God, but there’s something about it, there’s like, it could be me and it’s purely by accident that it isn’t right, like, or this sort of this random sense that it wasn’t me, but it could be or it could be my son, or could be my daughter, or it could be someone else that I love more than myself. And so I think there’s that and then I think there is at least out of the black american experience, like there’s a whole way of learning to be in the world because of this, the reality and the repetitiveness and the relentlessness of this kind of racialized violence. So there’s a whole narrative, there’s a whole like personality, like collective way of being around that. This is how we have to live and this is what we have to survive and this is what we have to endure. And then this is what I was taught. It is what I teach my kids. So like it’s embedded in my sense of identity as a black woman raising black kids, that one of the things I need to pass down to them is the understanding of the world with this kind of violence in it and the stories that are connected to that understanding. So I need you to know who Tamir Rice is and what happened to him. So like on the off chance miracle that it won’t be you next time. Right? And so I think that’s also the sense of holding both is that like it’s embedded in my way of being in the world and it’s something that I passed to my kids for better or worse, I’m passing to them the reality of trauma and then whatever like I have done or we have done collectively to survive it. I’m passing it to my kids on purpose consciously and intentionally and I like I know that I’m doing it like in hopes that you will survive it.
M: I think the work of The Allender Center has helped me realize that there is a multitude within me, but there are voices, that they are, reality is happening within my body, that I need to tend to and if I’m able to listen to be patient, to be kind, um, to truly be with the complexity of what is happening inside me to call out not only the tragedy, the horror, but the beauty and the glory, to name those things with particularity, I can start to do that with and for my people that if I’m truly listening to the multitude within me, there’s something there, I think for our people and, you know, I’ve been trying at api dot liturgy, trying to find the words, trying to find the words in the worthlessness of trauma that that will help start to articulate some something of uh, this time and what we need to, tend to heal.
D: And Michael, just to ask you to step into that difficult realm that there has been so much more at least publicity on the AAPI Violence that has been perpetrated against both the asian and the uh, pacific islander communities. But the reality is it’s been going on a long season, but in its coming into more focal, visible, especially with a community that has been in one sense, burden with being the so called model minority That in one sense survived on the basis of invisibility. Um, you’re now put in a real, again, odd bind, so much more visible. But the community is in some ways as Rebecca was talking about, an oral tradition of how to survive as in many ways people who speak two different languages who have two different kinds of consciousness and minds that that’s very different, I would imagine, at least for the asian american community.
M: Yeah, I think in that sense we’re going to have to proceed at the speed of relationship, we’re gonna have to proceed at the speed of what can slow us down enough to, to wait for those for that grief to emerge. Because as you said, there have been so many defensive sort of structures, but also worldview and philosophical sort of background that would actually cause the asian community to sort of sideline themselves, to stay out of it as it were, to stay silent to actually stay invisible. So it’s gonna be, I think a very, very messy process. And I think to be aware of these defensive structures and to actually stay with people, to make space for people, to wait longer in silence. Than we’re comfortable with, I think is going to say so much about our capacity in our desire to be with and to heal
R: As you guys were talking. One of the things I’m, this just keeps resonating with me is the sense of when there has been a capacity for even the slightest bit of dignifying grief that humanizes, that says you are, there’s something of you as an image bearer and not just you, your collective. It allows you to move in community and solidarity in a kind of mutuality that I think has tremendous power and to me is a sign of the Kingdom of God, is a sign of where the gospel is manifesting. But I’m thinking particularly about my fellow white brothers and sisters and our collective that we’re a part of, whether sometimes we own that or not just the what I feel is that, and I think this feels true of many oppressive systems and collectives is an incapacity or unwillingness, a refusal to enter grief and lament that then leads to a kind of defensiveness that kind of denial, a kind of mythology that sets up tremendous violence and perpetuates like in some ways the very harm you refuse to actually enter and grieve. And I think we see this playing out in our world currently right now, we certainly see it all throughout our text when the people of God are rescued and, and yet have a short memory and forget and then start oppressing people in the profit tech to come and say, hey, this isn’t gonna save you. And there’s something to me about an absence or refusal to be able to lament harm, to lament the collective, to join the collective cry and grief and to see something of your place in that story that I actually, I think just gives evil so much ground.
D: Well it made me think of a story About, about grieving. when we lived in Morocco for two years. There was a man in our neighborhood that passed away really young. He was 33 years old and, the day he passed away his body was kept there at the home. And then the traditional grieving process began much like one they would use actually in Mexico where there’s a space at a funeral home and you come and you cry and you sing and you spend time and you eat there. And so this is what began to happen at this man’s house. We went, we took food, um, there was, there was wailing that was crying. There was just this sense like this man is passing on to the next life and we will not see him here again. And um, months later there were there was a crowd outside of another neighbor’s house and came to understand that there have been a suicide. A young girl had taken her life, and they took the body away and I was waiting for the grieving process to begin. And instead of grieving it was this eerie silence, the shame of how this young woman had died. And we went to bed that night and there was nothing, it was just emptiness. And at three in the morning I woke up because we lived so closely the houses were so close and we heard one woman screaming in the middle of the night and I knew without knowing that this was the girl’s mother. And he was grieving at three. a.m. because that was the only time that was acceptable to her. And sometimes I think that’s what’s happened during covid. When we want to be together and grieve. And yet the trauma has torn us from one another, torn us torn um, the Latinx community from the asian community, from the black community from um, dominant culture. Like we’ve been torn apart and so were screaming in the middle of the night and, and we’re cloaked in like sometimes I think like even for us, like as the latin X community, we’ve been cloaked in shame, like and what we need is to be together, what we need is to find space and time to be together to make that wail, that sound together to find time to eat. And I’m not saying like get together without masks and that’s not what I’m saying. But I’m saying that on a deeper level, like we have not given each other space in our communities to join together and say, This act of violence happened, we are going to grieve this act of violence that we could, you know, and that’s sometimes how I felt lately. Like sometimes I’m that mother at three. a.m. And that’s not how I want to be.
R: Which I think Danielle makes the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer like that much more remarkable because I think it was a moment in which people said, like, I don’t really give a damn that we’re not supposed to be together. Like this moment requires a level of grief for which we will, we are willing to push back against that and in some ways risk our health so that we can actually have this moment of: no more.
D: And as the phrase say, her name, say their name. In another context, I said, it sounds to at least many white people as a judgment and accusation, but from my standpoint, it is that and should be that, and is even far more an invitation to grief. To hold the face, the name, the story, the setting the person who was in that moment, in a way in which you’re bringing something of your whole full humanity to another person’s full humanity and then having a heart to join and where there is any structure that creates division, therefore refusal to join, and therefore refusal to join humanity in that grief, there almost always is then the setup of shame and then judgment or contempt or accusation. So often what I hear is, well, it’s not the police’s fall. Uh, it’s really, if anything, it’s just forces that no one has any shape or control over. and then to be able to go. Not only is that not true, but it’s also an incredible way to keep from grieving. And what you’ve described Danielle is that sense of which uh, the majority culture has in many ways the power to define how to grieve. What is the righteous grief? And in one sense, what is excessive, what is really too emotional? and when that is brought to bear, not only does it keep us from connecting, but it keeps us from being able, as you put so well, to enter the body of our own suffering. Even if it’s not suffering, I can understand from my collective in the way that you can.
R: If I could return down to your use of the phrase, say her name is a phrase that rose in notoriety around the loss of life of Sandra Bland, who is a member of my sorority. I’m a member of historically black sorority by the name of Sigma gamma rho. She’s my sorority sister and I had a chance to actually engage with her sister years after her death. And the story that her sister tells is that they started the hashtag say her name for the specific intentional purpose of the right to craft the story and the narrative around her life and her death. Right. And so in some ways that move is not all that different than the work that The Allender Center does in terms of story work, right? It’s not that different than sort of like to be named, right? And part of why her family as well as many others. Right? Referencing even what Danielle said earlier, what Michael said earlier about looking for the vocabulary and wanting the names is the ability of dominant culture to define not only what is grief, but what was the story? What do you have the right to grieve in the first place? Right. And so this, this campaign around say her name, right? It is an attempt to say there is a story here that is worth grieving. There’s a story here that is one of grave harm and there must be grief and there must be accountability. So in some ways that the say her name or say their name is both a grief, a statement of grief, and there’s also a call to accountability in that statement of grief, right? In that this is not an accident. This is not a coincidence. There was actual harm done here that resulted in the loss of a human life. And there must be an account for that. And I think part of what Michael said and part of what Danielle said earlier is like how much that is missing in, in, in the stories of their own respective communities where you’re just fighting for the space to be like, can we get a name so we can say it? right? And that goes to show like part of why collective grief is so difficult is because oftentimes you have to fight the battle to name that there is something to grieve here and you have to push against that for weeks, months, years in some cases before the people who need to grieve can actually grieve.
M: So powerful. Yeah, thank you for sharing that. Another note. I think that sort of came to mind for me, Rachel as you were talking about this refusal to grieve is I think something Dan you’ve said before that true, like true grief can actually lead us to gratitude. That there is a sense of gratitude that can emerge um, out of getting to those places of of naming, of honoring, of truly sitting with that ache. Um, and for so long, you know, I refused, I rejected my name and my face growing up in predominantly white culture. And I think one of the things that grief has brought me is a deeper appreciation, a love in honor of my name and my face.
D: And therefore I would assume in some sense, an intensification of both grief and anger, meaning: We, we often think that that grief somehow is not connected to anger, anger to grief. And I know that there are many times where I’ve worked with myself or others where anger has actually been an effort to escape grief. So I’m not saying that’s not a phenomena. but even there, as you enter, you know, injustice of any form ought to bring tears, but it also has to bring movement. And so grief that in one sense just melts into self absorption, actually is refusal to let grief create the hunger for another way of being in the world and another way for the world to be in the world. So in that sense, grief ought to bring the Lord’s prayer on earth as it is in heaven, where any taste of it is meant to bring some degree of gratitude. I think of the moments of my own grief in many different forms, the presence of another who at least labors to enter into that world with me, even if they do poorly, like it gives at least some sense of that connectivity, so that that is again where we have to join together, there has to be a awareness, I do not know the grief that each of you know, both individually and collectively, but without in many ways, choosing to read to think to hear and then asking what, what when analogic categories can I enter to be able to enter the world? Rebecca years ago we had this conversation where you told me about the work of preparing your children and I just said you know when I, when I prepare my children to drive this conversation never came up. So that alone is a framework to be able to say how come? what level of disparity exists and now what will I allow myself to enter with regard to what it must be like to take away your son’s nerf gun?
D: Yes, and, if I can jump in there is the sense that as we share grief, as I share grief in my community. I feel a deep sense of being known and being loved. And so it’s a weird, it’s not, it’s, it’s like this weird thing that happens that where, you know, these violent acts, they’re horrific and we grieve them and we’re angry and yet there’s a binding together of our hearts at the same time. And so it’s like, well, I don’t want that. I don’t want the violence. I don’t, I don’t want the terror, I don’t want that. And yet when I think grief, it’s assumed that we’re in a constant state, like from my community that we might be in sadness or desperation. And yes, we are in sadness and feel the hopelessness. And yet there’s kind of a settledness in there as well of like, deep joy and like, let’s eat and let’s turn on the music and let’s like, let’s do karaoke or let’s sing, like there’s something in there that says like we still have to find a way where we’re gonna be together.
R: I’ve been reflecting this week on a book that I bought. It’s a children’s book called the undefeated by an author, by the name of kami alexander and it’s probably less than 100 words. Um, but there’s in, it’s a poem that he wrote to his daughter because he wanted her to be able to move past the Trayvon Martin’s of her generation, but not move past them without noting the stories of the Trayvon Martin. And so there’s something of the movement of the poem. So that that that weaves like the Jesse Owens and the Wilma Rudolph’s and the Muhammad Ali’s and also at the same time literally like it grieves the Sandra bland’s and the Trayvon martin’s and the Tamir rice’s right? and and by the end is calling to his daughter and her generation to keep going. Right. And so, so there’s something in that movement I think that comes out in my community, like in the art, in the music, in the like in the ways that we orally choose to tell our story in all of our creativity and all of our brilliance. That is about like you can move in and out of the like the honor that it is and the and the grief that is there, right? And there’s a line in the poem that like, and this is for the ones who made it, right. And then the next page is blank. There’s no photo on it and it says, and this is for the ones who didn’t. right? And so like there’s this sense of at once like celebrating like all the success and the Barack Obama’s and the Kamala Harris’s, and for the names and the faces that we don’t have because they didn’t make it. And there’s something about like the putting the two of them side by side on the same page that feels like the spirit to me right, that feels like and I and I hold them but like jesus saying I hold them both that names you know, and the ones you don’t, I know them all.
M: The spirit helps us in our weakness. And I sense that one of the things that we are struggling so much within the asian american community right now is a sense of fragmentation of trying to figure out who we are. I think this is very much a coming of age moment for so many asians asian americans and we’re wrestling and there’s a lot, there’s a mighty wrestling of whose story gets told who gets represented. And the spirit helps us in our weakness. And so I am longing for and imagining the spirit creating a people where there has not been a people maybe for decades, As the term Asian American was originally used in the 60s. There’s very much a political statement. And We’re wrestling now 40, Some 40, 50 years later now in the wake of such violence. Who are we? What is the Spirit doing? I believe that the spirit is creating a people where there has not been a people.
D: Yeah I sat around the table with a couple friends from my community. Mhm. And they were, one of them said she has a list of like prayers. She’s been praying, she has family members that are dreamers and that she’s been on a like a 15 year wait for her residency. And uh, as a family has gone through that ourselves, she had this list of prayers and she said, I know God hears me, I know he listens, but I know he’s not answered me yet. And I remember thinking like, I’m almost speechless as I tell the story again because I was speechless in the moment. But I think there’s a deep resonance that in our community, from my community that God is listening and hears us, but I don’t have the answer yet, it is not answered yet. And what I, well, what they looked at, I had two teenagers sitting at the table with us and they looked at my teenagers and they said, but we keep praying. And so I think that’s where I’m at. God. God listens and he hears me, but he hasn’t answered yet. So I will keep praying
D: Well what words the spirit remembers, and holds the names known and unknown. and God forms and creates identity and brings those who have been exiled and fragmented into some union and cohesive, and to think about the spirit as the one who holds us in the womb and is birthing desire. that captures well what the dominant culture needs to learn in the midst of this. We all have grief. We all have collective grief, but there are portions of grief to join in other collectives that requires the spirit’s work to remember and to bring identity and to keep desire and all that. As we come to an end, I want to make sure that if there’s any– it’s awful when somebody asked this, but any last thoughts that you would most want for our listeners to be pondering. I know I don’t like it when somebody asked me on their podcast, but nonetheless, I’m going to ask you, is there anything more that you would like to say before we depart?
R: Yeah. When I ponder like, what does it mean to step into the grief of the black american experience? I just am reminded that there’s a real move in my community to craft our identity, to be the authors of our own narrative, to push back against the dominant culture’s capacity and intentionality with like defining who we are. And so like in that sense of like, I am who I say I am, I’m not who you say I am, right? Like there’s this invitation for me to pull from my collective narrative, the pieces that speak to me and and and so that you asked me who do you see yourself as I have words and images and names and stories that I would put to that. And I, and I think one of the things that I’ve come to know in the, in the past five years or so is how much I read one that how much I love, I love the music, I love the art, I love the poetry, I love the food, love all, love all that. And how easy it is to stay away from the parts of my identity that are crafted by the hardest parts of the black american experience. Like how much of my story is rooted in the most difficult of narratives and the harshest of stereotypes that aren’t actually stereotypes. They’re part of my story, right? And so, you know, like I have long since known the story of Rosa Parks and I have been taught by my community to identify with her sense her defiant “No, I will not give up my seat.” Right? And so the arc of the story that I have learned to tell is like the victory that is in that note and what that means for us as a people only to do the story work that I’ve done with The Allender Center for the past five years and realize there are parts of my story that are far closer to the dehumanizing degradation of “you are not allowed to sit here, You do not belong here, you are not acceptable in the space” than I am comfortable with admitting, then I care to acknowledge or recognize, right? And that is just as much a part of my identity in my particular community as are the things that I choose to celebrate. And so just what it is to step into that because that’s where the grief will come. And that’s also the places where we most likely are not spending the balance of our time because I’d rather spend it in the music and the food! It is much more fun.
D: I think for me, just the thought that from my community, my Mexican experience particularly that we can be grieving and and we can be dancing and laughing and that will be just as much as if we were weeping and sobbing and so don’t mistake that you come over for a meal and it is just for the purpose to revel that is not it, we— that meal may be an act of grief and active resistance to dominant cultures will for us not to grieve. And so that invitation is, is far more deep and far more waiting. So I just wanted to reiterate that part.
M: In my reading, I came across an article that examined 113 Chinese words associated with shame. 113 different words that describe that associate our, our experiences shame. Which gives you an indication of just the structures that we are bound to. And so for me to say I have a good name, I have a good face. I have a good story, not to eradicate that shame, but to sit with it, to grow my capacity, to grow our capacity, to really understand the formative process of shame and the ways in which we can say: I have a good name. I have a good face, have a good story, that shame is part of that story as well. That we hold that with such complexity with such tenderness, but that becomes part of our glory as Jesus kept the wounds in his hands, in his resurrected body. That is part of our story that we hold that we need to continue to, I think approach with great level of kindness and create space for.
D: It is not enough to say thank you. These conversations are meant to go on again and again and again and again and again in this case, redundancy is a gift. And because I don’t think any of us can say these things too often for it to actually be taken in and help us reform form and reform how we are meant to grieve together, to rejoice with those who rejoice and to grief with those who grief. So, to each of you, Thank you. Thank you.